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Symphony in Three MovementsHas it changed?


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#1 California

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 04:29 PM

I'm hoping that some NYCB followers might know some history of Symphony in Three Movements. Recently I went to the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center to watch their oldest tape -- July 1972, only one month after the premiere. I was curious to see how that compared with the current production.

http://catalog.nypl....eng&suite=pearl

One surprise: all the women, including the principals, were in white leotards! Now, of course, the three lead women are in pink leotards. As you can see in the catalog listing, the tape is in color and it definitely is, having seen it. Costumes changes are trivial -- happens all the time. But the issue for me is: did Balanchine think the lead women weren't distinctive enough, weren't standing out enough in the overall choreography? I'm guessing that he made the change, but don't know.

Miami City Ballet has a teaser on YouTube, with the same pink leotards seen in the current NYCB production:

I looked at Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review, but don't see any discussion of costume changes. Some of the critics over the years hint at tinkering with the choreography, but it's not clear what got changed. Does anyone have a sense of that?

#2 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 05:09 PM

I've only seen it since 1978 - and I've noticed that the pinks have gotten brighter each time it's revived. The pink in each Principal's leotard is always slightly different from the others. Other than that...

#3 liebs

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 06:28 PM

Croce's review of the ballet in its early days talks about pink leos. I think they were added very early.

#4 rg

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 06:44 PM

white all around was around only briefly. i distinctly? rem. Patricia McBride in the pas de deux in Wolf Trap Farm wearing white.
at some point i recall Mr. B. trying to have the leads in little skirts, maybe only in a trial 'look' at a dress rehearsal, i attended one w/ Edward Gorey and if mem. serves he said they might have been the skirts from CLARINADE -but as i say, they were tried but i don't think they were ever put in full, public performance.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:09 AM

Off the top of my head, my recollection, having started to see NYCB extensively in 1973, is that the three women wore different-color leotards - pink, scarlet, and orange. As Mr. B. tinkered, ah, made adjustments, regulars in the audience made light remarks about the results. (I haven't seen NYCB much since Spring season 1986, since when all sorts of things get changed, apparently arbitrarily, all over the repertory.)

#6 kfw

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 09:08 AM

Here's what Nancy Goldner has to say in Balanchine Variations:

Symphony in Three Movements is one of Balanchine's trademark black-and-white ballets [. . .] except that this one is in black, white, and pink (to be precise, three shades of pink), The pink leotards, worn by the three female principals, were added some time after the premiere and after several experiments with color for the other women in the ballet as well. The pink was a kind of color-coding to set off the leading ladies from the ensemble. Normally, Balanchine doesn't need color to distinguish the soloists from the crowd. He sets up hierarchies of dancers - principals, soloists, demi-soloists, and ensemble - through use of space. Symphony in Three Movements, however, is a sprawling and, so it seemed at the premiere, rather messy avalanche of movement.

And I love it.

#7 California

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 09:24 AM

Here's what Nancy Goldner has to say in Balanchine Variations:

Symphony in Three Movements is one of Balanchine's trademark black-and-white ballets [. . .] except that this one is in black, white, and pink (to be precise, three shades of pink), The pink leotards, worn by the three female principals, were added some time after the premiere and after several experiments with color for the other women in the ballet as well. The pink was a kind of color-coding to set off the leading ladies from the ensemble. Normally, Balanchine doesn't need color to distinguish the soloists from the crowd. He sets up hierarchies of dancers - principals, soloists, demi-soloists, and ensemble - through use of space. Symphony in Three Movements, however, is a sprawling and, so it seemed at the premiere, rather messy avalanche of movement.

And I love it.


This makes a lot of sense -- that Balanchine himself saw the need for the different colors. The 1972 tape I looked at featured Patty McBride -- and I kept losing her in the crowd in the final movement!

This is one of my very favorite ballets and it's not available commercially! Balanchine Trust: please, please, please - you must have a quality recording of this somewhere. Won't you release it for sale? Perhaps you could sell it as a download on iTunes? It really needs to be studied carefully to grasp all that's going on.

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:59 PM

This is one of my very favorite ballets and it's not available commercially! Balanchine Trust: please, please, please - you must have a quality recording of this somewhere. Won't you release it for sale? Perhaps you could sell it as a download on iTunes? It really needs to be studied carefully to grasp all that's going on.

I couldn't agree more. I'll bet most of us here agree! So why not? I don't have a firm grip on all the details, but I think the reason we are so often frustrated this way is the money. Lots of people have a right to compensation if they are to give permission for such a video to get published, and that publication - your example is right up to date, California! - sell it as a download on iTunes! - may not be expected to bring in enough to meet what they ask. (One of the details I don't know about is whether the money must all be paid up front, but I assume so. Otherwise the rights-holders are being asked to speculate on sales.) And in some cases some rights-holders, I'm told, can't be reached; they're lost or presumed deceased or something. So there's that complication.

When the amateur 1965 film of the pre-premiere preview performance of Balanchine's Don Quixote was itself premiered in 2007, the list of permission-granters in the accompanying program booklet was impressive, nearly fifty individuals and organizations, IIRC. That's about fifty hurdles to jump to show a film.

#9 carbro

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:06 PM


Here's what Nancy Goldner has to say in Balanchine Variations:

Normally, Balanchine doesn't need color to distinguish the soloists from the crowd. He sets up hierarchies of dancers - principals, soloists, demi-soloists, and ensemble - through use of space. Symphony in Three Movements, however, is a sprawling and, so it seemed at the premiere, rather messy avalanche of movement.

And I love it.

This makes a lot of sense -- that Balanchine himself saw the need for the different colors. The 1972 tape I looked at featured Patty McBride -- and I kept losing her in the crowd in the final movement!

Most crucially, perhaps, dressing the prima in pink helps us to see the "radar" section, where the corps women run counterclockwise against the principal's clockwise circle of pique turns.

The five demi women wear black leotards. Does anyone know whether they wore black at the premiere? Or were they, too, in white?

#10 California

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:20 PM

The five demi women wear black leotards. Does anyone know whether they wore black at the premiere? Or were they, too, in white?


I'm definitely going to have to look at that tape again next time I'm in New York. I'm not 100% sure, but I don't remember seeing anything but white for the women. The men were in the current black bottoms, white t-shirts.

Another small detail -- and again, my memory is not 100% certain on this -- but perhaps if others are at the library, they might want to take a look, too: At the very end of the current version, the men take that position on the floor, with hands in a push-up position and one leg pulled up in back. I see that position, too, in the still picture in Repertory in Review from early versions. But in the 1972 tape, I thought I saw the three men in front scooching backwards, instead of freezing in place with everybody else. It was another little jolt.

I suspect people who know the choreographic details better than I do might notice other little changes. The interesting thing overall is how Balanchine evolved the choreography in some of his best-known works.

#11 California

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:34 PM

I don't have a firm grip on all the details, but I think the reason we are so often frustrated this way is the money. Lots of people have a right to compensation if they are to give permission for such a video to get published, and that publication - your example is right up to date, California! - sell it as a download on iTunes! - may not be expected to bring in enough to meet what they ask. (One of the details I don't know about is whether the money must all be paid up front, but I assume so. Otherwise the rights-holders are being asked to speculate on sales.) And in some cases some rights-holders, I'm told, can't be reached; they're lost or presumed deceased or something. So there's that complication.


I don't know the business details either, although I remember hearing that the long delay in releasing the 1977 Giselle with Makarova and Baryshnikov had to do with the difficulties going back to get all the needed permissions. When those programs were broadcast in the 1970s, it hadn't occurred to people what sort of commercial potential there would be for sale of VHS tapes.

But there must be solutions. The Balanchine Trust authorizes the performance of works like Symphony in Three Movements by Miami City Ballet and Boston Ballet (and others, I'm sure). They oversee and approve everything. Why not find a way to include permission to tape and distribute for commercial sale while all of those performance negotiations are going on? The Trust already owns the rights to the choreography, designs, music, etc. So they would just need to get the additional permissions from the host company, its orchestra, and its dancers, etc. But as they're now alive (and not so famous as the original performers!), that should be feasible. The Trust could then sell these as downloads on iTunes, if they're worried about the market size. The quality of the taping needs to be better than what they do for their private archival purposes, but that still shouldn't be prohibitive. Some of the early Live from Lincoln Center Programs just placed one camera on the first tier -- not great, but acceptable. They could do the same thing with their own performances at the State Theatre, where they also have access to the performers for permission purposes.

Everybody in the arts is hurting for money right now. This would create a very modest revenue stream for everybody if they did it right. And think of the worldwide audience that could finally see these marvelous works, people who now have no way of ever seeing them in performance (or at the Performing Arts Library).


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