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Scotch Symphonyas usual...input appreciated!


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19 replies to this topic

#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 11:07 AM

SS will be part of MCB Program III-(I suspect this ballet will be the only point of interest to me from this program...Taylor and Tharp are the other two picks).
I would love to know about this choreography...and as usual, what memories does it brings to you and which dancers made the best of it back in the "good ol'days"... :)

Thanks in advance to all of you...! :wink:

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 02:42 PM

First time I saw this was with Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise, with Patricia Neary as the Girl in a Kilt. Joffrey did it, too, with Noel Mason, Nels Jorgensen, and Rebecca Wright. Nels kept going out for injury, so Mr. Balanchine sent over Anthony Blum to fill in. I also remember Violette Verdy and Maria Tallchief as successful Sylphides.

The ballet hearks back to the Romantic era, with La Sylphide a prominent motif. Balanchine created it after NYCB played the Edinburgh Festival.

#3 Brioche

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:55 AM

Never mind.

First time I saw this was with Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise, with Patricia Neary as the Girl in a Kilt. Joffrey did it, too, with Noel Mason, Nels Jorgensen, and Rebecca Wright. Nels kept going out for injury, so Mr. Balanchine sent over Anthony Blum to fill in. I also remember Violette Verdy and Maria Tallchief as successful Sylphides.

The ballet hearks back to the Romantic era, with La Sylphide a prominent motif. Balanchine created it after NYCB played the Edinburgh Festival.



#4 bart

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 11:18 AM

Premiere cast at NYCB was Maria Talchieff - Andre Eglevsky - Patricia Wilde. That was 1952. Here are excerpts televised in a studio in 1959



#5 rg

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 11:31 AM

longtime NYCB watcher Edward Gorey recalled that the once-famous 'throws' - that is, when the sylph, originally Tallchief, was passed from the hands of small group of the corps de ballet Scotsmen by means of throwing the ballerina through the air into the arms of her swain/partner(originally Eglevsky) - were changed to a kind of pass-off from the men's arms into those of the leading male dancer when Tallchief went crashing to the floor in a cast-change performance that involved Erik Bruhn.
i have no way of checking the accuracy of the recollection or just what he, Gorey, recalled during the 1970s as what happened earlier, presumably around 1960.
my copy of Goldner's BALANCHINE VARIATIONS is not to hand, but if mem. serves, she addresses the ballet in one of her essays.

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 11:52 AM

Thanks Mel, bart and rg for the info! :thumbsup:



#7 liebs

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 12:02 PM

Certainly in NYCB performances that is the case, she is passed from man to man. But I don't always remember it being that way. We recently saw two excellent debuts in the role of the Sylph here - Ashley Bouder and Katherine Morgan. Bouder who is known as a dynamo technician, really transformed herself into a romantic ballerina with soft arms, great lightness and an incredible jump. Morgan, a very young but promising dancer, is more the romantic type but she lacked the lightness that Bouder brought.

#8 bart

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 12:26 PM

rg, my copy of the Goldner book doesn't have Scotch Symphony.

I remember pass-off, not the throw. Patricia McBride was THE Sylph at NYCB for a long, long time, dancing with numerous principals including Ib Anderson and Helgi Tomasson. Roma Sosenko often danced the girl in red. Sosenko is now a Ballet Mistress at MCB, so there is a connection

Does anyone know if Villella ever danced the male role? He was often McBride's partner.

I just found the following commentary on the 1952 performance, republished in B. H. Haggin's Ballet Chronicles.

December 1952. Balanchine's first new piece [of the season], Scotch Symphony, is danced to the scherzo, slow movement and finale of Mendelssohn's symphony. The long slow movement seems to have provided Balanchine with stimulation for nothing more than a resourcefully spun-out supported adagio in which Tallchief, who used to dazzle one with her spectacular energetic brilliance, takes one's breath away with the unobtrusively achieved perfection and loveliness of a continuous quiet flow of exquisitely contoured movement. But to go with the scherzo and finale Balanchine has produced delightful dances for the corps, and sols which show off Wilde's brilliance, make Tallchief utterly charming, and keep Eglevsky too busy to do any damage (such as he does at his first entrance in Swan Lake with a great gesture and smile of greeting to the audience).



#9 richard53dog

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 12:32 PM

longtime NYCB watcher Edward Gorey recalled that the once-famous 'throws' - that is, when the sylph, originally Tallchief, was passed from the hands of small group of the corps de ballet Scotsmen by means of throwing the ballerina through the air into the arms of her swain/partner(originally Eglevsky) - were changed to a kind of pass-off from the men's arms into those of the leading male dancer when Tallchief went crashing to the floor in a cast-change performance that involved Erik Bruhn.
i have no way of checking the accuracy of the recollection or just what he, Gorey, recalled during the 1970s as what happened earlier, presumably around 1960.
my copy of Goldner's BALANCHINE VARIATIONS is not to hand, but if mem. serves, she addresses the ballet in one of her essays.



And Tallchief comments on the "throw" in the video Dancing for Mr B". She speaks of how nervous the toss made her, "there were four boys throwing me and only one boy catching me"....

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 12:40 PM

longtime NYCB watcher Edward Gorey recalled that the once-famous 'throws' - that is, when the sylph, originally Tallchief, was passed from the hands of small group of the corps de ballet Scotsmen by means of throwing the ballerina through the air into the arms of her swain/partner(originally Eglevsky) - were changed to a kind of pass-off from the men's arms into those of the leading male dancer when Tallchief went crashing to the floor in a cast-change performance that involved Erik Bruhn.
i have no way of checking the accuracy of the recollection or just what he, Gorey, recalled during the 1970s as what happened earlier, presumably around 1960.


Tallchief/Bruhn at NYCB came in 62-63, I believe. It didn't last long. The toss, I think, was intended to be recollective of the dive from a platform in La Peri. It became optional after the incident described. I never saw McBride dance the Sylph, but I think I recall a program I have where her partner was Andre Prokovsky. I don't recall any signs that Villella ever did the Scotsman.

#11 liebs

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 01:53 PM

Of course, McBride and Sosenko - how could I have forgotten. Kyra Nichols and Margaret Tracey were also great in the role.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 01:56 PM

I also recall Suki Schorer in the kilts role.

#13 Jack Reed

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 01:58 PM

Actually, in Nancy Reynolds's invaluable Repertory in Review, one of the two pictures for Scotch Symphony is one taken during a performance on stage, in which Allegra Kent is partnered by Edward Villella.

McBride was the "Sylph" in the performances I remember, and Marnee Morris the demi-solo in the first of the ballet's three movements. I remember Sosenko in other ballets, and I think she would have been well suited to this demi part too.

It's a bit odd; we see the demi in that first movement only, never again, not in a bang-up finale with everybody on stage as in many ballets; people said, Who is she? We never see her again. They were content to make some associations between the principals and the Sylph and James, but who was she? While mentioning "the first great romantic ballet, La Sylphide" in "Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets," Balanchine is explicit, about the adagio "for a ballerina and her partner that represents, without a story, the general mood and atmosphere of the romantic ballet as epitomized in such ballets as La Sylphide." [Emphasis mine.]

So I think it's a mistake to distract oneself to try to make identifications, although certainly there are literal references; we can see some even in the brief fragments of the two-minute MCB preview. Who is she? She's the demi girl, the pas de trois girl. What becomes of her? If we notice her disappearance, it's another little mystery. "It's a ballet that hints at much but explains nothing," says Reynolds. (My favorite kind.) Kent - quoted by Reynolds - said, "There were theories -- I was too sylphlike, not sylphlike enough; I was a sylph, I was a girl pretending to be a sylph. Finally Balanchine said, 'Just dance it!'"

Edited by Jack Reed, 02 February 2011 - 05:48 PM.


#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 02:26 PM

That Kent/Villella photo may date from the first couple of State Theater seasons, when I was consciously avoiding seeing what I had seen at City Center as much as I could. Hey, I was in high school, and had to stretch my dollar as far as it would go!

#15 bart

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 03:50 PM

Thanks, Jack, for the reference to the Villella-Kent photo. I don't recollect having seen her or Villella in this, but she looks wonderful. (Michael Maule in the photo to the right looks like Bing Crosby ... not that there's anything wrong in that. :wink:)

And as for another Nancy, Goldner's book includes a different one of Mr. B's "Symphony" ballets, Western Symphony, whose similar title may have tripped up rg this time.


This reminds me of something Arlene Croce wrote. She puts both Scotch and Western Symphonies, along with other works, into a distinct category among Balanchine's choreographies --

There's a whole series of Balanchine ballets that might be labelled "A Classical Choreographer Looks at _____." This series includes not only Union Jack but such ballets as Stars and Stripes, Who Cares?, Square Dance, Tzigane, Western Symphony, and Scotch Symphony. Sometimes the titles reveal the material that Balanchine is looking at, or "classicizing," sometimes not, but the ballets are all part of a process of analysis that ends in the annexation of new territory for classical dancers.

Fans of La Syphide would argue that it was Bournonville who first combined Scotland and sylphs and "annexed" them to classical ballet. But you get the point.


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