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In search of the next Balanchine


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Poll: The next Balanchine (31 member(s) have cast votes)

Are you waiting for the next Balanchine to come along?

  1. With bated breath (2 votes [6.45%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.45%

  2. No - today's ballet scene has a lot to offer (4 votes [12.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.90%

  3. We were lucky to get one in the last century, don't ask for the moon (10 votes [32.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 32.26%

  4. We've already got one, it's __________ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  5. It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath (15 votes [48.39%])

    Percentage of vote: 48.39%

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#91 Alexandra

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 06:22 AM

Adam had Paris; Petipa had St. Petersburg; Ashton had London; the later Balanchine, along with Robbins, had New York City; Tudor had London AND NYC. This must be more than a coincidence.


Ah, but Bournonville had only Copenhagen!!!! I think it certainly helps if you're in a big city -- many more opportunities, etc, as bart mentioned. But you need teh training (which the first Mr. B had, in Paris with Vestris), and then you need an institution in which you can work, with financial backing, and which will keep your works alive.

#92 bart

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 08:46 AM

Question: was Copenhagen as isolated and provincial as we tend to think it was? Weren't there important French and Italian influences in his background and early life?

Also, royal court -- even a small and relatively unpretentious one -- must have had some sort of magnetic effect on wandering artists and connoisseurs of ballet and theater, of which there were many in Europe at the time.

Or, is Bournonville one of those rare people who, having been given a good start through his family connections, goes on to work and create more or less in isolation -- sui generis -- in spite of or maybe even because of the placidity and provincialism of his environment? Perhaps he was one of those creators who seem to require peace, quiet, stability, and support -- rather than stimulation, variety, and risk.

#93 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 10:30 AM

Question: was Copenhagen as isolated and provincial as we tend to think it was? Weren't there important French and Italian influences in his background and early life?

Also, royal court -- even a small and relatively unpretentious one -- must have had some sort of magnetic effect on wandering artists and connoisseurs of ballet and theater, of which there were many in Europe at the time.

Or, is Bournonville one of those rare people who, having been given a good start through his family connections, goes on to work and create more or less in isolation -- sui generis -- in spite of or maybe even because of the placidity and provincialism of his environment? Perhaps he was one of those creators who seem to require peace, quiet, stability, and support -- rather than stimulation, variety, and risk.


Obviously, Alexandra knows all of the answers which certainly I'm not pretending to answer by responding prematurely, and I certainly owe what understanding and appreciation I have of Bournonville to her; but just wanted to quickly say that all these things you wrote seem to me now to characterize the special quality of Bournonville, the 'subtle Danish art', as Alexandra has before said. But it IS a provincialism that you get too, but in a really good sense of the word-, the 'peace, quiet, stability, and support'-as you say- and then the presentation of that surely must owe something to the sophistication of Paris and its strong traditional structures--and the combination is, I think or think likely, special and unique. What other small country has a ballet tradition all its own that is not at all like the others? I like the totally unlikely aspect of Bournonville's output. It's one of those things that seems as if it could easily have missed its chance.

#94 leonid17

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 01:55 PM

Question: was Copenhagen as isolated and provincial as we tend to think it was? Weren't there important French and Italian influences in his background and early life?

Also, royal court -- even a small and relatively unpretentious one -- must have had some sort of magnetic effect on wandering artists and connoisseurs of ballet and theater, of which there were many in Europe at the time.

Or, is Bournonville one of those rare people who, having been given a good start through his family connections, goes on to work and create more or less in isolation -- sui generis -- in spite of or maybe even because of the placidity and provincialism of his environment? Perhaps he was one of those creators who seem to require peace, quiet, stability, and support -- rather than stimulation, variety, and risk.


To answer the first part of you question, I think possibly there is not much in translation to form an opinion about the cultural life of the first half of the 19th century. Copenhagen was at the centre of an important trading nation at the time of Auguste Bournonville and Norway was part of its Kingdom as were/had been parts of Germany, East Africa and the West Indies.

It is difficult for very many people to appreciate the amount of Handel operas and music that has been played of late as they find it difficult to engage with the style. If you can't engage with Bournonvilles ballets it is not that they are weak or unsophisticated, I would suggest it is the inability to make the journey to meet the genre.

Auguste Bournonville’s ballets are exceptionally sophisticated (not as described elsewhere) as was the choreographers background and as indeed was the great man was himself.

The father of Auguste was the French born Antoine who had been born into a theatrical family who had studied with one of the greatest names of ballet history Jean Georges Noverre who had performed at Fontainebleau and has been called the creator of ballet d’action and world famous for his” Les Lettres sur La Danse et sur Les Ballets”.

It was from this kind of background Antoine (described as beautiful as Apollo) was confirmed when he was appointed to premier danseur at the Royal Swedish Opera a post he would depart from following the assassination of Gustav III.

From Sweden Auguste gained employment with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen. Here he was to dance in seminal works by Vincenzo Galeotti, (a pupil of Gasparo Angiolini) who had collaborated with Gluck at the Vienna Court theatre and spent some time as balletmaster at the St,Petersburg Imperial Theatres.

Auguste was not just a scion of ballet history royal blood he was a scion of imperial ballet ballet history blood.

Auguste Bournonville path to glory was not too dissimilar to Balanchine. Both, for dancer choreographers, had a privileged social backgrounds compared to most dancers. Both had a privileged artistic and historical background, Balanchine’s musical training by descent via Tchaikovsky, goes back to the Johannes Ockeghem in the 15th century.

Bournonville’s ballets capture commonplace characters with a vivid reality in narrative works that achieve an economy of expression which is highly sophisticated. That is to say his characters are as
real as those that appearing in Shakespeare plays.

It takes the admiration of a genre, to be able to rise above critical reception of Bournonville’s sophistication which has not been tainted
by familiarity and study of 20th century aesthetics.

There has recently been a Bournonville revival in Copenhagen which although it is a new work look at, we are still far short of knowing a quarter of this mans ouevre to fully judge him. We measure Petipa’s
unseen works because studies in English have been available for more than fifty years. This is not entirely the case of Bournonville.

Galeotti was the starting point for Bournonville, as Petipa (who was musically trained) was for Balanchine.

Ashton came from a distinctly upper middle class background and although not having the advantage of the Imperial School had distinguished Russian teachers and studied choreography with Massine and Nijinska.

The answer Bart, is that the toffs have it. (TFIC)

Was Bournonville a victim of the dramatic social, industrial and technical changes of the late 19th century and early 20th century as happened to Petipa?

Has anyone counted recently the number of works by Balanchine that have not been revived? Were they just plain bad or unsophisticated?

PS
I have avoided dates as I am not at home to confirm them and have late made a correction thanks to Alexandra spotting an error in confusing names of Antoine and August. (ADDED) Truly I do know the difference.

#95 Alexandra

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 02:23 PM

Just a quick note -- thanks for this, leonid, but I think there's a confusion between August and Antoine. It is Antoine (the father) who was premier danseur in Sweden (August was balletmaster there much later) and who came from Sweden to Copenhagen, and danced in Galeotti ballets. I'd also point out that Copenhagen may have been a trading center, but it was still a very small city in Bournonville's day -- 100,000 -- and Heiberg's literary magazine had 100 subscribers. He made work in a very small pond.

Many of Bournonville's serious ballets were lost in 1929, I believe, because Harald Lander, whose forte was comedy, either was not interested in them, or could not stage them.

#96 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 02:23 PM

The answer Bart, is that the toffs have it. (TFIC)


For a moment, I thought I didn't have it and wasn't one of them (frightful thought), though, since I didn't know whether that was a British or internet acronym (still don't), but do now know it is not Transportation For Illinois Coalition.

I suppose that one is an internet one, and most will know it, though I didn't: 'Tongue Firmly in Cheek'.

#97 Mashinka

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 01:45 AM

It is difficult for very many people to appreciate the amount of Handel operas and music that has been played of late as they find it difficult to engage with the style. If you can't engage with Bournonvilles ballets it is not that they are weak or unsophisticated, I would suggest it is the inability to make the journey to meet the genre.


I find that a very odd assertion when theatres are packed for Handel Operas. Was Agrippina with Sarah Connelly at the ENO difficult to engage with? Not for the packed audience the night I went and when Danielle de Niese sings her Cleopatra at Glyndebourne tickets aren't to be had for love nor money. Handel did create the odd work where you are better off buying the CD (Orlando springs to mind) but out of about 40 operas there are few that don't offer opportunities for imaginative stagings. As for Handel's other works Messiah, Water Music and Royal Fireworks are staples of every concert hall in Britain making me think he is the easiest of composers to appreciate, certainly in the UK.

Bournonville's works are the balletic equivalent of a de-tox and I defy anyone to leave a performance of his in Copenhagen without either a smile on the lips or a tear in the eye.


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