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Evaluating (re-evaluating?) Dances at a Gathering

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Dominque Delouche's "Violette and Mr B" -- which I just saw for the first time -- answers all the questions one may ever have about "Dances at a Gathering," as well as about "Emeralds" and "Liebeslieder Walzer." In the archival clips of Violette Verdy -- roughly filmed and slightly too fast -- you see how the parts were originally set down. All the performances since, at least the ones I've seen, seem to capture this aspect or that, but never everything at once and in one place.

Here's a nice rehearsal clip of Wendy Whelan and Gonzalo Garcia, dancers with oversized personalities, doing "Other Dances," which was also set to Chopin Mazurkas:

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Thanks, Quiggin, for that information about the Verdy dvd.

While dipping into Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance, I found Edwin Denby's long interview with Robbins: "Dances at a Gathering." (pp. 1157-1166), which is worth checking out.

On another thread, kfw posted two YouTube clips of Manuel Legris and of Simon Valastro dancing the Villella variation in a (to me) inappropriately "big ballet". (Grand jetes: ta-DAH, ta-DAH! All wrong somehow.)

Here's Robbins discussing how Edward Villella's gentler, more reticent version was developed:

At so many rehearsals, they didn't dance all out. They sort of walked. That's how I got Eddie to do that first variation the first night. He came into rehearsal and had to save himself for the performance and just marked through it. I ran back and said, "Now, that's what I want." The same with Allegra -- when she marks something she shoes ou what it is. I don't think they realize how trained they are -- so clear. Like someone with a great voice who can whisper and you hear it. And that's what you see. And that's what they do.

This helped to to understand why I have had a hard time responding emotionally to some of the revivals of Dances I've seen.

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For me, the use of the Chopin makes a big reference to Fokine and Les Sylphides -- I have trouble not thinking of that work and the place it holds in dance history whenever I hear anything using Chopin. Robbins certainly seemed to be interested in him, and unafraid of whatever baggage that comes with him.

I agree. Chopin and Les Sylphides has such a powerful connection for me that I see the performance in my minds eye whenever I hear various pieces played.

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