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Balanchine and GiselleWhy no Giselle?


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#31 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 10:08 AM

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.



#32 kfw

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 10:45 AM

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?



#33 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 11:39 AM

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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