Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Question #4: The circle


  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,258 posts

Posted 15 April 2001 - 06:26 PM

The circle is used as a choreographic device in Giselle, although not in all productions. (Two I can think of are the circle that Giselle draws with her sword; Hilarion steps into the circle and this is the foreshadowing of his death and, in some productions, the circle that Myrthe and the Wilis describe at the beginning of their grand pas.) What have you seen? Any comments, ideas, lore about the use of the circle in Giselle?

#2 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,289 posts

Posted 15 April 2001 - 10:07 PM

Just an anecdote...I saw a Giselle at the Met. towards the end of one of ABT's spring/summer seasons and the audience was clearly not a ballet audience, not even a subscriber audience, but primarily a summer, "tourist" audience. (I didn't do audience interviews, but such was my impression.) It seemed to be full of people who had never seen Giselle before, but were engaged -- and they burst into applause when the wilis circled Hilarion. They clearly thought it was a big theatrical "moment." It was a little odd -- I had never heard people applaud that moment -- but sort of charming since it seemed quite a sincere spontaneous response...

[ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

#3 felursus

felursus

    Bronze Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 250 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 01:03 AM

I've always thought that Giselle's drawing a circle with the point of the sword was like drawing a magic circle - she's warding out evil or warding out everyone else - step inside (as Hilarion does) and there will be bad consequences.

The Wilis circle I always thought was because they can't touch Giselle and Albrecht who are together INSIDE the magic circle - the wilis can only get at them if they are apart - but they aren't powerful enough to keep them apart for long. Myrtha only has the power to make Albrecht continue to dance.

There's another circle of sorts: the corps girls make the spokes of a wheel and rotate around in a circle - they are actually in concentric circles. Albrecht and Giselle are on the outside of opposite spokes and are trying to "catch" each other - but can't until the "circle" breaks up. So the girls who represent "ordinary" life are on the inside, while Giselle and Albrecht, who are about to be excluded from ordinary life are on the outside.

Circles are very powerful: there is an inside and an outside, but there is no beginning or end. What a choreographer does with them can be far more interesting than straight lines of any kind.

As a total non-sequitur, but it's always made me giggle: there's a feature of the circulatory system in the brain called "the circle of Willis" It was the one part of the anatomy of the brain I never had a problem learning! :)

#4 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 07:04 PM

The sense I always got choreographically from Giselle was linear, rather than circular, but I think that depends on the productions you know. (The ones I saw first had flat lines for the arabesques voyagees in the finale of the Wili's dance rather than shallow diagonals, and so on.) The first circle of Wilis in the productions I knew was around Hilarion; you knew he was done for at that point. Bournonville watchers will note a similarity in the whirling Elf-Maidens of Act I of A Folk Tale.

#5 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,258 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 07:12 PM

One example of the circle in Act II is at the beginning that act on the old ABT "Giselle" (Fracci-Bruhn). Myrthe describes a circle -- that whole act "feels" more circular than linear to me. I think this is only speculative theory (as is much of ballet history :) ) but that the pre-Petipa version would have been much softer, more round. It was Petipa who loved diagonals and straight lines. The Mary Skeaping production was very soft, groupings more like Les and La Syphide, as I remember it.

#6 liebs

liebs

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 495 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 08:30 PM

There is a film of the Fracci/Bruhn Giselle at ABT where the camera work makes it clear that the circle is an important motif for the second act. It is a fascinating production, the David Blair staging I think. Fracci and Bruhn were as wonderful as I remembered them to be and Toni Lander is a terrific Myrthe.

#7 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 09:16 PM

Yet another reason I found the Danish film so interesting - The Giselles I know are all Russian derived and linear. Suddenly I was seeing circles - even in the opening dance for the Wilis, they are arrayed in the spokes of a circle. I assumed this was unique to the Danish production, and guessed that they were using circles and curves because of the lack of width in the Royal Theatre. (Being a practical choreographer, I always assume practical reasons) But it's from a different tradition as well.

#8 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,258 posts

Posted 16 April 2001 - 09:24 PM

According to Arlette Weinreich, who was the assistant on that Danish production, the second act is pure Kirov, taught to them by Rima Karelskaya (who is Bolshoi, so why she taught them the Kirov is one of the many mysteries of life). But the sensibility is circular. Bournonville hated straight lines.

I think, though, that the circles are beyond taste and time, and were quite consciously used because pagan rituals were circular. (One fascinating little tidbit I learned from my first dance history class was that patrilinear societies have linear shapes -- long houses, villages with streets in rows, and dancers in straight lines -- while matrilinear societies have circular shapes -- circular houses, all of the houses arranged in a circle around the campfire, and circular dances.) But French choreographers would have known about Maypole and other rural dances and there was so much research into the European pagan past as part of Romanticism, I think this was quite deliberate.

#9 Marc Haegeman

Marc Haegeman

    Platinum Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,027 posts

Posted 17 April 2001 - 01:19 AM

In Peter Wright's production Myrtha is clearly describing a circle shortly after her entrance in the 2nd Act, as if showing her domain.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):