miliosr

Ballets Based on Othello

27 posts in this topic

Recently, I was reading an issue of Dance Magazine from the 1960s and I came across a feature story about a Jacques d'Amboise ballet based on Othello. The ballet was titled Prologue and was designed as a prequel of sorts to the events in Shakespeare's play. Having never heard of this ballet before, I got curious as to how many "ballet" ballets and "modern dance" ballets there are out there based on Othello. Here is the short list I came up with:

The Moor's Pavane (1949)

choreographer: Jose Limon

originating company: Jose Limon Dance Company

Prologue (1967)

choreographer: Jacques d'Amboise

originating company: New York City Ballet

Othello (1976)

choreographer: John Butler

originating company: La Scala Ballet

Othello (1997)

choreographer: Lar Lubovitch

originating companies: American Ballet Theatre/San Francisco Ballet

Are there others?

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Mmm...the NYPL lists these (I didn't go into each citation):

Othello (Choreographic work : Bonnefous)

Othello (Choreographic work : Brandstrup)

Othello (Choreographic work : Briantsev)

Othello (Choreographic work : Butler)

Othello (Choreographic work : Chabukiani)

Othello (Choreographic work : Corelli)

Othello (Choreographic work : Darrell)

Othello (Choreographic work : De Warren)

Othello (Choreographic work : Ivo and Kresnik)

Othello (Choreographic work : King, P)

Othello (Choreographic work : Lambrou)

Othello (Choreographic work : Lubovitch)

Othello (Choreographic work : Massini after Viganó)

Othello (Choreographic work : Nemecek)

Othello (Choreographic work : Neumeier)

Othello (Choreographic work : Peterson)

Othello (Choreographic work : Santestevan and Skouratoff)

Othello (Choreographic work : Viganò)

Othello (Choreographic work : Welch)

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Interesting . . . many more than I imagined.

A list like that would make a good subject for a book!

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Chabukiani's is very old-fashioned but great..... there's a film of it I saw 20 years ago at the Pacific Film Archive, very moving....

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which version of Othello is ABT using for their spring performance?

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as follows:

Othello : Chor: Lar Lubovitch; mus: Elliot B. Goldenthal (commissioned score); lib: adapted by Lar Lubovitch from Geraldi Cintio's story in the Hecatommithi (Hundred tales), published in Venice in 1566, and William Shakespeare's play, Othello, the Moor of Venice; scen: George Tsypin; cos: Ann Hould-Ward; lighting: Pat Collins; projections: Wendall K. Harrington. First perf: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, May 23, 1997; American Ballet Theatre.

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Fandango, the Dance in America telecast of San Francisco Ballet's production of Lar Lubovitch's Othello is available on a Kultur dvd. Click Amazon at the top of the page. Othello: Desmond Richadson. Desdemona: Yuan Yuan Tan. Iago: Parrish Baynard. Richardson is great. :flowers:

The Limon version is still my favorite, though I've seen only those two. I don't even know who most of the choreographers on Dale's list are. Has anyone seen one or more? How about the Neumeier? The John Butler? I read that Jean-Pierre Bonnefous' version was done for Louisville Ballet in the early 80s. Has this been repeated? Has it been done elsewhere?

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d'Amboise's "Prologue" was damaged by a program note claim that the action of the ballet was taken from the Hecatommithi by Geraldo Cinthio, which was the basic source for Shakespeare's play. That, and that the characters in this ballet were not particularly well-drawn or defined. It's too bad, because the premise of a prequel to the great play is enticing. D'Amboise's ballets at City Center were pleasurable to watch, but only "Irish Fantasy" successfully transitioned to the State Theater. His "The Chase", a fox-hunting riff on Swan Lake was really a stitch!

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The Limon version is still my favorite, though I've seen only those two. I don't even know who most of the choreographers on Dale's list are. Has anyone seen one or more? How about the Neumeier? The John Butler?

I've seen the Butler done by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Alberta Ballet. It's set to Dvořák, and unlike Limón's ballet, there is no Emilia character. I'm rather sorry that Alberta Ballet is replacing it with Kirk Peterson's new version to Jerry Goldsmith (?!!). Though Butler's version was conceived as a vehicle for Carla Fracci, it's the men's roles that stick out in my mind: low-cut tights, lots of pelvic thusting with torsos leaning back and arms bent behind the back, and these big hovering jumps (legs extended backwards, torsos forward with arms stretched overhead). It will be performed next month at the Joyce, if you care to take a trip to Manhattan :flowers:.

http://www.joyce.org/calendar_detail.php?event=51&theater=1

Neumeier's full-length version to Pärt and Schnittke hasn't been performed recently, which could suggest that Neumeier wasn't entirely pleased with it. Certainly his other Shakespeare adaptations (Romeo & Juliet, A Midummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, As You Like It, What You Will) are performed more frequently.

http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/rep/othello.htm

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I don't know about Neumeier's opinion, but I love his version. It was played in the former mill, where seats surround the stage from three sides, forming kind of Greek amphitheatre. On the back of the stage was a small pool with a real water, over it was a balcony with a small orchestra. I had used the word "played', because dancers were magnificent in their acting, besides good dancing, of course. Neumeier included two new characters - Spring and Warrior, who were allegorical figures. One scene was absolutely brilliant, when Jago taught Emilia the lesson, how to behave yourself, whithout the music, loudly accounting marching steps.

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In my quest to weave dance into the cultural conversations of my college English classrooms, I show the old kinescope of Moor's Pavane's original cast performance (only one out there!) whenever I teach Othello. It's a great way to focus discussion, as Limon is pretty incisive about zeroing in on a particular part of the story. And after spending so much time on the language of the play, seeing the dance helps the students to look at the play in a different way--Limon presents, as it were, an "argument" about what he thinks the play is about (Othello's race, for instance, does not stand out as important to Limon's vision) , which usually makes for lively discussion!

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Seeing ABT perform MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet yesterday left me all the more impressed with Limon's achievement with The Moor's Pavane. He resisted the trap of recreating a classic play largely through mime instead of dance and he also created a work that has a life independent of the play that spawned it. The beauty of The Moor's Pavane is that you don't actually have to have read Othello to understand what is happening onstage.

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The beauty of The Moor's Pavane is that you don't actually have to have read Othello to understand what is happening onstage.
I agree. But, to be fair, Limon does reduce a very complex play to a single relational situation which isn't hard to follow (what Ray calls "zeroing in").

If you want to tell the larger story -- as the Crankos, MacMillens, and Neuemiers do in their story ballets, and as Lubavitch does with his recent Othello -- pure dance would not seem to be enough.

On the other hand, there are those story ballets that are impossible to follow without a crib sheet, no matter how much miming or (worse) posturing and stereotyping they use. Mayerling, for me, is an example of this.

Recent reviews of the Royal Ballet's production of Onegin are very interesting in showing how John Cranko edited and actually re-wrote the character of Onegin to compensate for a being unable to put the story into words.

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My problem with trying to replicate works of literature -- scene-by-scene -- on ballet stages is that often times a certain amount of cheating takes place.

This occurred to me again after seeing MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet on Sunday at the Opera House in Chicago. The more I think about it, the more I think that the audience did more of the heavy lifting -- in terms of imposing narrative order on the goings-on -- than the choreographer did. What I mean by this is that there are certain times in Romeo and Juliet where the audience has to fill in the blanks regarding what is transpiring onstage either through familiarity with the play or referencing the page-long program notes. This strikes me as a kind of cheat because I believe -- strongly -- that a dance work should have a life of its own irrespective of the source material.

Let me put on my flame retardant suit before all the MacMillan fans start responding! :blink:

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The more I think about it, the more I think that the audience did more of the heavy lifting -- in terms of imposing narrative order on the goings-on -- than the choreographer did. What I mean by this is that there are certain times in Romeo and Juliet where the audience has to fill in the blanks regarding what is transpiring onstage either through familiarity with the play or referencing the page-long program notes.
I wonder how this ballet would appear to audiences in cultures not familiar with R&J. (Assuming, that is, that there ARE such places in the world nowadays.)

What we see is always so greatly influenced (corrupted?) by the cultural and social baggage we bring to the experience. In one sense, the key players in R&J are universal social types: authority figures (parents; enforcers like Tybalt; the Prince) and those who rebel against authority (the 2 protagonists; complicitous priest and nurse). I can imagine traditional cultures in which the behavior of Romeo and of Juliet -- especially their violation of parental authority and lack of concern for family-first values in their society and the times -- would actually be offensive to audiences. I.e., where they might actually root for Lady Capulet and Tybalt (except for those unfortunate suggestions of adultery).

I'd be interested in hearing what others thing about miliosr's point We even have a smilie for the possible firery disagreements on MacMillen: :blink: . . . . :blink:

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I thought I saw a review of a recent production of Othello but can't remember which company or whose choreography. All I can remember is that Othello's face was painted blue. Does anybody know of this production? I've tried to find it again and can't. We are having a discussion about how the moor has been presented in ballet and theater throughout time and place and I thought it would be an interesting addition to the discussion.

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Robert de Warren did a production for Northern Ballet Theatre in around 1985. It was the first performance I ever saw by NBT. My most abiding memory is the dark makeup of the dancer performing Othello ending up all over the pale pink dress of Desdemona in the final scenes. I must have enjoyed it though because 25 years later I'm still an avid fan of the company!

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JMcN, this Othello rang a bell with me, so I Googled and came up with two photos of a production starring Isanusi Garcia (Othello) and Tatiana Lliabina (Desdemona). Desdemona's dress is now white, and Othello seems to have elimated or toned down the dark makeup. :wink:

You have to scroll down a bit to find the photos (past Nureyev, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Madame Butterfly and Eva Peron).

http://www.robertdew....org/page8.html

OFF TOPIC: I was excited to find Isanusi Garcia because, under the name Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, he has danced on and off with Miami City Ballet and is returning this season as a Principal. I would have liked to see his Othello.

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I thought I saw a review of a recent production of Othello but can't remember which company or whose choreography. All I can remember is that Othello's face was painted blue. Does anybody know of this production? I've tried to find it again and can't. We are having a discussion about how the moor has been presented in ballet and theater throughout time and place and I thought it would be an interesting addition to the discussion.

This month's (JULY 2010) Dance Magazine (or was it Pointe?) issue is generally about race issues in dance/dance companies, and there is a discussion and picture of a blue-faced Moor (I think in Petroushka rather than Othello) in an article by Joseph Carman. The ballet company wanted to excize any racist overtones in its depiction, and chose the color blue. I'm glad Blue Man Group didn't sue them for any copyright violations.

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Thanks, 4mrdnc. It is Dance Magazine (July 2010). The ballet was Petrouschka. The production was by San Francisco Ballet.

http://www.dancemaga...ic-or-Offensive

Every Othello I've seen has been more or less naturalistic in style. A Blue Othello would require something either futuristic or other-world, I should think. Shakespeare by way of Avatar.

You could do it with Limon's 4-character distillation i this way. ButI can't see it working in anything that attempted a more detailed story.

Unless, possibly, they ALL were color-coded? This could work for a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet, too, I imagine.

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Thank you all. It was Petrouschka. I remembered the blue Moor and thought is was Othello...

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JMcN, this Othello rang a bell with me, so I Googled and came up with two photos of a production starring Isanusi Garcia (Othello) and Tatiana Lliabina (Desdemona). Desdemona's dress is now white, and Othello seems to have elimated or toned down the dark makeup. :wink:

Bart - thanks so much for posting the link. When I scrolled down even further I found a poster for a triple bill that was absolutely unforgettable, including Rudolf Nureyev's utterly magnificent performance in Miss Julie. It must have been Robert de Warren's final season in charge of NBT as Christopher Gable took over the reins in the autumn of 1987.

Janet

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Othello might be blue if James Cameron got a hold of him.

My favorite dance Othello is in modern dance, Limon's "The Moor's Pavane", a one-act distillation. I think Othello needs a very fine storyteller, especially without any set-pieces like the "Rose Adagio" or "Black Swan Pas de Deux".

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I know about another ballet based in Otello.

It’s from Goyo Montero a Spanish choreographer now director of the Nürnberg Ballet:

2005 "Desde Otello"

Full lenght piece.

Music:Claudio Monteverdi,Giuseppe Verdi,Itsvan Marta,John Dowland,Godspeed you Black Emperor.

Created for the Ballet Carmen Roche.

Performed in the International Dance Festival"Madrid en Danza 2006".

WInner of the Price "Villa de Madrid 2006"

http://www.goyo-montero.com/?mp=Choreographer

When searching about, I reached this link that is surprisingly working as near all fotoescena articles are no longer available. It is in Spanish but has some nice shots: http://www.fotoescena.net/siete/desdeOtello.html

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Based on what little you can actually see of this piece, it looks fairly interesting. I especially like how the dancers make use of a very nontraditional space (i.e. the stairs, the walls). And nice to see Karl Paquette get out of that princely ghetto he's usually stuck in.

Did any of our French correspondents actually see this?

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