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Evaluating (re-evaluating?) Dances at a Gathering-- Claudia La Rocco on a recent NYCB performance


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#46 Helene

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 12:59 PM

Robbins choreographed several other Chopin ballets -- "In the Night", "Other Dances", and I think a third -- so he seems to have cloned himself.

His first Chopin foray, The Concert.

I know you knew that, but it's in such a different mood that it's easy to overlook it for this discussion.

I was thinking of a third that followed DaaG.

I don't put "The Concert" in the same group, since the tone and intent were different, but it's hard for me to watch "Les Sylphides" without thinking about big fluffy powder blue hats when that music comes on...

#47 sandik

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 01:01 PM

Maybe this needs to be a thread of its own (there was an NPR piece yesterday about Chopin and his predilection for piano work) but I'm always fascinated by the works that different choreographers make to Chopin. I do think that it's interesting that Robbins started with The Concert, started with something that made light of the "traditional" Chopin ballet, and then later on came to use the composer for a set of beautiful and serious works.

#48 bart

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 03:19 PM

The use of Chopin in Dances definitely suggests, for me, a specific setting, and even a suggestion of social class. It makes me think of the Polish countryside, the "western" face of "eastern Europe," a group of people still in touch with rural culture but not buried in it.

#49 carbro

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 05:23 PM

It's my sense of the music, too, bart, but I never could have described it with such precision. Thank you!

#50 sandik

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 07:49 PM

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.

#51 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 07:13 PM

Edited: Moved to the MCB forum.

#52 Quiggin

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 08:31 PM

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:

Other Dances at Spoleto

#53 bart

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 04:04 AM

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.

#54 leonid17

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 05:18 PM

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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