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Introduction


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:05 AM

A constellation of choreographers working in ballet flourished in the 20th century pre-1970. A few names in no particular order that deserve closer examination:

  • Leonide Massine
  • Bronislava Nijinska
  • Agnes de Mille
  • Kasyan Goleizovsky
  • Leonid Jacobsen
  • Harald Lander
  • Roland Petit
  • Serge Lifar
  • Leo Staats
  • Todd Bolender
  • Eugene Loring
  • Robert Joffrey
  • Lew Christensen
  • Walter Gore
  • Andrée Howard
  • Ninette de Valois
  • Hans van Manen
  • Antony Tudor
To start, John Percival and Jane Simpson have written about two of the British names on the list, Howard and Gore.

This isn't an exhaustive list. We're hoping to give Tudor his own discussion during his upcoming centennial. Jerome Robbins and Kenneth Macmillan also have a place on this list just as Balanchine and Ashton, but they've also had more discussion and we'd like to give the less familiar names an airing first.

#2 liebs

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 12:43 PM

What about Cranko, particularly before he went to Stuttgart?

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 12:45 PM

:mad:

I just forgot. Please discuss! The Cranko "rarity" I've seen most recently is Lady and the Fool, done in Birmingham (a very valuable company if you're looking to see more of British repertory)

#4 bart

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 01:20 PM

I followed Leigh's lead to the Birmingham Royal's website. It's wonderful on the current season, but their rep ifrom past seasons isn't onlline yet. They promise that a list of productions since 1995 wlll be up soon. Here's the address:
http://www.brb.org.uk/

Cranko's Antigone for the Royal Ballet (1959) had a score by Mikis Theodorakis. It must have made an impression. Has anyone seen it or heard the score? Here's a link to a Theodorakis site: http://en.mikis-theo...rint/122/-1/47/

Please disregard the bit of folly in the next paragraph. Jane Simpson has kindly pointed out to me that I was confusing Cranko's earlier work with the Macmillan version of 1989. :mad: :( :blushing: :blushing:

I suppose Prince of the Pagodas is the relatively early Cranko ballet we're most familiar with, especially because of the 1990 dvd of the Royal's production (Bussell, Cope).

Here's an accurate version from classical.net.

Britten conducted the first performance of The Prince of the Pagodas on New Year's Day 1957 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It ran for twenty-three performances and was tentatively received in the Royal Opera House during the next three years, but in spite of favorable notices in New York, Munich, and La Scala, it was dropped from the repertoire. London's mixed reception to the ballet stemmed from criticism of Cranko's choreography, and he later declared himself ready to remedy the defects in his part of the work. By this time, however, Britten had developed an aversion to the work, and his negative attitude contributed to the lack of performances after 1960. Interest in the ballet revived in 1980 when the London Sinfonietta presented large sections of the score at Aldeburgh under Oliver Knussen, after the deaths of both Britten and Cranko. More than thirty years after the first performance, the ballet was staged at Covent Garden in December 1989, with new choreography by Kenneth MacMillan.



#5 Farrell Fan

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:33 PM

What about John Taras? I've only seen a couple of his later ballets, but would love to know more about his earlier career.

#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:48 PM

Tell us something about what you've seen, Farrell Fan.

#7 bart

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 03:36 PM

You couldn't go to NYCB in the 60s without seeing a lot of Taras. It was a time when Balanchine was experimenting with different kinds of musical influence, including jazz, electronic stuff, etc.. I thought of Taras as the company's "other Stravinsky choreographer."

I especially remember Ebony Concerto (which, as an amateur clarinetist, I loved). The piece was originally composed for Woody Herman, but I can't recall how the music was handled during its performance as a ballet. It was jazzy, and the audience loved it. Critics, however, thought it a little too slick.

Arcade I remember most for its sweet pas de deux for Arthur Mitchell and Suzanne Farrell -- another ballet with a black man and a white woman dancing intimately together. This was the height of the Civil Rights movement and of racial tensions generally. A big segment of the American public was still segregationist (or pro-segregationist) at that time, so the ballet made a statement even more than Agon's earlier and more famous pas de deux. As I recall, though I may be wrong in this, the couple were interrupted and separated by others on the stage. There was no happy ending. Not then.

Taras played an important role at NYCB, for me at least. Balanchine and Robbins couldn't choreograph everything. And when you got Taras, you got something that would always be fun to watch, and often something that made you feel and think more than you expected it to do.

Here's Taras' 2004 obituary in the Times:

http://query.nytimes...757C0A9629C8B63

I like the author's concluding statement:

... he was one of the few Balanchine disciples whose solidity of craft could also cross into imagination.



#8 Farrell Fan

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 05:17 PM

The Taras ballets I've seen could not have been more dissimilar. The first, Piege de Lumiere (my numeric keypad is giving me trouble, so I can't do the proper accents, sorry) was both beautiful and spooky. The stage was dominated by a big bonfire and the plot had do with convicts and butterflies, as my hallowed copy of Repertory in Review reminds me. I remember being made uncomfortable by it and worried about what would happen to the butterflies and/or convicts. It was not a happy ending. I saw Paul Mejia as the young convict, a role originated at NYCB by Arthur Mitchell.

During the Tschaikovsky Festival of 1981 at NYCB, I saw Taras's ballet to Souvenir de Florence, repeatedly. I don't now remember why it was on so many of my programs, but I rather liked the piece. It was very much in the plotless Balanchine manner. The costumes, sort of nightgowny, were gorgeous, as were the music and choreography.

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 05:36 PM

Is "Design with Strings" Taras's? That was a big favorite in the '50s and '60s, a small cast work especially suited to young dancers. I never saw it, but have read about it often (I know, I know, not helpful. But maybe somebody else saw it.)

#10 liebs

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:19 PM

Souvenirs always seemed somewhat Chekovian to me. Very three sisters and I remember Saland being marvelous.

#11 atm711

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 03:57 AM

Is "Design with Strings" Taras's? That was a big favorite in the '50s and '60s, a small cast work especially suited to young dancers. I never saw it, but have read about it often (I know, I know, not helpful. But maybe somebody else saw it.)


Yes, I saw it with Ballet Theatre and liked it very much---Tchaikovsky score and much indebted to Balanchine--but, hey, what's wrong with that?

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 05:23 PM

And I danced in it. I never danced in a ballet that made my feet work harder. I was the "second pas de trois" boy, the part originated by Michael Maule.


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