pherank

Video of Ballet Imperial...

50 posts in this topic

No doubt for a very limited time - there is a YouTube video of the Miami City Ballet dancing Ballet Imperial in 2011 (not 2001 as marked):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdv681E8eyg

Although the beginning is missing, most of the ballet looks to be there.

"If Balanchine had any resistance to composing a “tutu and tiara” extravaganza, it does not reveal itself in Ballet Imperial. I think he had a ball making it. With an ensemble of sixteen women and six men, two female demi-soloists, two male demi-soloists, two female principals, and one cavalier, this was the largest cast for a classical ballet he had ever worked with, and he deployed them with bountiful zest and variety. The cup ran over. Within the first few minutes of the first movement, we see the ensemble in diagonals, diamonds, a huge circle of sixteen women, smaller concentric circles, a pinwheel, and plain old straight lines just for good measure.

Although the technical challenges in other Balanchine ballets tend to be concealed within the choreographic fabric, in Ballet Imperial they are boldly, almost gleefully exposed. Or at least they are for the two principal women. Balanchine threw the hook at them. He was able to do so because he had in this company two extraordinary virtuosos—Marie_Jeanne and Gisella Caccialanza. Could he have conceived of an imperial ballet without them? I doubt it. But there they were, tossing off all the hardest stuff at allegro tempo—all kinds of pirouettes, jumps, and beats, small, intricate footwork, and moments when they just flew. I think especially of the pas de trois in the first movement, when Caccialanza and two men bound through space in big jetés with such force and amplitude so as to banish the perimeters of the stage.

...Ballet imperial is in three movements. The first is eighteen minutes, half of the entire ballet. Eighteen minutes is a very long time; in fact, it’s long enough to be a ballet unto itself, about the same duration as its sibling, Allegro Brillante, and Concerto Barocco. To keep the juices flowing, Balanchine develops the hierarchical structure of Petipa to an unprecedented degree. In the nineteenth century it was common to set the two principal dancers against an ensemble; those who danced their variations alone were soloists. Only rarely did the three ranks dance together at the same time. It was Balanchine who put them in constant interplay so that different gradations of technical expression could be savored all at once. The full stage picture divided among the many, the few, and the one or two creates its own musical and pictorial drama. And their entrances and exits, multitudinous in Ballet Imperial, also provide a gradual layering of excitement. Ballet Imperial adds an additional subculture, the demi-soloists. Interestingly, they don’t dance by themselves in this ballet; rather, they always accompany the higher-ups."

—Nancy Goldner, More Balanchine Variations

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Oh, how I wish I could ever see this in full tutu/backdrop regalia...

Yes sir, that would be an "extravaganza". Though I do wonder how the dancers could run beneath one another's arms wearing pancake tutus. That could have been disasterous at times.

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I think that's how Ballet Theatre did it, at least for a while? I saw Susan Jaffe in it.

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"PNB’s production is based on the 1964 version of New York City Ballet, which Francia Russell notated as Ballet Mistress and staged for the PNB premiere in 1997. All the imperial splendor of the original is now present, including elegant costumes, designed by Martin Pakledinaz, and a new backdrop depicting a room of the Winter Palace with windows looking out upon the River Neva, by PNB scenic artist Edith Whitsett."

BalletImperial.jpg

Oh, how beautiful that must be....

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I think that's how Ballet Theatre did it, at least for a while? I saw Susan Jaffe in it.

I remember both Part and Vishneva in the principal's role in 2005.

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I must say I got emotional watching the Parisian reaction to the curtain calls in the MCB video...THAT was an extravaganza...clapping.gif High point when Villella took his bows.

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Oh, gosh! I do so wish I had been there! They never got applause like that in Florida, in my experience. Vive la France! BUT the date on the YT page (and consequently in pherank's post, but merci beaucoup all the same, pherank) has a slip of the finger - they were there in Paris in 2011, not 2001.

And who were there? It's a little hard to be sure, but I believe the cast is led by Mary Carmen Catoya and Carlos Guerra, and the demi was probably Katia Carranza. But there's no doubt that the bearded gentleman, who gets applause from the dancers, is Francisco Renno, MCB's pianist. (He plays for their classes and rehearsals, too.) (And of course the little man in the dark gray suit is Edward Villella.)

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Catoya's fouettes are IMPOSSIBLE to miss. Yes, that little devilish dancer is indeed Miss Mary Carmen, Jack.

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And who were there? It's a little hard to be sure, but I believe the cast is led by Mary Carmen Catoya and Carlos Guerra, and the demi was probably Katia Carranza.

Jack, I believe the dancers are Catoya and Penteado, with Patricia Delgado in the second female role, attended by Cedeiro and Bramaz.

I've seen this particular video before. The beauty and intricacy of the choreography, and the style and verve of the performance, overcome even the amateur videography, imperfect sight lines, and tinny sound. Ballet Imperial was also on one of MCB's programs after their return from Paris, so several of us got to see the same dancers on stage here in the U.S.

It is a ballet which invariably becomes my favorite ballet of all, at least for quite a while after I've seen it, or until another "favorite ballet" is performed.

I rather like the long, soft dresses, a change Balanchine made in 1973 when he also changed the title from Ballet Imperial to Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.. I definitely prefer the all-white look to to the vrious colors of the classical tutus in the Seattle photo. Anna Kissselgoff in the Times wrote: "Now presented only as pure dance, it does not seem quite as interesting on its own." I disagree. Balanchine had been simplifying this production gradually over the years.

"Imperial" does have connotations of richness and elaborate detail, especially when we think of the elaborate uniforms and court dress under Nicholas II (or, for that matter, Napoleon). For me, it's easier to see the dancing as Balanchine redesigned it and as MCB performs it. I am willing to sacrifice imperial ostentation for that.

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A trivial matter, perhaps: Why does MCB still call this Ballet Imperial? When Balanchine changed the name to Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (in 1973), he dropped the scenery and switched to the floating dresses. That seems to be what MCB is now performing. Or was the choreography also revised when Balanchine changed the name and MCB is doing the original 1941 version?

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According to "Choreography by Balanchine" (Catalogue), for

1973: 382 TSCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO No. 2 (briefly called PIANO CONCERTO No. 2

NOTE: Originally presented by American Ballet Caravan, Rio de Janeiro, 1941, titled Ballet Imperial. While the choreograpy is essentially the same as the Sadler's Wells (Royal Ballet) presentation of 1950, the Imperial Russian decor and tutus of the 1964 New York City Ballet production were replaced in 1973 by simple chiffon dresses and a plain backdrop.

1964: 349 BALLET IMPERIAL (from 1973 called TSCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2)

NOTE: Originally presented by American Ballet Caravan, Rio de Janeiro, 1941. This production used the original choreography with minor revisions and an augmented corps de ballet.

1941: 194 BALLET IMPERIAL (from 1973 called TSCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2)

REVISIONS: 1950, Sadler's Wells [later Royal Ballet]: Pantomime deleted and new pas de deux added in second movement; somewhat different groupings in third movement; new scenery and costumes by Eugene Berman.

NEW PRODUCTIONS BY BALANCHINE COMPANIES: New York City Ballet: 1964, 1941 version with augmented corps de ballet and minor revisions, with new scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian (based on the 1941 production) and new costumes by Karinska; 1973, 1950 version (titled Piano Concerto No. 2, then Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2), staged without scenery, with new costumes by Karinska (classical tutus replaced by chiffon skirts), and lighting by Ronald Bates.

There are two strains of the ballet:

1941 -> 1964, "with augmented corps de ballet and minor revisions" (The version Francia Russell notated and stage for PNB and I'm guessing for the Mariinsky Ballet as one of the first two ballets -- the other was Suzanne Farrell's staging of "Scotch Symphony" -- officially staged for the company.)

1950-> "1973, with deleted pantomime and new pas de deux added in second movement; somewhat different groupings in third movement." (What NYCB performs now.)

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I wonder if those who saw the MCB version in the theater still have the program notes. Do they explain why they use the name Ballet Imperial? Of the different versions in Helene's message, which are they doing? Presumably Villela leaned toward versions he himself performed at NYCB. Any information on this?

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cubanmiamiboy, I agree; this ballet desperately wants tutus and columns. The fact that Balanchine often changed his ballets in later years does not mean that the changes were always better (Mendelssohn, for example, was always dissatisfied with the Italian Symphony finale--the greatest finale he ever wrote!--and thank god he never tinkered with it.) ; in fact they were sometimes much worse (the horrendous deletions from Apollo being Exhibit A.) If there is any ostentation anywhere in this work of art, it is in the mediocre (for Tchaikovsky) score which Balanchine turned into a masterpiece--and it is most certainly present there. The grandeur of formal costumes is necessary for that and several other reasons; there are tons of great Balanchine ballets in just this kind of nondescript little chiffon schmattas (sigh) and they are fine that way (Allegro Brilliante, etc, etc.) The PNB costumes ain't Karinska, that is for sure, but they are still better than chiffon here.

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I wonder if those who saw the MCB version in the theater still have the program notes. Do they explain why they use the name Ballet Imperial? Of the different versions in Helene's message, which are they doing? Presumably Villela leaned toward versions he himself performed at NYCB. Any information on this?

I believe you are technically correct - MCB 'should' be using Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 for the name, but Ballet Imperial is a great name that people have always reponded to. Balancine was in the habit of switching from poetic name to whatever the name of the music happened to be, when he reached a point where he seemed satisfied with his choreography. So the choreography truly becomes one with the music.

cubanmiamiboy, I agree; this ballet desperately wants tutus and columns. The fact that Balanchine often changed his ballets in later years does not mean that the changes were always better (Mendelssohn, for example, was always dissatisfied with the Italian Symphony finale--the greatest finale he ever wrote!--and thank god he never tinkered with it.) ; in fact they were sometimes much worse (the horrendous deletions from Apollo being Exhibit A.) If there is any ostentation anywhere in this work of art, it is in the mediocre (for Tchaikovsky) score which Balanchine turned into a masterpiece--and it is most certainly present there. The grandeur of formal costumes is necessary for that and several other reasons; there are tons of great Balanchine ballets in just this kind of nondescript little chiffon schmattas (sigh) and they are fine that way (Allegro Brilliante, etc, etc.) The PNB costumes ain't Karinska, that is for sure, but they are still better than chiffon here.

I agree JSMU - sometimes the particular costume really matters, and relying on a stripped-down approach only goes so far. As Balanchine's method became more and more concerned with pure dance, the black and white leotards and white chiffons became the norm. It's not really one of my favorite things about Balanchine - it just happens to be.

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California, IIRC, Villella responded to your question in one of his pre-performance talks when someone in his audience asked it that MCB calls the ballet Ballet Imperial instead of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 because Ballet Imperial is an easier name to sell. (I've been looking all over BA! without being able to find any of my accounts of these talks.)

If you have a look at the video in pherank's first post (while you can, it may not remain), I think you'll see that second-movement pas deux begin about 20 minutes into the video, where the boy stands downstage, back to us, and she enters upstage and comes down to him between columns of corps. I never saw the earlier versions of the choreography or the costumes and find this version wholly satisfying, but then, as I've just said, I don't really know what I'm missing.

Edited to answer California explicitly, what we see here is what MCB has been doing - or most of it, acknowledging the gaps in the video - in the several years since they mounted this ballet, the 1973 version, as regards both choreography and costumes.

In the case of Apollo and to a lesser extent, Emeralds, for example, I'm less happy with the later version than with the earlier, which in the case of Apollo Suzanne Farrell prefers to present with her troupe. In the case of Valse Fantaisie, I like the middle version (1953, danced recently by MCB) better than the last, 1967 setting, but these are really different ballets to the same music.

Even so, I hesitate to generalize about Balanchine's revisions; I gather the first version of La Source was too strenuous and it was made successful only by insertion of some corps material, for example. And in tinkering with his distillation of Swan Lake, he eliminated the synchronized little dance for the four cygnets which has always seemed to me mechanical when I see it in traditional productions. The two minutes pas d'action fight of the Prodigal's servants, shown recently by TSFB and included in the MCB version of Prodigal Son, looks weak to me; and the restored divertissment in La Sonnambula, staged by Frederic Franklin in Cincinnati a few years ago looked like weak choreography to weak music.

Edited by Jack Reed

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I've seen a video of the '67 version of Valse Fantaisie, and I definitely prefer the earlier 53 one. As per Apollo, it looked to me as if I had gotten late to a dress rehearsal.

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I wonder if those who saw the MCB version in the theater still have the program notes. Do they explain why they use the name Ballet Imperial? Of the different versions in Helene's message, which are they doing? Presumably Villela leaned toward versions he himself performed at NYCB. Any information on this?

The program contains no reference to title or costume differences. I agree with Jack -- Villella knew the BT name would sell better in his markets.

As to the costumes, I seem to be the only one here who prefers the leaner, simpler updated version. This interests me, since I enjoy opulence and spectacle on certain ballets as much as the next guy. I will have to think about this, but I suspect my preference for LESS in decor has to do with the quality of movement and the definite classical or late-classical. impression I receive from the music. This score is not Swan Lake or even Sleeping Beauty.

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... I agree with Jack -- Villella knew the BT name would sell better in his markets.

But how did he know that?

As to the costumes, I seem to be the only one here who prefers the leaner, simpler updated version.

No, I prefer them too, especially considering the "speed" of movement:

I will have to think about this, but I suspect my preference for LESS in decor has to do with the quality of movement and the definite classical or late-classical. impression I receive from the music. This score is not Swan Lake or even Sleeping Beauty.

Nor is it Theme and Variations - I mean the last movement of the same composer's third Suite for Orchestra. Here I want to see tutus, but not the big floppy pancake ones ABT performs that ballet in, as though it were SB, but the shorter stiffer ones NYCB did.

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Many thanks, pherank, for posting this glorious performance! clapping.gif Watching it I was transported back to the early '80's when I saw NYCB dance Ballet Imperial with a glittering Merrill Ashley in one of the lead roles. What a gorgeous and fiendishly difficult looking ballet! Kudos to Eddie Villella for prepping his dancers so beautifully.

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MakarovaFan, nothing since could come close to equalling Ashley, Lavery, and Nichols in TPC#2. I hope you saw Nichols as the second ballerina (she was later one of the greatest exponents of the prima role)--unforgettable in the pirouettes with arms en couronne near the end of the first movement pas de trois. In those days ballerinas often 'graduated' from the soloist to the principal role in this ballet (as more recently with Reichlen and Bouder.)

pherank, you are correct; it should be TPC#2 in this version. Chiffon, no mime, and no double saut de basques equals TPC#2, lol. It's one thing to have Agon or The Four Temperaments in black and white--for those lean 'modern' lines it is almost imperative. One of Balanchine's great flops was the restaged Les Sylphides of 72 which he called 'Chopiniana;' it had dreadful little leotards and short skirts, lending to the slow sustained lifts an air of 'indiscreet revelation' as a critic pungently observed at the time.

von Aroldingen was one of the principals and recalls that there was a beautiful costume made--white, three layers/tiers, flouncy--which she tried on and loved. She further said that 'all those slow landings with NOTHING ON were VERY DISTURBING!'

cubanmiamiboy--yes. although Balanchine saved some gorgeous steps from the divine 1953 Valse-Fantaisie (the manege of pas couru-grand jetes; the releves in arabesque...) unless one sees someone like Paul, Ashley, or Nichols in the 1967 version it is nowhere near as marvelous. Melinda Roy was also great in this--jumping was, of course, her thing. that manege was jaw-dropping when she did it--she almost didn't touch the ground.

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Many thanks, pherank, for posting this glorious performance! clapping.gif Watching it I was transported back to the early '80's when I saw NYCB dance Ballet Imperial with a glittering Merrill Ashley in one of the lead roles. What a gorgeous and fiendishly difficult looking ballet! Kudos to Eddie Villella for prepping his dancers so beautifully.

I'm happy to have been of service. ;)

MCB has 3 other videos of Imperial Ballet that are short segments (and professionally shot), but at least they are longer than the ususal 40 second segment. SOME companies understand the improtance of advertising the work in a meaningful way - if I saw clips like this on a ballet company website, I would definitely want to go see the actual performance. The 40 second 'commercials' show nothing of use.

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while Balanchine was head of NYCB when the Sylphides/Chopiniana mentioned above was presented, it was not credited to Balanchine but to Danilova.

as follows:

Sylphides Chor: Aleksandra Danilova after Mikhail Fokin; mus: Frédéric Chopin. Original title: Chopiniana. Perf: New York City, New York State Theater, Jan 20, 1972, New York City Ballet.

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The second ballerina role was my introduction to Ashley Bouder, and it was clear where she was heading. The first second ballerina I saw was Maria Calegari in 1982 -- Kyra Nichols was the lead -- and she did the lead role in 1986.

I was lucky to have seen Miranda Weese in the NYCB version (with Philip Neal) in 2004, and then in "Ballet Imperial" with PNB in 2007 (with Casey Herd), and then the Third Movement in 2008 for Casey Herd's farewell performance. (He moved to Dutch National Ballet.)

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