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Dancing with props: which ballets make the best (or worst) useof props in dancing sequences?


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 12:09 PM

Then there is the EXTREMELY SOPHISTICATED use of props...which aren't there, as in "Parade". And if the choreographer has been paying close attention to the meanings of the words, the shepherdesses in Nutcracker shouldn't be playing panpipes. "Mirliton" means "kazoo". Ever wonder about the oddly buzzing bass line in the second period of the dance?

#17 Ray

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 12:20 PM

Then there is the EXTREMELY SOPHISTICATED use of props...which aren't there, as in "Parade". And if the choreographer has been paying close attention to the meanings of the words, the shepherdesses in Nutcracker shouldn't be playing panpipes. "Mirliton" means "kazoo". Ever wonder about the oddly buzzing bass line in the second period of the dance?


What a coincidence--I just read about this in the Tchai. biography by Wiley. If we're thinking about the same sound effect, it's from a flute-playing technique called frullato (sounds delicious), an Italian term for flutter-tonguing (sounds salacious).

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 02:27 PM

Nope, the frulato marking is on the entrée of Clara/Marie and the Nutcracker Prince in the shell-boat on the river of attar-of-roses, the second number in Act II.

#19 perky

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 02:47 PM

Best: The Sleepwalker's candle in La Sonnambula, both in her hand and it's ascent at the end.
The gate The Prodigal Son jumps over in defiance at the beginning and crawls through with help from his sisters at the end.


Worst: Mother Ginger's face powder in NYCB's Nutcracker. I alway feel sorry for the dancer having to navigate on stilts while breathing in all that powder.

#20 sandik

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 03:42 PM

Well, a severed head pretty much takes the cake in the “icky” category, though I think the whip in Eifman’s Hamlet would come in high on the list (my first thought on seeing it was “Kitten With a Whip”)

Agree about the poor archery technique among many Swan Lakes. I’m always glad that, no matter how many crossbows there are, they hardly ever have any arrows.

The Marzipan Shepherdesses in the Lew Christensen Nut had prop flutes -- in rehearsal the girls used to work with ballet slippers.

And my favorite use of a prop is probably the ribbon in Fille -- I love the cat’s cradle trickiness of the whole thing, and the “X”s for kisses at the end makes me tear up just writing about it!

#21 PeggyR

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 04:03 PM

How about Jerome Robbins' The Concert? Lots of props there: chairs, hats, scarves, eye glasses, newspaper, knife (for stabbing an annoying wife), umbrellas, even the piano could be considered a prop once The Ballerina attaches herself to it.

#22 dirac

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 04:53 PM

The chair and table in Le Jeune Homme et la Mort come to mind and the rope, natch.

Suzanne Farrell says in her book that she and Paul Mejia had a private joke about Bejart's choreography: "Have chair, will travel."

#23 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 05:24 PM

The Noguchi lyre in "Orpheus" and another small one in another Balanchine ballet, where I think it was a soloist who danced with a little lyre overhead.


Is it "Pavanne" in which the dancer whooshes around a big scarf?



I think the small lyre you refer to is the one used by Terpsichore in APOLLO. The other muses use a scroll and a mask.

The scarf is indeed used in Pavane. Balanchine seemed to love B-I-I-I-G pieces of cloth: think of the "Door" in VARIATIONS POUR UNE PORTE ET UN SOUPIR (I hope my French is correct there) -- a skirt as big as the stage. He also used a large skirt in L'ERRANTE in 1933. But I guess technically, those are not props, but part of costumes -- like the hats in WESTERN SYMPHONY, especially the one that gets used as a guitar.

The PRODIGAL SON also uses flagons, horn-like multi-purpose containers, and jewels (torn off the Prodigal). Come to think of it, that stupendous long cape in PRODIGAL, worn by the Siren, is somewhat related to the aforementioned skirts.

I would think that there are props in HARLEQUINADE and LE BOURGEOIS GENTILLHOMME (which he re-choreographed several times, the last time for City Opera in 1979 and City Ballet in 1980).

#24 bart

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 06:19 PM

"Mirliton" means "kazoo". Ever wonder about the oddly buzzing bass line in the second period of the dance?

I am in a constant state of awe about how much stuff I learn on Ballet Talk. The Mirlitons will never be the same for me. I always thought they were some kind of pan pipe or flute.

Your post, Mel, led me to Wikipedia where I found that mirlitons and kazoos are examples of a category of musical instruments called "singing membranophones." (Drums are NON-singing membranophones, apparently.) Now all I need is to find a conversation into which I can drop this wonderful new piece of information.

ViolinConcerto:

I would think that there are props in HARLEQUINADE and LE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME

Photos of Villella show him dancing with what appears to be a type of mandolin. According to Repertory in Review: "There is a droll number with five drunken drunken dragoons, tottering and uncertain but somehow on tempo. A fatuous lute player [Lendre] gets stuck on one note." Suki Schorer reports: "At one point, when [Pierrot] tries to get into the house, I come running out with the broom and hit him with it."

Perky:

Best: The Sleepwalker's candle in La Sonnambula, both in her hand and it's ascent at the end.

Good one. It raises a question: when the Sleepwalker carries the dead poet in her arms as she leaves the stage, you might conclude that HE has been transformed into a kind of prop. The same might apply to Juliet in the tomb. In the Russian version -- I can't remember if this is also the case in MacMillan's -- Romeo, who thinks Juliet is dead, manipulates her body (kissing her, lifting her, almost dancing with her) as if trying to bring her back to life.. A question for the philosophers or theologians: can a HUMAN BODY become a prop under certain conditions?

#25 sandik

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 11:36 PM

A question for the philosophers or theologians: can a HUMAN BODY become a prop under certain conditions?


Well, there's Roland Petit's Coppelia, where the doll is literally a doll, attached to Dr C at the wrists and feet so that he waltzes with her in perfect synchrony!

and considering how some Romeos really drag the dead Juliet around, you could make a case for combat pay, not just prop status.

#26 Nanarina

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 11:42 AM

:clapping: The Nutcracker or Clara's Story, Grahame Murphy for The Australian Ballet has a number of props, Kettle, Books,small christmas tree, decorations, medals, film projector and sheet used as a screen, picture, tutu and probably a lor I have not mentioned.


But in general items such as wings on a costume are not truly props, they are part of the costume. They are not held by the props master but part of the responsibility of the wardrobe staff. Things like jewellery and headresses gloves shoes(not pointe ones)also are under their control.But for example the yellow and pink neck scarves and ribbons in Fille are looked after by the wardrobe staff and handed to the Props dept after attention. (i.e washing and ironing)

#27 Treefrog

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 02:49 PM

I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the scythes in Fille. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to have the dancers grab them by the blades?

#28 DanceActress

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 05:49 AM

For the sheer multitude of props in one sequence, I have to mention "Ivan the Terrible": scythes, scimitars, swords, staffs, banners, etc.

#29 Mashinka

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 06:34 AM

For me the most ill-used props are those pesky golden apples in Firebird, never ceases to amaze me how few dancers can actually catch the wretched things.

Heads in bags are no longer unique to Edward II though, at the end of Flames of Paris Jerome is handed the head of his guillotined love in a bag at the very end: a very grisly finale.

#30 bart

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 08:46 AM

For the sheer multitude of props in one sequence, I have to mention "Ivan the Terrible": scythes, scimitars, swords,


Heads in bags are no longer unique to Edward II though, at the end of Flames of Paris Jerome is handed the head of his guillotined love at the very end: a very grisly finale.

You both bring to mind my mother's frequent warnings against playing with sharp objects. My only close-up involvement with pointy props was with the bayonets on the soldiers' rifles in Nutcracker. They were actually rather sharp and caused a certain amount of abrasion to gloved hands and to costumes. But no decapitations as far as I could tell. :excl:


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