Balanchine and MusicalityNew member initial posting
Posted 03 March 2013 - 09:45 AM
Posted 10 April 2013 - 11:14 AM
It's best if you ask a specific question, or make a specific comment on something, but, it sounds like you need to read:
Stravinsky and Balanchine: A Journey of Invention
Professor Charles M. Joseph (Author)
A fascinating book, leaning perhaps more toward Stravinsky in its analysis, that does delve pretty deeply into how Balanchine went about choreographing for Stravinsky's music (I believe it even mentions the Elephant Polka done for Ringling Bros. Circus).
Both of Nancy Goldner's "Balanchine Variations" books are must reading to learn about the individual masterworks.
Another great Balanchine book would be, "I Remember Balanchine" by Francis Mason, which is basically a collection of short "essays"/rememberances from many people who worked with, or for, Balanchine. Everyone had a different experience of the man, so you have to piece together his personality, and techniques, from the varied memories. Certain people, like Marian Horosko, touch on his choreographic process, and others talk about more personal matters. But the entire book ends up being a great window onto a particular world of art and the personalities that make it go round.
Also, the Bernard Taper biography, "Balanchine: A Biography: With a New Epilogue" is a great read - especially the first half; unfortunately it gets to be rather 'light' in the last half, skirting many important issues in favor of making it all sound warm and fuzzy and wrapping the story up with a big bow. But the first part of the book (about Balanchine's early years) makes it all worth it.
Posted 11 April 2013 - 04:55 AM
It might also be a good idea to look closely at some of the still photographs of Balanchine at work. -- especially those shot in the studio or on stage by Martha Swope, Steve Caras, and others who understood ballet movement thoroughly. There are photographs of Balanchine demonstrating a step, even just sketching what he wanted, that tell you more about quality of movement and even musicality than one might expect.
Trying out the position you see in the photo -- and extrapolating what you think might have come before and after the photo was shot --can be an interesting experiment. I find that I learn about dance best by "dancing" (moving and imagining the music in my head), no matter how limited my skills.
Posted 11 April 2013 - 10:50 AM
Balanchine’s ideas of choreography – music and visual space – seem to have been pretty mature by the time he left Russia in 1925, which was an amazingly great and fertile period of experimentalism in all the visual arts and in poetry and literature, in many ways eclipsing Paris and Germany.
In Russia Balanchine seems to have been especially influenced by Fyodor Lopukhov's ideas on the relationship of music and choreography – that music should not be just a background for ballet steps. Lopukhov’s Writings on ballet and Music might be a helpful key to Balanchine's ideas, especially the essays, Dance Symphonism and The Position of Dance in Relation to Music: Separate, Dominant, Subordinate and Integrated.
Here’s Lopukhov on the dynamics of La Bayadére (which could also be a description of a Balanchine work like Symphony in C):
All the choreographic themes I have described reappear in the final section of the work, the reprise dénouement. Here they are further developed in opposition to each other. As the themes develop, they are performed alternatively by the soloists and the corps de ballet. The effect is of many people running, an effect that is amplified by the fact that there are always new dancers at the front. Both the soloists and the corps de ballet reach a climax. That of the corps de ballet – the episode where the dancers “skip” backward in an arabesque, almost floating – is no less impressive than that of the soloists.
"The Kingdom of the Shades" in La Bayadére is a great work of choreography in which themes are elaborated and brought into confrontation with each other so that new themes are generated … its structure I consider to be that of a choreographic sonata …
Balanchine’s relation to Sergei Eisenstein’s “visual musicality” I think is discussed in one of the Volkov’s books.
Eliott Carter also has some interesting comments on Balanchine’s musicality in a couple of his ballet reviews in the late thirties (there's an interesting aside about changes in Apollo), and in a late interview in I Remember Balanchine.
Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:56 PM
I am a composer (and t'ai chi teacher) with a deep interest in Balanchine's use of bodies moving to music; I have a more general interest in the entire context (i.e., the history of ballet and related arts) that enabled Balanchine. Ballet Alert! appears to be a good place for serious discussion and relevant news.
Hello DB: I'm quoting from your posting so that you receive an email directly - we have some information for you that might be of interest.
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