cubanmiamiboy

Reconstructions: Pros, Cons, Why, Impacts

72 posts in this topic

[Admin note: the first four posts were originally on the dance orientale de Raymonda thread, and they expand upon the broader topic of reconstructions]

Well...the reconstructions are aimed to go back to what was notated in the S.C, and I think so far it's been a lot about restoring cuts, as in Bayadere-(the full last act), Beauty, Coppelia, Corsaire, and even full length ballets-(Pharaoh's Daughter or Awakening of Flora), or with the less orthodox Lacotte's revivals-(which I love)-like Paquita, Ondine and Taglioni's Sylphide. On the other side,going back to the original could also mean cutting, like the most of the pointe work that Lilac acquired throughout the years-(poor Lilac...back to her helmet... :crying: )

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Well...the reconstructions are aimed to go back to what was notated in the S.C, and I think so far it's been a lot about restoring cuts, as in Bayadere-(the full last act), Beauty, Coppelia, Corsaire, and even full length ballets-(Pharaoh's Daughter or Awakening of Flora), or with the less orthodox Lacotte's revivals-(which I love)-like Paquita, Ondine and Taglioni's Sylphide. On the other side,going back to the original could also mean cutting, like the most of the pointe work that Lilac acquired throughout the years-(poor Lilac...back to her helmet... :crying: )

Is it wrong to like the more traditional "wow" Sleeping Beauty than the reconstruction by the Kirov (watched it on YouTube)? I think it is great to view the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty to see what the "original" was like, but little things like the fish dives were missing, if I remember correctly. When you watch the more traditional and more acrobatic Sleeping Beauty it is a little hard to be totally satisfied with the reconstruction. Is that just me?

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When you watch the more traditional and more acrobatic Sleeping Beauty it is a little hard to be totally satisfied with the reconstruction. Is that just me?

It takes a while to adjust. The pacing and architecture are different. Often the ratio of mime and theater, like processionals, is much greater in relationship to dance sections, and the characterizations can change. Some of the "wow" choreography goes and is replaced with choreography that has a different feel. When watching the same recorded performance over and over, we get inured and expect almost the exact thing in the theater, even if the performers are the same. If the only "Raymonda" I had seen was the Nureyev version, and I saw even the gussied-up Bolshoi version, let alone the Mariinsky version or the reconstruction, I would wonder where half of the choreography went, much like if I had only heard the Stowkowski versions of Bach, I would be completely thrown hearing a version based on the original orchestration. My balance would be off. Some of the changes are like a punch in the solar plexus, some are like a pebble in one's shoe, and others are less obvious and cause an "I can't quite put my finger on it" reaction.

Seattle is extremely lucky to have Doug Fullington, who is an expert interpreter of Stepanov notation and has worked extensively with the manuscripts in the Sergeyev Collection at Harvard. Most recently, he and Marian Smith, a musicologist from the University of Oregon and expert in the original musical score and a notebook found in 2002 by two early stagers of "Giselle", collaborated with Peter Boal and the PNB dancers on a new production based on Smith's sources and the Stepanov notation for the ballet. Smith describes in her book, "Ballet and Opera in the Age of Giselle" how the original ratio mime to dance was about 50/50. The PNB version did not restore all of the mime, but it restored three scenes in Act II from the original, one of which, the scene with the hunters, is seen in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba production, and one which reverts to the original ending, much like the reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty shows the inclusion of Carabosse in the last act rather than the various Wicked Witch of the West deaths in modern productions. It also fortified scenes in Act I with longer mime excepts, and added vignettes in the group scenes to enrich the texture and support the plot.

As Fullington has often said in lectures, in the fantastic studio programs he's presented called "Balanchine's Petipa", and in other presentations, each manuscript has a different level of detail in the notation and coming up with a presentation version is a collaborative process. It's not like finding the original manuscript of a symphony with all of the notes, markings, and instruments listed, and even there, someone(s) has to decide what "piano" meant in that time with those instruments and adjust for modern performance spaces. For example, Fullington describes the level of detail in the "Giselle" manuscript as "medium", and the manuscript isn't even the notation of the original, but of the Petipa version, notated 15-19 years after the 1884 premiere in St. Petersburg by different notators. (The PNB program notes by Fullington and Smith note that Anna Pavlova's name is included in the notations, and she danced Zulme in 1899 and Giselle starting in 1903.) It had steps and no port de bras. The team was lucky that there were two rich sources for the mime, but only one placed the mime with the music, and the other was descriptive, but that isn't the norm for most Petipa ballets, and the Justament notebook with descriptive mime and stage placements wasn't found until 2002.

In creating the version, the team had to analyze the sources -- they published a grid to show the origin for each musical scene -- piece together a version, add the arms, interpret what physical gestures belong with descriptions like "voluptuous pose" and "angry gesture", determine what to keep of the Petipa choreography, and adjust to modern bodies and a company that has 46 dancers plus professional division students, where the original ending calls for 45 dancers to be onstage to witness Bathilde forgiving Albrecht at Giselle's grave. Plus, all of those choices had to support a balanced and integrated whole. One of the things that made me most crazy about the ABT "Sleeping Beauty" is the addition of a scene with the four gossips right before the Garland Dance. It is a long, intricate, mime-filled scene, in which the King ponders the fate of Catalabutte, who has allowed the gossips to bring a forbidden spindle. I loved the scene, although I wish the mime had been clearer, but it was so out of balance to the rest of the mime shorthand in the production.

In the PNB Giselle Peter Boal made the decision to keep what has become the standard long Giselle/Albrecht lift in Act II, even though the notation and score read otherwise, and stated in a Q&A that he understood that this was a distortion of the music, but that he liked the lifts. Some of the original choreography was not accepted into the production because it didn't suit the technique of 21st century dancers. In a reconstruction they're dealing with incomplete data as well as modern sensibilities in analyzing and editing the available sources.

The mime shorthand in modern productions makes for faster theater and gets straight to the meat of the dancing, but it also turns the characters into archtypes and simplifies them. In the original Giselle, she was a feisty creature who stands up to everyone. It was interesting to see Osipova's gorgeously danced Giselle in 3D just a month later; she, like many Giselles, had one foot in the grave in Act I, which was a stark contrast to the original character and the version I had seen in Seattle, where "feisty" and "determined" were interpreted four ways by four different dancers.

In the PNB version, Wilfrid is a real character. He watches and comments on the action and doesn't just ferry Albrecht's cape and sword on and off stage. Albrecht's entrance in Act II is to a real bel canto oboe solo. You can hear the pace and footsteps in the music: it could be sleepwalker music. In a typical staging, Albrecht rushes in with the flowers and runs back and forth to find her grave and/or be agitated, which is not what the music is saying. In the PNB production, Wilfrid helps Albrecht find Giselle's grave (downstage diagonal), and it's a slow walk to the pulse of the music, while upstage, Wilfrid mimes, to the pace of the music, Albrecht's sorrow. Instead of indicating "I am upset!!!!", the Albrechts had to work very hard to create a characterization and to show us how they had changed, which was more demanding than it sounds.

The "Giselle" team had over a year to work on this production; in the lecture demos and presentations, Fullington has much less time to work with the dancers, who are collaborating in addition to their day jobs, so that they aren't necessarily production-ready, but they illustrate so much. As part of an excellent program for the premiere of Balanchine's "Coppelia" at PNB, Fullington worked for a very short time with Brittany Reid to contrast the Spinner variation from "Coppelia" in the manuscript to Balanchine's version, which was about to be performed. The conventional wisdom is that Balanchine's version was better, but I disagree: Petipa's architecture, especially the use of the diagonal, was much richer to my eye. I wouldn't have realized how confined the Balanchine version is on the horizontal without seeing it in the studio as a solo, because there are 24 young girls taking up a lot of space on stage as Spinner dances front and forward. In one of the "Balanchine's Petipa" series, the female corps did a version of a finale based on the manuscripts that was much more eye-catching to me than a more typical current version.

It takes a lot for the audience and the dancers to put aside the familiar versions and clear the palate for the new. It takes time and effort. For me the reconstructions set a new bar and are a lens through which I see other performances, but that's not everyone's experience, and dancers like Lopatkina and Tsiskaridze are on record as being against them, although apparently Tsiskaridze later tempered his criticism of them.

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When you watch the more traditional and more acrobatic Sleeping Beauty it is a little hard to be totally satisfied with the reconstruction. Is that just me?

It takes a while to adjust. The pacing and architecture are different. Often the ratio of mime and theater, like processionals, is much greater in relationship to dance sections, and the characterizations can change. Some of the "wow" choreography goes and is replaced with choreography that has a different feel.

Helene, thanks for your in depth explanation. It helped me a lot. It makes sense that there are definite positives to the reconstructions. I liked what you said about how characters become archetypes in the more "famous" and traditional stagings instead of more fully fleshed characters (in the reconstructions of originals due to longer mime sequences). That makes sense, so I am sure as I watch more and more ballet, I will probably want to see more reconstructions as my taste is slowly refined as the years go by. I think newbies to ballet like me are wanting the "wow" factor where everything is an excuse to dance. But I am sure I will grow to love the reconstructions also.

I have heard about PNB's reconstruction of Giselle, and by your description, it sounds wonderful. I hope they are able to put it out on dvd to save it for history and get a bigger audience for this version. I think a "feisty" Giselle sounds like a great idea (makes more sense for her to be able to fight off the other Willis and save Albrecht), and from your description the way they have matched the original steps with the music better than what we normally see makes it sound like it is worth seeing to compare and contrast. I imagine these "new" old versions help people who have seen hundreds of Giselles and want to view it from a new (old) perspective.

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Leigh Witchel wrote an excellent review of PNB's "Giselle" for danceviewtimes, in which he details the changes made in the production:

He concludes by writing,

Even so, PNB’s honest efforts to create an historical Giselle viable on a modern stage paid off in one of the most valuable productions of the year. In its own way, this production is as important as the Mariinsky’s “new/old” revival of “The Sleeping Beauty.” And like that production, it will probably not supplant newer versions. Many of the changes over time have taken too firm a root and have their own validity. But both revivals illuminate and add perspective to the masterpieces that would be missing without them.

An unanswerable question: How much would someone from 1842, 1862 or 1899 recognize this “Giselle” if they saw it? If the bodies, manners, training, morals, even mindsets of the dancers have changed enough in the succeeding generations, does it matter if the steps are the same? There’s no way to know. We’re looking at a panorama through the wrong end of the telescope, but it’s the only view we have.

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I suspect that Beauty has been the most choreographically wounded reconstruction so far isn't it...?

And then...there's Lilac's helmet and heels issue...hum...not convinced here that going back to that was the happiest idea.

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I like Lilac Fairy in heels. It sets her apart from the other fairies. When she's on pointe, her dancing is compared to the Aurora's, and that's often to her great disadvantage.

As far as being successful at its home theater, Lopatkina has been a vocal opponent of the SB reconstruction. If you watch the "New Year's Eve with the Mariinsky" DVD, which does have the third act reconstructed version, at the end, when the coda morphs into the choral version and the champagne is being passed around, Lopatkina makes a majestic central entrance in party clothes. I was waiting for Gergiev to get down on his hands and knees to bow. She has influence.

It is long and expensive to tour. In DC we lost part of the second act -- the dance with fans -- and almost all of the third of the Bolshoi's "Le Corsaire", so that it could end on union time.

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I like Lilac Fairy in heels. It sets her apart from the other fairies. When she's on pointe, her dancing is compared to the Aurora's, and that's often to her great disadvantage.

I've never seen one live, but I do very much like the effect of the Lilac Fairy in heels in the Dutch National Ballet's 2004 Sleeping Beauty DVD (the one with Sofiane Sylve as Aurora). I wouldn't have expected this, but I think that she actually has more authority, not less, which is at least partly due to the very grand gown and headdress she gets to wear since she's not on pointe. The match up with Carabosse--who is also a beautiful (and beautifully gowned) woman in this version--is very interesting theatrically, too. They really do seem like rival queens. I wouldn't want to see the Lilac Fairy danced that way every time, but I'd definitely like to see it that way some of the time. One of the DVD's extras is a lovely film in which the ins-and-outs of the mime is carefully explained to some lucky schoolchildren.

One thing that really struck me while watching one the RDB's recent performances of La Sylphide in NY is just how powerful pointe work is as a dramatic and expressive device when it's used (relatively) sparingly. I don't know why it blew me away so much this time, but Bournonville's reserving pointe work for the Sylph and her sisters made the woodland scenes seem super-duper magical, and made James' and the Sylph's relationship all the more weird, wonderful, and tragic. I liked the textural and dramatic effects of pointe / not pointe so much, I started fantasizing about a Swan Lake in which only Odette, Odile, and the Swan Maidens dance on pointe. The Princesses would look just as lovely -- and more appropriately mundane -- in heels.

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I haven't seen the Pacific Northwest Ballet production, but a "feisty" Giselle might be something that flatters us and paints Giselle in the image of our time – and doesn't sound too dramatically appealing. Henry James (and Tolstoy's) characters have long periods when they only slowly realize what's going on, the Isabella Archers not Henrietta Sackpoles that is. The role of Albrecht is deepened when he realizes by degrees the way he's mixed things up from two different worlds, and then helplessly watches them collide ...

My experience of these classic productions is limited, but I don't think stripping the paint back to the first coat really works – a ballet seems to be a living document that many hands have worked on over the years – though it's certainly good to clean it up here and there and bring back some details. But whose Terpsichore could you restore Apollo to: Suzanne Farrell's or Alexandra Danilova's, with their significantly different accents and characterizations?

Someone at the Brooklyn Museum once told me that no matter how authentic they try to make the historical early American rooms and how conscientiously they work, 20 or 30 years later it's pretty obvious they were reconstructed in the 1970s, the 1990s, etc.

– Though I do think reading the original E T A Hoffmann Nutcracker and Mouseking and Sandman/Coppelia (where Franz is truly mad) might help with the shadings of a production.

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I think it was less a modern feminist re-reading than closer to the original one of class.

It's not that Giselle was spirited because she was a strong woman - it was because she was a peasant girl, not a noblewoman who could afford the luxury of delicate sensibilities.

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Vera Altunina, the Vaganova Academy-trained founder and Artistic Director of International Ballet Theatre in Bellevue (Washington) who danced professionally in Russia, described in a panel discussion at the Dance Critics Association conference how, in the evolution of the ballet in Russian/Soviet productions, issues of class were stripped and the ballet became more about personal romantic love.

To expand upon Leigh's question, as a result of the changes in emphasis, would the original audience have recognized Petipa's version forty years later, or would they have thought that the movie made changes to the book?

I would say the common thread among the Giselle interpretations at PNB was "willful", because each Giselle had her own way of showing that she had a spine. Not every interpretation was necessarily feisty, unless compared to what has become the traditional version of having one foot in the grave. She may be subject to bouts of illness, but she's still expected to pick grapes; she doesn't spend gym class in the nurse's office: instead, she's out smoking behind the building so to speak while her friends try to cover for her.

She's also not pure-as-the-driven-snow innocent: even in traditional versions, she defies Hilarion, her mother, and Myrtha, all of the authority figures. She's just not as emphatic about it.

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I haven't seen the Pacific Northwest Ballet production, but a "feisty" Giselle might be something that flatters us and paints Giselle in the image of our time – and doesn't sound too dramatically appealing. Henry James (and Tolstoy's) characters have long periods when they only slowly realize what's going on, the Isabella Archers not Henrietta Sackpoles that is. The role of Albrecht is deepened when he realizes by degrees the way he's mixed things up from two different worlds, and then helplessly watches them collide ...

though it's certainly good to clean it up here and there and bring back some details. But whose Terpsichore could you restore Apollo to: Suzanne Farrell's or Alexandra Danilova's, with their significantly different accents and characterizations?

Someone at the Brooklyn Museum once told me that no matter how authentic they try to make the historical early American rooms and how conscientiously they work, 20 or 30 years later it's pretty obvious they were reconstructed in the 1970s, the 1990s, etc.

– Though I do think reading the original E T A Hoffmann Nutcracker and Mouseking and Sandman/Coppelia (where Franz is truly mad) might help with the shadings of a production.

A certain kind of feminine character is no longer fashionable these days - the Ophelia type, the girls whose frailty makes them unsuited to the realities of life and that frailty is part of their femininity. Greater autonomy for women and the rise of feminism probably play a role in that, but not necessarily so. High spirits and defiance are forms of strength and I should think the brutal facts of a peasant girl's existence would work against all three, but if you give Giselle too much of such qualities her human fate and her spirit fate make less sense, to this viewer anyway, unless there's some revising involved. I"ve never seen a Giselle where class didn't play a role, though.

About reconstructions in general, I tend to have mixed feelings, and sometimes the word is used misleadingly, as in some Nijinsky "reconstructions" where there was hardly anything to work from. In an art like ballet that is made and performed by living people, with a text that by its nature is somewhat fluid, never "set" things change - bodies change, sensibilities change, and you can't go home again. On the other hand I'm always curious to see them, although not necessarily more than once, and I wouldn't want companies to put too much time and energy into them.

Nice topic, cubanmiamiboy, thank you.

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Of course, she never claimed that class was eliminated. It was retained enough to support the romantic story. Since the original was 50/50 mime/dancing -- and the PNB production didn't aim to come close to that ratio -- a lot of interaction was dropped. Even in the last scene, the Justamant notebook shows over 40 people on stage when Bathilde forgives Albrecht: their society witnesses the act. In the PNB production, the Prince of Courland and Wilfrid represented their society, as PNB only has 46 dancers on the roster.

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A certain kind of feminine character is no longer fashionable these days - the Ophelia type, the girls whose frailty makes them unsuited to the realities of life and that frailty is part of their femininity. Greater autonomy for women and the rise of feminism probably play a role in that

Yes, I think this is why modern women have a difficult time identifying with certain literary female heroines, and find them rather spineless: Lucy in "A Tale of Two Cities", Cosette in "Les Miserables", and Fanny in "Mansfield Park". Most of my classmates just wanted to shake some backbone into them. But we have the ability to act on our own, women of that time had far fewer rights, opportunities for self employment, or personal decision making. They were entirely dependent on their male protectors. And when those male protectors made decisions, for better or worse the women were subject to them.

A modern day Giselle would have had a successful heart repair operation as a child in socialized-medicine Germany, done well on her final exams and gone to a major city for university. Or, since she danced so well, she would have enrolled in summer intensive at a major contemporary company, and probably ended up a muse to Pina Bausch. Albrecht would be a Eurotrash German who's family was stripped of their titles after sympathizing with the Nazis. Instead of hunting and slumming in a German village, he'd be slumming it at the Ibiza discoteques and tempting "common" girls with cocaine. Hilarion would have a mullet and mustache, and watch Bundesliga and Premier league soccer after working at the BMW factory. And he'd talk on and on about how he "could have had" Giselle. :off topic:

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I've never seen a Giselle where class didn't play a role, though.

Giselle was performed between the 1830 and 1848 revolutions to a new emerging upper middle class. Both Theophile Gautier and Heinrich Heine were progressives (though Gautier was rather anti-feminist; and anti-danseur noble). Heine was a supporter of the 1830 Revolution and came to Paris because of it – and he was something of an anti-Romantic (& anti-Madame de Stael) – his passage "Elementary Spirits" prose piece on which the second act of Giselle is based – as well as his graveyard ball poems – are danse macabres, scherzos... Giselle in a different key, if it were so reconstructed.

Regarding the "original" Apollo, according to Balanchine in "Dance for a City", Apollo was based on the Douanier Rousseau-like paintings of Andre Bauchant – and the choreography was likewise done in a primitive style:

It was a primitive Apollo, small Apollo, a boy with long hair. The paintings were like that. All the little mountains and hills were painted primitively...So that’s why I made the ballet a little bit like Rousseau. You know, the man lying down, or walking with his head tilted slightly, all wooden.

Perhaps a bit more archaic than classical.

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This is a fantastic thread, as I've been obsessed with the original productions of these ballets (particularly Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda, my two favorite 19th century ballets) ever since I was honestly 8 or 9. Trying to track down every photo I could find, comparing different productions on video and trying to guess where and when the changes came, etc. At the time, the hardest ballet to do this with was Nutcracker, partially I suspect as the original production wasn't really deemed a success (what I would give to be able to see a visualization of the original's "Bee Hive in Harmony" apotheosis--a final image that would have made sense to 1892 Russian audiences, but now would leave nearly any Nutcracker audience member shaking their head in confusion). Of course the Royal Ballet's 1980s production (by peter Wright?), initially inended to go back to the Ivanov original, but in the end it seems not very much was retained, and even the story was changed to try to add more cohesion, something I find a mistake with The Nutcracker where I think much of the charm comes from its almost Alice in Wonderland lack of logic. As a child the basic story (as done in the Balanchine version, anyway) made *perfect* sense to me, it only seems to be adults who need more justification and "depth". Many argue that the ETA Hoffman source story was so different, darker, and what we'd now call "freudian", but seem to forget that the ballet was adapted from the Dumas, fils, adaptation which turned it much more into a fairy tale.

I've been out of touch with the ballet world for some personal reasons the past couple of years, and I feel really upset that, living in Victoria--a short boat trip away--I knew nothing of PNB's "old/new" reconstruction of the Petipa/Perot version of Giselle. I hope it is brought back next season.

I understand Bart Birdsall's feelings about the Sleeping Beauty reconstruction... I grew up watching the Irina Kolpokova VHS of the K Sergeyev Kirov version, so it holds a special place in my heart. But I have to say, seeing the reconstruction (and only on the poorly shot youtube version) was such a revelation to me. And I have to say that I really believe, issues of length aside, most modern ballet audiences, if they don't have preconceptions, soon get absorbed into the whole, perfectly worked out, piece that the reconstruction suggests the original 1890 Beauty was. (I'm sure you know too, that it is hard to fairly judge the piece from youtube videos...)

Helene has raised every point I could think of to make, and many more, and is a far greater authority on the subject than I am, but I would like to add a few thoughts. To me, keeping the Lilac Fairy more as a mime "non toe" role does place her and Carabosse more clearly against each other. They are the only two fairies who communicate primarily through mime.

I also think we have to keep in mind that by 1890, these Petipa ballets were true spectacles, and I use that term here in a non derogatory way. I know Vsevolvsky when he comissioned Sleeping Beauty, which was truly his baby, he wanted it to be a Ballet-Feerie. These were meant to be, as I understand it, a combination of dance, mime, and spectacle (most obviously in the tableau). Already in 1890 some balletomanes decried such spectacles polluting the stage--on the other hand seeing Sleeping Beauty also made many, including what would be the core of Diaghilev's group, see for the first time the potential of ballet.

Many considered it, and still do, the first time that design, music, and physical performance all came together at one in ballet--in a way the equivalent to what Wagner was doing with his operas. It has to be remembered that Tchaikovsky wroe his score to Petipa's incredibly precise (and fascinating to read) outline. Yes some cuts and interpolations were made (less for SB than for many other ballets), but when you listen to the score, it's very clear when you're listening to the story/mime music and when listening to the more abstract dance music. I feel when the mime is done away with, you miss an important juxtaposition, even though it's still spelled out for you in that gorgeous, near perfect score.

It's ironic that the Soviets seemed to have, around 1950, a bigger problem with mime than the Western companies did. To me it seems that with K Sergeyev's revised Petipa ballets for Leningrad, and then more drastically with Grigorovich's for Moscow, the point was to try to keep what they felt the essence of Petipa was--the dance--and to try to tell the mime parts in dance as well, which they viewed as more "pure" to the form. The current Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauty has much more, what I see as largely authentic, mime than the Russian versions do. In the case of SB where I find mime most missed is in the Prologue, which really does set up the story.

These reconstructions can illuminate to people truths about a work that over time have been forgotten. Even a basic story like Sleeping Beauty, when I watched the reconstruction, suddenly made *much* more sense--not a detail seemed pointless or curious.

There also was a snobbish belief that the designs for these ballets were done by hacks, with no thought to the aethetics of the actual ballet. But, for me anyway, the reconstructions have largely proven this untrue. I think people were too used to those faded, black and white posed photographs we have--I remember reading with Sleeping Beauty many were shocked at how gorgeously colourful the ballet was, and how perfect the design looked (although I do know many felt it heavy as well--to which I'd ask if they ever saw Nureyev's version...). The 1890 production probably looked dated to Russians by the time it was redesigned, I believe, around 1920, the same way something from 20 years ago would to us, but 100 years later, going back to that original source no longer feels dated, at least to me.

Finally, I think there's been a mistake with many who dislike the reconstructions, to miss an important part. These ballets were done as true collaborations. Why is it more ok to completely change the choreography, than it is to change the score, when they were written as a collaboration between Petipa, Tchaikovsky (and Vsevelosky to an extent)? (I exagerate of course as small changes and edits are always made to the scores, but...)? I do understand that ballet is fluid, and harder to notate and reproduce than music is, and there's no way to be sure of full authenticity, and I understand that modern ballet bodies and techniques can't dance exactly the same way. But I do think there's as much to be learned and gained in reconstructing these masterpieces, artistically, as there is in doing a new interpretation.

(I admit, one issue that does bother me with the reconstructions is that often there is less dancing for the men, particularly the lead. Pavel Gerdt basically seemes to have done the later ballets, some said due to his age, in mime with one final, short, variation near the end. I think there is *some* justification for trying to interpolate a variation for the premier danseur somewhere else in these ballets, as so many modern ballet audiences go to the ballet to see men dancing as well, I know I do. On the other hand, I find the balance goes completely off when they go the Nureyev route and try to refocus the ballet on the journey of the prince...)

I'm partially playing devil's advocate--truthfully I believe there's more than enough room to have these reconstructions AND still have valid new productions. But many don't seem to feel this way--it's a very devisive issue. Of course, it's financially restrictive to mount the lvaish original productions anyway, and few companies could ever have both a reconstruction and a "new take" in their repertoire at the same time (although I believe the Mariinsky did for a while, and I think technically, though not performed to my knowledge in a long while, the reconstructed SB is still a part of their repertoire).

Anyway, it really saddens me that the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty (and La Bayadere to a lesser extent) no longer are performed, and it seems unlikealy they will again soon. I'm planning a trip to Russia within the next few years, and it would be a dream to see it live. At the very least I hope someday we'll get a professional video record of the production. (I cling, and watch repeatedly, the near complete SB Act III on the New Year's Gala DVD as well as the bits of Act I and The Vision on that Mariinsky documentary DVD).

If Bart Birdsall is still reading this way too long post, I'd recommend checking out the reconstruction the Mariinsky did around the same time of The Awakening of Flora, a short, more abstract ballet Petipa did around the same time, that is on that same site. It would be interesting to get your take on it, since I don't think any modern version has existed, so there would be less preconception.

Finally, having been so out of touch with ballet this past little while, I was THRILLED to hear there was a reconstruction of La Raymonda being done right now at La Scala! I've already checked out every image and bit of information I could find on it online, and I can only hope somebody does desice to film and release a professional DVD record of this. Raymonda probably has far more divergent productions than Sleeping Beauty, even though a fraction of the ballet companies perform it. (I do largely love the K Sergeyev version, but details like the complete removal of the White Lady bother me, especially since Glazunov was so careful to give her a theme for her appearances. I admit, I also like the Grigorovich version, which dramatically works better and has some particularly spectacular male dance work. But again, I feel there should be room for these newer interpretations as well as the original).

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Greetings, Eric HG31, and thank you for those comments.

Helene has raised every point I could think of to make, and many more, and is a far greater authority on the subject than I am, but I would like to add a few thoughts. To me, keeping the Lilac Fairy more as a mime "non toe" role does place her and Carabosse more clearly against each other. They are the only two fairies who communicate primarily through mime.

I agree, although I think the train may have left the station on that one, for the most part.

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There was a masculine type of that, too -- Hamlet is the greatest (Hamlet was very famously payed by Sarah Bernhart)people of great soul, who're not grasping and don't want to take charge of things but instead long for otherworldly knowledge. Siddharta is probably hte remote model. The type is common in heroes of SOuth-Asian epic -- in the dance-dramas of India, Java,Cambodia, etc., the dancers who play hte role are very slender, tall, extremely turned-out, "refined" creatures

THe Prince in Swan Lake is of this type.

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Dirac--thanks for the welcome!

As to if these "types" with female heroines, and as Paul mentioned male characters, still have relevence, I think if you turned on your average teen soap, or read Twilight (not that I'd recommend that), etc, you'd see them still present. Even many of the feisty women seem to more often than not, get passive when the dreamy, loner, soulful guy they fall for is close by...

One more thing about reconstructions (well, for now). I'll keep tis brief because, although dance plays an important part, it is somewhat off topic, but I'm involved in theatre and musical theatre, and this same debate constantly comes up. Many argue that a revival that recreates the original production, including choreography, makes the piece a museum piece, when it should live and breathe and be constantly reinterpretated. Again, I think there's room for both views, but there are many musicals, for example, that are a group effort--A Chorus Line (which legally major revivals have to use the original choreography--a rare exception in musicals that mainly only Bennett and Robbins shows have) was created as such a joint venture with music, songs and dialogue written sometimes after, or to, or around the dance steps, and staging.

I saw the recent West Side Story revival on Broadway that Arthur Laurents directed before his death. There's the gossip that Laurents was angry that everyone, Bernstein, Sondheim, especially Robbins, got more fame from WSS than he did for his libretto and sought to emphasize his contribution. But the best parts of the production were the original music, lyrics, dialogue and especially choreography. The new scenery was so so, and the new costumes were no improvement on the often reused originals. And as Sondheim said, when Laurents cut out the final Nightmare part of the Someday Dream Ballet, he inertly ruined the whole dramatic purpose of the ballet.

One last example--It's long been believed that the groundbreaking musical Oklahoma! had a great score, iconic Agnes De Mille choreography, but that the original production was too simple, the designs too bright and abstract, and badly dated--a work that needed a new production to connect to modern audiences. Last Spring there was a major production that attempted to recreate the original--luckily people involved with it were still alive to help--many revelations occured, like some long missed DeMille choreography, the fact that the original costumes and settings actually brought out long forgotten aspects of the musical, that some moments that people felt hadn't made sense before, suddenly did, etc. (the production will air on PBS sometime this Spring, BTW).

Anyway, like with ballet reconstructions, I think it just shows that often they can illuminate long forgotten or neglected parts of these great works, that simply sticking to new productions, or beloved productions from 60 years back, can't.

It would be dull if suddenly every company was doing the same, 1890 derived version of Sleeping Beauty--but there's no risk of that happening. (And if the Mariinsky doesn't start performing their Sleeping Beauty--I believe it's been nearly 5 years now--soon, I hope another company thinks of picking it up--though in the meantime it's exciting to see lesser known works like Raymonda being done this way).

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I think there's great mischief possible in "restoration" when uncontextualized evidence shows up and suddenly finds itself incorporated in current productions. The Lilac Fairy is a good example. Around 1970, a single photo of Marie Petipa as Lilac was found showing her in a "chemise-shift" and soft shoes with heels, clearly indicating a role whose job was primarily mime. The Maryinsky promptly revised the Prologue to have SEVEN fairies, one non-dancing. Subsequent research clearly established that Marie was dressed in a traditional "tarlatine" (tutu) and danced a much different variation from the one we're accustomed to, but clearly en pointe. She changed the dress and the shoes for Act I and the rest of the show, but the damage had been done, especially on people whose first view of the ballet was the precipitately modified one. First impressions are very lasting.

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I think there's great mischief possible in "restoration" when uncontextualized evidence shows up and suddenly finds itself incorporated in current productions. The Lilac Fairy is a good example. Around 1970, a single photo of Marie Petipa as Lilac was found showing her in a "chemise-shift" and soft shoes with heels, clearly indicating a role whose job was primarily mime. The Maryinsky promptly revised the Prologue to have SEVEN fairies, one non-dancing. Subsequent research clearly established that Marie was dressed in a traditional "tarlatine" (tutu) and danced a much different variation from the one we're accustomed to, but clearly en pointe. She changed the dress and the shoes for Act I and the rest of the show, but the damage had been done, especially on people whose first view of the ballet was the precipitately modified one. First impressions are very lasting.

I need my memory jogged.

Was the picture posted on ballettalk?

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Not to my knowledge, although it certainly made the rounds shortly after its discovery. Maybe rg has a postable version of the photograph.

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Not to my knowledge, although it certainly made the rounds shortly after its discovery. Maybe rg has a postable version of the photograph.

I have found the picture on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Petipa

Which is odd because contemporaries state she never danced fully en pointe.

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I saw the recent West Side Story revival on Broadway that Arthur Laurents directed before his death. There's the gossip that Laurents was angry that everyone, Bernstein, Sondheim, especially Robbins, got more fame from WSS than he did for his libretto and sought to emphasize his contribution. But the best parts of the production were the original music, lyrics, dialogue and especially choreography. The new scenery was so so, and the new costumes were no improvement on the often reused originals. And as Sondheim said, when Laurents cut out the final Nightmare part of the Someday Dream Ballet, he inertly ruined the whole dramatic purpose of the ballet.

I hadn't followed along with all of the WSS discussion, but I must say Sondheim's observation doesn't surprise me. PNB has Robbins' West Side Story Suite in its repertory, and so I've seen it several times in the last couple years -- I think that Robbins did himself a disservice by ending the work with the "Somewhere" number, which has a very bucolic, deMille-like feeling. It's very pretty, but it's not West Side Story.

One last example--It's long been believed that the groundbreaking musical Oklahoma! had a great score, iconic Agnes De Mille choreography, but that the original production was too simple, the designs too bright and abstract, and badly dated--a work that needed a new production to connect to modern audiences. Last Spring there was a major production that attempted to recreate the original--luckily people involved with it were still alive to help--many revelations occured, like some long missed DeMille choreography, the fact that the original costumes and settings actually brought out long forgotten aspects of the musical, that some moments that people felt hadn't made sense before, suddenly did, etc. (the production will air on PBS sometime this Spring, BTW).

I'll be very interested in seeing an Oklahoma with recisions -- there's a production currently on tour coming to Seattle where it will have new choreography by Donald Byrd, whose work is generally quite intense and harsh. It should make for some fascinating comparisons!

Tangentially, I think you make a very interesting point about the relationship between Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Pointe or no pointe, I've seen it set up where the hierarchy is very clear -- like Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West -- they are obviously on a different level from the rest of the fairy ranks -- the conflict between the two of them is about a fundamental conflict between good and evil, rather than battling personalities.

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