BalletPerfection1

Ballet with jokes

39 posts in this topic

Recently i watched the concert by Paris Opera Ballet of Robbins with a friend who normally doesn't like ballet. She loved it! The jokes in the ballet are very subtle. I was wondering if there are more ballets like this?

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I was wondering if there are more ballets like this?

Twyla Tharp's "Push Comes to Shove" is funny in several ways -- both broad, slapstick silliness as well as numerous references to classical ballet. It's enjoyable to "beginners" who aren't aware of the allusions. It's available on DVD with Baryshnikov.

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Many ballet companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, perform Kylian's "Sechs Tanze," which has a lot of humor. The second part of "Petite Mort" has a running joke of stand-alone black dresses with paniers in the second half, and they re-appear in "Sechs Tanze."

PNB did a Laugh Out Loud Festival in one of Peter Boal's early seasons Because of work travel, I missed it, but PNB has done a few of the works in rep, like Christopher Wheeldon's wicked "Variations Serieuses" and Susan Stroman's Broadway-esque "TAKE FIVE...more or less," which is being revived this coming season as part of the Director's Choice program.

There are certainly many humorous moments and stock characters in the Petitpa-based "Don Quixote," although the National Ballet of Cuba's was more subdued, at least the tour version.

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Christian Spuck's Grand Pas De Deux is very much in the same vein of humor as Robbins' The Concert. Well I suppose it is less subtle, but Grand Pas is certainly good natured:

And there is the work of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo which is mostly all humorous.

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Balanchine's "Tarantella" isn't jokey, but it's quite jolly, and the Costermongers (middle) section of his "Union Jack" has lots of humor. The humor in Ashton's "Facade" is very British.

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Ratmansky's Bright Stream had several comedy bits, including a principal male in drag.

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Ratmansky's Bright Stream had several comedy bits, including a principal male in drag.

And LIttle Humpbacked Horse (which I just happened to mention on another thread). Ratmansky seems to have more humor in him than most.

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If you're around NYC, look at the material at the Dance Collection on Myra Kinch. She was a modern dancer in the last century (I still get a twinge out of that phrase!) and created several ballet parodies, including Giselle's Revenge, where Alberecht winds up in the grave. There are some films of her concert work, both humorous and serious.

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Thanks for the "Grand Pas de Deux," phrank, which I didn't know until you linked it here.. It's like a compendium of almost all the old ballet jokes strung together. It made me notice a recurring pattern in a lot of ballet humor. You start with a pompous and rather grand movement (taken very seriously -- then you deflate it suddenly by something like an awkwardly flexed foot, an off-balanced swing of the leg, etc. My favorite example in this video, for excellence of execution, was the mis-calculated swan dive. The red handbag was briefly funny but outstayed its welcome, as a great deal of ballet humor does.

I saw "The Concert" when it was revived in the 70s. To me, at least, the gags were new I actually laughed out loud, as did the people around me. Nowadays, I'm more likely to smile in appreciation or chuckle briefly.

Count me as one who cannot stand the comedy of "Don Quixote". -- Sancho Panza, Gamache, the doofus Don himself.

Helene mentioned Ashton. How about "Cinderella," for a kind of humor that moves into slapstick? And Widow Simone in "La fille mal gardee,." for a more gentle kind of humor. When I was a kid the scenes with Cinderella's step sisters struck me as the funniest things I had ever seen.That they were performed by men impressed me less than the element of comic sadness in the sisters' pretensions to beauty and grace.

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I've never seen anything funny about Ashton's stepsisters, especially when Robert Helpmann and Ashton did them. Helpmann's sister's intrinsic meanness and wish to harm and Ashton's sister's pathetic passivity always overwhelmed the rest of the ballet for me.

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Thanks for the "Grand Pas de Deux," phrank, which I didn't know until you linked it here.. It's like a compendium of almost all the old ballet jokes strung together. It made me notice a recurring pattern in a lot of ballet humor. You start with a pompous and rather grand movement (taken very seriously -- then you deflate it suddenly by something like an awkwardly flexed foot, an off-balanced swing of the leg, etc. My favorite example in this video, for excellence of execution, was the mis-calculated swan dive. The red handbag was briefly funny but outstayed its welcome, as a great deal of ballet humor does.

I saw "The Concert" when it was revived in the 70s. To me, at least, the gags were new I actually laughed out loud, as did the people around me. Nowadays, I'm more likely to smile in appreciation or chuckle briefly.

Count me as one who cannot stand the comedy of "Don Quixote". -- Sancho Panza, Gamache, the doofus Don himself.

Helene mentioned Ashton. How about "Cinderella," for a kind of humor that moves into slapstick? And Widow Simone in "La fille mal gardee,." for a more gentle kind of humor. When I was a kid the scenes with Cinderella's step sisters struck me as the funniest things I had ever seen.That they were performed by men impressed me less than the element of comic sadness in the sisters' pretensions to beauty and grace.

I'll admit I enjoy the red purse and the eyeglasses, and even the cow with tutu. Believe it or not, the Mariinsky has performed Spuck's Grand Pas De Deux (Lopotkina has danced the lead). The Russians don't know what to do with the Western 'hip swivel' dancing, so they insert their own movements (though that kills the humor a bit). And as you can imagine, the danseur is rather careful in his mistreatment of Lopotkina.

I've never seen anything funny about Ashton's stepsisters, especially when Robert Helpmann and Ashton did them. Helpmann's sister's intrinsic meanness and wish to harm and Ashton's sister's pathetic passivity always overwhelmed the rest of the ballet for me.

I wasn't able to see it at SFB, but Wheeldon's Cinderella stepsisters are reputed to be more humorous than wicked. But I'm told that some of the jokes can wear on the viewer.

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Filling Station... Doesn't get done much lately but is full of humor...

Ratmansky's Nutcracker...

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Agnes DeMille's Three Virgins and a Devil... And Tudor's Gala Performance...

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The stepsisters in Cinderella seem to be up for grabs. Kent Stowell's version makes them funny, but the Ashton version can go different ways.

Amy, yes, the deMille is very sly. And Tudor makes hay with the traditional stereotypes. I've wondered, as we get further from the dancers who embodied those styles, if the humor would still read.

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Timing is everything... Changing era erodes the humor...

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Filling Station... Doesn't get done much lately but is full of humor...

Ratmansky's Nutcracker...

Filling Station - great suggestion (and available on the Jacques d'Amboise DVD). I recall reading that the little joke at the end (when the apparently dead woman is carried off the stage, but "wakes up" and waves to the audience, revealing that she was only "dead drunk") was Balanchine's suggestion to Lew Christensen - an actual death would have been too dour.

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Leigh Witchel's Elevator was tremendous fun too...

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Here's the Pacific Northwest Ballet trailer for "Variations Serieuses"

and another rehearsal video where the dancers try to keep a straight face:

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Oh, fun! And nice to see Sarah Orza in there as well...

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On the subject of Ashton, his Facade has a good many laughs in it, and a now forgotten piece, The Creatures of Prometheus, has a hysterically funny Napoleon, complete with ragged army. But with Ashton it's essential that the dancers play the roles straight and don't respond to the laughs otherwise the jokes don't work. And has anyone seen Bejart's Le Concours about a murder at a dance competition complete with detective in a trench coat (originally Jorge Donn) and Ballet Mother?

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I saw this many years ago at a gala performance:

http://youtu.be/W-reVhZM78w

btw can someone tell me why I can't seem to figure out how to post videos properly anymore? I think it's changed?????

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And has anyone seen Bejart's Le Concours about a murder at a dance competition complete with detective in a trench coat (originally Jorge Donn) and Ballet Mother?

Alas, only photos -- would love to know more.

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I saw this many years ago at a gala performance:

http://youtu.be/W-reVhZM78w

btw can someone tell me why I can't seem to figure out how to post videos properly anymore? I think it's changed?????

Your link works - and it's a rather clever piece. A fun take on the pitfalls/pratfalls of partnering.

If you want the image of the video to appear in your post, don't use the link button above, just type the URL this way in your post and the video will embed in your message when you Post or Save Changes:

[ url ]PASTE YOUR URL HERE[ /url ]

But don't use the spaces after/before the brackets as I have done above (that was necessary to keep the forum from recognizing my typing as a video link). It used to work using the "media" bracket code too: [ media ][ /media ] But I don't think that works anymore.

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All you have to do is cut-and-paste the URL. Sometimes the video is embedded, and sometimes it shows up as a link. As long as the link is live, whoever clicks will be redirected to YouTube.

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