Ray

Ballets that should NOT be revived

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What do you all think of ballets that were choreographed specifically for a Very Special Occasion? For instance, Ashton's Birthday Offering. Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as an elaborate farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.

I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.

Totally agree, and Britten's opera 'Gloriana' doesn't age well either. That's part of the beauty of them, that they were majestic but ephimeral as well.

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Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as an elaborate farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.

I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.

Joseph Mazo describes the creation of "Cortege Hongrois" in "Dance is a Contact Sport." He notes that the opinion around the company at the time was that the ballet was not among his best.

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There was also a video released by the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s which had a stunning version of the Grand Pas Classique, danced by Sylvie Guillem and Manuel Legris. And then it had some of the worst choreography I've ever seen. I forgot the exact names but I remember cringing with disbelief that it could be so bad. :wink:

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Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as a farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.

I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.

Good point. I seem to remember reading that Balanchine said something privately to the effect that after Hayden left, Cortege would be a nice little piece for McBride to do. Don't know how accurate that was.

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I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion.
That's usually true, but there are exceptions. Union Jack, which was staged specifically for the US Bicentennial, has proved remarkably durable. In fact, as is the case with many Balanchine ballets, it took a while for much of the audience to catch up to it.
I seem to remember reading that Balanchine said something privately to the effect that after Hayden left, Cortege would be a nice little piece for McBride to do. Don't know how accurate that was.
Snarky little devil, that Mr. B! :clapping: That nugget is in Mazo's book.

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of course then we could add a ballet i saw once by karole armitage, on the life of michael millken, where an entire office of people danced with their chairs..

Suzanne Farrell says in her autobiography that during their time in the Bejart company Paul Mejia and she had a private joke - 'Have chair, will travel,' or something to that effect - in reference to their boss' fondness for choreographing around that item of furniture.

Snarky little devil, that Mr. B! That nugget is in Mazo's book.

A practical man. :angel_not: Thanks, I couldn't remember where I read it.

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"The Devil on Two Sticks" by Corralli of Giselle fame. Fanny Essler premiered it in the middle of the "I am the best...no I am....no I am"...etc. between Essler and Taglioni.

This ballet was just one of "Devil in Disguise" ballets of the early 19th century. (the deveil on "One Stick", "Two Sticks", "a stick in the mud", "a stick up ..." that were about as good as a load of the proto-Christian/anti-Christ monikers they laid on public figures in the day. (Essler was considered to be a pagan compared to Taglioni as "Christian") The 1830s were likely not very good to the ballet repertoire!

Philip.

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Oh, I don't know. Ballets in that era had stories as framework for dances, and the mime was integrated far more with the variations. "Le Diable Boiteux" still has bits and pieces of the music surviving in sheet music form which sometimes turn up in class music. They seem no different from other ballet music of the period. Just as a musical exercise, it could be fun to have someone try a "revival".

My nominee for Don't Revive is "Square Deal", which William Forsythe set on the Joffrey. It became famous as "the ballet you love to hate". I cheered it when it opened, but more as a proponent of Free Speech against all the booing.

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I must admit that I am curious as to whether anyone alive today has actually seen the original choreography for "The Devil on Two Sticks."

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Interesting idea, though I wouldn't have put Etudes in that category.

Quite right. Etudes with a great cast is an exhilirating and uplifting work. I first saw it with Festival Ballet(now ENB) more than 40 years ago when the company had a bright register of ballet stars.

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Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as a farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.

I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.

Good point. I seem to remember reading that Balanchine said something privately to the effect that after Hayden left, Cortege would be a nice little piece for McBride to do. Don't know how accurate that was.

Nancy Reynolds writes (in Repertory in Review):
After Hayden was gone, one might have expected that the apotheosis would be cut -- there is a slam-bang ending to the dancing, with full company on stage just before it -- but no. It has remained [as of 1977], as perhaps one more of Balanchine's numberless tributes to the ballerina, his eternal star. Fittingly, the first to inherit Hayden's role was the Company's prime candidate for new first ballerina, McBride.
Reynolds says that Farrell and Mazzo also danced the Hayden role. According to the Balanchine Catalogue, the apotheosis was eventually omitted at NYCB.

One would think that this ballet would not survive the original -- and highly emotional -- context of Hayden's retirement. I didn't see it except with Hayden, but there seems to have been more to it than just a one-time-only tribute. The ballet, as I recall, was a kind of sampler of grand Russian imperial styles, with big opportunities for both classical and character principals, soloists and corps.

The Glazounov score was lovely and familiar (though Reynolds says the effect was "tired"), the costumes were opulent (though Reynolds found them "gaudy"), and the roles were theatrical and grand in scale (though Goldner called the choreography "hackneyed").

It think that some of the criticism has been a bit extreme, to say the least, and that audiences would love it, even today.

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[sNIP] This could run alongside a modern dance project I've always wanted to see, called "Everyone's Dances with Chairs, All Performed at Once"

I meant to respond to this earlier. This could be quite an epic, as it seems I'm seeing new dances with chairs all the time!We could even expaaaaand it to include famous sitters in ballet: Lizzie Borden's mother at the end of Fall River Legend? The kids in Nutcracker Act 2? Coppelia (can't remember if she's sitting, actually...)? The King and Queen in so many ballets? And isn't there a character in The Concert who sits without a chair (now that's deep).

Lucia Chase was one of the most durable chair sitters of all time

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Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as a farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.

I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.

Interestingly, the Pacific Northwest Ballet school is performing Cortege in their year-end show.

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[sNIP] This could run alongside a modern dance project I've always wanted to see, called "Everyone's Dances with Chairs, All Performed at Once"

I meant to respond to this earlier. This could be quite an epic, as it seems I'm seeing new dances with chairs all the time!We could even expaaaaand it to include famous sitters in ballet: Lizzie Borden's mother at the end of Fall River Legend? The kids in Nutcracker Act 2? Coppelia (can't remember if she's sitting, actually...)? The King and Queen in so many ballets? And isn't there a character in The Concert who sits without a chair (now that's deep).

I'm not sure if this is the image you remember, but here's Louise Nadeau "sitting" by holding onto the piano (even though there's a chair next to her in this photograph, she's not sitting in it)

PNB in The Concert

And absolutely, in "Everyone's Dances with Chairs" there should be a pair of thrones, a la Sleeping Beauty, upstage center. We need the gaudiest thrones we can find -- nominations?

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There was also a video released by the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s which had a stunning version of the Grand Pas Classique, danced by Sylvie Guillem and Manuel Legris. And then it had some of the worst choreography I've ever seen. I forgot the exact names but I remember cringing with disbelief that it could be so bad. :P

I have two words for you: Norbert Schmucki...

And yes, his choreography is as bad as the name sounds... :clapping:

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There was also a video released by the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s which had a stunning version of the Grand Pas Classique, danced by Sylvie Guillem and Manuel Legris. And then it had some of the worst choreography I've ever seen. I forgot the exact names but I remember cringing with disbelief that it could be so bad. :P

I have two words for you: Norbert Schmucki...

And yes, his choreography is as bad as the name sounds... :clapping:

I finally had a good out-loud laugh today. :lol:

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Some years ago Boston Ballet did an execrable piece of something which went on forever and gave one a migraine headache and all I can remember other than terrible music, nonexistent choreography and awful sets and costumes is that it was about bees.

Hey, Bees are very important to agriculture, most of the fruit you eat get pollinated by bees. Birds are in ballets (Swans and bluebirds) Why Not the Bees? :wub:

(This message brought to you by the American association of bee-keepers and honey makers)

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Wasn't there a Lizzie Borden Ballet?

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Yes, it's called Fall River Legend, choreographed by Agnes de Mille. It is still in active repertoire, though (as far as I know).

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Yes, it's called Fall River Legend, choreographed by Agnes de Mille. It is still in active repertoire, though (as far as I know).

I've always wanted to see it. Just looked it up on wikipedia, which said it was in ABT's 2007 season, but I missed reports of it. Gillian Murphy and Julie Kent in lead roles, it said. Morton Gould is not much heard by now, but his music definitely had its moments.

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Yes, it's called Fall River Legend, choreographed by Agnes de Mille. It is still in active repertoire, though (as far as I know).

I've always wanted to see it. Just looked it up on wikipedia, which said it was in ABT's 2007 season, but I missed reports of it. Gillian Murphy and Julie Kent in lead roles, it said. Morton Gould is not much heard by now, but his music definitely had its moments.

..and for who did Ms. De Mille choreographed the role of Lizzie..?

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Wow, the same originated both Lizzie and the Neophyte in The Cage. I never saw Nora Kaye dance, but I did see her once in person, and there was nothing scary about her. Did I miss something?

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I only saw her perform on film. I think she may have been one of those whose art did not completely record. Either that or she was kind of buried by Hugh Laing's made-for-silent-movies histrionics. It's not unusual for an actor or actress to be nothing like his or her roles. Consider Leslie Neilsen. For years, he was cast as a Hitchcockian antagonist. It wasn't until Airplane that Hollywood began using him as the banana he is in real life.

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fyi: a scanned photo of Kaye has been posted on Ballet History and Music.

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