Eileen

Balanchine and Giselle

41 posts in this topic

Very interesting and true, Helene. We are not hearing the Giselle of the 19th century on modern orchestral instruments and arrangements.

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Of which I'm assuming that the following may be a segment (from a fundraising program of 1991).

For what it's worth, the middle part of this clip is from a different part of the ballet from the images in Ballet Chronicle, but even so, I don't see any resemblance between this ballerina and Ms. Verdy.

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if the question here is the identification of the dancer as Giselle doing the back-traveling sequence of entrechats, is looks very like Verdy to me.

also what other dancer in a historical promo of this sort would Boston B. feature: Verdy's Giselle perfs. w/the troupe were a coup for E. Viriginia Williams. admittedly this is brief and hardly sharp footage but it records the 'look' on record one place or another i've seen for Verdy's Giselle; i don't have Haggin nearby.

my sense is that the Giselle clipped into this is clip is Verdy.

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I'm happy to defer to rg's keen eye, and I'm glad to accept that this is Verdy after all. Glad at the prospect of one day experiencing it myself from the films Goldner refers to - plural - films made with Boston Ballet and then with the National Ballet (which became the Washington Ballet), because with the help of the Goldner article which I've now been able to access by emilienne's suggestion, I've come to consider that Verdy's conception of Giselle was extraordinary.

Here's Goldner's title and first paragraph:


Leap Before You Look: Honoring the Libretto in Giselle

NANCY GOLDNER

The first move that Violette Verdy makes as Giselle when she steps out her cottage door is to approach the audience, extend her arms in shy greeting, and smile. Then she begins her circuit of the stage in large jumps. The one thing that seems to be on her mind is the pleasure of dancing. Only after she completes her tour of the stage does she cup her hand to her ear, acknowledging that she has heard someone knock on her door. Since it's the knocking that brings Giselle out of her house, you might suppose that she'd immediately seek out the knocker. Indeed that's what all Giselles do. But not Verdy. The most important thing to do, she writes in Giselle, A Role for a Lifetime, is to establish Giselle's passion for dancing. Dance first, look second.

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In her article, which runs some 15 pages, Goldner touches some points mentioned here, early on summarizing major adaptations of the ballet since 1841, including just in passing the PNB one in 2011, saying of them, "None of these adaptations captures the spirit of Gautier," which she has elucidated with substantial quotations etc. by then, and in her discussion of other Giselles which follows she remarks that "...with all these ballerinas the smaller stuff is smudged. Carla Fracci fudges everything except when she dances with Albrecht. ... It's as if she's marking the choreography..."

This is in contrast to Verdy, who, realizing Gautier's spirit, dances full out just about all of the time but fully delineates the small transitional movements that give dancing its luster and energy. [Trying to paraphrase Goldner closely here.]

Maybe all this is takes us a little OT relative to Eileen's original question, but this article is such a good read, it has seized my attention!

Getting back, though, I'd like to point out that when Balanchine did stage Nutcracker, Swan Lake II (& IV), and Coppelia, he included major new choreography: Most of Nutcracker, except for "Candy Canes" and most of "Sugar Plum"; practically every other sequence in his S. L., or so it looked to me, comparing it to the "white" parts of the Royal's version at the time; and Act III of Coppelia, Alexandra Danilova having set Acts I and II according to her memory.

Part of an answer to why Balanchine did this and not that comes from his conception of what the spectators' experience would be. Remember his comparison of himself to a chef - he knew people who came in wouldn't enjoy eating beef three times - and running his company, where we fed our souls, he was not only making ballets, and assembling programs like interesting menus, but building a repertory serving us differently from others.

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Getting back, though, I'd like to point out that when Balanchine did stage Nutcracker, Swan Lake II (& IV), and Coppelia, he included major new choreography: Most of Nutcracker, except for "Candy Canes" and most of "Sugar Plum"; practically every other sequence in his S. L., or so it looked to me, comparing it to the "white" parts of the Royal's version at the time; and Act III of Coppelia, Alexandra Danilova having set Acts I and II according to her memory.

Part of an answer to why Balanchine did this and not that comes from his conception of what the spectators' experience would be. Remember his comparison of himself to a chef - he knew people who came in wouldn't enjoy eating beef three times - and running his company, where we fed our souls, he was not only making ballets, and assembling programs like interesting menus, but building a repertory serving us differently from others.

Great points, Jack. The thought of a one-act Balanchine Giselle, with the first act excised as in his Swan Lake, is tantalizing. But if at some point he'd turned his choreographic energies to Giselle, would we have lost a minor work, or one of the works we love today?

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Actually, as I think you know, he excised more than Act I from S L: also the four cygnets bit from Act II, and Act III, saying at the time, "I got all the cholesterol out." It was a lean half-hour he gave us, with the plot introduced at first, then nearly forgotten while the corps and principals ravished us - another great Verdy role, in my experience - and then a quick return and taut wrap-up to the plot.

Realistically aware that he couldn't do everything, even if he wanted to, he brought forth what was within him, and left Giselle and Beauty to others - though I do remember that some of us reflected at the time, Theme and Variations could serve as his Sleeping Beauty in his repertory - in those days, as in the ABT video, the soloists were costumed in yellow and the corps in red, which reminded some of us of the hierarchy of fairies in SB. No telling if he ever gave it a thought, though, and I certainly don't intend anything serious by it - it was just another way we thought about Balanchine's world.

Yeah, what would we not have got, had something or someone persuaded him to stage Giselle. I assume he did Act II - earlier and elsewhere - when the occasion presented itself - aside from paying his bills, he had a deeper need to keep busy, and tried to supply what was needed in the moment, I suppose.

(I said "someone" because of the ideas that float around that Kirstein prevailed on him to do some "Americana" ballets, like Jones Beach, early in their collaboration, and other kinds of ballets, like Union Jack later in it, as part of a projected "Entente Cordiale" program which was never realized.)

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off%20topic.gifSo is it time for NYCB to stage Giselle?! As I watch two brilliant and versatile NYCB ballerinas continue to dazzle us, I have fantasies of seeing Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns dance those iconic roles - Tiler as Giselle and Sara as Myrtha. I think they'd be incredible!! But please, no sets and costumes similar to NYCB's SL & R&J ( sorry, I had to mention that). Any thoughts?

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But please, no sets and costumes similar to NYCB's SL & R&J ( sorry, I had to mention that). Any thoughts?

Given Martins' track record with story ballets, I'd prefer to see Mearns or Peck dance the ballet with another company. But if he did do Giselle, perhaps he'd commission Susan Tammany, who did his La Sylphide. Here's what Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the Times in 1985. I'm not sure it sounds any better than a Per Kirkeby set.

the surprisingly abstract scenery for the second act by the ballet's designer, a New York artist named Susan Tammany. Her forest does not have realistic trees but is filled with psychedelic stylizations in whites, grays, silvers and pinks with a purple ridge of heather. The farmhouse in Act I is bare and somewhat ugly in its earth colors. But Thomas Skelton's lighting creates a magical light-and-shade silhouette for the sylph when she first appears at James's window

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Seems to me it takes both great acting and great dancing to do it right (which is why I like Fracci/Bruhn the best). I am not sure who in NYCB can do this, but Mearns as Giselle and R Fairchild as Albrecht might be good. Re an earlier thread here, in Volkov's Balanchine's Tchaikovsky, Mr. B. says (with regard to Sleeping Beauty), "I agree with Lopukhov that it is the best of the old ballets, second only to Giselle". That statement and Maria Tallchief's off-hand remark saying that Balanchine loved Giselle, knew all the parts, and "taught them to us" has me studying Giselle much more closely than when I started my study of Balanchine. I think the music is quite good, very clever in places and more imaginative and skillful than the standard Minkus/Pugni.

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My quoting option does not seem to be working, why is that, I suppose?

Anyway, I think Tiler Peck has more than enough acting skills to tackle the role of Giselle and Sara as Myrrtha - she'd have such presence and command! And their dancing is superb, of course. if NYCB were to stage it, given as kfw states, its track record, I'd want them to keep it traditional and just let that extraordinary company work its magic with the steps, if that makes sense.
And Giselle should never have ugly sets or costumes, but SL shouldn't either.

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Getting back to the Balanchine staging of Act 2 for Ballet Theatre in 1946 (my introduction to 'Giselle') at the point where Giselle throws the Lily over her head in the midst of a grand jete, Albrecht's leaps into the air and catches the flower before it touches the ground---and repeated again...I have often wondered if this was Balanchine's idea...Alonso and Youskevitch were the only pair who did this. It was a beautiful thing to see in the hands of such superb artists.

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I think I saw at least Carreno grabbing the lily mid air a couple of times. That was even before he went to dance with ABT.

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i suspect this was an Alonso and Youskevitch detail. Alonso continued more or less doing similarly in her Giselle perfs. w/ NBdC. tho' someone may know for certain if the detail predated Alonso at BT before Balanchine had a hand in the "Grave Scene" - as these moments preceeded the final, grave sc. perhaps it was worked out w/ Romanoff or Tudor, who are both credited w/ the BT staging.

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Later on in CNB some other couples did a variation of this detail. Instead of Giselle tossing the lily she would get on pointe, in low arabesque pointing the lily upward, to which Albrecht would grab it from her in a middle of a grand jete.

@29:38

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