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Dogs as charactersin ballet


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#1 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 04:20 PM

This thread springboards off a question asked by bart about dogs in ballet. We've seen cats, in fact there's a ballet "La Chatte", but what about dogs as supers, or as portrayed by dancers as characters?

I can remember the opening of the Blair Swan Lake for ABT, giving walk-on roles to Enrique Martinez's Great Dane(s); I can think of Hippolyta's hunting pack in Midsummer Night's Dream, and Pepe, the Mexican Terrier in "A Wedding Bouquet". Then, of course, switching genres, there are Simon Legree's dogs in the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet in The King and I. Any others?

#2 bart

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 04:41 PM

Thanks for the new topic, Mel. I want to add leonid's comment, from the other thread:

When Peter Wright staged Giselle in the 60's for the Royal Ballet Touring Company, he used Wolfhounds to dress the hunting scene for the entrance of the Prince of Courland and what a splendid sight these huge dogs made. David Bintley used Lurchers in his King Arthur ballet.

ADDED I think David Blair's production of "Giselle" had a dog(s) in it.


I have been trying to remember whether there is such a thing as a pas de chien. If there is, our Adult Beginner class hasn't gotten to it. :angel_not:

Two difference between cats and dogs come to mind that show the advantages that cat characters and cat-influenced steps have over dogs, as well as the difficulties that choreographers might face in working with dog-based movement.

(1) Dogs, when excited or after exerting themselves, tend to pant heavily and to allow their tongues to flap outside their mouths. I do not believe that this sort of behavior is encouraged among ballet dancers except in certain modern choreography.

(2) Dogs prior to jumping or running reveal the preparation needed to carry out the movement. Cats tend to mask their preparation as much as possible, as do dancers.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 05:27 PM

The late Meredith Baylis used to have a pas de chien. It was an attitude which was a bit between derriere and a la seconde. She used to have a ceramic fireplug which she would put by a student who was taking this position at the barre.

Aren't there a pair of poodle dolls in "La Boutique Fantasque"?

#4 Juliet

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 05:39 PM

The Borzois in ABT Giselle first act, also in other productions, but cannot remember specific breeds.

#5 bart

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 05:41 PM

Aren't there a pair of poodle dolls in "La Boutique Fantasque"?

Your memory is a marvel, Mel. I Googled and found the following photo of both poodle in a Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performance in Sydney, 1937.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3487709

And here they are at the curtain call.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3464263

They also attended the post-performance party. One of them, however, seems to have been a young man wearing a poodle suit. :angel_not: He has removed his poodle head for the photo.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3464459

#6 carbro

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 07:28 PM

Crossing genres, Paul Taylor's Diggity includes recognizable types including a feisty terrier and, in pink satin lingerie, a proud, prancing poodle.

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 08:14 PM

SFB's Giselle has white wolfhounds; when Julia Adam played Bathilde she upstaged absolutely everybody by sweeping her scarlet gauntlet thorough his silky white coat in hte most extravagant fashion, staying somehow within hte bounds of what a Bathilde might do -- AMAZING performer.

Following Carbro into the realm of modern dance, Mark Morris has put dogs onstage BIG time in "Dogtown,' where everybody behaves in low-down doggy ways, and also in hte hunting scene of l"Allegro," where the dogs scare up a pair of lesbians.

Ronn Guidi's Nutcracker, for Oakland Ballet, has a little dance for the family cat and dog at the party scene. They jump to second, to coupe, and leap forward in attitude very sweetly.

I guess the Big Bad Wolf -- Little Red Riding Hood's -- doesn't count.


My favorite dogs are definitely Wicked Simon of Legree's.

#8 Alymer

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 04:02 AM

And don't forget Pepe, the little dog in Ashton's A Wedding Bouquet.

#9 Dale

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 07:58 AM

A character dresses up in a dog costume in The Bright Stream.

#10 Nanarina

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 12:20 PM

:rofl: What about the Wolf in the Wedding Scene Nursery Rhymes in the Sleeping Beauty ? I have also seen Wolf Hounds , Saluki's, Beagles, and Spaniels in both Ballet and Opera. It was rather a shock to enter a dressing room at the ROH Covent Garden, to find it full of Beagle's and that I knew their owner, a well known Dog Breeder, as I used to breed and show Dogs myself.

#11 carbro

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 01:28 PM

:flowers: What about the Wolf in the Wedding Scene Nursery Rhymes in the Sleeping Beauty ?

Good catch, Nanarina! :rofl: Not, strictly speaking, a dog, but definitely a canid.

#12 JMcN

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 08:19 AM

David Bintley/Galina Samsova's production of Giselle for BRB has a couple of dogs coming on with the hunters (I think they may have been Salukis but I'm not an expert). At some theatres Bathilde arrives on a horse!

David Nixon's production of Peter Pan for NBT has a dancer portraying (very convincingly) Nana the Dog-nanny.

#13 dirac

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 01:44 PM

What about the Wolf in the Wedding Scene Nursery Rhymes in the Sleeping Beauty ?



Good catch, Nanarina! Not, strictly speaking, a dog, but definitely a canid.


Not to mention 'Lady into Fox.'

Great topic, Mel.

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:54 PM

And if we let in canids in general, there's Roland Petit's "Le Loup".

For fox into LADY, there's Jacques d'Amboise's "The Chase".


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