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Great Swanhildas of the past


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19 replies to this topic

#16 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:25 AM

Reviving this old thread as I'm trying to "connect" with COppelia in preparatioon for the MCB upcoming performances.

I think Lydia Lopokhova was considered a great Swannilda, and I believe reading in her biography that that was the last role she ever performed...

#17 bart

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:43 AM

Can't thank you enough, cristian, for reviving this thread. There are so many discussions from Ballet Talk's early days that should be revived so that members who are relatively new to the Board can have a say.

I LOVE pndbc's post, which combines Danilova (a great Swanhilda by all reports) and McBride (ditto).

Regarding the role of Swanilda - I was piano soloist with the NYCB when Mme. Danilova staged her role for Pat McBride - and played for many of those rehearsals. Also I played again for Danilova in Geneva when she again staged much of the ballet and taught her role for that company (Balanchine was Artistic Director, and Patricia Neary was Director.) Danilova was a joy to watch - she could dance much of the choreography - and was most explicit when teaching the various 'acting sequences' - such energy. I also thought Patricia McBride was a wonderful Swanilda as was Gelsey Kirkland who also danced the role at NYCB.

I remember McBride in that first season of performances. I'm not generally a fan of soubrette ballet, especially the attempts at humor, but McBride was a delight -- a real natural in this kind of role, both as an actress and as a dancer.

I wish I had seen the young Fonteyn as well. Like McBride, she had the ability to make charm, innocence, and an irrepressible sense of fun seem like spontaneous aspects of her own personality, not attitudes learned in front of a mirror.

pndbc's reference to Kirkland is intriguing. I assume this refers to the ABT version. Did anyone see her dance this part, especially when partnered by Baryshnikov?.

#18 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:48 AM

pnbc's reference to Kirkland is intriguing. Did anyone see her dance this part, especially when partnered by Baryshnikov?.


Would love to know about it too..! And btw...what happened to that fragment of Kirkland in the PDD with Misha that used to be on Youtube...? She was MAGNIFICENT on it!! (I suspect she would have been MY ballerina would I had had the pleasure to watch her live.. Posted Image ) Her sautees on pointe at the end of the variation, as well as her balances were beautiful there...

#19 bart

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 08:40 AM

Just came across Robert Garis' reminiscences of Patricia McBride's Swanilda (1974).

Everything about this Coppelia seemed to me new, fresh, and clear ... But above all shone McBride's performance. .....t was not her individuality but her lucid and vivid normalcy that made her the right vehicle for what Balanchine was exploring in Coppelia -- the relation between mechanical movement and natural movement; the discipline of classic ballet; the relation between dancer and choreographer.

[ ... ]

"[W]hen McBride, as the flesh-and-blood Swanilda pretending to be the doll Coppelia, pretended to come to life to an oboe melody that resembled a Bellini aria, .... [she] gave herself to this movement with with simple sufficiency, entirely without irony, so that when irony arose, as it poignantly did, it came from the action itself, as we saw (though Dr. Coppelius did not) that the life he thought he had created came not from his art but from the everyday life of a village girl who was jealous of her lover's infatuation with the doll the doctor had assembled. [ ... ] A minute later I was shaken by the violent Spanish dance into which McBride erupted when Dr. Coppelius tried to distract her energy -- she had been winding up all the dolls -- with a Spanish shawl, then ravished by the Scottish dance inspired by the plaid scarf he finds for her next. I remember recalling seeing McBride look down at her dancing feet, and thinking "Danilova showed her how to do that"-- as I confirmed later when I saw Danilova teaching the dance at the School of American Ballet.


Then I found my way to Arlene Croce, writing about a Royal Danish Ballet performance in 1966. The Swanhilda was Solveig Ostergaard ("the company's most outstandingly gifted demi-caractere ballerina").

Ostergaard is magnificent -- not heartless as Swanildas generally are, but with a child's ardent heart for destruction. Swanilda's rightness, her invincibility, is in Ostergaard's bold, floating, high-chested jumps, the most beautiful jump any woman in ballet has, next to Kolpakova. But when she did her doll dance, all mad yellow curls and quivering, contorted wooden limbs, I though of Chaplin's dance with the balloon in The Great Dictator,


Ostergaard, until I read this, was just a name to me. No one has mentioned her yet on this thread. Was anyone able to see her Swanilda? Was Croce right about her?

#20 Drew

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 04:24 PM

pndbc's reference to Kirkland is intriguing. I assume this refers to the ABT version. Did anyone see her dance this part, especially when partnered by Baryshnikov?.


Yup...back a few posts in this thread--from when it was originally started in 2001--I describe bits from two quite different Kirkland (ABT) Swanildas I saw including one w. Baryshnikov...I won't repeat what I wrote--the memories were closer in 2001 anyway. But I will say she was wonderful both times.


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