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Child parts in ballet


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#1 Funnygirl

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 09:37 AM

Which of the major ballets have roles for children and are there any where they really get to dance or act? I have just seen Cinderella and loved seeing the little ones perform! Even though they wore mouse heads for part of the time they brought the "aaah" factor to the ballet and gave us a taste of future stars (I gather they were from a full time ballet school). I know the Nutcracker, of course!

#2 rg

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 08:53 AM

this would make a long list if carefully compiled.
Balanchine's multi-act ballets invariably give children from the School of American Ballet actual choreography to perform, rather than to just appear in the background: see, in addition to The Nutcracker, Harlequinade, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coppelia, etc.
Petipa's ballets as they are still given in Russia, The Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsire, and Raymonda, for two include roles for dancing children - tho' the children are not usually brought on tour - this includes both the Bolshoi Ballet and Maryinsky Ballet.
Peter Martins has continued Balanchine's inclusion of dances for children in his Magic Flute, Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake.
but as said, this is just a random sampling, from the U.S. a complete list on an international scale would be much more lengthy.

#3 carbro

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 01:31 PM

Yes, it's hard to cite a ballet that, universally, in every production, includes children -- even Nutcracker! Mikhail Baryshnikov's didn't have any children whatsoever!

Bournonville choreographed roles for both very young and post-prime dancers in, as I understand it, all of his ballets. Here's Pennsylvania Ballet (plus children) in one of my favorite examples:

#4 Natalia

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 06:43 AM

In addition to the Petipa ballets cited by RG, the Mariinsky & Bolshoi Don Qs also have children (little cupids, the toy theater scene, kids in the village square). Ditto Bayadere (2 girls who accompany Manu, the Golden Idol's accompanying 8 sambos, who appeared in Canada...yes, in blackface!). :smilie_mondieu:

The Royal Ballet has child (tween or early-teen) swans accompanying Odette's entrance and dancing a bit of the Waltz of the Swans.

#5 Funnygirl

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:22 AM

This is more than I realised! Do you think that the companies include children to give their own aspiring dancers an opportunity to perform or are the children included to add a different dimension to the choreography or even to try and encourage a family audience to buy tickets?

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:48 AM

In the case of Bournonville, it seems more based on his peopling his stage with groups that look like actual live groups from the real world. In the fantasy world, apparently there are no juvenile-phase Sylphides. The Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake made use of available resources at the Maryinsky, which included the advanced students. Quite a few productions there included students to swell the size of the corps as in the Garland Waltz in Sleeping Beauty, or productions of La Bayadere where every adult shade was doubled by a student shade (72 ghosts?!). The effect seems to have appealed to a sense of opulence, not any device to sell tickets. Imperial Russian theaters did not distribute tickets by sales alone, and very often the students HAD no parents to sell to. Consider that the ballet school in Moscow was founded out of the city orphanage!

#7 puppytreats

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:25 AM

One of the reason's I became enchanted with ballet was because of the children in "Midsummer Night's Dream". They are so darling!

On a possibly related note, I was noticing that the male dancers in the beginning of "Sylvia", in the scene in the glade, are so slight (especially when compared to the muscular gods and Aminta who later appear.) I was wondering if the performers in the glades were from a ballet school or if the corps generally contained younger, less developed dancers.

Which leads to other questions regarding behind the scenes issues - how many hairdressers, costumers, dressers, make-up artists, etc. generally work with the dancers? The elaborate hairstyles and pinning of tiaras and hats on each dancer must require tremendous effort.

#8 Jane Simpson

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:46 AM

In the case of Bournonville, it seems more based on his peopling his stage with groups that look like actual live groups from the real world. In the fantasy world, apparently there are no juvenile-phase Sylphides.


Well, there are the two little ones who sit at the dead Sylph's head and feet as she's wafted away to heaven - but of course they don't dance.

#9 Natalia

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 09:03 AM

...I was noticing that the male dancers in the beginning of "Sylvia", in the scene in the glade, are so slight (especially when compared to the muscular gods and Aminta who later appear.) I was wondering if the performers in the glades were from a ballet school ....


You're referring to the Ashton, yes? These are all adult dancers. Actually, all of the Sylvias that I've seen seem to use only adults.

Yes, the more elaborately-staged ballets require big resources backstage.

Wigs - A traditional-looking production of Sleeping Beauty can have 8 or more cubicles where dancers and supers take turns having their wigs placed on them. There's usually a separate room for fixing/re-setting wigs in between performances.

Dressing - There are dressers assigned to all categories of performers, e.g., principal men, principal ladies, solo men/ladies, 2-3 dressers for female corps and at least a couple for male corps especially when there's elaborate lacing/hooks. [In Russia, the female dancers are often sewn into their tutus...back of bodice...to give the appearance of a 2nd skin.] Repairs can be made on-site, if needed, but most of the costume prep takes place in the costume shop which can be offsite...not even in the theater.

Make-up - There are make-up artists for the principals and soloists, especially for any out-of-the-ordinary look...but I've seen most corps and even soloists do their own make-up. [I used to work in opera and noticed that only principals got a make-up artist to assist.]

Props are normally given-out backstage, near the wings. 'Prop Man/Prop Person'is a unique union category, by the way. When I worked in opera, some jewelry-like pieces or parasols/fans and such had to come from the prop man, not the dresser.

My experiences are from Kennedy Center, Met and Mariinsky. The Mariinsky seems to have 'more of everyone'! There also seemed to be less angst at the Mariinsky about getting performers out of their costumes by a certain time. Super-duper people at all theaters, though. I have great admiration for all of them.

#10 Natalia

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 09:07 AM

At the Mariinsky (and other Russian theaters), the 'flying sylphs' seen backstage hanging from wires are usually children. You can see one of them preparing to 'fly' in the old documentary Children of Theater Street.

#11 lmspear

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 09:27 AM

I remember children as part of the crowd scenes in Petrouchka and five little girls demonstrating the five positions at the beginning of Etudes.

#12 Funnygirl

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 01:53 PM

I hadn't really thought of emulating a real situation but " life is art" is probably a good reason for including children!


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