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Triad


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#1 Rosa

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:46 PM

Yesterday I watched Triad featuring Amanda McKerrow, Robert La Fosse, and Johan Renvall from the American Ballet Theatre at The Met: Mixed Bill DVD. I had never heard of it before and was very impressed by it, actually liked it the most of all the four ballets on the DVD. The back of the jacket sadly provided little information: choreography by MacMillan, music by Prokofiev.

I was wondering if anyone familiar with this ballet could tell me what it is about? Does it have a plot, or is it conveying a mood, a theme, an idea...? And for those who have seen it, do you like the ballet?

#2 rg

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:12 PM

british BT members can say more about history and beginnings at the royal ballet, but here's what the NYPL cat. says:

Triad : Chor: Kenneth MacMillan; mus: Sergei Prokof'ev (Violin concerto no. 1); scen: Peter Unsworth; lighting: William Bundy. First perf: London, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Jan 19, 1972, Royal Ballet.//First U.S. perf: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, Apr 24, 1972, Royal Ballet, London.

you could probably find more about it in vols. about macmillan.
if mem. serves the first cast was a.sibley? w.eagling? and ?
no books at hand here only a vague memory.

#3 Alymer

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:19 PM

Third member of the cast was Anthony Dowell. The theme cited in the programme is two brothers whose relationship is threatened by tha advent of a young woman.

#4 zerbinetta

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:37 PM

It's on my list of least favorite ballets. Egregious misogynistic treatment of women, not uncommon in MacMillan.

#5 Mashinka

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 02:28 AM

It's on my list of favourites. All three characters were somewhat ambiguous in my view, but I didn't detect misogyny. The original cast was superb but revivals have been of patchy quality as the speed of the choreography created on Wayne Eagling gave subsequent dancers problems.

#6 Ann

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 04:36 PM

Mashinka, how could you not detect misogyny in 'Triad'? It screams at you! I don't mean in physical violence towards women, or in using them as blatant sex objects (things not uncommon in MacMillan's work), but in that other more insidious way - that 'women-are-destroyers' way, ie in this case, destroying a relationship between two men.

It's hard for me to say this, as I am a huge admirer of a lot of MacMillan's work, but I don't think his misogyny can be ignored. It was unconscious, probably, but all the worse for that.

#7 zerbinetta

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 09:49 PM

What happened to Leonid's post? It was interesting & insightful (as usual) and made a valid point for MacMillan admirers. I read it just before heading out to Dr Atomic and intended to answer it later. But it's vanished!

Leonid's point, and I hope I'm getting it right, was that MacMillan was merely reflecting the situation of women in the stories depicted in his ballets. With all due respect, I say perhaps. The choice of stories was MacMillan's and he inevitably chose those with "Woman (although generally Girl) who disrupts lives" themes and we are left feeling both sorry for her and feeling that she got what she "deserved". She should have behaved herself; she should have listened to her menfolk. This makes me uncomfortable.

Surely strong women or tragic women of the 20th Century could have appealed to him. Simone Weill (great pas de deux material with Camus), Sylvia Plath (pas de deux husband, editor, etc). MacMillan choreographed during the height of the feminist movement which was ripe with interesting women or, if he wanted to do costume feminism, Abigail Adams, Simone de Beauvoir, Emma Goldman are all promising choreographic possibilities.

But these were never his choices. MacMillan's chose to portray women the way he saw women and I find it repellent.

But then perhaps the pro and con MacMillan factors should just agree to disagree.

#8 Mashinka

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 02:39 AM

It was always accepted in London that the 'brothers' in the ballet were actually a young homosexual couple with the girl awakening hitherto unknown feelings within the older 'brother', plunging the younger boy into despair. The three young men who rough-up the rejected boy are clearly what were called at the time 'queer bashers'.

The role of the woman in that ballet was complex and in no way one-dimensional (at least when the wonderful Antoinette Sibley danced it). MacMillan was a product of his age and his ballets were a reflection of that. His ballet Las Hermanas though. based on Lorca's The House of Bernada Alba, displayed a remarkable insight and compassion towards women trapped in a repressive society and perhaps only Antony Tudor came close to him in depicting the constraints that women laboured under until relatively recently (and still do in most of the world).

I most emphatically do not find Kenneth MacMillan's ballets repellent.

#9 bart

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 07:54 AM

What happened to Leonid's post? It was interesting & insightful (as usual) and made a valid point for MacMillan admirers. I read it just before heading out to Dr Atomic and intended to answer it later. But it's vanished!

Zerbinetta, I think this is a post that accidentally got deleted. Leonid has reported the matter and I've passed it on to Moderators who understand the technology (which I definitely don't).

This is indeed an interesting conversation. I saw the dvd of this ballet a few years ago but don't have a copy for reference. I do remember liking McKerrow (always) but don't have much memory of the rest.

Curiosity led me to a 1984 review, by Jack Anderson, in the NY Times:

Set to Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 and first performed by the Royal Ballet in 1972, ''Triad'' purports to show how a young woman causes two brothers to become romantic rivals. But that is not quite what one actually sees on stage. In fact, one never knows what to make of the stage action. The choreography is in a slithery style that features lots of claspings and clingings. However, it seldom establishes any sense of characterization. Therefore watching ''Triad's'' two men entwine may cause some viewers to suspect that this ballet is not about sibling rivalry at all; for these viewers, ''Triad'' may seem to concern homosexual or bisexual lovers whose affair is broken up by a woman.

Unfortunately, because they still must battle against vestiges of the puritanical notion that dance is ''depraved,'' choreographers remain squeamish about treating certain sexual themes in a forthright manner. Therefore ''Triad's'' men remain shadowy figures.

Just as Mr. MacMillan never establishes who his characters are, so he also fails to establish where and when his ballet takes place. Since the only setting is a cyclorama and the costumes consist of nothing but tights for the men and a little skirt for the woman, ''Triad'' appears to occur in no particular geographical location or historical period. Conceivably, Mr. MacMillan may be seeking to emphasize that romantic rivalry is universal. However, though all behavior patterns may arise from the same emotional sources, such patterns differ considerably from place to place and era to era, and societies cope with the basic facts of life by blocking, unleashing or carefully channeling human impulses and desires in many ways. Urban and rural societies are not alike; neither are repressive and permissive cultures. No two societies are exactly identical, and since dramatic dances consist of images of behavior, choreographers ought to have some clear idea of just what sort of societies they wish to depict.

''Triad'' occurs in a void and most of its plot developments are only pretexts for technically intricate, but inexpressive, choreography. However, one twist of the plot involves more than that. This is the moment when three unidentified companions of the woman suddenly beat up one of the brothers while the other brother watches for a suspiciously long time before intervening. This scene and its motivations are as obscure as anything else in the ballet. But whereas the other scenes are merely silly at their worst, the gratuitous violence of this one makes it repellent, as well.


The concept that plot (or even lack of same) is just a "pretext for technically intricate, but inexpressive choreography" reminds me of criticisms of an awful lot of contemporary ballet work since then.

#10 bart

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 11:38 AM

Update on zerbinetta's question. Unfortunately, we can't retrieve deletions without extensive professional intervention. So -- reminder to us all -- NOT to propel ourselves to the delete button in grand jete mode. Instead, we should bourree slowly while thinking about it. :blush:

#11 leonid17

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:54 PM

It was always accepted in London that the 'brothers' in the ballet were actually a young homosexual couple with the girl awakening hitherto unknown feelings within the older 'brother', plunging the younger boy into despair. The three young men who rough-up the rejected boy are clearly what were called at the time 'queer bashers'.

The role of the woman in that ballet was complex and in no way one-dimensional (at least when the wonderful Antoinette Sibley danced it). MacMillan was a product of his age and his ballets were a reflection of that. His ballet Las Hermanas though. based on Lorca's The House of Bernada Alba, displayed a remarkable insight and compassion towards women trapped in a repressive society and perhaps only Antony Tudor came close to him in depicting the constraints that women laboured under until relatively recently (and still do in most of the world).

I most emphatically do not find Kenneth MacMillan's ballets repellent.


In MacMillan’s ballet Triad, the three protagonists were not seen as particularly real people of any era, but as symbolic projections of a type, echoing mythological representations of the human condition in particular situations. This is typical of McMillan’s ballets where the human condition is central to his creative impulse. Where on earth Mashinka found her analysis of this ballet as having currency among audiences at Covent Garden in 1972 I can only say, she was not moving in the same circles that I was at that time. “The three young men who rough-up the rejected boy are clearly what were called at the time 'queer bashers'. My friends of 1972 (including critics) never put such an analysis on the characters. In the original costuming, Dowell’s and Eagling’s costumes had veins painted on which was taken to symbolise blood relationship. The action portrays that loss of innocence that takes place between brothers when the elder leaves childhood for maturity and seeks the company of girls. It is a classic depiction of an adolescent rite of passage. Shut out from the relationship of the older brother and the girl, the young brother confused and hurt enters into a rage. The young brother fights because he resent the difference’ in the relationship of yesteryear and this situation is timeless. In 1972 I believe only one critic in London alluded to possible “homosexual” aspects in “Triad”, the rest looked at the ballet through different eyes. I know that male bonding is well understood by most parents, who expect their sons to explore both love, friendship and attempts at physical domination in play as an innocent, normal activity devoid of deviancy. Of course incest is a recorded reality, in this ballet I think it might be interpreted as misandric (i.e. men or women who hate men or boys) to say so.
In respect of Zerbinetta's post, we know that MacMillan chooses to portray female subjects from history and literature that are treated badly and have sorry ends, but that is the nature of literature written by both men and women. Marcus Tullius Cicero 106 BC –43 BC) wrote that misogyny was the result of gynophobia and when some one told Sophocles that Euripides was a woman-hater, 'He may be,' said he, 'in his tragedies, but in his bed (not to be taken literally) he is very fond of women.'" Quoted by Athenaeus, 2nd-3rd century. That is to say that the artist is not the art, merely the producer of what they portray, record, and inform.
I loved “Triad” at the time. It gave excitingly technical roles for the dancers so much so that no other RB casts have met the original standard. Where did Wayne Eagling get that speed from?
Regrettably the new costume for the brothers takes them away from an other-worldly existence and perhaps sexualises in a manner that did not exist before.

Even more regrettably I inadvertently deleted my original posting (which I preferred as it was more subtley written) whilst correcting a spelling mistake.

#12 zerbinetta

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 05:09 PM

I also thought the relationship between the two men was of a more physically intimate nature than that of most brothers, But this had no effect on my enjoyment (lack of) of the piece.

Perhaps if I'd seen it with Sibley, Dowell and Eagling I would have enjoyed it more. For sure I'd have enjoyed it more. But I suspect I would have been yearning to see the same threesome in Monotones II.


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