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Is there such a thing as a perfect ballet?


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#16 Giannina

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Posted 05 September 2001 - 10:09 AM

Isn't it interesting that Monotones II has come up several times. I think I'd nominate that one too. I saw 2 performances back to back and the 1st was more perfect than the 2nd so what does that mean? Add the "performance angle" and I'd add Makarova and Dowell in one particular performance of "Swan Lake", and Harvey and Bissell in "Giselle".

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I'm going to answer my own question. The ballet (Monotones II) is perfect; the performances need not be.

[ 09-05-2001: Message edited by: Giannina Mooney ]

#17 Mashinka

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Posted 05 September 2001 - 10:49 AM

It's no surprise to me that Monotones II has been mentioned and it wasn't just choreographed by Ashton, it was designed by him too. Of Ashtons ballets I would nominate Symphonic Variations, but not with just any cast. Also his Scenes de Ballet. My most "perfect" memory is of Robbins's Dances at a Gathering with the RB cast that included Nureyev, Seymour, Dowell and Mason. And although I only saw it once, I would also like to nominate Le Loup by Petit(POB). The design element of this ballet is outstanding.

#18 cargill

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Posted 05 September 2001 - 12:51 PM

I was going to mention Ashton's Scenes de Ballet, but in terms of absolute perfection in every aspect, I decided not to, because I find the sets and costumes a bit clunky (though I like the hats). As I recall, Ashton didn't like the original set at all, and managed to get some of it removed. But in terms of construction, yes, it is perfect.

#19 atm711

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 10:08 AM

Les Sylphides is my only choice. The first time I saw it I was sitting way up on the fourth level of the old Met and I was immediately struck by the beauty of his many groupings. Fokine made it all look so easy!

#20 Manhattnik

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 12:53 PM

Well, there's perfect and there's perfect. I fear the following doesn't quite represent the kind of design perfection Alexandra was looking for in this thread, but, if you want to see perfection, check out the blurry video made from bootleg films of Gelsey Kirkland's first few performances of Giselle, available at the Dance Research Collection in NYC. Giselle was never better (I know, this is wildly subjective), and, sadly, neither was Kirkland.

#21 Manhattnik

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 01:58 PM

Perhaps a bit closer to what I see as the idea of this thread, which calls for perfection rather than sublimity, I'll go out on a limb and say that I think Stars and Stripes, with a really good cast and on a really good night, is pretty darn near perfect.

If you're regarding perfection as a cohesiveness of design, style and execution, and a compelling internal consistency, along with a lack of material, of any sort, that's extraneous to or unnecessary for the work's central argument, then it's entirely possible to say that ballets of which one doesn't even approve are perfect.

Not to say I don't approve of Stars and Stripes -- it's one of my favorites.

#22 Melissa

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 03:20 PM

'Symphony in C' has to be one of the most perfect ballets of all.

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#23 Ann

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 06:10 PM

I would go for 'Monotones' too - it seems to me to be a perfect mix of pared-down sculptural movement plus mood, light and music. However, I have a problem with Ashton's costume designs. The all-white leotards are absolutely perfect but he spoiled them, in my view, by adding clunky jewelled belts (ridiculous in particular for the men) plus intrusive white skullcaps for all three dancers.

Still, it is a perfect gem of a ballet and it thrills me every time I see it.

#24 Kevin Ng

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 09:27 PM

Like Melissa I would also go for "Symphony in C"; and in addition "Concerto Barocco".

#25 cargill

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Posted 07 September 2001 - 08:48 AM

Ann, I remember reading that when Ashton was making Monotones, he was intrigued by the idea of walking in space, and the costumes he designed were modifications, or inspired by astronauts' apparel. I think the headresses and belts give the dancers a sort of androgynous, otherworldly look.

#26 sylvia

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Posted 07 September 2001 - 12:28 PM

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.

#27 Richard Jones

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Posted 08 September 2001 - 03:48 PM

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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