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Alexandra

Is there such a thing as a perfect ballet?

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I have to admit a weakness for a bit of sparkle, and I loved it in Monotones II.

But to nominate my choices for perfect ballets, I'd definitley go for 'The Dream' and 'A Month in the Country'. I can't think of 2 ballets that have moved me so. They thoroughly delighted me on first and subsequent viewings.

And I know it's not a popular choice, but MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet ranks up high as well for me. I know the choreography isn't thought to be as great as other versions and here I admit my ignorance in such matters. But I think MacMillan used the music perfectly, and it's just one great piece of dancing after another. It's a ballet that I never tire of.

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For me, any approach towards that unattainable goal of perfection has to be an integration of constituent parts which tend towards perfection in their own fields. Many of Petipa’s ballets therefore fall out of the picture, because the music for them is second-rate, apart from the contribution of Tchaikovsky (and, to some extent, Glazunov). Sleeping Beauty achieves a new standard of collaboration between composer and choreographer, but for a perfect ballet I don't need a divertissement to finish with, especially when (as in some cases) the story is thin, if it exists at all! However I would put Act 2 of Swan Lake in my list of leaders (but that was Ivanov, though I have read that some doubt the extent of his involvement); the problem is that Tchaikovsky’s carefully designed key-scheme was badly disrupted when the music was re-arranged after his death for the 1895 production. I have enjoyed this act most when it has been perfectly lit! At its best, this act is so clean and complete – enough!

Some might argue that, to achieve perfection, a ballet has to employ a corps for the sake of completeness. Nevertheless, because it is such a wonderful marriage of music and choreography (with a fine score) I would put Apollo as near perfection as most. Also, with minimal resources on stage, I find that Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun is complete – I don’t need anything more. (Balanchine said something about putting a man and a woman on stage and there you have a story – Robbins does just that, without overstating the idea, using a perfectly formed score which is such an important work in music history). Serenade has great beauty, but I can’t get away from the fact that the music is played in the wrong order – Balanchine was clever enough to get away with it, and there were reasons for the ballet developing in this way, but for me that precludes the label of perfection.

I haven’t seen ‘Four Temperaments’ enough times to judge how near I feel it is to perfection – but I’ve loved it when I have; also, I have yet to see Symphonic Variations in the theatre. I also go for Petrushka and Agon, with Monotones not far behind (though that needs a re-vamp from the design dept). Interestingly, Rite of Spring might be unlikely to figure; the score is perfect, but has any choreographer perfectly realised it yet? I think that GB (who understood Stravinsky like no other) thought it was better left in the concert hall?

[ 09-08-2001: Message edited by: Richard Jones ]

[ 09-09-2001: Message edited by: Richard Jones ]

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