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Stories that should be a BalletHere is your chance to be creative!


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#31 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 04:38 PM

Another thread just put me in mind of a long-unused score, "The Doll Fairy" by Joseph Bayer. The libretto is similar to "La Boutique Fantasque", and if you want a clear conscience (the Massine Estate has the rights on the latter nailed down) and a one-act ballet suitable for and with children, the choreography to the former ballet has been lost forever. You can create on your own, only the composer will be somewhat past reaching. And no, there is no Columbine and two Pierrots - that's "Feya Kukol". You won't hear a note of that music in Bayer. I don't know why the Legat Brothers claimed that it was from "Puppenfee", but I'll bet it had something to do with rights even ca. 1900. The Legat pas de trois is music excerpted from Drigo's Harlequin's Millions, best known today as the basis for Balanchine's Harlequinade.

#32 bart

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 03:03 PM

Mel recognizes something that the rest of us have tended to leave out: the need for a danceable score that fits the libretto. :(

Another plot that comes to mind is, Turn of the Screw based on an original story by Henry James.Benjamin Britten has already turned this into a successful opera.

Setting: a grand, isolate country house

Cast (6 principals):
-- a new Governess (the protagonist) -- idea as a pre-retirement role for an older ballerina
-- her new charges: a boy (Miles) and a girl (Flora) -- perffect for early adolescent stars of the company school
-- the Housekeeper,Mrs. Grose -- older character dancer
-- two ghosts: Miss Jessel, the previous governess; and Peter Quint, former valet to the childrens' (absent) father
-- Britten added other servants in minor roles

The back-story could be established in a prologue, showing Miss Jessel and Quint beginning an illicit affair, being caught and driven away by the Housekeeper and some of the other servants, and coming to a bad end. The audience should be able to understand this easily. Having the Governess on the stage, travelling -- in parallel but not interacting with the other two -- should also be possible. . The opera starts with a kind of prologue, and perhaps the action could be adapted to the music for that

In James, only the governess "sees" the ghosts; there is always the possibility that she is hallucinating. In the opera, however, the ghosts interact with the children. We will be able to watch them influencing the children, almost "possessing" them. I would follow Britten in this. I would think that dance could do this very effectively -- and with complete clarity for the audience.

Ghosts, lust, possession, child abuse, a spooky country house, a heroine on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a Housekeeper who may or may not be bad herself: this story has a lot to keep the audience involved.

All it lacks is a score (admittedly a rather important problem). Does anyone know if there's an orchestral version of the Britten opera?

#33 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 06:11 PM

I don't know if there's a suite from the Britten opera, but I've considered the story and think there may be a one-act in it. There may have to be some tinkering with the foreboding in perhaps introducing a corps de ballet of "Night Visions" among whom are found Quint and Jessel. Good heavens, I think we've just nearly reinvented Ninette de Valois' "The Haunted Ballroom", except here the boy dies and not the father!

#34 ConstanzaElisabeth

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 02:17 PM

If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) or a (very difficult) ballet adaptation of Martin Sherman's play 'Bent'

Although I have friends who insist on a Star Wars ballet...

#35 bart

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 02:35 PM

If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) [ ... ]

Boy, you'd have a richness of cross-cultural sources for that one! It could be very exotic, and very scarey, depending on how far you went with it.

As a companion ballet ... for the men ... how about Cain and Abel? Has that ever been done?

#36 MJ

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:29 PM

If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) [ ... ]

Boy, you'd have a richness of cross-cultural sources for that one! It could be very exotic, and very scarey, depending on how far you went with it.

As a companion ballet ... for the men ... how about Cain and Abel? Has that ever been done?


Noah and his Ark might make an interesting, but tedious, children's ballet. Samson and Delilah would be exciting. Bringing the temple down would take some SFX.

#37 vipa

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:14 PM

If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) or a (very difficult) ballet adaptation of Martin Sherman's play 'Bent'

Although I have friends who insist on a Star Wars ballet...


Funny, I think that many years ago former ABT dancer, Bo Spassof, was running a company in Georgia and choreographed Star Wars.

I'd go with something like the Last Unicorn.

#38 carbro

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:56 PM

Noah and his Ark might make an interesting, but tedious, children's ballet.

More tedious than interesting, I fear. Ballet already has enough tedious ballets -- a very popular genre, at least for choreographers! Also, if it's tedious for adults, it will probably be more so for kids.

#39 Therese

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 02:17 PM

Definitely "Wuthering Heights." What opportunity, what passion!

#40 Ann_hphg

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 12:40 AM

I have a very deep desire to make a ballet with Michael Ondaatje's novel, The English Patient. Using visual support from Anthony Minghella's adaptation and the very very fantastic music by Gabriel Yared.

I keep thinking about the scenes in which Almazy describes the desert and the winds, and how those could make fabulous abstract moments such as the shadows in La Bayadere...
And then the wonderfully tragic love story... It would be fantastic!!

#41 Ray

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:58 AM

In my own literary research, I've been reading 18th-century whore biographies, texts that may have inspired Defoe for Moll Flanders and Roxana. Both of those would make interesting ballets; both have, w/in their narratives, ballroom scenes (Roxana gets named "Roxana" because of how she dances).
Are there any ballets where the heroine is a whore? (Plenty of courtesans, I guess...)

Similarly, what about Tom Jones or Joseph Andrews as ballets?

Or, more contemporary, Mann's Felix Krull or Tonio Kroger (leave poor Death in Venice alone for awhile!).

To return to the past, in the right hands, Twelfth Night could be a funny ballet.

Apologies for any repeats.

#42 sandik

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 11:16 AM

In my own literary research, I've been reading 18th-century whore biographies, texts that may have inspired Defoe for Moll Flanders and Roxana. Both of those would make interesting ballets; both have, w/in their narratives, ballroom scenes (Roxana gets named "Roxana" because of how she dances).
Are there any ballets where the heroine is a whore? (Plenty of courtesans, I guess...)


Are you looking at a distinction between whore and courtesan? Certainly lots of courtesans -- Manon, essentially. Marguerite and Armand, and ballet versions of Madame Butterfly, depending on your interpretation.

To return to the past, in the right hands, Twelfth Night could be a funny ballet.


Well, Tudor made "Crossgartered" in the early 30s, but I'm pretty sure it's lost to the world now.

#43 bart

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 12:03 PM

Ann_hphq, welcome to Ballet Talk! The English Patient is such a complex narrative. I remember thinking, as I watched it, how interesting it would be as a silent film (with subtitles). Assuming that you would have to simplify the narrative, which elements would you select to put into your ballet? How would you handle the central relationships?

[Moll Flanders and Roxana [ ... ]

Ray, an advantage that Abbe Prevosts's novel about the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon had is that it's relatively short and really does focus to an amazing degree on the lives of the protagonists. There's a love story, which means a big, romantic pas de deux -- AND a pathetic death scene for the end.

I haven't read Moll Flanders, but Roxana lacks a single male romantic interest for the woman. It's long and very episodic, a string of mostly dark encounters and brief liaisons. In other words ... no great love, therefore no big pdd. Roxana is a great character and could, I suppose, be a great role for a dramatic ballereina. But I wonder if it would meet the expectations of your typical story-ballet audience. You'd not only have to cut out a great deal; you'd probably have to make up a love interest and redo the plot as well.

What is it about the Mann stories that made you think of them?

Doestoevsky's The Gambler seems like a story that could be reduced into a good ballet libretto. Has Pushkin's Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) been made into a ballet, I wonder. How about his poem The Bronze Horseman? Or his Don Juan piece , The Stone Guest? Surely someone in Russia discovered the dramatic potential of those works during the Soviet era.

#44 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 01:23 PM

Are you looking at a distinction between whore and courtesan?


Price tag and carrying costs, mostly, I would say.

#45 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 02:26 PM

I haven't read Moll Flanders, but Roxana lacks a single male romantic interest for the woman. It's long and very episodic, a string of mostly dark encounters and brief liaisons. In other words ... no great love, therefore no big pdd. Roxana is a great character and could, I suppose, be a great role for a dramatic ballereina. But I wonder if it would meet the expectations of your typical story-ballet audience. You'd not only have to cut out a great deal; you'd probably have to make up a love interest and redo the plot as well.


I don't know if I'd call Roxana's liaisons with the Prince and all the previous husbands and lovers dark, except that none of them, of which there are many, are much beyond 2-dimensional. But the novel is wonderful primarily for the writing style. But it's mainly about her constant upbraiding of herself for giving in to temptation and gold and ambition and feeling guilty about it. She is a courtesan, but refers to herself as a whore, but the problem is she has little range of character. She has her sidekick Amy and then tries to reform herself somewhat by helping out her abandoned children from a distance, but there are all sorts of messes that occur with those, and it's all in the written plotting. She's not quite a sympathetic character just because she says she isn't either--she is very repetitious and it's really only Defoe who's interesting. I can't well envision any of those 18th century novels as story ballets, although something abstract and shorter could be made about Roxana, perhaps more than Moll Flanders, Tom Jones or Joseph Andrews. I just see some big pageant of too many plot twists, too much scenery and costumes otherwise. POB did 'Wuthering Heights', but that doesn't seen quite the same. A one-act ballet of Roxana sounds possible, but not all that promising to my mind. None of the characters have any real romantic texture to them, although many of them are comic. Just a one-act piece with only the Roxana Name Dance focussed on with no moralizing could be dazzling, though, now I think of it: Just ignore the inevitable tragic ending and redo it completely, with just the whore-heroine at her social peak. This would be a totally unpunished whore (at least within what is shown onstage) and that would be something refreshing, but even though it's probably been done without pointing it out too strongly before, the world is probably as yet still not interested in something like that. So a 'Roxana's Dance' still sounds more promising than the Fielding, and Moll is too comic. How had you envisioned these, Ray? With all the complicated plot lines spelled out? For some reason, it reminds of a combo of what I read about POB Caligula and the awful Mayerling--on the heavy as lead side somehow. Maybe something primarily decorative is possible for these rococo things and loosely adapted. Actually begins to sound like 'La Valse', though.


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