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Christopher Wheeldon Takes On Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron"An American in Paris" - new Broadway production


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#46 bart

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 03:42 AM

Off topic (cont'd.)


Off topic, but Baryshnikov had a success in movies unparalleled by any other ballet star. He was a genuine movie star and he proved himself a pretty decent actor as well. He's been appearing on stage recently and without having seen him I'll bet he acquits himself well.

You're right, diract.  I don't know why I included his name in that sentence.  Perhaps it was because I couldn't, off the top of my head, remember any other ballet-dancer/actors except Stiefel. blushing.gif



#47 Buddy

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 07:48 AM

Bart, thanks for your very interesting insights into the difference between making a movie and a stage production.

 

Dirac, I don't think that your mention of Mikhail Baryshnikov is off topic because we are partially mulling over what might work here and considering the 'theatrical' success of someone like Mikhail Baryshnikov is certainly part of that.

 

I've been fantasizing with the idea of a dance sequence in which a young professional dancer and a little girl with no dance experience at all play off each other. The reason that the director of Billy Elliot didn't didn't want a professionally trained actor for the movie role of Billy was that he wanted someone completely fresh, perhaps spontaneous. He is probably a seasoned 'theatrical' director who could manage this. I don't know if Christopher Wheeldon being primarily a choreographer  could do the same. It would be interesting to see if some of the cast chosen, perhaps ballet dancers, who may be completely unfamiliar with dialogue or song, could bring something fresh and natural to those parts of the production.

 

 

Added thought:

 

Really funny if Christopher Wheeldon decided to use someone with no professional dance experience, because he is 'a seasoned choreographer and could handle it.' 

 

[Minor word change made]



#48 dirac

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 10:53 AM

Thanks, Buddy. There's also the example of Moira Shearer, a "natural," as the director of The Red Shoes, Michael Powell, observed, who left dancing to act on stage as well as in movies.   Other ballet dancers I've seen on film tend to be good natural actors. And unlike movie actors dancers are accustomed to maintaining character and body awareness in performing situations where the audience can see them from head-to-toe all the time. I would think a potential issue would be vocal problems - if you don't have much vocal training projecting over theater distances for an extended period of time is not easy. Of course, these days almost everything is miked.....

 

 Perhaps it was because I couldn't, off the top of my head, remember any other ballet-dancer/actors except Stiefel

 

 

There are a few, now I think about it. Aside from Shearer, Nureyev also played leads. Herbert Ross' "Nijinsky" features George de la Pena, Leslie Browne, Anton Dolin, and Carla Fracci, and they all did just fine (De La Pena was overmatched, but it was his dancing, not his acting, that was the big problem.)

 

One of the big what-ifs, of course, is Gelsey Kirkland, originally slated to take the role of Emilia in "The Turning Point." I understand her stated reasons for backing out - Emilia is a ninny - but it was a mistake, I think. She probably would have done very well and of course the dance sequences would have profited hugely by having a ballerina on competing terms with Baryshnikov. But now I really am wandering off topic................



#49 Buddy

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 09:34 AM

So a partial summary is that ballet dancers could work but they would have to be able to sing and act for Gene Kelly and act for Leslie Caron (did she also sing?).
 
Based  on our 'no-stone-unturned' historical research this seems possible. flowers.gif
 
We even offered our 'dearest to our heart' choices.
 
You're very welcome, 'Chris'. Wishing you much success.  


#50 Buddy

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:18 PM

Now if we could teach him to dance.
 
 


#51 LiLing

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 08:00 AM

Broadway is full of performers who are triple threats.  They have studied acting, take regular voice lessons, and dance classes.  Many not only have strong ballet technique, but have a lot of experience with jazz, tap, you name it.  While Wheeldon may want to work with dancers he knows, I will be surprised if Jerry and Lise come from the ballet world. The vocal demands of eight shows a week in a lead role have sent more than one film actor down in flames!tomato.GIF 


#52 Helene

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 08:11 AM

It's very different for dancers who have had some voice training to do a few performances of "West Side Story Suite" anf to have te vocal stamina and excellent technique to withstand a Broadway schedule.

Former ballet dancers who have performed on Broadway and have sung in those roles have a better idea of the demands.

Having loved opera since before I knew what Broadway was, I've never understood why there wasn't at least an alternating cast, if not more than two casts, rotating through the run.

#53 Buddy

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:10 AM

LiLing, is it common not to have some sort of relief cast? I'm still fascinated with the idea of using a ballet dancer, especially with Christopher Wheeldon's great ability in this area. Maybe the songs could be limited. 
 
Helene, I would agree with you about having rotating casts for practical reasons.. I think that the stage version of Billy Elliot had four little boys playing Billy and did rotate them.
 
Having said this, I just saw the London production of *Once*. I was so *Enchanted!* with the leads (and all the other actors) that I went straight home afterward, rather than to my usual evening 'hangout', so as not to break the spell. I can't imagine anyone doing it better and these are the ones that I dream of seeing  when I return in September.
 
[spelling corrections made and I've deleted a reference to the Alvin Ailey Company having done this production because I can't find the article that stated this]


#54 sandik

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 11:28 AM

I agree with Helene and Buddy about rotating casts -- I think the multiple casts for children's roles are a part of performance contract law, when it relates to child labor (didn't the recent Tony awards show feature all the kids playing Matilda from that show?)

 

It would be a special event for Wheeldon and his team to cast someone from the ballet world as Lise, but I don't think they would need to do that in order to find someone who could do a spectacular job -- the Broadway world is indeed full of artists who can pull off the acting/singing/dancing requirements.



#55 Buddy

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 11:42 AM

It would be a special event for Wheeldon and his team to cast someone from the ballet world as Lise, but I don't think they would need to do that in order to find someone who could do a spectacular job -- the Broadway world is indeed full of artists who can pull off the acting/singing/dancing requirements.

 

From a dance, dance acting standpoint, if the Leslie Caron part doesn't require singing then I still feel that Alina Cojocaru (and Ekaterina Kondaurova (with limited dialogue) -- Yes Really ! flowers.gif  -- although I doubt that she'd sabbatical from the Mariinsky for this) would be great.


#56 pherank

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 01:59 PM

I'm wondering if anyone saw Wheeldon's An American in Paris BALLET for NYCB? Was it considered a success at the time?

As some of you already know, it was Balanchine who first proposed the AiP Ballet idea - to George Gershwin and Sam Goldwyn, during the production of The Goldwyn Follies in 1938. And it did happen to be a plan for a FILM ballet (naturally, because he was talking to Hollywood people). Balanchine obviously saw real potential for the concert music to be used as a ballet score. The Bernard Taper biography includes a description of his attempt to sell his ideas:

It had occurred to Balanchine even before Gershwin's death that Gershwin's American in Paris suite might be suitable for ballet, and now together with Ira Gershwin he worked out a libretto. In this project Balanchine intended to put into effect his ideas about ballet in movies. The possibilities of the medium intrigued him, and the opportunity to try out some of his conceptions had been one of the temptations that had lured him to Hollywood.

A movie ballet, he felt, ought not to be merely a stage ballet on film. It need not be a continuous dance observed from a fixed angle, as the stage required, but could be a montage of dance shots, photographed from whatever angle or distance one wished. And it could employ effects the stage could never achieve, especially in the realm of fantasy, which seemed to Balanchine a quality particularly suited to the film medium.

The American in Paris ballet was conceived of as a fantasy quest. The milieu was to suggest the Paris Exposition. through which an American, portrayed by the tap dancer George King, would search for Zorina, the girl of his dreams. Seductive, tantalizing, ever elusive, she would manifest herself now here, now there--at one moment in a Spanish pavilion, another time in a Ferris wheel, yet again high overhead among the stars of the zodiac in a planetarium--always just beyond reach, and vanishing each time just as the American was about to take her in his arms."

 

[There's more relating to Balanchine's demonstration of the camera shots to be used, and Goldwyn's increasing annoyance at having to move his chair about...]

It's an interesting bit of our American dance history: one of those great "could have beens".



#57 Buddy

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 03:06 PM

The big ballet at the end of the movie was created for the cinema and not the stage, and the visual effects are at least as important as the dancing, which is in short segments with frequent cuts - not necessarily inappropriate for Gershwin's score, which lacks unity. 

 

 

 

Pherank your post just above is very interesting ! Thank you !
 
The NYCB production has been mentioned here. 
 
It makes you wonder why George Balanchine didn't stay in Hollywood, in spite of his reservations.
 
It appears that his inventiveness may have been used in the Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron movie as Dirac's quote above suggests.
 
Fred Astaire, on the other hand, preferred one camera and one camera angle, if I'm not mistaken, although he used plenty on 'tricks' such as appearing to be dancing on the walls and ceiling.
 
I think we're stretching the envelope somewhat in parts of this discussion, and I think that this is good. With such a talent as Christopher Wheeldon one can always dream.
 
 
Added:
 
It is interesting that George Balanchine had a tap dancer, George King, in mind. Fred Astaire, it would seem, was George Balanchine's favorite male dancer. (I think that I can find a quote to substantiate this if necessary).
 


#58 pherank

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 03:28 PM

 

It is interesting that George Balanchine had a tap dancer, George King, in mind. Fred Astaire, it would seem, was George Balanchine's favorite male dancer. (I think that I can find a quote to substantiate this if necessary).

 

Yes, that remains a mystery, and in all of my readings/research I've never found an adequate explanation for why Balanchine didn't try to seek out Astaire for possible projects together. Perhaps it was just B's usual problem with male stars and their egos. And of course Astaire like to do his own choreography.



#59 Buddy

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 04:13 PM

 Astaire was innately balletic, but interestingly he had no interest in the art form. Because he was Astaire he was forever getting fan letters from the likes of Baryshnikov and Fonteyn, but his own fan notes tended to go to dancer/performers like Sammy Davis, Jr., Michael Jackson, and John Travolta (in his Saturday Night Fever days).

 

 

Maybe this is the reason, Pherank. Although Fred Astaire had innate 'balletic' sensitivity, he wasn't a ballet dancer.

 

Still the fact that George Balanchine chose a tap dancer (unless it was someone else's idea) for his project, shows how far outside the box he could think.

 

Our discussion here may also be considering how far outside the box Christopher Wheeldon is willing to go in his 'adaptation'.

 

 

 

Added:
 
I guess my comments here also relate to a personal fascination -- the extent to which 'ballet' sensitivity and beauty can permeate the rest of the performing arts and conversely the extent to which ballet could be 'naturalized' while keeping it's beautiful essence. I think that a choreographer such as Christopher Wheeldon could make some of this happen.


#60 sandik

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 10:26 AM

An aside -- pherank's comment above, that Astaire "liked to do his own choreography" got me curious about that process, so I did a tiny bit of digging.  According to IMDB, Astaire danced in about 30 films, but got screen credit for some kind of staging or choreography for 5 of them (and did some kind of "uncredited" choreography or staging for another four)  Hermes Pan (who doesn't get nearly enough recognition for his work) was credited in one fashion or another for 14 of those films, and mentioned for uncredited work several times as well.  Eugene Loring gets credited four times; and Robert Alton and Alex Romero get three credits.

 

Astaire must have been responsible for the bulk of his personal material -- it has a stylistic consistency over the span of his film work that would be very hard to imagine if he were dancing numbers totally created by a number of other people.  But it's fascinating to realize that, as far as film credits are concerned, he was only minimally involved in creating the sequences he danced.




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