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


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#76 Rosa

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 08:21 AM

Finding a score could be a problem. Also there is the matter of having so many characters to keep track of.

#77 Ray

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 08:52 AM

I've been surprised that no one has tried to do an Austen ballet, considering how popular the books, and movies about the books, have become in the last 15 years or so. Perhaps because of the difficulty of finding a score?


There's also the issue of how do you capture the distinctive narrative quality of JA's frequent use of free indirect discourse--that is, her frequent reporting of a character's inner state/thoughts from the narrator's p-o-v, without using quotations? (this combines 3rd-person, objective narrative authority with reader-character intimacy). Austen uses it so frequently and so many after her use it that it's hard to recognize. But here's a typical example from Emma:

Never had she felt so agitated.... How could she have been so brutal,
so cruel to Miss Bates!-How could she have exposed herself to such ill
opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying
one word of gratitude.

Dancing might be able to capture the mood in a very general sense here, but what about the distinctive way it's delivered to the reader? Of course this is something films often steamroll over too. But this raises another big question: can ballet only mine works of literature for plot, characters, setting, and "atmosphere"?

#78 papeetepatrick

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 09:47 AM

I think Charles Perrault's fairy tale "Donkeyskin" would make an interesting ballet.


It definitely could be. The Jacques Demy/Michel Legrand film certainly was a real beauty, with Delphine Seyrig as one of the greatest Lilac Faeries (literally, too, that was her character, and a very witty one it was) I've ever seen

#79 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 02:21 PM

can ballet only mine works of literature for plot, characters, setting, and "atmosphere"?


What else is there? Math? I mean Lois Bewley's πrē was pretty hysterical, but I can't see a whole dialectic of math-based ballets, apart from the arithmetic of music.

#80 bart

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 02:36 PM

But this raises another big question: can ballet only mine works of literature for plot, characters, setting, and "atmosphere"?

Ray, were you thinking of real-life events?

Mayerling and Anastasia come to mind. And Proust Ballet.

I've often thought that something might be done with a stylized version of Walt Whitman's life (the Civil War years especially) . Or Lorca's. And I'd be interested to see something done with the impact that the Bolshevik Revolution and World War One had on the secure, privileged lives of the dancers, ballet masters, etc., of the Imperial Ballet.

There are also ballets that could be (and have been) set to real life situations and to illuminate real life problems: war, plague, intolerance, environmental disaster, social/economic oppression, and the responses of humans to these. The Green Table is a particularly brilliant of example of what can be done in this vein.

I guess real-life topics tend to be something associated more with modern than ballet. Come to think of it, most of those I've seen haven't been very good.

#81 DanceWright

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 04:40 PM

What about the world of comic books and graphic novels -- Batman, Superman, The Punisher, Maus, Barbarella?

#82 DanceWright

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 04:48 PM

P.S.: There is the whole world of noir that has artistic possibilities -- The Maltese Falcon, Elevator to the Gallows, The Killers, or the works of Mickey Spillane.

#83 Ray

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 06:45 PM

But this raises another big question: can ballet only mine works of literature for plot, characters, setting, and "atmosphere"?

Ray, were you thinking of real-life events?


Actually, quite the contrary. What I mean is that different poems, books, and plays all have different ways of putting their messages across (so yes, there's more than plot, setting, and character). I don't read Jane Austen for plot or setting, for instance; I'm interested in how she narrates for us the inner thoughts and feelings of her characters. Similarly, I don't want to see the plot of Paradise Lost enacted (and yes, it does have a plot) in any straightforward way. And that's a quality I don't know if ballet can capture except by the use of a cheesy voice-over or lots of program notes. I guess I wonder, along with the romantic-era essayist Charles Lamb, about what happens to the imagination of the spectator when a work of literature is staged (his essay actually argues against staging Shakespeare at all). Here's Lamb on King Lear (warning: lots of romantic-era purple prose ahead):

"So to see Lear acted, - to see an old man tottering about the stage with a walking-stick, turned out of doors by his daughters in a rainy night, has nothing in it but what is painful and disgusting. We want to take him into shelter and relieve him. That is all the feeling which the acting of Lear ever produced in me. But the Lear of Shakespeare cannot be acted. The contemptible machinery by which they mimic the storm which he goes out in, is not more inadequate to represent the horrors of the real elements, than any actor can be to represent Lear: they might more easily propose to personate the Satan of Milton upon a stage, or one of Michael Angelo's terrible figures. The greatness of Lear is not in corporal dimension, but in intellectual: the explosions of his passion are terrible as a volcano: they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that sea his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see nothing but corporal infirmities and weakness, the impotence of rage; while we read it, we see not Lear, but we are Lear, - we are in his mind, we are sustained by a grandeur which baffles the malice of daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason, we discover a mighty irregular power of reasoning, immethodised from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind blows where it listeth, at will upon the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks, or tones, to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves, when in his reproaches to them for conniving at the injustice of his children, he reminds them that "they themselves are old?" What gestures shall we appropriate to this? What has the voice or the eye to do with such things? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show: it is too hard and stony; it must have love-scenes, and a happy ending."

And here's Lamb on The Tempest:

"But is the Tempest of Shakespeare at all a subject for stage representation? It is one thing to read of an enchanter, and to believe the wondrous tale while we are reading it; but to have a conjuror brought before us in his conjuring-gown, with his spirits about him, which none but himself and some hundred of favoured spectators before the curtain are supposed to see, involves such a quantity of the hateful incredible, that all our reverence for the author cannot hinder us from perceiving such gross attempts upon the senses to be in the highest degree childish and inefficient. Spirits and fairies cannot be represented, they cannot even be painted, - they can only be believed. "

Just some food for thought!

#84 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 07:40 PM

What else is there? Math?

:shake:

#85 ngitanjali

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 08:01 PM

Ooooo Devdas! It might be a bit too long, but it has everything! Star crossed lovers, drunken revels, dancing girls who fall in love with the wrong man, tragic ending. :shake:

#86 bart

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 04:20 AM

Actually, quite the contrary. What I mean is that different poems, books, and plays all have different ways of putting their messages across (so yes, there's more than plot, setting, and character).


Thank you for your explanation -- and for those wonderful paragraphs from Lamb. It's a g reat point and one which helps me to understand my that over-literalness and over-detail in plot are a negative in many of the big "story" ballets. "The Lear of Shakespeare cannot be acted" is a controversial point, but one which makes a good deal of sense, especially in the context of 18th, 19th, and even many 20th century century productions.

The effectiveness of Balanchine's and Ashton's Midsummer Night's Dreams, for me, is the way they cut out elements that cannot be expressed well in dance and focus just on those parts of the story that are necessary for the themes of love-gone-wrong, love-made-right, and the amazingly varied possibilities of expressing how complex this can be.

Lamb's references to Tempest, especially, makes me imagine a ballet which communicates those themes and feelings that are most important, most accessible to an audience, and most expressible in dance terms. Alonso, Miranda, Ferdinand, Caliban, Ariel, and the spirits are really all that is needed to tell the story of loss and the process of redemption through love, wisdom, and forgiveness. (Setting this in a ballet company studio and presenting Alonso in the guise of Balanchine might be an interesting concept. :lightbulb: )

#87 Ray

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 05:20 AM

The effectiveness of Balanchine's and Ashton's Midsummer Night's Dreams, for me, is the way they cut out elements that cannot be expressed well in dance and focus just on those parts of the story that are necessary for the themes of love-gone-wrong, love-made-right, and the amazingly varied possibilities of expressing how complex this can be.


I think there's a response to Lamb in those productions, definitely! And it's not just about judicious cutting: The 2nd Act pas of Balanchine's has little to do with the plot but everything to do with responding to the poetry of Midsummer's "green world."

#88 bart

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 05:42 AM

I think there's a response to Lamb in those productions, definitely! And it's not just about judicious cutting: The 2nd Act pas of Balanchine's has little to do with the plot but everything to do with responding to the poetry of Midsummer's "green world."

You've helped me clarify my thoughts on this. Perhaps the "cutting out" helps in two ways. (1) Most directly, it allows time and room to do something other than explicate plot. (2) It frees us to think about and savor the larger poetic (and ethical) impllications of the story.

#89 bart

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 07:05 PM

Just came across something in a 1952 David Denby piece on the NYC Ballet, then a verey new company.

Denby suggests that Jerome Robbins -- whose The Cage he had just seen and admired -- might turn to Edgar Allen Poe.

I think that Robbins's present technique would perfectly suit a "Fall of the House of Usher."



#90 volcanohunter

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:39 PM

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).

It wasn't exactly a ballet, but the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation produced a film of Roxana set in the swinging '60s in which the title role was played by the National Ballet of Canada's Greta Hodgkinson. Rex Harrington, retired by then, and Christopher Body also appeared.

http://www.roxanathemovie.com/


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