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Verdy-Villella Giselle for Boston Ballet

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I was flipping through the astonishing 97 pages :P of photographs in B. H. Haggins Ballet Chronicle and came upon a large number from a Boston Ballet production of Giselle (1969) with Violette Verdy and Edward Villella. Included are a great many stills from a film of the production mde by Gerald Fitzgerald. Almost all the photos feature Verdy dancing. Villella, except for a couple of big jumps, is seen mostly supporting or standing, or mourning Giselle.

The photos of Verdy in performance are spontaneous and deeply moving. As for Haggin's text: You have to allow for his sometimes over-the-top :FIREdevil::wub: adoration of this dancer. But it must have been a powerful, beautifully detailed peformance indeed.:

Verdy had me wondering at times whether I really was seeing the marvels I thought I was seeing. One such marvel was the slow movement around Albrecht, in Act 2, with which Giselle makes him aware of her incorporeal presence, and in which one saw the exquisite changing configuration of Verdy's pointed toes, legs, torso, head, arms and hands completed in breathtaking fashion by her fingers -- those Verdy fingers that seem to be activated by intelligences of their own which keep their movements in constant fascinating relations with those of the rest of her body. (It was a shock, after this, to see Fonteyn's lovely movement, at the same point in Giselle, end in an extended hand whose fingers were motionless.) And in addition to such marvels of dancing there were those of Verdy's acting, of which my memory recalls most vividly the utter desolation on the face she raised after her collapse at the disclosekure of Albrecht's decision.

Haggin also praises the Verdy/Villella partnership. I would not have thought of Villella as a potentially great Albrecht.

This performance has just gone to the top of my list of Performances I WISH I'd Seen.

Did anyone see this production or have any information about it? Have you seen the photos in the Haggin book? What do you think?

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I saw it, although I was only twelve at the time so my memory is sketchy. It absolutely made an impression however. I remember the sequence where Giselle throws the lillies after the grande jetes in Act II quite vividly. For some reason the second Act stayed in my mind particularly. Maybe it is because I was so young and impressionable but somehow years later no Act II performance quite compared to my memory of that one. A year or so later I saw Fracci and Bruhn dance Giselle with ABT and I was quite taken with her Act I. One would think that it would be the other way around but for me as a young ballet student that was not the case.

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I did not see them in Boston but they danced Giselle with the Miami Ballet, a civic company around the same time.

It was my first time seeing the ballet and though I was about nine or ten I thought they were divine. In Act I, I mostly see Violette hiding from her mother and in Act II I remember thinking she never touched the ground. I remember Villella catching the lilies and I could swear he jumped over the heads of the Wilis to exit.

Verdy's book in which she translates Gauthier is one of my treasures.

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Thanks, Alina and glebb.

Verdy's book in which she translates Gauthier is one of my treasures.
Glebb, can you tell us more about Verdy's book?

I just looked at the index of Villella's Prodigal Son (currently being discussed on another thread). He doesn't mention this enterprise. I wonder why? I just found the following in Robert Garis's Following Balanchine:

I thought Verdy's and Villella's Giselle in Boston wonderful, but I don't remember consciously thinking that one of the reasons why it was taking palce was that neither dancer was getting much attention from Balanchine after Jewels in 1967. I was aware that Balanchine had made no difficulty about their appearing in these ventures, but I asked neither them nor myself about the implications of this fact. Much later it occurred to me that in the days before Farrell, Balanchine must have wanted all his dancers on hand all the time, just as he wanted to see them all in company class every morning. He let some dancers appear on television because that did not take them away from New York, but his dancers almost never made guest appearances with other companies except as part of the New York City Ballet outreach program. But I discussed none of this with Verdy and Villella in Boston. I remember simplyl feeling glad that they were expanding their dancing by apearing in Boston and Washgton, not only in Giselle but in La Sylphide, which I saw only on film.

No mention of Miami -- or other other cities.

I assume that both Giselle and Sylphide meant a lot to the European trained Verdy, who probably could have become a star, dancing the great classics, in any company but NYCB. I wonder how Villella became involved and how he was able to achieve so much in the role of Albrecht. And the role of James.

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Verdy translates Gauthier and then offers a bit about her experience with the role.

Her book was a big help when I staged GISELLE for Oregon Ballet Theatre many years ago.

The book is filled with many gorgeous illustrations by Marcia Brown and in this translation Giselle kills herself with the sword.

Also - Verdy and Villella danced Giselle, La Sylphide and Swan Lake with the Miami Ballet.

Verdy performed full length Sleeping Beauty in Miami partnered by Peter Martins.

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I'm surprised to know about this performances too. While reading their books i often wondered would be for a dancer NOT to access a specific role because of Company Repertoire issues. I guess the answer is simple: take it or leave it-(right Gelsey...?) Well, now i see an alternative which i didn't think about before: guesting-( if such is permitted, right?)

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I did not see them in Boston but they danced Giselle with the Miami Ballet, a civic company around the same time.

It was my first time seeing the ballet and though I was about nine or ten I thought they were divine. In Act I, I mostly see Violette hiding from her mother and in Act II I remember thinking she never touched the ground. I remember Villella catching the lilies and I could swear he jumped over the heads of the Wilis to exit.

Verdy's book in which she translates Gauthier is one of my treasures.

Okay, Glebb so I think that you just may have confirmed a memory that I thought my twelve year old imagination had conjered up. Villella caught the lillies in the air! Most Albrechts pick them up off the ground. I think Giselle is still highly effective without doing that but that was certainly impressive! Of course, that seems fitting as Villella's image was highly based on his athletic ability. But it was indeed beautiful!

On a side note Violette played an important part in my professional life in the years after that performance. She awarded me with a Ford Foundation Scholarship that paid for my training and I later worked under her leadership and coaching. She was amazing. One of the strongest influences of all those artists I have been fortunate to work with.

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When Miami repeated their Giselle a few years later, this time with Ted Kivitt as the Albrecht, he caught the flowers in the air, too. I wonder if it were a Verdy touch that she preferred. I asked Anton Dolin about it, and he said that Spessivtzeva had him do that sometimes, but not all the time.

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In their memorable Ballet Theatre Giselles; Youskevitch caught Alonso's lillies.....and I never saw him miss....

The photos in the Haggins book gives one a good feel of what the Verdy/Villella Giselle was like; perhaps Verdy took her cue from that great French Giselle, Chauvire.

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I also saw the, dance with Boston and particularly remember Verdy's first act. Such a lovely young girl, her European charm made the character seem so real. They were also a very well matched couple.

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Re: catching the lilies. It must help if you have the reflexes and know how to catch things. Dropping them on stage would be a disaster. Villella earned a college letter in baseball, which may have added to his confidence. Did Verdy have any kind of pitching experience, I wonder? :wink:

atm711, you are right about the Act I photos. I've never seen photos from the American stage in this period that show such much naturalness and vulnerability. When Giselle is a dancer's bread-and-butter, it's possible that the role becomes somewhat stylized and even derivative over time. If you've been waiting a long time in an entirely different kind of company, and get the chance to do Giselle, possibly something more original and personal is the result.

And thank you for your suggestion about Chauvire.

Here's a question for the experts: Would I be right in assuming that Verdy had the primary responsibility for putting together her and Villella's performance. How about the Boston production as a whole? Not to mention Miami and other locations. This raises interesting questions as to what her influences were, what if any coaching she had, etc.

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Not sure about Verdy and Villella's coaching but Boston's production at the time was staged by Dmitri Romanov.

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I have the 25th anniversary commerative book for the Boston Ballet, from 1989. There is a lovely photo of Violette and Edward Villella in "Giselle" - she made her debut in "Giselle" with the Boston Ballet, in 1968. George Balanchine was the Artistic Advisor to the BB. He would send dancers from the NYCB to Boston occasionally. In November, 1968, a gala was held to celebrate the BB's 5th anniversary with stars of the NYCB as guest performers. Ms. Verdy really was a beauty - and still is.

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Is it possible that Eglevsky coached them or at least Villella?

He was a teacher at SAB at that time.

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I do know that Eglevsky coached Villella and McBride in "Spectre de la Rose", but can't say about Giselle.

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From 'BALLERINA a biography of Violette Verdy' by Victoria Huckenpahler -

"Since Verdy's days with Ballet Theatre she had never forgotten the Romanoff version which had initially been staged by him for Erik Bruhn's appearance as Albrecht, and which he had inherited in part from Anton Dolin and Mikhail Mordkin, links, respectfully, with the Diaghilev and Pavlova enterprises. Violette's own interpretation, which she had begun developing under Victor Gsovsky in her French days and had expanded over the years under the tutelary eye of Romanoff and Alicia Markova, also bore the influence of performances she had watched by Chauvire and Ulanova."

"The Boston Giselle performances of 1968 had been sufficiently acclaimed for the two artists to be invited back one year later to repeat the program .......The April 1969 engagement closely followed by performances of Giselle by the same pair in Florida for the Miami Ballet and in Washington, D. C. for the National Ballet of Washington.

Undeterred by the difficulties of leading a choreographic double life, Violette agreed to guest perform in the National Ballet of Washington's La Sylphide at its premiere there in March of 1969..... Swedish Ballerina Elsa-Marianne von Rosen, mounted.....The measure of her success in adapting herself to the period mood can be discerned in the post script of a letter written to her a few days later by von Rosen herself: "I hope you will dance 'La Sylphide' many more times-you are superb and so wonderful as I always dreamed this role to be." Violette danced the ballet in the same exact version exactly two years later for the Miami Ballet.".......Perhaps Violette felt a certain added professional excitement at this performance, for Natalia Makarova , herself a mistress of the ethereal, was among the audience."

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Wasn't that La Sylphide the one where Mary Fitzgerald's father, the concertmaster, had to take over as conductor because the regular one keeled over on the podium with a heart attack? (You'd think I'd remember that better, but it was the performance just before I arrived in Miami. People were still talking!)

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In their memorable Ballet Theatre Giselles; Youskevitch caught Alonso's lillies.....and I never saw him miss....

The photos in the Haggins book gives one a good feel of what the Verdy/Villella Giselle was like; perhaps Verdy took her cue from that great French Giselle, Chauvire.

Verdy is one of those dancers who really make me regret not having a time travelling machine just to see her dance...

She had such a rich and long career, and such impressive versatility. She was already listed in Fernand Hazan's "Dictionnaire du Ballet moderne", which was published in 1957, one year before she joined NYCB: back then, she was mostly known for her early start with Roland Petit's "Ballet des Champs-Elysées" in 1945 when she was only 13 year old, her role in the movie "Ballerina" in 1949, and her role of la Fiancée in Roland Petit's "Le Loup" in 1953 (I wish the POB would perform it again, I've never seen it...) Before joining NYCB at 25, she had danced with quite a lot of companies, including Chauviré's "Ballet de Marigny" in 1952, and also performed as an actor along Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud.

Some biographies mention that she had performed "Giselle" with the Ballet Rambert in 1957, and also the following article from Dance Magazine (2001)

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m108..._75/ai_80714402

says that: "Roland Petit, whom she first met as a very young student in Paris, considered her, next to his wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, his best Carmen, and she had already danced Giselle as a guest with La Scala, learning much later that Balanchine was one of the people who recommended her for the role."

I guess one could schedule a whole season for a company just with ballets she premiered or in which she excelled... :)

Edited to add: she was trained by Madame Rousanne and Victor Gsovsky. Actually the list of pupils of Madame Rousanne is quite amazing (among others: Lycette Darsonval, Serge Peretti, Yves Brieux, Yvette Chauviré, Youly Algaroff, Alexandre Kalioujny, Peter Van Dyk, Jean Babilée, Roland Petit, Pierre Lacotte, Maurice Béjart...).

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Edited to add: she was trained by Madame Rousanne and Victor Gsovsky. Actually the list of pupils of Madame Rousanne is quite amazing (among others: Lycette Darsonval, Serge Peretti, Yves Brieux, Yvette Chauviré, Youly Algaroff, Alexandre Kalioujny, Peter Van Dyk, Jean Babilée, Roland Petit, Pierre Lacotte, Maurice Béjart...)

I lived at Madame Guillerm's while at SAB, the summer of 1970. Madame Guillerm spoke of Violette's relationship to Madame Rousanne and there was a framed photograph of Madame Rousanne with tiny Nelly, on one of the coffee tables in the living room.

Mel - It was the first Miami Giselle.

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