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What is a repetiteur(sp)


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#1 whetherwax

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 03:57 PM

Just guessing here. I recently saw The Jerome Robbins celebration in Melbourne and thought that the choreography of The Cage in particular was so complex that one couldnt just pass on a written list of the steps( e.g. plie with bottom wriggling)for any company that wanted to do it. So must a company employ someone who has danced or taught the steps so that they will be correct each time it is put on? So is it the Repetiteur who fills that role and who works with the ballet master? If this is so, it means that ballet is a little like Zen Buddhism where lineage and the passing of knowlege through the generations is very important.
In other words ballet really is like a religion!!!

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 07:07 PM

A repetiteur is a member of the artistic staff who reports directly to the ballet master, or the Artistic Director in some companies. His job (a woman would be repetiteuse) is to schedule the rehearsals for all the company's repertoire. He may or may not supervise some of them as well.

#3 whetherwax

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 09:18 PM

Thank you. So how does a ballet company learn the steps of a ballet that is new to them or being re done.?

#4 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 10:33 PM

Dancers learn steps almost always by having people demonstrate. The people from the Balanchine and Robbins Trusts, who are sent to stage works, are often called repetiteurs. (I've never seen "repetituese" in a program.)

In Russia, most, if not all, of the dancers, at least the promising and established ones, have a mentor, who coaches them in their roles. For example, in the "Sacred Stage" video, you can see Yulia Makhalina being coached by her mentor, and then coaching a promising newbie.

For a work brand new to a company, unless there is someone in the company who knows the work -- for example, Peter Boal has staged a number of works at PNB that he danced -- someone is hired from the outside. That person (or people) teaches the ballet. Often second and third casts, schedules permitting, will watch these rehearsals and learn from the sides.

Sometimes a choreographer, like Maillot for his "Romeo et Juliette" this year, will send a stager(s) ahead of time, and then will come to work further or fine tune the work.

Another alternative is that a company may have done a piece before, and an internal Ballet Master will set the corps and demi-soloist work, but some of the Principals may have additional coaching sessions. For example, Suzanne Farrell was in Seattle for a few days a couple of years ago, and worked with at least some of the Principals in "Diamonds".

Each stager works differently. Some have muscle memories like elephants. Francia Russell relies upon her notes. A number of stagers who have been at Q&A's, like Russell who used to moderate them, are wary of using video as much more than a memory aid, because they to a last person have said that mistakes creep in, and there's too much risk in following a video blindly.

Not many stagers seem to rely on notation, which is often remarked upon as being more appropriate for modern dance, but Doug Fullingon is an expert in Stepanov notation, and has done beautiful reconstructions from them.

Ballet biographies are full of descriptions of being taught from one dancer to another, from Primas who sought out Karsavina, to corps members who teach each other the roles just before the curtain goes up to cover for injured colleagues.

For re-working, often the company Ballet Masters are responsible for teaching and re-teaching, and there's a lot of peer-to-peer teaching as well. Of course, when there's a Balanchine around, and no one remembers the steps, he might just toss the old version and make a new one :dry:

In nearly every pre- or post-performance Q&A I've seen, this question comes up. So you're not alone in wondering.

I'm sure some of the people with professional experience could comment further on their experiences.

#5 Azulynn

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 01:36 AM

Actually, Mel, in French (originally the word is French) a woman would be a repetitrice.
(Edit : even better : répétiteur and répétitrice, complete with accents !)

#6 SanderO

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 04:33 AM

Is it safe to say that most ballet has been passed along by demonstration/teaching as opposed to some form or written or graphic presentation?

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 07:40 AM

Yes, most passing along of ballets happens in the oral tradition. Today, if a ballet master is not a principal choreographer, a company will either retain an artist for that purpose, or for learning older ballets, hire "stagers" to make productions soundly based on earlier choreography. In the Royal Danish Ballet, they even have a category called "putters-up", who rescue old ballets from oblivion. Stagers may use any number of tools to supplement their memories, and that's a good thing, but for sheer efficiency, there's nothing quite like somebody who's "been there". Doug's work is made very rich by his deep and wide knowledge of both dance and music history. He not only knows the notation, but is very familiar with content and/or style of the works he's reconstructed independent of Stepanov.

(There is no pejorative meaning attached to that "and/or". For someone less informed, Pharoah's Daughter would have been groping around in the dark! There is very little performance tradition of this ballet to guide the modern stager.)

#8 whetherwax

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 02:35 PM

Thank you all. Helene thanks for the long careful explanation. I guess GhislaineThesmar
( Havent got my spelling primer here) was doing the mentoring for Isabelle Guerin in The Dancers dream of La Bayadere.

#9 Louise*

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 04:42 PM

Interstingly in opera the term repetituer is used also:-)

But in that case is is not used for someone who has sung to role but rather it is a unique profession in itself where there is specific training in musicianship and languages and piano to help teach the nuances of a role to a singer:-)

oper companies have inhouse repetituers usually.

I know its not ballet but i thought i was intresting:-)

#10 4mrdncr

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 09:59 PM

Dancers learn steps almost always by having people demonstrate.

In Russia, most, if not all, of the dancers, at least the promising and established ones, have a mentor, who coaches them in their roles.

For a work brand new to a company, unless there is someone in the company who knows the work...someone is hired from the outside. That person (or people) teaches the ballet. Often second and third casts, schedules permitting, will watch these rehearsals and learn from the sides.

Sometimes a choreographer...will send a stager(s) ahead of time, and then will come to work further or fine tune the work.

Another alternative is that a company may have done a piece before, and an internal Ballet Master will set the corps and demi-soloist work, but some of the Principals may have additional coaching sessions.

Each stager works differently. Some have muscle memories like elephants. Francia Russell relies upon her notes. A number of stagers who have been at Q&A's, like Russell who used to moderate them, are wary of using video as much more than a memory aid, because they to a last person have said that mistakes creep in, and there's too much risk in following a video blindly.

Not many stagers seem to rely on notation

Ballet biographies are full of descriptions of being taught from one dancer to another, from Primas who sought out Karsavina, to corps members who teach each other the roles just before the curtain goes up to cover for injured colleagues.

For re-working, often the company Ballet Masters are responsible for teaching and re-teaching, and there's a lot of peer-to-peer teaching as well. Of course, when there's a Balanchine around, and no one remembers the steps, he might just toss the old version and make a new one :lightbulb:


I've seen every one of the examples above used when I observed Corella Ballet learning Makarova's "La Bayadere" last year.

Susan Jones used prodigious notes, and demonstrated as well. She taught them the complete ballet in 2wks.

The Ballet Mistress and Master then refined the details of technique. As did Carmen Corella, who of course had also danced it at ABT.

Then the choreographer, Natalia Makarova, herself provided the exacting details of technique and interpretation in the week before the performance.

There were two video versions available, but only referred to rarely, or if there was a conflicted opinion. (And usually the consensus after viewing, was that the choreographer had altered steps slightly depending on the dancers or company performing it.)

Angel, himself, was present throughout all the above rehearsals, at first with all levels--corps,soloists,principals--and then more selectively coaching smaller groups or individuals, before returning to the large studio to oversee a run-through. For example, I saw him explain or demonstrate technique in the Shades scene to the corps, teach the Scarf pdd to the men, demonstrate partnering skills to the 3 casts of principals, and finally work one-on-one with individual principals to refine interpretations. The amazing thing was watching him switch from role to role, or between corps/soloist/principal, or step to step, completely from memory, never referring to a video or notes, and only rarely to a repetituer/repetetrice present at the time.

I have the most amazing footage of an amazing experience. A learning process for me and them.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 06:38 AM

There is another meaning, too, for "repetiteur" which has little to do with people.

It is the sheet music used in rehearsal for the ballet, whether in piano arrangement, or the first violin part.

#12 bart

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 07:01 AM

Thanks, 4m4dncr, for that insight into a major company's preparation.

I was especially intrigued about the way method fits the person doing the work -- AND by relatively secondary roles played by video and notation in the process:

Each stager works differently. Some have muscle memories like elephants. Francia Russell relies upon her notes. A number of stagers who have been at Q&A's, like Russell who used to moderate them, are wary of using video as much more than a memory aid, because they to a last person have said that mistakes creep in, and there's too much risk in following a video blindly.

Not many stagers seem to rely on notation

[ ... ]

There were two video versions available, but only referred to rarely, or if there was a conflicted opinion. (And usually the consensus after viewing, was that the choreographer had altered steps slightly depending on the dancers or company performing it.)



#13 4mrdncr

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 07:18 PM

I just saw a performance recorded for archival/reference purposes in a "quad split". Though each image was very 2-D, as a reference tool I thought they had "all the angles covered" and wondered who had requested or decided on the 4-cameras, the production house that filmed it, or the AD? I also wondered about the expense. (They didn't use HD, but had a full crew.)

Would such a complete video record negate the future use of several repetiteurs/stagers or other human experts? (Personally, I don't think so, though it may negate the use of quite as many people as before to teach a new work.)


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