Paul Parish

In Balanchine's Apollo -- the "Swimming" and Flying" L

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A friend asks:

Are they the same--

I'm assuming the swimming lesson is where he's kneeling with

Terpsichore on his back-- but the flying lesson?? Do you know?

Thx.

I do NOT know and think it's a great question. Anybody know?

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it seems these two nicknames refer to the same moment - i think over the years swimming has the edge, but i've always felt flying to be somehow more apt as an applied name - applied b/c i don't think Balanchine himself ever really identified this moment by any literal description.

similarly the 'dark angel' in SERENADE is an applied name not necessarily what Balanchine ever said and certainly not so-called in any official program listing.

in ORPHEUS however 'Dark Angel' is actually part of 'program' in Balanchine's own words.

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I, too, believe the nicknames must refer to the same moment. It's such a distinctive and offbeat but 'pretty' part of the ballet. To me, it's seems like Terpsichore is flying...

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I, too, believe the nicknames must refer to the same moment. It's such a distinctive and offbeat but 'pretty' part of the ballet. To me, it's seems like Terpsichore is flying...

In the recent Pacific Northwest Ballet program for the Guggenheim's Works and Process series, Peter Boal noted that originally at this moment the man was "completely bent forward so that "most of Terpsichore's upper body was on him" and the move wasn't nearly as tricky to perform. He also said that when the pas de deux was taped for the Balanchine Interpreter's Archive, Maria Tallchief stressed two things, that Terpsichore didn't look at Apollo here but was constantly aware of him, and that she constantly moved her hands.

His comments come at about the 24:25 mark, after which Carla Korbes and Seth Orza demonstrate the move as it's done today.

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Thank you, kfw, I'll check that out when my new computer comes back from the repair shop mad.gif - it crashed, pooped out, whatever, WHEN I was watching that very upsteam'ed Work and Progress show!

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In the recent Pacific Northwest Ballet program for the Guggenheim's Works and Process series, Peter Boal noted that originally at this moment the man was "completely bent forward so that "most of Terpsichore's upper body was on him" and the move wasn't nearly as tricky to perform.

I know -- whenever I watch this part today I think "it didn't used to look this precarious..."

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... When the pas de deux was taped for the Balanchine Interpreter's Archive, Maria Tallchief stressed two things, that Terpsichore didn't look at Apollo here but was constantly aware of him, and that she constantly moved her hands.

His comments come at about the 24:25 mark, after which Carla Korbes and Seth Orza demonstrate the move as it's done today.

Doesn't that miss the point of Tallchief's coaching in that session? (sound of my gnashing teeth here)

... Whenever I watch this part today I think "it didn't used to look this precarious..."

sandik, would that be PNB you're watching perform Apollo? The company Boal himself directs? (same sound again)

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... Whenever I watch this part today I think "it didn't used to look this precarious..."

sandik, would that be PNB you're watching perform Apollo? The company Boal himself directs? (same sound)

I've seen several different stagings of "Apollo," but yes, PNB is my hometown company. Until this last year, they danced it as staged by Francia Russell, whose version came from her time with NYCB. I know there was considerable discussion about the changes that Boal made to the work for this last set of performances, and when the company presented this lecture-demonstration here last year, both Boal and Russell were commentators.

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So then it's the Boal staging where the "swimming lesson" (the shorthand expression I've always heard) looks precarious?

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So then it's the Boal staging where the "swimming lesson" (the shorthand expression I've always heard) looks precarious?

No, not just there. Part of it seems to do with physical proportions, especially the moment where the Terpsichore lines herself up on the Apollo's back, prior to the weight shift. I've seen performances where a high-waisted dancer gets more of her center of gravity onto her partner's back at that point, so that there isn't the need to readjust after the shift.

But honestly, since I've never learned this material, my observations could be based more in my own kinesthesia rather than the experiences of the actual performers. One thing I've learned from contact improvisation is how varied the possibilities of support actually are.

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It's one of many unforgiving (=challenging) moments in Balanchine: once she's up there, that's it, there's no adjusting possible. Another is the promenading ballerina in Serenade where the kneeling man rotates her by her thigh. He's not in a great position to help (in terms of leverage) if she's not on her leg.

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... When the pas de deux was taped for the Balanchine Interpreter's Archive, Maria Tallchief stressed two things, that Terpsichore didn't look at Apollo here but was constantly aware of him, and that she constantly moved her hands.

His comments come at about the 24:25 mark, after which Carla Korbes and Seth Orza demonstrate the move as it's done today.

Doesn't that miss the point of Tallchief's coaching in that session? (sound of my gnashing teeth here)

Jack, the other thing Boal said about Tallchief's coaching was that she found the choreography that's danced today to be very consistent with what she herself danced.

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Regarding the original question -- Balanchine (with Francis Mason) writes, in 101 Stories of the Geat Ballets:

"Now, at the end, she falls across Apollo's back as the god bends down to give the Muse a short swimming lesson as a reward for her beautiful dancing. Her arms push the air aside as they were moving in the water. When Apollo rises, Terpsichore's body is curved against him.

I love this moment and the long melodic line that it accompanies. I can't say I ever thought of it as Apollo's "reward" to Terpsichore. But there is a sweetness to it -- with a sense of quiet intimacy, before the music speeds up and turns bouncy as Calliope and Polyhymnia return to the stage.

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Having seen several dozen performances of "Apollo" at NYCB, before and during Boal's dancing days, I don't think it's Boal's staging that makes the difference in terms of stability: I think it's the dancers and the moment. There are times some couples that do, more or less, the earlier version, and when they do the later one -- most of the time -- there are performances when they hit the sweet spot, and I don't think about it, other times when I want those bars of music to end so she can get down, and other times when I've felt for the poor guy's neck, which is why I was so interested in knowing there was an alternative that was more stable.

I've always assumed that it was the proportion of the dancers and their health -- working around a sore back or ribs, for example -- that was part of the equation.

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Jack, the other thing Boal said about Tallchief's coaching was that she found the choreography that's danced today to be very consistent with what she herself danced.

Quite so, he did say she said that (as I found out once I realized what had recently gone up on YouTube and watched it myself!) and well worth your pointing that out, kfw.

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... PNB is my hometown company. ...

Finally watching the video of the Works and Process demonstration-lecture, I wondered how the tempos (and other characteristics of performance) there compared with what you usually see in their Apollo on stage. I thought there might have been some adjustments for the small stage, for example.

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