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Depictions of Art in Balanchine's Choreography


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#1 Choleric

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 09:29 PM

In "Serenade," there is a distinct moment when the image of "Psyche and Cupid" is depicted. Are there other moments in Balanchine's choreography where the work of other great artists is also mirrored so distinctly? I'm exploring the topic as a subject for research and appreciate any contributions.

#2 Helene

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 09:30 PM

In "Apollo" before the Pas de Deux begins, Terpsichore's and Apollo's fingers touch each other. Isn't that from the Sistine Chapel?

#3 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 09:46 PM

In "Apollo" before the Pas de Deux begins, Terpsichore's and Apollo's fingers touch each other. Isn't that from the Sistine Chapel?


Yes, (I believe it's reversed though) and the filmed Balanchine bio-pic shown on Saturday cuts from that image (of God creating Adam) to Apollo and Terpsichore.

My late aunt often spotted images from paintings in Balanchine's work, but I do not remember what they were. Some of his tableaus recall certain painting styles. "La Source" comes to mind, I'm not sure why.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 12:41 AM

I found numerous moments in Don Quixote recollective of El Greco paintings, especially the curtain tableau, which seemed to be based on "The Holy Trinity".

#5 Paul Parish

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 08:58 AM

Balanchine was devoutly religious, and sometimes he uses religious imagery.

I did a study of this once and wish I could remember everything as vividly as I did when I wrote about it for Ballet Review back in the 80s. But you may find this helpful. In the first movement, the "Pregheria" of Mozartiana, Balanchine is setting steps to a hymn by Mozart (that Tchaikovsky orchestrated) -- Mozart was setting the words to a religious poem by Thomas Aquinas, Ave verum corpus, which is an ode to the body of Christ (born of the Virgin Mary, who died, Balanchine believed, to save us). There's no overt religiosity in the dance -- well, at one point she does put her hands together in the gesture of prayer, and that's pretty unmistakable --but in fact the imagery reflects loosely the ideas and imagery of the poem. There's a moment at the beginning, where the Virgin Mary is mentioned where the ballerina lifts her arms slowly overhead and goes past the rounded position till her forearms are crossed, that is said to resemble the statue of the Virgin Mary at the church on Bleecker St that Suzanne Farrell regularly attended; There are several liturgical gestures/poses included in this dance, especially the arms lifted wide overhead, which the ballerina does facing upstage at a climax in the musical phrase, which is a gesture the priest does at Mass at the words "Lift up your hearts" -- this pose has been represented in religious paintings and statues.

There's a moment in Don Quixote where Dulcinea dries the Don's feet with her hair, as Mary Magdalen does for Jesus, which has been depicted on many holy cards.

Edited by Helene, 25 January 2011 - 11:37 PM.


#6 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:11 AM

I am vague about these details, but there must be references somewhere -- I thought that the church Ms. Farrell attended was on 71st St, and that Mr. B. traces the pattern of the cross (the one at THAT church) in the stage patterns in the "Preghiera." I will try to get more information.

#7 Helene

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:13 AM

Taper described in his Balanchine bio how during one summer break, Diaghilev led a mini-tour of Italy with a handful of the company and taught Balanchine about visual art.

#8 Helene

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:17 AM

I am vague about these details, but there must be references somewhere -- I thought that the church Ms. Farrell attended was on 71st St, and that Mr. B. traces the pattern of the cross (the one at THAT church) in the stage patterns in the "Preghiera." I will try to get more information.

I also remember this being a church close to the theater. I never knew about the pattern of the cross, but Farrell said that Balanchine said Farrell resembled the woman in the painting and took the overhead arm position from the painting.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:25 AM

Dulcinea dries the Don's feet with her hair, as Mary Magdalen does for Jesus, which has been depicted on many holy cards.


So it is. Only wrong Mary. You're right that many people think that was MM, only it's Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. You can't tell one Mary from another in the Bible without a score card! See especially John 12:3.

There are several liturgical gestures/poses included in this dance, especially the arms lifted wide overhead, which the ballerina does facing upstage at a climax in the musical phrase, which is a gesture the priest does at Mass at the words "Lift up your hearts" -- this pose has been represented in religious paintings and statues.


You are so right! I had forgotten that "Sursum Corda" gesture. When I first saw the ballet, I was not much on liturgy.

#10 kfw

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:30 AM

I am vague about these details, but there must be references somewhere -- I thought that the church Ms. Farrell attended was on 71st St, and that Mr. B. traces the pattern of the cross (the one at THAT church) in the stage patterns in the "Preghiera." I will try to get more information.

Yes, in her bio she describes it as

the Virgin at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on 71st and Broadway that Mr. B knew I attended.

.

#11 abatt

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:57 AM

When Damian Woetzel performed Prodigal Son, I always got the sense that he was channeling various artwork which depicts Christ on the cross. In particular, I got this impression in the scene after he has been robbed and he is standing up against the piece of scenery that is used alternately as a fence and a table. In that scene, the table is now vertical, and the Prodigal stands in front of it, barely able to stand on his feet, using one of the rungs on the left to dangle and hold himself up. That imagery never came through so strongly to me when other dancers performed the role.

#12 sandik

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 11:00 AM

As I understand it, there are many 'quotations' from visual art in Balanchine's work -- I've heard that Peter Boal did some research into this when he was pursuing an art history degree. He gave a talk here in Seattle about vis art references in dance in conjunction with an exhibit of works from the Picasso museum, but I was stuck doing other things, and haven't yet tracked down anyone who was able to go.

#13 abatt

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 11:26 AM

Balanchine's neoclassical, leotard ballets are frequently compared to Picasso insofar as Balanchine breaks up the classical line of the body in those ballets, and angularity is a key component to successful performance of the leotard ballets.

#14 Choleric

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 11:29 AM

Thank you to everyone for these wonderful responses! I am so fortunate to benefit from the wealth of knowledge here!

#15 Choleric

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 11:31 AM


In "Apollo" before the Pas de Deux begins, Terpsichore's and Apollo's fingers touch each other. Isn't that from the Sistine Chapel?


Yes, (I believe it's reversed though) and the filmed Balanchine bio-pic shown on Saturday cuts from that image (of God creating Adam) to Apollo and Terpsichore.

My late aunt often spotted images from paintings in Balanchine's work, but I do not remember what they were. Some of his tableaus recall certain painting styles. "La Source" comes to mind, I'm not sure why.


Fascinating! I didn't make that connection but it's so clear now!


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