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Bayadère:shades interpretation


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#1 87Sigfried87

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 03:23 AM

Hello everybody!Sorry for not posting in here for such a long long time,but I've been away,studying with the Cubans;-).

I'm preparing the programme for the new year for my ballet pupils and I was thinking about preparing with them the shades ensemble (the one starting with the queue of the shades doing arabesque penchée,temps-lié back....) and the variations of the three shades.Looking at the many different versions I discovered something a bit weird to me: some dancers performing the three shades have a happy smile on their faces;especially in the two happier pieces from the musical point of view.

Then a question came up on my mind: are the shades supposed to be sad or happy?and why?Ok for Nikiya,she is sad because of the loss of his lover.But the others?It is not about ghosts staying on Earth unhappily like the Willis in Giselle....their in their world (not in this one then...);so it should be a sort of "Indian Heaven" or the Nirvana,so they should be happy and mild....I'm not a specialist in Indian religion or mithology,maybe Petipa was not,too.But if my pupils tell me how to interpret it,I'd like to have a good answer,the right answer actually:-).

If you have an idea of whether they are supposed to be interpreted happily or sadly and why,please let me know;-).

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 03:43 AM

I think you'd have to go to the music and see what that tells you.

In Minkus' Viennese-style dance music for this scene, there isn't a lot of melancholy to go around. I'd say that you're on the right track with the idea that the Shades are "in Heaven", so they ought to be fairly cheerful about the whole thing. They've descended to earth again on the fog that falls off the Himalaya Mountains (the entrée with all those arabesques), presumably to visit the old dancing grounds, but also remember, that whole scene is a hallucination - Solor is stoned on whatever it is he's smoking in his hookah! So how good IS the stuff in his pipe?

#3 87Sigfried87

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:24 AM

I think you'd have to go to the music and see what that tells you.

In Minkus' Viennese-style dance music for this scene, there isn't a lot of melancholy to go around. I'd say that you're on the right track with the idea that the Shades are "in Heaven", so they ought to be fairly cheerful about the whole thing. They've descended to earth again on the fog that falls off the Himalaya Mountains (the entrée with all those arabesques), presumably to visit the old dancing grounds, but also remember, that whole scene is a hallucination - Solor is stoned on whatever it is he's smoking in his hookah! So how good IS the stuff in his pipe?


You are right.The only fact is: are these shades to be seen as unhappy ghosts visiting earth because maybe they died in similar circumstances as Nikiya,so they should look unhappy and haunting,or are they to be seen as souls in their kingdom,so one can be happy and one unhappy?and also,is this heaven supposed to be Paradise or Hell,or in the middle?because if it is supposed to be the Nirvana it should somehow give an effect of serenity and absence of feelings....I think Petipa didn't think about all those things:-(....:-).I think the only way of getting out of this is listening to the music and giving back what you feel.Thank You.

#4 rg

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 05:18 AM

wiley's translation of the 1877 libretto notes that "The Kingdomof the Shades" is described as "An enchanted place. Soft, harmonious music is heard."
when Natalia Makarova was staging the scene by itself for ABT, before she staged the full work in 1980, she kept asking the female corps de ballet for the desired dance quality she grew up with in Russia, using a word borrowed from Italian singing(?): cantelina.
the mood could perhaps be aptly described as sublime.
here is a mid-20th c. Soviet ballet publicitycard of M.A. Pomerantseva (a dancer with whom i'm not familiar) i assume she is shown here as one of the soloists in the Shades scene.

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#5 bart

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:24 AM

when Natalia Makarova was staging the scene by itself for ABT, before she staged the full work in 1980, she kept asking the female corps de ballet for the desired dance quality she grew up with in Russia, using a word borrowed from Italian singing(?): cantelina.the mood could perhaps be aptly described as sublime.

This seems much more powerful than issues of happiness or sadness. If you notice their moods too much, or wonder about their back stories, mightn't this distract from the effect?

:wub: A mood of sadness does, on the other hand, seem appropriate for the Wilis. But I don't know how far you should go in expressing this on stage. Lack of individuality (for the corps at least) seems to add to the power.

#6 chrisk217

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:19 AM

the desired dance quality she grew up with in Russia, using a word borrowed from Italian singing(?): cantelina.

would that perhaps be cantilena?

#7 rg

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:24 AM

spelling, esp. from russian/italian usage, will never be my forte.
i suspect your spelling is correct.

#8 87Sigfried87

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:49 PM

This seems much more powerful than issues of happiness or sadness. If you notice their moods too much, or wonder about their back stories, mightn't this distract from the effect?


It's that i am personally fed up with dancers performing roles without knowing anything about the story within,their background and who do not worry about being correct and sticking to the real meaning of the story or of their own role.So I want my pupils to be conscios of what they are dancing.
For the corps it isn't a big deal,they just have to look ephimeral(is it correct?)to me.But for the single variations it is important to give them the right track and let them find a way to be an artist,not just an athlete;-).

#9 87Sigfried87

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:58 PM

the desired dance quality she grew up with in Russia, using a word borrowed from Italian singing(?): cantelina.

would that perhaps be cantilena?

"Cantilena" in italian is something very repetitive and even boring.About a sound is also something very easy to listen to and without highs and lows,a bit flat....a lullaby can be considered this way too.And referring to the queue of shades doing the same movements with the same music it works.

#10 popularlibrary

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 01:11 PM

I have always understood that the entire scene takes place not in heaven, or the beyond, but in Solor's drug-soaked brain, and the shades, as well as Nikiya herself, have no expression or emotions of their own; they are a reflection of Solor's pain and guilt. I believe that the shades are simply refracted versions of Nikiya rather than separate characters, so I imagine interpreting them has, to some extent, to depend on how Solor himself is being characterized. Doubly so with Nikiya. Directing the scene would, I imagine, begin with Solor and procede from there, which is a complicated business if you are really concerned with characterization as much as dancing. Personally, I think Makarova's emphasis on style is probably a good idea, leaving the response open to the audience's imagination.

#11 Hans

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 01:40 PM

As the shades are dead, I would expect them to exude an unearthly calm. The Mariinsky and POB dancers do this very well.

#12 carbro

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:21 PM

I would expect the desired mood to be serenity, which could be demonstrated by a gentle smile or none. Minkus' music for two of the variations, however, suggests almost giddiness -- a real challenge for both Petipa and the dancers. I have never seen anyone hit what I felt was the appropriate note, except this past spring, one of the Kirov dancers. I regret that I don't remember who it was, but she overcame the oom-pah factor and gave a performance that was -- literally -- heavenly.

#13 87Sigfried87

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 03:10 AM

I have always understood that the entire scene takes place not in heaven, or the beyond, but in Solor's drug-soaked brain, and the shades, as well as Nikiya herself, have no expression or emotions of their own; they are a reflection of Solor's pain and guilt. I believe that the shades are simply refracted versions of Nikiya rather than separate characters, so I imagine interpreting them has, to some extent, to depend on how Solor himself is being characterized. Doubly so with Nikiya. Directing the scene would, I imagine, begin with Solor and procede from there, which is a complicated business if you are really concerned with characterization as much as dancing. Personally, I think Makarova's emphasis on style is probably a good idea, leaving the response open to the audience's imagination.


Yes.It is correct: It takes place in Solor's drug-soaked mind,but he has a vision of the Kingdom of Shades....it depends on what vision of this Kingdom,Solor has.If the story takes place in India,this Kingdom is supposed to be the "Nirvana",the illumination and the total absence...so the shades should look absent and extemely calm maybe.But if it is just Solor's dream,it should reflect his subconscious;then it is supposed to be very sad and melancholic,and somehow not clear but confused.This is why I am quite confused.

I think so: Directing the whole thing I should decide myself how to see this.If I were Solor,I would see the ensemble as "ephimeral"....it is not a feeling actually,it is an idea to give back to the public.I'd not concentate on a particular feeling as his drug-soaked mind cannot make a clear distinction among the shades....I suppose drugs don't make you see clearly nor make distinctions.The idea of a shade itself,is not a person,with personal feelings,precise characterization and traits.Then no feeling for the ensemble,just the idea of confusion and of something ephimeral.

The three shades are a second moment of drug effects.If before he had only confusion,after that,he starts distinguishing some precise characters.I could see them as a reflection of Nikiya but in different moments:I'd put the happier music first(the variation starting with double-frappé,pas-de-bourré-suivi),so that it is the remind of the full happiness with Nikiya,then the second one which should be in the middle(the one with cabrioles),where he starts realizing that his happiness is over,in the end the third one which is the sadder,when he realizes he has lost her and start feeling bad(the one with sissonne-ouverte à la seconde with extension,assemblé-battu...)....then he sees the real Nikiya and start the pdd.Can be an idea,can't it?;-).

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 04:02 AM

Sure, that's one way of looking at it. Just be careful about over-thinking all the possible interpretations. The music and the steps come first, then motivations can be supplied to bring additional depth. The dancers may well come up with their own, quite spontaneously!

#15 87Sigfried87

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 05:10 AM

Sure, that's one way of looking at it. Just be careful about over-thinking all the possible interpretations. The music and the steps come first, then motivations can be supplied to bring additional depth. The dancers may well come up with their own, quite spontaneously!


Yes I agree with you: steps and music first.My only aim is to form artists not just dancers.I see many beautiful dancers around the world and always less artists.My pupils are not professional dancers(I am too young to teach professional dancers:-)),so I want them to be different not for the technique,as they are not professionists,they are very young and anyone can do a variation technically better in this world;but for the art and for the soul,that are very personal and don't require high-level professionists.It just requires a heart.That is why i am quite fussy about interpretation;-).But yes:steps,music and style first.

Thank you for all of your answers.


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