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Your favorite variations


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#16 bart

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 03:53 PM

Yes, indeed, Printcess. Thank you for this topic, which has gotten me thinking. It's difficult to come up with something, because the variations I've been looking at closely tend to become favorites for a while at least.

Hans writes:

Usually what people think of as a classical variation is a short solo dance that elaborates on the character's traits while also displaying the technique of the dancer. Many of them can be modified in various ways to either suit a particular dancer or be interpolated into a different ballet.

Sticking with that, I'd include the Russian folk variation in Raymonda that starts with hand claps.

Also, the 2 women's solos in Emeralds seem to quallify. They clearly elaborate on character.

Odile's variation (the one that has what sounds like an oboe solo) is remarkable for the suble way it conveys character and exotic feeling.

There was a Balanchine ballet called "Variations" in the 60s. It had a marvelous solo for Farrell. Would that count as a "variation"?

P.S. A young woman in my class has asked me to vote for the Diamond Fairy variation in Sleeping Beauty.

#17 Cygnet

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 03:56 PM

Here's my short list:

"La Bayadere:" Nikiya's Act 2 lamentation, the 1st Shade in Act 3, and Gamzatti's Act 2 variation & her Act 2 Coda
> the Italian fouttees.

"Giselle:" Everything Myrtha. Giselle's Act 2 entrance and variation. If it's the right ballerina then it is one of the most exciting moments one can experience in the theatre. Ditto that for Odette's entrance and variation. And Odile? Well, that's a speciality. Usually you get more of one than than other, or simply the same thing. But, when you
get a great Odette and Odile that's a rare happening in nature. It's something you'll never forget, and something you'll always savor. These roles separate the good ballerinas from the great ones.

"Raymonda:" Raymonda's Act 1 Entrance, variation and the Scarf dance, her act 2 variation. Also, the 1st variation after the pas classique in Act 3, and Raymonda's Clapping Dance.

>(This one doesn't count, but for character dancing: The Gypsy Girl's dance from Prokofiev's "The Stone Flower.")

Balanchine's variation for Merrill Ashley from "Ballo della Regina," & Terpsichore's variation from "Apollo."

"Paquita:" The 1st, 2nd, 4th & 5th variations, and the ballerina's variation.

"Sleeping Beauty" Fairies: Miettes, Canari, Violente, Lilac, Diamond. Aurora's Act 2 variation (Sergeyev's, Ashton's & if it's done tastefully - Petipa's 1890 with the Gold Fairy music). Also, Aurora's Act 3 variation and coda combo.

"Don Q" - Kitri's entrance, castanet dance, Act 2's Dream variation, and of course Act 3's variation & the fouttes.

Manon's Act 2 variation: Beautiful, and seductive music by Massenet. >> This one is fool proof; (well theoretically).

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 06:03 PM

All the Sleeping Beauty variations people have named. How does Dances at a Gathering rate as variations? It probably reminds me of musical variations, but isn't quite. I saw it only once and long ago, but it was divine. Yes, good topic, it's interesting for musicians to find out that a ballet variation is like an aria (at least according to wiki). I couldn't connect to Hans's link nor find it by searching, so if someone knows where it is, I'd appreciate another try at the links to that thread.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 08:53 PM

oh, well...can't help to add two more variations, both male BTW. Albretch II Act, for its dramatic impact and flamboyancy when well performed, and "Satanella", because i think is just lovely... Also, i truly enjoy a good "L'espectre de la rose" entrance (a la Misha) and subsequent solo before incorporating the girl into the dancing...

#20 bart

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 05:28 AM

I couldn't connect to Hans's link nor find it by searching, so if someone knows where it is, I'd appreciate another try at the links to that thread.

papeetepatrick, I also had trouble until I logged in on that page (though I was already logged in on the forum). Then, the thread appeared! Magic! :dry:

#21 Hans

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 05:38 AM

For those who are not able to access the link, the thread is in the BT for Dancers "Cross Talk" forum. The last post on the thread was August 5th--currently it is at the bottom of the third page of the forum.

#22 Klavier

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 05:47 PM

This is Hans's definition:
"Usually what people think of as a classical variation is a short solo dance that elaborates on the character's traits while also displaying the technique of the dancer. Many of them can be modified in various ways to either suit a particular dancer or be interpolated into a different ballet."

And the ballet glossary at ABT contributes this:
http://www.abt.org/e...nary/index.html
Variation
[va-rya-SYAWN]
Variation. A solo dance in a classic ballet.

But is any solo dance in ballet necessarily a variation? Are there exceptions?

Be that as it may, the term "variation" in music has a somewhat different meaning. In most cases, a set of variations (I can't think of any examples of a single variation) is based on a theme, which may be by the composer of the variations or by another composer - think of Brahms's Variatiions on a Theme by Haydn (which theme is actually not by Haydn at all), or Britten's Young Person's Guide (Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell, better known in ballet circles as the music for Jerome Robbins's Fanfare). In music before the Romantic period, a primary feature of the variations is that they preserve the phrase structure of the theme, often but far from invariably in the same tempo and meter. This is true of the Goldberg Variations, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, the Mozart set Balanchine used as the last movement in Mozartiana, and many others. One type of variations is known as "doubles," where each succeeding variation uses shorter note values while preserving the underlying tempo; a familiar example is found in the slow movement of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata. Other types of variations do more to develop motifs from the theme; this is true also of the Goldbergs and the Diabellis, which nevertheless preserve the phrase structure of the theme. But in music of the Romantic period and later, the developmental type of variation comes into play without keeping the underlying phrase structure. And so in the Britten Young Person's Guide / Fanfare / Variations and Fugue on Purcell, the form of each variation is quite free in relation to the theme, but each variation develops one or two main motifs from the theme: an ascending triad, or three notes ascending and then 4-5 descending. I think that once this pattern is recognized, it's easy to identify when hearing the music.

As for the fugue, it's quite common in variation sets to conclude with some section of this type. In the classic variation form, the repetition of the same phrase structure builds a kind of momentum (think of the Mozartiana variations), and a change of pace like a fugue is useful for breaking this momentum and rounding off the composition. Mozart / Tchaikovsky / Balanchine use instead a free cadenza, leading to a slow final variation, and then a final fast coda.

And so the upshot is that I don't think "variation" in the musical and the balletic sense are entirely analogous.

#23 papeetepatrick

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 06:25 PM

And so the upshot is that I don't think "variation" in the musical and the balletic sense are entirely analogous.

I don't think they're analogous at all. That some musical variations have been made into ballets doesn't have anything to do with the difference remaining, even within the work choreographed to the musical variations, i.e., there are surely many ballet variations in the works choreographed to musical variations--existing simultaneously, but separately as kinds of variations. What I was interested in with 'Dances at a Gathering', which is various Chopin pieces, not all the same form, I believe, but don't remember too well, is if there are ballet variations within it. I would imagine some will know here if some of the solos are variations. In any case, the Chopin music used is not a set of literal musical variations, even if they are related and chosen so that they do almost seem a kind of non-literal set of them. Also, I wondered if the solos in 'Les Sylphides' are variations. This is the kind of distinction I'm still not versed on.

#24 Hans

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 06:32 PM

Please note that I wrote "classical variation," meaning a variation from a Petipa-era/style work. I don't see why one could not refer to the solos in "Les Sylphides" as variations, but they might not be considered classical variations (the style is Romantic revival) for various reasons.

And no, the balletic and musical definitions of a "variation" don't really have anything to do with each other, even if there was once an overlap.

#25 Klavier

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 06:45 PM

And so the upshot is that I don't think "variation" in the musical and the balletic sense are entirely analogous.

What I was interested in with 'Dances at a Gathering', which is various Chopin pieces, not all the same form, I believe, but don't remember too well...


NYCB's website lists all the pieces used -
http://www.nycballet...rep.html?rep=54
- many of which are mazurkas and waltzes, thus in moderate 3/4 time and having a kind of family relationship, though none are variations in the musical sense. If I remember right, the A minor etude op. 10/2, blisteringly difficult for the pianist, is set as a bravura male solo. But I'm still unclear as to whether this or any other solo piece for a dancer can legitimately be described as a variation in dance terms, especially since many of the other episodes in DaaG are for small groups of dancers.

#26 Hans

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 06:51 PM

I think the solos in "Dances at a Gathering" could plausibly be described as variations, but I wouldn't call them classical variations in the Petipa sense.

#27 papeetepatrick

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 06:58 PM

Hans--thanks for your excellent tutelage, I've learned a lot already. Would you say that what you say about the 'Dances at a Gathering' variations applies to all Balanchine and many others neo-classical or Romantic Revival, et alia, so that Petipa variations are therefore the originary sense of the ballet variation, as it were, and that there then grow these other kinds up to the present, that are still very recognizable relatives? I noticed people talking about variations for City Ballet dancers and others, 'Ballo della Regina', 'Apollo' and others.

#28 Hans

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 07:02 PM

That sounds like a logical progression to me, papeetepatrick. I can't claim to be an authority on the subject, but your post makes quite a bit of sense.

#29 bart

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 04:05 AM

Papeetepatrick's post does seem to describe the way the term "variation" has expanded its meaning over time. It's a kind of verbal imperiallism.

If we start using "variation" for a large variety of solos -- applying it to virtually any memorable solo which isn't a repeat of something that happened before -- aren't we losing precision in terminology? How useful is a term which describes so many things?

P.S. Thanks, Klavier, for that very interesting post on the uses of "variation" in musicology.

#30 Hans

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 02:16 PM

Well, when applied to Romantic or Bournonville ballets the term "variation" can also be rather imprecise, as variations in such ballets aren't always composed of separate pieces of music and don't always have definite beginnings and endings. The way the female 2nd variation in the Peasant Pas de Deux just flows into the coda is an example of this. It seems variations are being used less formally now, more as they were in the past. This can be a good thing as it makes it harder to interpolate a variation that is totally out of character and in a jarring musical key, but if a particular step or phrase is difficult for a dancer, it can be harder to substitute something else.


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