Natalia

Diaghilev Exhibition in DC (May 12-Sep 2, 2013)

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Details about affiliated programs (concerts, films, etc.):

http://www.nga.gov/press/exh/3413/related.shtm

The 'Garden Cafe Ballets Russes' opens for business on May 7!

http://www.nga.gov/press/2013/cafe_ballets_russes.shtm

So impressive! I hope they find a way to release that new documentary film commercially:

A Gallery-produced documentary film will explore Diaghilev's Russian roots and early cultural forays, his genius for orchestrating avant-garde composers, dancers, painters, and designers, and the legacy of the Ballets Russes. New performances from productions of Afternoon of a Faun, Scheherazade, and The Prodigal Son, will be featured as well as music by Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. The film includes archival footage spanning 1909 to 1929 and new interviews with dance historian Lynn Garafola and and conductor Leonard Slatkin.

The catalog is available for pre-order with a nice discount on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Diaghilev-Golden-Ballets-Russes-1909-1929/dp/1851777490/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364908595&sr=8-1&keywords=diaghilev+and+the+ballets+russes

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What a fabulous exhibition this is! Just went for the second time, since its opening; I'm sure that I'll be returning in the weeks to come, as there are so many gorgeous treasures to be savored slowly. My highlights of yesterday are Nijinsky's pink, petal-encrusted unitard from Le Spectre de la Rose, displayed on a 'jete-ing' mannequin, in front of Cocteau's huge poster of Karsavina as the Girl who longs for the Rose. The pieces on display range from the huge -- entire backdrop of the Goncharova Firebird or Picasso's front-curtain for Train Bleu -- to the miniscule -- two tickets to the very first ballet performance in Paris, 1909...how would YOU love to have that?

Housed on the two uppermost floors of the gallery's East Building, at least a dozen ballets are given their very own rooms. The Parade room is a special favourite of mine, showing the original huge sculptural costumes by Picasso for the two Manager characters...and an enticing film of the ballet, as performed by the Europa Danse company in 2007. (Gee, I'd love to buy that film but couldn't find it in the otherwise-magnificent and well-stocked gift shop, upon exiting the show. Ditto the one-minute excerpt from Balanchine's version of Le Chant du Rossignol - a group dance performed by Le Ballet de Monte-Carlo 4-5 years ago. Wow.)

If at all possible, come during a weekday, when the crowds are less. (Hey, it's FREE & it's open every day of the week, every week between now and Labor Day in September!) Then again, most of the special events, such as ballet demonstrations, concerts, lectures, symposia, happen only on weekends.

Alas, there is no 'free' brochure of this magnificent exhibition, as there usually are at the NGA for similar large-scaled shows in the past. Another victim of USG budget cuts, I was told by a volunteer - ahhhhhh...... As there is no handy-dandy list of special associated events, in chronological order, I'm listing them here, from my own raggedy notes. ALL are free of charge; no reservs needed - first come, first served. All events listed here are in the large East Building Auditorium (lower 'concourse' level), unless otherwise noted:

Fri, May 31 - two ballet-related movies: 1pm - The Red Shoes; 3:45pm - Ballets Russes documentary

*THE BIGGIE: Sat, June 1 - 11am to 3:30pm (4.5 hours): Diaghilev Symposium, with many famous guest scholars from the worlds of art, music & ballet, including Tim Scholl (who all of us know from the book on the Sleeping Beauty-1890 recon).

*Another Biggie: Sun, June 2 - 2pm: Main lecture on the exhibition, with Jane Prichard, curator of the show, who'll be available to sign the exhib catalog afterwards.

Sunday, June 9, 1pm and 3:30pm (not sure if this means repetition of the same show): Ballet Demonstraton with The Wasington Ballet dancers. East Building Mezzanine (the large space before the entrance to the exhibition).

Sat, June 15, 2pm: Lecture - "Fashion and the Ballet Russe" - NGA lecturer Jon Frederick. West Building Ground-floor lecture hall.

Sun, July 7, 2pm - Lecture - "Bronislava Nijinska" - guest scholar Lynn Garafola

Sat, July 13, 1pm and 3:30pm - Ballet Demo by dancers of DC's Kirov Academy of Ballet - East Building Mezzanine (the large space before the entrance to the exhibition).

Sun, July 14, 2pm - Lecture "Dancing with the Stars" about art works on the theme of ballet, in the NGA's permanent holdings (including, I assume, the famous painting of Marie Camargo) - NGA lecturer Diane Arkin

Sun, July 21, 2pm - Lecture on "The Rite of Spring" by Sarah Kennel (NGA Assoc Curator of Photography)

Sun, July 28 at 2pm - lecture "Vaudeville and Popular Dance,' NGA lecturer Wilford Scott

Sun, Aug 4, 2pm lecture - "Little Dancers After Degas," NGA lecturer Maryanna Ramirez

Double-Header Sunday! Sun, Aug 11 - 1pm and 3:30pm Ballet Demo by DC's Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dancers (East Bldg Mezzanine); 2pm lecture "Peasant Dance in Art" with NGA lecturer Lorena Barnes

p.s. - The 'Cafe Ballets Russes' in the West Bldg's Garden Cafe area is definitely worth a stop. While all of the Tsarist-era Russian Cuisine items look delicious (all can be sampled in the buffet option), I highly recommend the Salmon Coulibiac prepared the old-fashioned way - with spinach, all baked in a dough, with a caper sauce on the side. Be sure to ask for the free recipe card for this.

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...all sounds fabulous...

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I received some official news on the first two ballet demonstrations (June 9-Wash Ballet and July 13-Kirov Academy) to be held in conjunction with the exhibition.

June 9 - 1PM and 3:30PM, from an informational email sent by The Washington Ballet today:

The Washington Ballet will pay homage to the life of this arts innovator by performing four works at The National Gallery of Art. The classroom style performance begins with excerpts from
Giselle
and
Le Corsaire
, two works from the Russian romantic period of ballet that Diaghilev grew up watching. The third excerpt is from
Scheherazade
which The Ballet Russes premiered in 1910 and is considered their first true creation.
Scheherazade
shocked audiences at the time for its overt sexuality and the freedom and fluency of movement. It showcased the Ballet Russes modern style while still relying on the elements of classical ballet. The final piece to be performed is Edwaard Liang's
Wunderland
, which was influenced by Ballet Russes, one hundred years after their founding.

July 13, 1PM and 3:30PM - Kirov Academy: The printed programme at this past weekend's graduation performances mentioned that the July 13th demos will include Nijinsky's complete L'Apres-Midi d'un Faun, & the pdd from Fokine's Firebird, among other works.

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Yesterday's 'Ballet Double-Header Movie Matinee' was a treat, not just because of the films....but, especially, because of the unannounced guest speaker, Ballet-Russes de M-C corps member since the mid-1930s, Betty Low (a.k.a. 'Ludmilla Lvova'), who regaled us with 30-non-stop minutes of fascinating recollections. She first spoke about her initial ballet teachers in Europe, Nikolai Legat (!) and Mathilde Tchessinkaya (!!!), then went on to describe her first barre at the BRM-C, in which she inadvertenty 'kicked the butt' of the fellow in front of her, during grands battements en l'air. The fellow was one Leonid Massine (!!!!!). Luckily, he didn't hold it against her and she got the job dancing with the troupe, touring the USA -- and the world -- in mostly one-night stands.

Even though I've seen The Red Shoes DVD countless times on my TV, it was a special treat to see it up on the big screen, sitting in the dark, surrounded by a standing-room-only crowd of balletomanes. The colours are especially eye-popping on the new restored version. We, the audience in the Gallery, cheered for the dancers of The Red Shoes Ballet. LOTS of 'bravos' for Helpmann, Massine, Shearer, as each came out for a bow (on the screen). Yes, it's corny but so much fun.

The 2nd film, the recent Ballets-Russes de Monte Carlo docum, was especially touching when Frederic Franklyn, who recently passed awaywas shown. Again, the live audience watching the film broke out into hearty applause whenever Franklyn and other special favourites appeared.

Today's the big Diaghilev Symposium. I'll be headed out before 10AM, to nab a good seat. Luckily, I live but a 10-minute walk from the NGA. smile.png

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The symposium was fantastic. Absolutely worth my time. Decent turnout, especially in the afternoon sessions, considering the paltry publicity locally. All topics were engrossing - from an examination of Bakst & Serov's classically-rooted art, to an exploration of Diaghilev's early years in St.P, to a detailed run-down on the impressario's three lawsuits in America (who knew?), to an analysis of Nijinska's Les Biches. Tim Scholl exceeded himself in the most ballet-centered topic of the day, exploring the Russian aesthetic in the Diaghilev troupe's works, although I'm not sure that I buy his hypothesis that Apollo's opening move (strumming an instrument) is Balanchine's answer to the Faun's final move in Nijinsky's L'Apres-Midi.

A final round-table discussion with all panelists and the exhibition's curators seemed to focus on differences among the installations of this exhibit in London vs the US. They are not the same due to size and configuration of exhibition space, interests of the respective museums and interests of the different publics....maybe the reason why items from the famous 1921 Bakst-designed Sleeping Beauty/Sleeping Princess did not travel to America? On the other hand, some items belonging to North American museums are being seen only here - such as the NGA's Portrait of Bakst by Modigliani. Also, the leading curator, Jane Prichard, mentioned that the US version is more focused on audio-visuals, something that the US museum requested. (My own thought: So the exhibit has been 'dumbed down' for America? Sad, if so.)

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although I'm not sure that I buy his hypothesis that Apollo's opening move (strumming an instrument) is Balanchine's answer to the Faun's final move in Nijinsky's L'Apres-Midi.

(My own thought: So the exhibit has been 'dumbed down' for America? Sad, if so.)

Not sure I buy that theory about Apollo either, but it is definitely food for thought and an interesting thing to consider! LOL Apollo will never be the same for me now!!! LOL

Dumbed down is the way here. For whatever reason many Americans do not have faith in art that has lasted for centuries. They don't have faith that people will be moved by art that has lasted the test of time. When I was a teacher and took my class on a field trip to see a local ballet or opera show (which was a matinee for children) the other teachers told me, "These kids don't care about that kind of thing!" But they did! They had never seen anything like it but applauded wildly, whistled and LOVED it. Human beings respond to beauty and excellence no matter what socio-economic background they come from, but the majority have lost faith that anyone can sit still for anything "old." Once I became a school librarian I had a teacher who would nix any black and white films I had in the library saying that the children don't like anything in black and white. When I was a teacher and showed the old black and white Yearling movie after we read the story, you could hear a pin drop. They liked it better than the remake I showed them.

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The publicity was bad all around. We stumbled upon this seminar, catching only the last half hour or so; we had come just to see the show from Philly, but could have (and would have) come earlier to attend it! Will have to see if they podcast/archive it....

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Natalia:

Tim Scholl exceeded himself in the most ballet-centered topic of the day, exploring the Russian aesthetic in the Diaghilev troupe's works, although I'm not sure that I buy his hypothesis that Apollo's opening move (strumming an instrument) is Balanchine's answer to the Faun's final move in Nijinsky's L'Apres-Midi.

I think Scholl is onto something, at least in the bigger idea of the relation between the two ballets. L'Apres-Midi d'une faune appeared on many of the Ballets Russes programs in the mid-twenties and was performed by Lifar five days before the premiere of Apollo.

So it does makes sense that Balanchine is rewriting Faun, even poking fun at it. According to Scholl in From Petipa to Balanchine, in Faun “Apollo cedes place to Dionyisus” and in Apollo it’s the opposite story – “dionysian excesses cede place to Apollonian restraint”. And Stravinsky at the same time is distancing himself from his Russian, and Dionysian, side with the slightly arid neoclassical score of Apollo.

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.... in Apollo it’s the opposite story – “dionysian excesses cede place to Apollonian restraint”. And Stravinsky at the same time is distancing himself from his Russian, and Dionysian, side with the slightly arid neoclassical score of Apollo.

I'm with you, Quiggin. Then again, why is the nobly restrained Apollo....er....."playing his instrument" at the start of the ballet (after the birthing scene...or start of the shortened version)? When Scholl first told us that he was about to play a clip of Balanchine's 'little wicked surprise' at the start of Apollo, I thought that he was referring to the mother in the birthing scene/legs-wide-open pose at the audience. LOL! Nope - it was Apollo himself, holding that instrument, then strumming it in circular motions. (Great clip of POB's Ganio, by the way. Little did Ganio know that he'd be Exhibit A at a Symposium!!!)

By the way, I caught Jane Pritchard's amazing Costumes chat and slide show yesterday (Sunday) at 2PM. As she was given a full hour, it was a thorough, magnificent journey into the 'tales that costumes could tell.' For example, she spoke about one of my particular favorite pieces in the exhibit: Lydia Lopokova's lovely romantic, winged tutu from Les Sylphides, apparently the only extant costume worn in THE FIRST production of the Diaghilev version of that ballet. Brava, Ms. Pritchard! (She's the V&A Museum's Curator of Dance....what a happy job...and it's obvious that she enjoys every minute of it.)

My 'Diaghilev Super-Triple-Play Weekend' -- beginning with the two movies & Betty Low's hilarious chat on Friday -- was one of the highlights of my ballet year...heck, highlight of my balletgoing life. These programs and the knowledge gleaned have filled me with the most overwhelming 'positive emotions' imaginable. So much beauty, in so many forms -- dance, music, art, story-telling -- in one enterprise, all thanks to the vision and guts of one man.

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.... in Apollo it’s the opposite story – “dionysian excesses cede place to Apollonian restraint”. And Stravinsky at the same time is distancing himself from his Russian, and Dionysian, side with the slightly arid neoclassical score of Apollo.

I'm with you, Quiggin. Then again, why is the nobly restrained Apollo....er....."playing his instrument" at the start of the ballet (after the birthing scene...or start of the shortened version)? When Scholl first told us that he was about to play a clip of Balanchine's 'little wicked surprise' at the start of Apollo, I thought that he was referring to the mother in the birthing scene/legs-wide-open pose at the audience. LOL! Nope - it was Apollo himself, holding that instrument, then strumming it in circular motions. (Great clip of POB's Ganio, by the way. Little did Ganio know that he'd be Exhibit A at a Symposium!!!)

Well--and this is not a new argument--one could say that Apollo is harnessing "crude" energies in order to make "refined" art (as opposed to the Dionysian let-it-all-go method). Assembling rather than creating, to use Balanchine's words. It's a vaguely Freudian notion too, isn't it? I have to say I'm not always convinced by Scholl's conclusions about movement; at another talk he gave, about Balanchine's Serenade, I felt that he had completely missed a very obvious gestural thing (sorry can't remember more specifically). BUT I am so glad there are scholars out there who are venturing interesting ideas about ballet and dance.

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"Dionysian excesses cede place to Apollonian restraint" is beautifully put, but did Scholl really liken Apollo's strumming to, er, auto-stimulation? That doesn't make sense to me at all, especially in the context of the music.

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Scholl says Apollo begins with a reference to the auto-eroticism that Faun ends with – it could be a conscious private joke of Balanchine and Stravinsky's or not – but overall it might be worthwhile to read one ballet in terms of the other. It would be interesting to figure out what Balanchine's "Brief" – to use the term Michael Baxandall's uses in "Patterns of Intention" – was, what was he borrowing from and what were the scores he was settling. Lynn Garafola suggested that the birthing scene as it stands in the long version may incorporate some Martha Graham exercises Balanchine saw one of his dancers doing in the thirties.

I agree with Ray that Scholl is off on some things – in talking about 2 dimension space in Apollo, he seems to ignore the influence that Cubism and Russian icons had on the Russians' sense of flattened space. Also the pictures he choses for "Apollo" in his book are those of Nilas Martins – which are not the first ones I think most of us would have picked.

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"Dionysian excesses cede place to Apollonian restraint" is beautifully put, but did Scholl really liken Apollo's strumming to, er, auto-stimulation? That doesn't make sense to me at all, especially in the context of the music.

This idea is making me smile, in part because Stanko Milov's performance of the solo at Pacific Northwest Ballet a few years ago reminded me very powerfully of Elvis, and all that implies!

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Maybe it's the really fast arm circles that inspired the association.

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Maybe it's the really fast arm circles that inspired the association.

That's what I assume. However, I thought he took those from Pete Townsend. innocent.gif

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Maybe it's the really fast arm circles that inspired the association.

That's what I assume. However, I thought he took those from Pete Townsend. innocent.gif

Other way round, I think, since Townsend was born in 1945! But I do love the idea that they're related! Adds a whole new level to Pinball Wizard.

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A final round-table discussion with all panelists and the exhibition's curators seemed to focus on differences among the installations of this exhibit in London vs the US. They are not the same due to size and configuration of exhibition space, interests of the respective museums and interests of the different publics....maybe the reason why items from the famous 1921 Bakst-designed Sleeping Beauty/Sleeping Princess did not travel to America? On the other hand, some items belonging to North American museums are being seen only here - such as the NGA's Portrait of Bakst by Modigliani. Also, the leading curator, Jane Prichard, mentioned that the US version is more focused on audio-visuals, something that the US museum requested. (My own thought: So the exhibit has been 'dumbed down' for America? Sad, if so.)

Having seen both installations, I prefer the National Gallery's. I think for most people costumes have more interest when you can see them in context, rather that static and hanging on a mannequin. The V&A exhibit was a bit dead, IMO. I'm glad the NGA requested more videos; to me it is an improvement and not a dumbing-down.

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Maybe it's the really fast arm circles that inspired the association.

That's what I assume. However, I thought he took those from Pete Townsend. innocent.gif

Other way round, I think, since Townsend was born in 1945! But I do love the idea that they're related! Adds a whole new level to Pinball Wizard.

Yes, it does! I was joking of course, but I wonder if by any chance Townsend had seen Apollo. That seems unlikely, and I can't find a history of performances in England. But he was, after all, an art student.

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I went to this and loved it so much I snuck back a few days later to revisit some of the things. The first time, I went with my parents and my sister (who have no interest in ballet, but were humoring me) and my grandmother (who is interested and loved it). There was a great moment a few minutes in: my father stood watching the clip of Petrushka for a few minutes and went, "Wow! I didn't realize ballet could be like this!" smile.png

For me, the best parts were the Nijinsky-related items. After reading so much about him and seeing the various ballets &c., it was surreal to have the costumes just there existing in front of me. Obviously ones like Spectre de la Rose I was familiar with, but seeing things like his costume for Le Dieu bleu was very strange - I've seen the pictures of that one in black and white loads of times and never imagined the costume to have the colors it did, or the intricate details. And I loved seeing the beautiful costume from Giselle.

I also was really pleased to find costumes from Rite of Spring and L'après-midi d'un faune. For the latter, they had three of the nymphs' dresses, and they were so delicate and beautiful. I love this ballet so seeing those was special. I was amazed to find the Rite of Spring costumes in very good shape, bright and colorful - but then they did only perform the ballet a few times. I feel like I've read so many accounts of the premiere that it seems more like a legend than something that happened, so again, the physical presence of these things was a strange feeling.

I love Valentine Gross's drawings and the Petrushka ones they had here were great. I also loved this costume from The Ball, and of course the one from Les Sylphides. And the various tickets/programs they had, too.

My only problem with it was that it referred to Romola as as "aspiring ballerina," as I've read elsewhere too many times lately.

All in all, absolutely wonderful, and I'm sure I'd return again if I had the chance. Please do go if you're at all interested in the subject.

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Thanks for posting, fadedhour. I'm going Sunday, and I expect to return at least once. Has anyone here eaten at the Garden Cafe Ballets Russes?

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I have only gone to Exhibit four times! I did an overview twice, & have been focusing on different aspects on subsequent visits...the latest being in conjunction with the lecture on specifics of the BRusse costumes The focus was on the fabrics & the influences of Diaghilev's stage costumes on Parisian high couture of the era, & visa versa. It is amazing what the eye sees when once made aware; patterns etc. I never thought to look at back of costumes. There was no skimping during that era ; even the insides of the costumes were interestingly made. Also, curator pointed out blue makeup around collar of one of Nijinsky's costumes (on exhibit), which was a result of his putting blue make-up all over his body for "Dieu Bleu". The detail on this costume is exquisite. There are some avant garde costumes as well by Coco Chanel & others. Picasso even signed one of the backdrops, being especially impressed. One of the corps costumes was flammable....rather hazardous for dancers, since they were using pyrotechnics. Many were made of flannel. Much of the collection is from Sotheby's auction in 1980's of Serge Lifar's artifacts. I imagine there are many more items still out there in vintage dancers estates.

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I just got an e-mail that the Diaghilev exhibit has been extended through October 6:

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2013/diaghilev.html?utm_source=Real%20Magnet&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=25960250

I don't know if this is new, but the film has been posted on-line, so that's some small consolation for those of us unable to see the exhibit:

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/video/diaghilev.html?utm_source=Real%20Magnet&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=25960252

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