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What do you REALLY think about Benno?


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#16 carbro

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 01:54 PM

I saw an Act II with a Benno once. Richard Thomas' school, with Judy Fugate as Odette. My impression of the second partner was along the lines of what Alexandra said -- focusing more attention on the ballerina -- specifically because the presence of two partners made it less necessary for one to keep walking around. It made the pas much smoother. On the other hand, there was something a little kinky about it.

It corresponds, I think, to the pas de deux a trois in Corsaire -- with the slave doing the a terre partnering and the "prince" doing the heavy lifting. Metaphorically -- the ballerina being "elevated" by her lover -- it makes sense, but it is counterintuitive to our more literal, 21st century minds.

#17 richard53dog

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 02:58 PM

Was Benno not in the ABT/Blair production in the early 70's?  I don't have the original program, but I seem to remember a Benno, although not in the pas de deux.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Yes, I saw that production a lot. The huntsmen , including Benno were on stage at the start of Act 2, but they ran off pretty quicly.

In the ABT video with Makarova and Nagy, Terry Orr is visible on stage at the start of the lake scene. But he leaves and has no part of the pdd.

Richard

#18 Hans

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 03:55 PM

I performed the role of Benno twice in northern Virginia, and I danced the Act I pas de trois, but not Act II. I suspect that I'm Classique, which makes me appropriate for the Act I pas de trois, but not for being called "Benno;" however, I can't blame the company as I was one of precisely two male dancers. Can't say I wouldn't have minded doing the promenades in Act II, though. :)

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 04:04 PM

The Blair production opened in NYC with Paul Sutherland as a sort of Benno Lite.

#20 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 12:02 AM

I wonder what it was like originally: how much of a relationship, in mime of course, htere was beween the melancholy prince and Benno. I see them as parallel to Hamlet and Laertes -- the best friend, the person he can really confide in, the guy he stays up all night talking philosophy with.... Siegfried is like Hamlet, isolated by his position and doubly isolated by his temperament -- he needs a friend.

The idea that you'd confide all your anxieties about politic, the state of the state, with your girlfriend is a pretty recent notion.

Think of Pierre and Andre in War and Peace -- they talk abou t the deepest things -- the freeing of the slaves, what kind of justice is possible, should a man marry, what they long for, what should you DO with your life (which is Siegfried's problem in a nutshell). Their intimacy is really powerful, each is the ONLY person in their whole world the other can confide in, though Pierre can really talk to Natasha, still, not at the leel hse can with Prince Andre....

in none of the versions that we see is the friendship developed at all - -and it may have been only indicated originally. But there's plenty of testimony that Gerdt's prince was a very sympathetic person. It's as necessary for the prince to have a friend as it is for Odette to have swans.

The pas de trois could have been a drama of many emotions, including the prince's separation from benno and transferral of his hopes for intimacy to Odette. It would have been less like the Fred and Ginger pas d'action in which he persuades her that she can trust him, which it basically is now.

Edited by Paul Parish, 12 July 2005 - 08:01 AM.


#21 atm711

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 07:17 AM

Danilova had a Benno with the Denham Ballet Russe, and it was usually performed by Leon Danielian.

#22 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:18 PM

Some companies still keep a character named Benno, but have him dance in the pas de trois. (WRONG. Benno is a seconde danseur noble and does not dance. The male role in the pas de trois is classique.)Who is Benno? Why was he there? Is there any way for him to be brought into the 21st century, or will he fade off into the mists?


I'm not used to a second "danseur noble" on the "Love Duet" PDD.(In fact, i've never seen any live performance with a "PDD a trois"). But i think that I wouldn' mind to see a production that uses this concept. I would find it exotic...different, AS LONG AS HE DOESN'T BECOME TOO DISTRACTING FOR THE LOVE STORY , but i guess his insertion can be too confusing to be worth it. As for the character itself, i don't really care too much about it...

#23 4mrdncr

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:47 PM

I wonder what it was like originally: how much of a relationship, in mime of course, htere was beween the melancholy prince and Benno. I see them as parallel to Hamlet and Laertes -- the best friend, the person he can really confide in, the guy he stays up all night talking philosophy with.... Siegfried is like Hamlet, isolated by his position and doubly isolated by his temperament -- he needs a friend.

The idea that you'd confide all your anxieties about politic, the state of the state, with your girlfriend is a pretty recent notion.

Think of Pierre and Andre in War and Peace -- they talk abou t the deepest things -- the freeing of the slaves, what kind of justice is possible, should a man marry, what they long for, what should you DO with your life (which is Siegfried's problem in a nutshell). Their intimacy is really powerful, each is the ONLY person in their whole world the other can confide in, though Pierre can really talk to Natasha, still, not at the leel hse can with Prince Andre....

in none of the versions that we see is the friendship developed at all - -and it may have been only indicated originally. But there's plenty of testimony that Gerdt's prince was a very sympathetic person. It's as necessary for the prince to have a friend as it is for Odette to have swans.

The pas de trois could have been a drama of many emotions, including the prince's separation from benno and transferral of his hopes for intimacy to Odette. It would have been less like the Fred and Ginger pas d'action in which he persuades her that she can trust him, which it basically is now.


Uh, I always thought Hamlet's best friend was Horatio, who was at school with him at Wittenburg, not Laertes who is at school in Paris (and I think slightly younger?). Before that ghost shows up, I guess Hamlet and Laertes were friendly enough, though maybe strained because of Hamlet's interest in Ophelia. Afterwards, of course, both lie dead on stage, and Horatio is left to clean up.

Nice point about Pierre and Prince Andre.

#24 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:52 PM

Now that the discussion is resurrected - a question. If Benno was Siegfried's confidant (not a bad idea) narratively and a parallel to von Rothbart in Act III choreographically (also interesting) what do we do with him in Act III? Why isn't he there warning Siegfried, "Say, you know this girl doesn't look like Odette. I mean, I danced with her too." The necessity of having Siegfried without good counsel might have been another reason he didn't stick around in productions.

#25 bart

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:53 PM

http://ballettalk.in...showtopic=24299

I saw an Act II with a Benno once. Richard Thomas' school, with Judy Fugate as Odette. My impression of the second partner was along the lines of what Alexandra said -- focusing more attention on the ballerina -- specifically because the presence of two partners made it less necessary for one to keep walking around. It made the pas much smoother. On the other hand, there was something a little kinky about it.

I dimly recall productions like this. Before the pdd, Benno tries to get Siegfried to move away and continue the hunt. During it, he mostly hovers, rushing in to support Odette at those brief moments when Siegfried withdraws from her to think.

I love the image of Benno as Ralph Bellamy. (Thanks, dirac, for the comparison. :) ) To characterize him in too much detail, to give him an elaborate back story, or to make him too important in Siegfried's emotional life, would distract without adding much.

How much explanation is really necessarily? Princes do tend to have companions, favorites, and courtiers. Benno, Jester, Tutor -- what a crowd! The kind of elaboration that works in 19th century novels -- with their enormously longer time frame -- would not work on a ballet contemporary stage.

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 01:17 PM

The kind of elaboration that works in 19th century novels -- with their enormously longer time frame -- would not work on a ballet contemporary stage.


...which resulted in various simplifications of some "Pas de deux a trois" to just PDD,(e.g Medora/Conrad/Ali ,Odette/Siegfried/Benno, Odile/Siegfried/Von Rothbart and so on) and cutting of dances for corps who are characters themselves, (e.g the nymphs of "Diana&Acteon" from the whole "Pas"). I would say that this is fine if these characters insertion tend to be too confusing for the story and not very strong choreographically.

#27 Rosa

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 08:05 AM

Now that the discussion is resurrected - a question. If Benno was Siegfried's confidant (not a bad idea) narratively and a parallel to von Rothbart in Act III choreographically (also interesting) what do we do with him in Act III? Why isn't he there warning Siegfried, "Say, you know this girl doesn't look like Odette. I mean, I danced with her too." The necessity of having Siegfried without good counsel might have been another reason he didn't stick around in productions.


In DVD of the Royal Swedish Ballet's Swan Lake Benno, performed wonderfully by Johannes Ohman, is in Act III -- in fact, he appears in all four acts. He is the only one who knows of the new pressure Siegfried faces going into the ball. Had he never met Odette, it seems possible the prince would have gone on and picked a bride. Now though there isn't a chance of that happening, and he has to be nervous about how the queen will react.

Benno, along with a partner and two other couples, provide entertainment until the princesses' arrivals. While dancing with a bride candidate, Siegfried at one point turns away from her and Benno urges him to continue, aware of the tension mounting between the prince and Queen Mother. Benno is the one who makes Siegfried aware of the late guests coming as the situation is about to get explosive, perhaps as relived as Siegfried for the interruption. When Siegfried races offstage with Odile after her arrival with Rothbart, Benno looks after them with a confused expression, "It LOOKS like Odette, but I'm not sure... Is it even midnight?" He seems to watch her wearily throughout the rest of the act, yet has no opportunity to talk to his friend. When the ball is in chaos as the triumphant Rothbart and Odile leave followed by a stricken Siegfried, Benno approaches the Queen Mother for a moment and then rushes off after his friend to help. ...Only to be too late.

#28 Sacto1654

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 02:37 PM

What I find very interesting was that the character of Benno was in the original Reisinger-choreographed version from 1876, but is completely missing from the two "reference" versions known in Russia today (the Konstantin Sergeyev 1950 variant of the original Petipa/Ivanov 1895 version and the Vladimir Bourmeister version from 1953). I think that change was done because Benno is pretty much a superfluous character in the ballet itself by Russian standards.

#29 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 03:16 PM

Never seen a live Benno myself... :)
Edited to add: Although for some reason, the few clips that I've seen of another original Pas de Trois morphed to a PDD-(Odile/Sigfried/V.Rothbart)-looks appealing and interesting to me...

#30 leonid17

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 05:31 PM

Thank you, Doug! I agree, absolutely. I think this nasty rumor was started by Americans and Englishmen who saw Swan Lake and couldn't figure out why the "star" wasn't dancing a lot, people who thought of "dancing" only as allegro dancing.


Princes did not dance flamboyantly, simply because it would not be in keeping with their 'noble' station in life which they were portraying. The Russian court audience would most definitely have disapproved to see a parallel to their own position without the dignity and decorum which their station in life required. Choreographers of the time would have been fully aware of what could offend and set variations accordingly and rarely with the degree of exhibitionist “allegro” dancing which it is suggested that Englishmen who saw Swan Lake wanted.
As someone who witnessed the change in the romantically schooled ‘danseur noble’ portraying Siegfried to become a show-off virtuoso, I do not particularly remember any London balletomanes wanting to know why, to quote “why the "star" wasn't dancing a lot..” and ” … people who thought of "dancing" only as allegro dancing.”
But then, the 1960’s changed everything.
The classical ballet tradition of 19th century Russia follows the status quo established by courtly behaviour. That is why male dancers were divided as, 'danseur noble', 'demi-classical', 'demi-caractere', etc. and the delineations were very rarely crossed. (1)
Sadly this tradition is no longer followed and the farm boy can be seen impersonating a prince on ballet stages. This is not snobbery; it is a re-statement of an art form, which reflects the symbolism of the characterisations presented with the values of a different age and a different appreciation.
Classical story ballets are established by the period they are set in and interpreted through a 19th century art form. Any lessening of their established ‘aesthetic’ of the original creation debases and makes us as an audience, guilty of allowing an art that has a refinement being transformed at times into entertainment.
Regrettably so far, there is no similar movement to rescue 19th century classical ballet from excesses in style of performance. to mirror the success that Baroque operas and music have so successfully achieved against a whirlwind of abuse when the movement was in its infancy in the 1960’s.


As to Benno, no one saw anything wrong with his place the scene with Siegfried and Odette it was accepted as part of the 'the artistic form' of classical ballet story telling. Parallels what parallels? What
matches what?

Regards
Leonid

(1)
Notable examples that broke the rules were Perrot and Saint-Leon who both were unsuitable in appearance for danseur noble roles, but then of course they were appearing in their own created ballets.


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