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Emploi 2


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 28 February 2000 - 06:42 PM

Michael, I think your instincts on the analogy between emploi and harmony in music are probably right on, especially since all this started during a neoclassical age. I learned a lot about emploi from reading Ivor Guest's "The Ballet of the Enlightenment." I've always been interested in how things started and where they come from. I also didn't mean to mock your use of the term aesthetic theory at all, but to point out that all this was really something that existed before theory.

I love the "perky allegro" category, Jeannie. That's a good way to put it. I think Dale's emploi for Symphony in C makes sense.

I've read several times that Peter Martins will say that Balanchine divided his repertory into tall boy and short boy, and I think you can see that in Martins' casting, but I don't think that always works. I remember Croce once criticizing ABT's Swan Lake for making anyone who was tall be a nobleman and anyone short be a peasant but, as she said, it's their short men (at that time) who were the more elegant. One of the problems may be that it is very hard to have a company that has dancers right for "Billy the Kid" who have to do "Swan Lake" the next night. Another reason why employ has remained stricter in the great, old companies who stick more to their "native" repertory.

#17 Estelle

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Posted 29 February 2000 - 12:22 PM

Thanks to all of you for that great, insightful, intelligent thread! What a nice "gift" to read when coming back from vacations! ;-)

Alexandra, your categorization of male roles was most enlightening. I guess that all the new production of the classics which changed quite a lot the male roles (for example Nureyev's production, which generally add some new variations for the male) increased the confusion between the "emplois", so that all prince roles are considered a bit the same... But from your examples, I realized that at the POB, Manuel Legris was at his best in "classique" roles (James, Albrecht, Spectre...) rather than "noble" ones.

You wrote that the "old noble style was decapitated around 1789", coule you elaborate? And also could you give some example of dancers who really were "danseurs nobles" (a bit more recent than Duport if possible) in your opinion, to have a clearer idea of what it means?

#18 Guest_Laura C. Cutler_*

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 04:49 AM

Whew! Like Estelle, I'm just getting back here after a no-Balletalert period (never a good thing), and find this extremely complex discussion. Have only been able to skim it so far, so will wait until I can read and study it a bit to attempt any comments of length or substance--or perhaps I'll just keep quiet and learn. But, had to address one quick thing from very early in the thread, to whit: Cynthia Gregory and her absolutely awesome, fearsome, relentless Myrthas. I only saw her in the role twice, at performances where Makarova and Ivan Nagy (pause for happy but longing sigh...) danced the leads, but the memory is stong. I particularly remember a diagonale of otherworldly renversees that seemed like optical illusions. This was when Gregory was well established as a star, but before she was allowed to try the role of Giselle. I remember her discussing in an interview the fact that she was eager to do the title role, and that management was finally considering casting her, assuming a suitable (and suitably tall) Albrecht could be found. Now that I think of it, why would they not have let her dance it with whoever had been partnering her in "Swan Lake?" Then again, she was often paired with Fernando Bujones, and he was certainly not known for his acting ability, so perhaps that wouldn't have worked. (Does anyone know if Bujones ever did do Albrecht, and how it was?) It is a shame if she stopped dancing Myrtha after starting dancing Giselle--I can't imagine anyone better in that role. Never saw her Giselle, but it certainly did seem like 'casting against type,' from seeing her in other things. She was always so regal and self-possessed.

[This message has been edited by Laura C. Cutler (edited March 01, 2000).]

#19 cargill

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 09:12 AM

Estelle, I think what Alexandra meant was that after the French Revolution, the audience didn't want to see the more classical (as in Greek myths) ballets where the hero was superhumanly noble, with the static grace those roles required. (assuming we can really tell from descriptions.) No more Louis XIV.

#20 Manhattnik

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 09:19 AM

(Does anyone know if Bujones ever did do Albrecht, and how it was?)


His sixes were really great in Act II.

It is a shame if she stopped dancing Myrtha after starting dancing Giselle--I can't imagine anyone better in that role.


Well, I could. She's been mentioned a lot in this thread already....

#21 Estelle

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 10:16 AM

Mary,

I guess it took a little time after 1789 before mythological ballets became unpopular, because, from what I've read, among Pierre Gardel's most popular ballets there were "Telemaque", "Psyche" (both created in 1790), and "Le jugement de Pris" (created in 1793),
and I think they still are among the most often performed pieces of the POB's repertory (of course they haven't been performed for more than a century, but they were performed very often in the years after their premieres).

#22 Natalia

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 12:27 PM

Mary - Estelle is right. The Golden Age of mythological ananchreonic ballets--including Didelot's "Flore et Zephyr"--extended well past the French Revolution into the first two decades of the 19th century. Somehow, the mythological characters seem to have appealed both to the nobles & "commoners," e.g., the mythological female symbol of "La Liberte" leading the common people, as we see in David's paintings from that era.

#23 cargill

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 01:18 PM

Yes, I know that there was no sharp break, but I was trying to explain Alexandra's reference to 1789 and decapitation.

#24 Michael

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 02:10 PM

Well, the Napeolonic era, with its celebration of neoclassical style (flowing Greek draperies on the women, lyres as legs for the furniture, etc.) didn't end until at least 1815. And even though the Bourbon restoration would not have tolerated the figure of "liberty" leading the people, the artistic prestige of neoclassical forms survived the Bourbon restoration in French arts generally. And even political neoclassicism (i.e., figures of liberty) are again popular and tolerated under the House of Orleans (post 1830) and the Second Empire.

But after 1789 the arts could never again be the preserve of a small class in France (or in Britain, for that matter, where the change occurred two centuries earlier, in Elizabethan times) -- never again could artistic prestige be determined from the top and particularly by the tastes of the Court alone. After the deluge we are squarely into an era when art of any kind must cater to a much more popular and mixed public taste. And also, not insignificantly I think, when art must pay its own way and not depend simply on the patronage of the Court (although noble patronage continues to be of importance, competing with other forms of financial support).

Contrast this with Russia, where absolutism (and serfdom and other things) persist under the Metternichian settlement of the Congress of Vienna until nearly the twentieth century.

#25 Alymer

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 09:07 PM

Laura, Gregory and Bujones danced Giselle at a Saturday matinee during an ABT season in London some years ago. I remember it as a really enjoyable performance. They both danced beautifully - his sixes certainly were wonderful - and the whole thing really worked because of the seriousness of their approach and the respect with which they treated the choreography. I remember it all the more because in the evening we had Kirkland and Baryshnikov who individually and jointly treated the audience to the most self-indulgent excesses I've ever seen in that ballet - or any other for that matter. The contrast was quite striking .....
But returning to emploi - I've been trying without success to find something that Ninette de Valois wrote about this subject. As I remember she defined the types as Danseur Noble, demicaractere and character dancers. But then she added that the most useful dancer was the really good demicaractere artist because, at a pinch, he or she could substitute for either of the other categories. Practical thinking if you ar running a company on a limited budget I suppose.

[This message has been edited by Alymer (edited March 01, 2000).]

#26 Steve Keeley

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Posted 01 March 2000 - 10:06 PM

For those who, like myself, tried fruitlessly to look up "ananchreonic," I think the word Jeannie meant may be "Anacreontic," which I did find:

Anacreontic (e-nkr-ntk) adjective
Of or in the manner of the poems of Anacreon, especially being convivial or amatory in subject.

noun
A poem written in the style of Anacreon.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

~Steve (Upset now that Jeannie has joined Leigh and Nanatchka in always using big words that I don't know.)

#27 Natalia

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 10:08 AM

Mea culpa, Steve. I type with utmost dispatch, often failing to check my errancy.

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 12:42 PM

Estelle: I didn't mean that the danseur noble disappeared the day the Bastille fell Posted Image, but that category was replaced by the "classique" (semicharacter classical) in Paris after the Revolution. The heroic ballets stopped after the Revolution (which took longer than a day, I think Posted Image) There were lots of mythological ballets, but not the heroic mythological ones. Anacreontic is used to mean "pastoral" I think. The very early 1800s were a romantic-neoclassical period, a bridge period, analogous to naturalism (don't know if that's a period in French literature; it is in English literature) It's a time when the peasants and ordinaiy people were ennobled, given the leading roles, but not portrayed realistically. In painting, I think it's the difference between David and Fragonard.

Which reminded me of going through the National Gallery here on a guided tour a few years ago that included the French neoclassical room, and the art historian who was taking us around said, notice the bodies. They're a bit odd by our standards: small head, long neck, long arms and legs. Click! They're not odd! They're the bodies ballet was created on! (I couldn't help but point this out Posted Image)

Flore et Zephyr and those ballets were the first that used the classique type in the leads, I think. I think it was also around this time that the commedia lost its noble characters (I never can remember their names) and Harlequin and Colombine became the leading characters.

As for later danseur nobles. Hmm. Does Pavel Gerdt help? There must have been something extraordinary about him that transcends the pudgebucket photos we have, else Petipa wouldn't have used him so frequently. Smakov calls him "Petipa's Blue Knight;" blue was the nobles' color, the color of the Prince's jacket (clear, beautiful "French blue," the color of Nureyev's jacket for Florimund in Sleeping Beauty). The danseur noble did survive in Russia, because Petipa brought him there. It may have been out of fashion in Paris, but the Russian absolute monarchy, and that culture, didn't mind a bit.

I think the danseur noble genre really died then, in any meaningful way. I agree with Alymer that the "most useful" dancer is the one that can do anything, and there are slightly shorter, and slighter, dancers who are quite convincing Princes -- at least to our eyes. Don't know what the Gardels would think. (Nureyev, Bruhn, Dowell would all be "classiques" BUT they had the weight, not only the deep rich plie, but the gravamen, to be wonderful Princes.]

Maybe the true danseurs nobles of more recent times would be Nikolaj Fadeyechev (he's on videos), Peter Martins--not to say that he danced those roles very often, but as a body type. Michael Somes, and his role in "Ondine" is a real danseur noble role. The only American dancer I'd put in that category was Patrick Bissell. I don't know enough about the current Russian crop of dancers to even make a stab at mentioning anybody. Of the dancers I've seen a lot of, Konstantin Zaklinsky. In Denmark, Kenneth Greve, today, and it really made a difference in the Martins' Swan Lake. When he walked on (in a blue costume) he created the court by his presence, not like a lost pizza delivery boy. Kronstam (6 foot 1) was a danseur noble, and there were actually two or three danseur noble roles created on him early in his career in the restoration of a few 18th century French opera-ballets (at a Festival in Aix-en-Provence). There are pictures of him in a tonnelot (sp) and gorgeous plumed helmet. I started exploring the genre question in depth when I started working on my book, because Kronstam's contemporaries (dancers) kept saying, "Now, he was a real danseur noble," and because they kept stressing that he could be very light and quick in certain roles, but had a weight that other dancers didn't have; it's what made him able to do modern dance when he was in his 40s.

Alymer (good to read you again) I remember DeValois talking about this, too -- interesting that there are usually only three genres, the noble, demicaractere and character; I think this is because by the 1930s the noble had been completely replaced, at least in the West, by the classique. In her "Invitation to the Dance" she also has the prescription for forming a ballet company. Take two classical ballerinas and two demicaractere ballerinas, etc. (But in Joan Lawson's writing, she describes the four genres quite thoroughly).

Michael, I loved your summary of history -- I agree totally. I would add that the Monarchist Russian ballet produced its greatest art in the late 19th century, when the ballet of the people in Paris had become decadent and produced nothing of lasting value Posted Image

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited March 02, 2000).]

#29 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 06:59 PM

Libby -

I can only say that in Agon, the "types" cast in all the roles changed drastically in Balanchine's lifetime, ranging from Diana Adams originating the pas de deux and successors as diverse as Farrell, Kent, McBride and Watts to Bolender in the first pas de trois (suceeded by Villella, Blum, Cook, Duell and Boal) to the second Pas de trois (Hayden originating, shared by Verdy, suceeded by Patricia Neary, Gloria Govrin, Karin von Aroldingen, etc.) that although there is definitely a world of different dispositions envisaged on stage by Balanchine, he definitely did not stick with his original conception in any of these cases.


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