pherank

Bolshoi performance of Balanchine's "Jewels", 2012

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I was wondering if anyone else had seen the video of the Bolshoi's 2012 performance of Balanchine's "Jewels"?

It may be a fancy bootleg as I didn't recall seeing credits added at the end. The Russians have a tendency to film absolutely everything (unlike in the West), and so it can be difficult to know if a release is "official".

Online, there is a documentary with clips from the Bolshoi premiere performance of "Jewels":

And another view of "Rubies" with different cast:

In general, the cinematography and editing styles are maddening. Far too many closeups (but more about that later).

Emeralds -

with Evgenia Obraztsova, Vladislav Lantratov, Anna Tikhomirova, Alexander Volchkov

I mostly enjoyed this performance, and appreciated the fact that the Bolshoi retained the 3 danseur ending (which the Mariinsky did not). The ballerina performing the 1st woman's variation needed more training in how to do the sweeping arm ports do bras movements (I liked the 2nd variation ballerina better).

Orchestra sounded lush, and seemed to actually care about the material.

Rubies -

with Ekaterina Krysanova, Vyacheslav Lopatin, Ekaterina Shipulina

The Bolshoi orchestra actually sounds pretty odd in their arrangement of Stravinsky's Capriccio. The tempo is much too slow (undoubtedly to accommodate the dancer's needs), but it almost sounds as if the conductor is still stuck in "Emeralds" land. An excellent example of how distorting the music to accommodate the dancers - when taken too far - can ruin a performance. But it takes 2 to tango, and then there's the dancing:

Yikes! What a 'performance'. I'm beginning to wish the Russians would stop trying to perform "Rubies" - it's hard to bear really. The ballerina in the part of the 'Tall Girl' seemed entirely out of her element: completely unable to perform the angular, 'oriental' movements of the role, and, unable to perform the Broadway/vaudeville hip movements and kicks which are a big part of "Rubies" (and provide so much delight when performed well!). The expected quick and sharp movements were largely abandoned by the cast in favor of rounded, 'romantic' gestures. "Rubies" was definitely not sexy.

It is rather fascinating to see how difficult "Rubies" can be for many companies outside the US. The Paris Opera Ballet being the notable exception (but then they don't suffer from a lack of Jazz influence in their culture).

Being an abstract ballet, it never occurred to me just how 'ethnic' much of "Rubies" is. But when I watch films of the Russian companies taking on this piece, it's no different than Chinese dancers insisting that they can perform

authentic Flamenco, or Americans displaying their 'exemplary' Cossack dancing skills. OK, it takes courage to give "Rubies" a try, but it's not working. Not even close.

I definitely think there are cultural oddities in the dance choreography that are too great an obstacle for most of these Russian dancers, unless, and it's a long shot, the dancers are submerged in a 6 month course on American dance of the 1920s - 1940s. Then they might be able to pull it off.

Diamonds -

with Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin

Many lovely parts throughout, though I have to say that in the video, much of the ensemble dancing is missed due to the incredibly bad cinematography. I was just furious at how little could be seen of the finale. The director chose closeups over full-stage shots time and again, and it simply RUINED the presentation of Balanchine's work for the video audience. I have to remember this "Diamonds" video as a prime example of how not to photograph ballet. The placement of dancer's bodies in the ensemble sections is so important to the look of the ballet - why not show the arrangement of dancers on the stage?

The Pas de Deux sections went pretty well, and the penultimate (scherzo) section was enjoyable. Surprisingly, the finale seemed to deflate about 2/3rds of the way through - it didn't have quite the precision and bounce the POB dancers, for example, give the movements. But the Russian audience seemed to love "Diamonds" the best of the three pieces judging from the loud cheering throughout.

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Yikes. Those Rubies clips are awkward. Such shallow plies! I saw bits of Osipova doing it, she seemed to get it.

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Yikes. Those Rubies clips are awkward. Such shallow plies! I saw bits of Osipova doing it, she seemed to get it.

Diana Vishneva does a better job too, but the overall effect of the Russian performances have so far been, as you say, 'awkward'.

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UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGH. such shallow plies, such careful and gutless penchees, such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) Don't know who the 'tall girl' is but she is godawful in this role--not the slightest clue.

I must disagree about Paris Opera in Rubies as well, sadly--Dupont, normally a great to very good dancer, was the WORST in Rubies I have ever seen her: coy, contrived, precious, WRONG IN EVERY WAY THERE IS. Her partner was not much better, and the corps was somewhat worse. Sigh.

I also have not been impressed by Vishneva (also coy and contrived, albeit slightly less pretentious than Dupont --ONLY SLIGHTLY). Osipova was okay. Not even Bouder, much less Whelan, MUCH less McBride.

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...I also have not been impressed by Vishneva (also coy and contrived, albeit slightly less pretentious than Dupont --ONLY SLIGHTLY). Osipova was okay. Not even Bouder, much less Whelan, MUCH less McBride.

LOL, I may be wrong, but you seem to dislike everyone in these roles. ;)

Send us a video link of a good interpretation of Rubies.

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... such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) ...

That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out. Both companies present the dances smiling and beaming and slightly apologetically, as if what they were doing were a little joke between the them and the audience. Rather than a dance that unfolds behind the proscenium of its own inevitable internal logic.

Alicia Alonso in her "Theme & Variations" tutorial video makes an important distinction that holds for even that very extroverted ballet: now this part is presented for the audience and this other part is just before you two, very private.

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That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out.

Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time. And it doesn't take very long. It's often mentioned that only the dancers (such as McBride) who received the original choreography and 'hands-on' attention from Mr. B. really got things right. And even though many of those same dancers tried to pass on the dances intact, the very act of communication seems to keep smoothing the edges, again and again.I remember Suzanne Farrell's description of her staging of "Scotch Symphony" in Russia, and it just sounded like a nightmare, but she wrote about it as just being part of the business. But the end result was nothing like any "Scotch Symphony" seen in the U.S.

I think we can be certain that what we THINK is Petipa, is in many ways different from the original choreography.

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Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time.

I don't mind the loss of intricacies, it's the layer of schmaltz that's applied - knowing smiles (which I've seen even in the 4Ts) and over-reverentiality, the feeling that the dancer is doing it for her or his resume (but of course everything has that stamp on it today).

I thought Farrell Ballet was most successful with slow ballets like Somnabula, which they did quite movingly, rather than allegro works like Union Jack. Villella seems to error on the side of crispness, sharp hand movements, snazzy finish but I think that's a better bias for restaging, at least for fifties/sixties Balanchine.

Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.

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no, no, NO. I didn't realize my syntax was unclear; sorry. I elided a couple of words ('she is' after Osipova); the follwing sentence refers to what Osipova, though okay, was NOT.....

in order of brilliance Osipova was not Bouder, who's terrific in it; not Whelan, who was the abstraction of wit in it; and most definitely not McBride, who was a goddess in it.

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Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.

Nichols seems to have the best approach, indeed. As you pointed out, the individual stagers each have their own predilections, and personal athletic strength's - each stager is going to be stronger with certain choreography (and so they probably tend to stick with the same approach, rather than continue to work on their own weaknesses).

One thing that doesn't seem to get mentioned much with regard to these Balanchine stagers is their ability to teach.To teach with clarity and enthusiasm, and convey information well, is a gift in itself, and I have to believe that plenty of stagers are just not good teachers. Obviously Balanchine had the gift - he could create and convey his choreography to large numbers of people many, many times over. But the average dancer, and the average soloist, is not necessarily going to be able to teach others with any genius.

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no, no, NO. I didn't realize my syntax was unclear; sorry.

That's what I was wondering. No problem.

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... such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) ...

That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out. Both companies present the dances smiling and beaming and slightly apologetically, as if what they were doing were a little joke between the them and the audience. Rather than a dance that unfolds behind the proscenium of its own inevitable internal logic.

Alicia Alonso in her "Theme & Variations" tutorial video makes an important distinction that holds for even that very extroverted ballet: now this part is presented for the audience and this other part is just before you two, very private.

Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time.

I don't mind the loss of intricacies, it's the layer of schmaltz that's applied - knowing smiles (which I've seen even in the 4Ts) and over-reverentiality, the feeling that the dancer is doing it for her or his resume (but of course everything has that stamp on it today).

I thought Farrell Ballet was most successful with slow ballets like Somnabula, which they did quite movingly, rather than allegro works like Union Jack. Villella seems to error on the side of crispness, sharp hand movements, snazzy finish but I think that's a better bias for restaging, at least for fifties/sixties Balanchine.

Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.

AMEN to everything here. That's one reason Nichols was so revelatory in almost every Balanchine part--she removed the barnacles and detritus, restoring roles to their former luster.

The 'layer of schmaltz' indeed--it's hideous. everything is coated with goo. I also mind the loss of intricacies when it is a matter not of time and attrition (and the deaths of the dancers who really knew the choreography) but a matter of inadequate technique, as was the case for years at NYCB with Watts and Kistler. Watts and Kistler destroyed every role they touched in their latter years, and, sadly, as they were both intimates of Peter Martins, he let them both run amok for ages. They omitted whatever they could not do/could no longer do/could never do/did not feel like attempting, and developed truly awful 'personae' which they must have felt were more than enough compensation. This sort of thing is what has been killing ballets like La Sonnambula, which both the aforementioned dancers disgraced themselves in.

All one need to is listen to Alonso, Marie-Jeanne, Tallchief, etc ad infinitum, to realize that the rigors and brilliance of Balanchine ballets do not withstand laziness, inadequacy, or cabaret turns (except when called for, as in Slaughter, for example, lol)....and that what they run into in staging is dancers who refuse often even to try. (cf Farrell's accounts of staging Scotch in Russia, etc.) Tallchief talks about staging Ballet Imperial at ABT (where one might reasonably expect proper and adequate technique, given its illustrious past?) and telling the young ballerina that she was supposed to do double sauts de basques in the finale. The girl said 'omg, that's what John Taras said--but I thought he was joking--it's so HARD--!!!!!'

Sigh.

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Tallchief talks about staging Ballet Imperial at ABT (where one might reasonably expect proper and adequate technique, given its illustrious past?)

and telling the young ballerina that she was supposed to do double sauts de basques in the finale. The girl said 'omg, that's what John Taras said--but I thought he was joking--it's so HARD--!!!!!'

Sigh.

Reminds me of Gelsey Kirkland going to great lengths to complain about working with Balanchine, and how she (basically) disliked dancing "Theme and Variations" because it was so demanding. But then Kirkland had a lot of 'emotional issues'. As you pointed out, there are definitely dancers who have no real work ethic unless they are forced to give a darn.

As for the schmaltz - it is, as they say, SHOW BIZ!

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LOL, I may be wrong, but you seem to dislike everyone in these roles. ;)

Send us a video link of a good interpretation of Rubies.

Forward to 0:38 to see an excerpt of the PNB version of Rubies:

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Re: BALLET IMPERIAL and double-saut de basque - i believe these were taken out by Balanchine himself when he revised the choreography as TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2, the 'doubles' were in a different place (where i believe the fouette turns now come) from where the singles are today, tho' ABT chose to use the former BALLET IMPERIAL title, the Trust no doubt insisted on the latest, the TPC2, version of the choreography, where the doubles were not in place. also, perhaps Tallchief misremembered where the famous/infamous doubles wein any case they were part of the choreography for the secondary female lead, not the lead.

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Re: BALLET IMPERIAL and double-saut de basque - i believe these were taken out by Balanchine himself when he revised the choreography as TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2, the 'doubles' were in a different place (where i believe the fouette turns now come) from where the singles are today, tho' ABT chose to use the former BALLET IMPERIAL title, the Trust no doubt insisted on the latest, the TPC2, version of the choreography, where the doubles were not in place. also, perhaps Tallchief misremembered where the famous/infamous doubles were once were set. in any case they were part of the choreography for the secondary female lead, not the lead.

They may well have been taken out by Balanchine; he was known to revise and recast his choreography. However, as in his cutting of Apollo, this was not always a good thing; fortunately, the Balanchine stagers usually allow any version which was 'legitimately done', particularly the original version--unless the Trust has now become even more rigidly self-important, which is always a possibility. The double saut de basques were NOT part of the choreography for the second ballerina; Marie-Jeanne and Moira Shearer, who both danced the ballerina role brilliantly according to Balanchine, both recall them in addition to Tallchief specifically mentioning them.

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In addition, so far as I know, ABT still does 'Ballet Imperial' (as do MCB and PNB) which is by no stretch the same ballet as TPC#2, and it ain't just the lack of sets and costumes.

Therefore, Tallchief was probably staging that ballet, which did have the double saut de basques; many companies seem to prefer Ballet Imperial.

pherank, if you view the video of Western Symphony which has just been mentioned elsewhere in this same section of Ballet Talk, you see that schmaltz and goo were by no means always 'show biz', and that Balanchine's dancers in the Fifties had joie de vivre, brilliant technique, candor--and no goo. Re Kirkland complaining about Theme--I believe this was because she was so extremely hard on herself, and because she was one of the few ballerinas I've ever seen perform the entire ballet with brilliance and overwhelming beauty. Her performance with Baryshnikov can still be seen now and then on YouTube. it is breathtaking.

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i stand corrected and have removed my erroneous suggestion of which member of the BALLET IMPERIAL cast was known to have been given double saut de basque choreography to execute.

don't know where my mind was but it wasn't 'on the mark.'

my comments were not meant to judge or prefer a particular version of BALLET IMPERIAL/TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2, only to wonder if the reason the double s-d-b steps were not set was that the version being staged for ABT was the later one.

re: Tallchief, i'm don't have in front of me ABT's full credits, but i don't think she was responsible for the ballet's staging pverall at ABT, but rather, perhaps, that she was brought in for coaching and/or commentary once it was set by another Trust stager, before it was first presented by the company.

as Peter Boal quoted Balanchine's saying about his cutting of APOLLO at the recent PNB sessions at the Guggenheim's Works & Process: It's my ballet and i can do what i want to it.

whatever the Trust decides to do these days is likely based on its view of Balanchine's wishes.

one can prefer/argue which 'version' is the most effective, etc. but if the stager is sent to mount version X there's not much point missing details of version Y.

if mem. serves - and it's clear the service hasn't been very good lately in my case - the double s-d-b were recalled at the Balanchine's interpreter's archive session led by Marie Jeanne, who was rivetting even if/when she couldn't precisely rem. details, all this for a tape, which, alas, i don't think ever got finished for lack of enough material to edit (Taras was also on hand to to work w/ Marie Jeanne).

bottom line? i think ABT dances the TPC#2 version of Balanchine's choreography under the original title of BALLET IMPERIAL.

i think MCB does similarly, w/ TPC#2's costume scheme, that is chiffon shifts where tutus once were worn, as well - but again this is an assumption on my part. MCB regulars would know for certain.

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i think ABT dances the TPC#2 version of Balanchine's choreography under the original title of BALLET IMPERIAL.

i think MCB does similarly, w/ TPC#2's costume scheme, that is chiffon shifts where tutus once were worn, as well - but again this is an assumption on my part. MCB regulars would know for certain.

You're right, rg. I never saw either version before coming to Miami, but the work here is presented with the chiffon costumes and under the "Ballet Imperial" title.

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Re Kirkland complaining about Theme--I believe this was because she was so extremely hard on herself, and because she was one of the few ballerinas I've ever seen perform the entire ballet with brilliance and overwhelming beauty. Her performance with Baryshnikov can still be seen now and then on YouTube. it is breathtaking.

Note that my comment was only on Kirkland's general attitude about Balanchine and his ballets (coming from her own statements), not her artistic/physical abilities. I've seen the "T & V" video myself (many times), and it's a great performance, indeed.

"...The backlash focused in great part on Balanchine, who was, of course, not present to defend himself, and one of its loudest voices was that of Gelsey Kirkland, a former New York City Ballet dancer...Her bitterness about Balanchine I found most curious.

Balanchine recognized her talent. He promoted her, choreographed for her, and encouraged her in every way, as he had many dancers over the years. But for her own reasons she obviously didn't want to accept the opportunities he offered her, and she seemed to resent him for it. Balanchine functioned on a plateau that, clearly, wasn't for everybody, but to abandon the challenge of Balanchine for an approach to dancing that seemed more like an act of defiance than an act of love and respect for one's craft was something I could not comprehend." --Suzanne Farrell

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They may well have been taken out by Balanchine; he was known to revise and recast his choreography. However, as in his cutting of Apollo, this was not always a good thing; fortunately, the Balanchine stagers usually allow any version which was 'legitimately done', particularly the original version--unless the Trust has now become even more rigidly self-important, which is always a possibility.

I know this is off topic, but regarding these Wikipedia statements:

["Balanchine staged Apollon Musagete for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1931. Following his move to the United States two years later, the work was performed by his American Ballet in 1937 with Lew Christensen in the title rôle and subsequently becoming a feature of Balanchine's New York company and of many other companies the world over. In 1978 Balanchine made major changes to the piece, discarding the ballet's prologue which depicts Apollo's birth.

For a revival with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Apollo in 1979, he also omitted Apollo's first variation and rechoreographed the ending of the ballet. This revision saw the piece concluding not with Apollo's ascent to Mount Parnassus but rather with the earlier memorable tableau of the muses posing in ascending arabesques beside Apollo. In the 1980 staging for the New York City Ballet, Apollo's first variation was restored. Suzanne Farrell restored the birth scene for her company in 2001, as did Arthur Mitchell for his Dance Theatre of Harlem performance at Symphony Space's Wall to Wall Balanchine in conjunction with City Ballet's Balanchine centennial."]

Does anyone know if the Royal Danish Ballet stages the 1931 version of Apollo today?

(And note that if Farrell can "restore" the birth scene, then it is possible to get the Balanchine Trust to approve potentially any version of a Balanchine ballet. There would of course have to be proof that it could be done accurately and "respectfully".)

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pherank:

Does anyone know if the Royal Danish Ballet stages the 1931 version of Apollo today?

[more OT]

My sense from reading historical reviews is that there are not two versions of Apollo but many versions over the years. According to a London reviewer, the 1928 version had a scene where Apollo is balanced on the feet of the muses. Alexandra Danivola (1986) says "Today it's a different ballet... . What I danced was lighter, smaller, quicker. I did fifth, arabesque, fifth, arabesque – nobody does that anymore."

The birth scene was reportedly modified after Balanchine saw a dancer do some Martha Graham warm-up exercises which he included – so the current original is not the same as the '28 or '31 originals.

Apollo seems to have changed tone again when it was revived alongside the premiere of Agon, after which it was taken (and danced?) far more seriously.

NYT 1943 Stravinsky Leads his Apollo -

The work was first produced in Balanchine’s version in 1928 and it bears strong impress of that period of artiness and affectation... It is “moderne” in the late Diaghileff manner

NYT 1961 The New Apollo -

As Mr. Ludlow plays him, Apollo is essentially the half divine lad whose birth by a human mother we have just witnessed, and the line of his progress toward godhood develops with winning transparency before our eyes. Indeed it has never before been so clear that this is the “plot” of the ballet.

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But of course if it's the chiffon costumes (ugh) it is NOT, in fact, 'Ballet Imperial'--without the column, the uniforms, the tutus, and *especially* without the mime, it is just TPC #2.

Great ballet as well; completely wrong nomenclature, and extremely misleading to the audience.

Yes, certainly steps change, and of course Balanchine himself changed steps for dancers (when Farrell had a bad knee, he removed the jetes in Terpsichore's role, to cite only one well known instance); this is different from dancers saying 'I don't want to do those steps; they're too hard....', and from changing the intention and affect of the ballet, as everyone agrees has happened with Barocco, Donizetti, TPC, and many other ballets. In the Balanchine Celebration twenty years ago (!) beautiful, intricate, virtuoso steps were omitted by the truckload from beautiful, intricate, virtuoso ballets like Glinka and Minkus Pas de Trois. This is not something the Balanchine Trust needs to encourage, to say the least. pherank is quite correct in saying that if a previous KNOWN version can be *correctly* restored, it can always be used. The gorgeous birth scene from Apollo, the omission of which is one of the genius Balanchine's few egregious mistakes (William Weslow is quoted in print as saying that Balanchine cut the birth scene, as he put Baryshnikov in a horrid coverup costume in Prodigal, so that Baryshnikov would *not* create a sensation in that scene. sigh. ) and something not explained away by a flippant remark like 'it's my ballet', LOL. Even Farrell protested when he cut it, as she says in her memoir.

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and something not explained away by a flippant remark like 'it's my ballet', LOL. Even Farrell protested when he cut it, as she says in her memoir.

According to D'Amboise, Balanchine says "Like Van Gogh – cut off his own ear," both justifying it and chalking it up to madness.

And yes it's the eliminated steps without something else as telling or witty added. It's like Gore Vidal's example of the classic American cake recipe that every year or so has one expensive ingredient left out.

Mozart Divertimento #15 now (perhaps it always did) seems too long - this was a criticism in London of San Francisco Ballet performance - in part because the slow movement is not delivered with the gravity and deep seriousness - and sense of its oddness - that it needs, and the contrasting light parts don't have quite the type of witty delivery you see in film clips of ballets such as Pas de Dix, or in the recent Miami Paris video of Square Dance.

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