cubanmiamiboy

La Sonnambula is approaching...

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Thanks, iwatchthecorps, for this wonderful insider's view into the coaching process. Kent's visit probably dates back to early 2005.

My favorite bit:

Coaching by illustration, I stopped the first rehearsal to demonstrate one of the critical sections. When the Sleepwalker first enters, she moves on pointe in an ever quickening pace, finishing the phrase in a diagonal run forward, looking as if she might step over the boundaries of the stage itself. The audience gasps. Over 40 years ago in Moscow, Mr. B had taken the candle from me to demonstrate this section by running towards the brink of the vast stage of the Kremlin’s New Congress Theater. While flying forward, he called out “Step over the footlights,” and did so himself. For one second, I thought Mr. B was going to die, but he didn’t—instead he gave the candle back to me. Balanchine possessed the brakes of a Rolls Royce.

While tracing the same trajectory for Jennifer and my other new Sleepwalkers, I stopped just short of crashing into the studio’s mirror. I wanted to startle the dancers. Balanchine loved to create the look of choreographic danger, synchronized with the end of a musical phrase for an intense emotional impact. His heroines often ignite our anxiety—think of the girl in “The Unanswered Question” from Ivesiana who falls from a great height; she is a sister of the Sleepwalker.

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When the Cuevas company danced Night Shadow the Hoop Dance was at some point a solo variation danced by Rene Bon, a virtuoso french dancer who also appeared with Massine's company, and with Janine Charrat. I don't know whether the variation was made specifically for Bon, who was by all accounts a remarkable technician.

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The City Ballet production I saw with Nicolaj Hubbe a few years ago looked a little cleaner and overall better balanced than the Baryshnikov - Ferri version on tape. "Night Shadow" / "Sonnambula" seems very much of Balanchine's 1940's Ballet Russes period, and there's a bit of something of the "Cotillon" - "Le Valse" line to it, as Edwin Denby suggests with his "the vapid walzes" and Edgar Allen Poe references. "Sonnambula" opens almost like an Anthony Tudor ballet, or a slight parody of one.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet version I saw in Berkeley fairly recently was very stripped down and showed off the structures of the ballet very effectively - especially when the poet passes, backwards, his rounded empty arms over the length of the sleepwalker's body. The part seemed to have an affinity to the blind poet in "Serenade."

The Harlequins that Degas painted at the old Paris Opera were also played by women - so there might be a tradition of that. In the new book "Picasso Harlequin" there is a discussion of the trickster quality of the Harlequin and its origins in Mercury or Hermes, "constantly changing, constantly on the move: Harlequin is diversity personified". Picasso was always changing (as was Balanchine - and Stravinsky) and Harlequin appears in Picasso's paintings, according to Yve-Alain Bois, "whenever Picasso felt inclined to play with several distinct styles at once."

[corrected]

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From that October 2005 issue of Dance Magazine, there's a companion essay to Kent's, from Jennifer Kronenberg's point of view:

http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/October-2005/Dreamweaver-My-Notes-from-Allegras-Coaching-Season

Here are some highlights:

... I wrote down most of what she said. But I learned more, not by listening to her, but by watching her actually become the Sleepwalker while she was trying to explain herself. When she showed the runs en pointe, she nearly ran herself right into the wall to emphasize the kind of momentum that Balanchine had wanted her to have...

Here are some things she discussed:

-The beginning walks coming out of the tower should be very upright and have a sense of urgency. They should not turn into bourrées, but into runs en pointe, and the audience should think you might run right off the end of the stage.

...

-You are asleep, but very aware, and you should portray a sense of yearning to the audience.

...

-The audience must believe that you know what is happening, even though you are asleep. This could be your dream.

-If the pas de deux was the dream, the Poet’s death is your nightmare.

...

-Walk a very big circle, knowing what you are about to find, searching for the Poet.

-When your foot touches his body, let your terror register to the audience.

...

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