cubanmiamiboy

Giselle's "Initiation" scene

19 posts in this topic

Through my ballet viewing years in Cuba I got to get used to certain steps and variations in some ballets, which surprisingly I found to be different compared to the standard versions-(Kirov, Bolshoi, ABT etc...). One of my first posts in this board was regarding those sautees on pointe in the Black Swan coda, which I ended up suspecting came from a version by Toumanova and picked up by Alonso during her guesting with the Ballet Russes. So now the question goes on Giselle, specifically the "initiation" scene in Act II. When Giselle is summoned by Myrtha to execute her devilish dance, she starts with the famous fast turns before the diagonal of jumps. So my questions-(actually 2 of them)-are...

1-Is the Cuban practice of raising on pointe with the working leg in attitude to finish the last three-(and sometimes four)-pirouettes done in other companies...?

2-Is it common to see the supporting leg flat during the turns-(as in the Cuban version)-instead of doing it in relevé...?

3-(This is probably more difficult to answer, but still let's try...) Does anybody remembers how were these steps done in the pre-Makarova times....?

Thank you in advance...!

:)

Share this post


Link to post

1- Sure, it depends on the ballerina.

2- That's the standard original choreography.

3- Sure, I did my first Giselle in 1964. Makarova didn't work that much change into the part, at least none that have stayed.

Share this post


Link to post

The steps are notated with a flat foot in the Stepanov notation of Giselle.

Share this post


Link to post

For what it's worth, back in the early to mid-60s I saw an ABT production with Lupe Serrano who, if (aging) memory serves, didn't do the sautés. Instead she did outward releve arabesque turns (I won't even attempt that in French) with no flat-foot sautés at all. However, I've never seen that again, so I'd guess that was just her personal way of doing it.

Share this post


Link to post

That's probably correct. ABT wasn't really strict about that time with the historicity of what Giselle could do. Anton Dolin also staged his various productions with a view toward accuracy, but sometimes, therapy. He would insist on Giselle doing something not so much because Spessivtzeva did it that way, but because he thought it "would be good for her."

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks Mel, Peggy and Doug for your responses.

Mel:

My question rose after reading a comment from a Youtube poster who seems to have followed Alonso's career very close since the 50's, according to all that he usually recounts. In one "Initiation" clip he wrote:

"Since the late 50's Alicia has kept this version of Giselle's graveyard exit, where she executes the last three pirouettes in attitude rising on pointe. Alonso-who for many years was a leading exponent of this role-maintained this technical difficulty during her performances, even when vision problems made much more difficult for her to maintain the shaft during the rotations. But if the technique is said to keep staring at a distant point and head back to that same point while turning in order to keep the balance, how is it possible that Alonso having no vision in her last 20-year career kept those turns on pointe? I read an interview years ago with Erik Bruhn, who said that he was surprised to see Alonso try to pirouette from fourth position with eyes closed, maintaining control of her body, and that when asked how he could do that, she had responded that she had found that the distant spot would not work with her specific limitations, so she had develope this form of exercise to keep the speed of the head, and that the point had to be found within one's body, instead of a physical object on the outside. It is true that with the passing of the years, those attitude/turns on pointe of the "Initiation" have been refined in the CNB, having been ballerinas to do them with excelled virtuosity..."

Then, I started watching all the clips that I could find to compare, and even from the oldest ones I watched of this scene-(Makarova, Mezentseva, Bessmertnova, Fracci)-to the very recent ones -(like Cojocaru or Zakharova)- they all just finish the turns by lowering the working leg and spinning some more before the diagonal, but with both legs on the floor...(sometimes even in demi-pointe). Also, some of them seem not to be totally flat on their supporting leg while turning-(which I suspect gives them more speed, like the clip with Osipova).

Doug:

That piece of information on how it is notated in Stepanov is priceless...after that there's really no more to add. Thanks!

Peggy:

It is funny, but on my way from work tonight I was thinking on how silly that I forgot to ask Miss Serrano a couple of questions that I had elaborated about old pieces of choreography when she was recently here to receive a lifetime achievement prize during the last Miami Ballet Festival. I knew that she started dancing all those roles in Ballet Theatre right after Alonso left the company for Cuba in 1960, so she might have remembered some details. Well, I just got her autograph on my playbill and forgot to ask her anything... :)

Also, it is interesting to note that Dolin-(and Markova sometimes)- coached Alonso during her lifetime, even for the 1980 performance with Vasiliev...

Here's another example: Miss Barbara Garcia doing the attitude turns on pointe...

vs. Makarova spinning her final three with both legs...

to Mezentseva just omiting the whole thing just to go straight to the diagonal of jumps...

Share this post


Link to post

Regarding the supporting foot not always being perfectly flat on the floor--the technique for this sort of turn is for the dancer to place all of her weight on the ball of her foot and pivot her heel around it. It is similar to the movement used for a tour lent (aka promenade) only much faster. So the speed of the turn combined with the lack of weight on the heel means the heel may sometimes lift.

As for multiple pirouettes on pointe in attitude in a Romantic ballet, I think that falls into the category of "Just because you can do it doesn't mean you must."

Share this post


Link to post

Hans is right, of course. It takes a brave ballet master to take on a star dancer, and say, "Can you stick your kneecap into your ear in developpé? Good for you, now don't, this is 'Konservatoriet'." Some can't even bring themselves to say it to the corps!

Share this post


Link to post

I just wanted to know the background of the step-(if there's any)-and as for how appropriate it is, I think it is just the continuation of the pirouettes. I've always perceived as if in that very moment Giselle becomes even MORE incorporeous...the final sign that she finally becomes totally detached from the ground and her grave and prepared to go into the air...

But again...this falls, I guess, on Macaulay's recent "bizarre" clasification of the company's dancing and takes on choreography...probably not for eveyone.

Share this post


Link to post

Remember, it's simply a grand pirouette in arabesque. Æsthetically, you could be right about the intention of either Perrot or Petipa, but remember too that she has a lot of torque to shed in order to be able to start her next series of steps (where she REALLY gets off the ground). Technically, relevés can be good for that. But for Romantic Restraint, one really shouldn't do more than a double to get out of the turns to land in fifth position. Okay, maybe a triple, if you find yourself ahead of the music.

Share this post


Link to post

Ah, but is it truly necessary for a dancer to be off the ground to appear incorporeal? I think to the extent that she can make the spin look like milkweed in an eddy of wind, she's probably better off on the flat-footed, fondu level. As Mel and Hans have indicated, bravura is not the point here.

Share this post


Link to post
Ah, but is it truly necessary for a dancer to be off the ground to appear incorporeal? I think to the extent that she can make the spin look like milkweed in an eddy of wind, she's probably better off on the flat-footed, fondu level.

Oh, of course Carbro...if you look at my original post, I actually questioned the use of the slightly releve position used by some dancers during the grand pirouettes, instead of the full flat one done by the Cubans. The incorporeus detail came from me explaining how do I justify the use of the attitude turns on pointe after the grand pirouettes.

As Mel and Hans have indicated, bravura is not the point here.

About the bravura...weeell, a little dose here and there has always been a part of Giselle...starting with S's solo and Act I to the very grand pirouettes that we're discussing now, right...?

Share this post


Link to post
Cubanmiamiboy...

Don't forget Lorna Frijoo doing the attitude turns on point..this clip shows it a little closer to the action!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P35VmCUuQN0...eos=u3xfL9kfh78

Divine Lorna, iczerman. No, of course I didn't forget her-(haven't been able even to fall under the spell of a ballerina ever again...Jeanette Delgado from MCB very close, but not there yet). I was just saving that clip for a future thread I want to open for the one and only "Queen of Accents", but hey...glad that you found her anyways... :dunno:

And here's her sister Lorena during the same sequence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0vOzLQai9M

Share this post


Link to post

Well, well...one never really knows where does a clue will come from, right..? I'm saying this because tonight I saw a ballet sequence in which the ballerina is rehearsing the Initiation scene, and she does rises on pointe during the grand pirouettes to do the attitude-turns...not once, but TWO times...!!!

Oh...and the sequence was filmed 62 years ago, BTW...so talk about a modernism..! :P

Does anybody want to guess where does the sequence come from...? (It is quite a famous source, BTW :) )

Share this post


Link to post

I recall seeing this in a film, but I forget which one. The Red Shoes?

Share this post


Link to post
I recall seeing this in a film, but I forget which one. The Red Shoes?

You just won a weekend trip to Las Vegas, all inclusive my man...!!! :)

Share this post


Link to post

isn't that where she abruptly stops dancing and says she can't go on because she's too happy?

Share this post


Link to post
isn't that where she abruptly stops dancing and says she can't go on because she's too happy?

Right there and then!...when she anounces she's getting married... :)

Share this post


Link to post