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Ratmansky's Paquita

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Lacotte has often made stylistic changes in his versions of heritage works -- I'm not sure what his process is like.

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I thought that in the first two acts Lacotte's staging made no pretense of being anything other than "hommage/pastiche more-or-less in the style of..." but anyway modernized in the manner of his other stagings (eg ordinary folks on pointe in La Sylphide). I'm not suggesting he wasn't taking what he judged was a serious approach towards bringing the spirit of the nineteenth-century ballet to life, but I read several reviews/articles that indicated "Lacotte's choreography" for those acts. Not just staging.

I know sometimes "choreography" is used loosely when really what is meant is closer to stagings that involve some leeway, but in this case I understood it to mean...well....choreography. Have I (and/or the articles I read) got that wrong?

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Does anyone know if this will be on YT or a DVD?

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I thought that in the first two acts Lacotte's staging made no pretense of being anything other than "hommage/pastiche more-or-less in the style of..." but anyway modernized in the manner of his other stagings (eg ordinary folks on pointe in La Sylphide). I'm not suggesting he wasn't taking what he judged was a serious approach towards bringing the spirit of the nineteenth-century ballet to life, but I read several reviews/articles that indicated "Lacotte's choreography" for those acts. Not just staging.

I know sometimes "choreography" is used loosely when really what is meant is closer to stagings that involve some leeway, but in this case I understood it to mean...well....choreography. Have I (and/or the articles I read) got that wrong?

I think you are exactly right, Drew.

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Does anyone know if this will be on YT or a DVD?

Bavarian State Ballet has yet to produce a DVD of the productions it has livestreamed, so don't hold your breath.

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No fouettes in the Paquita notation. The only ballet in which they are notated is Swan Lake.

We interpolated the Delibes variation for Lucien for three reasons: 1-no variation is notated for Lucien and no music is included in the sources for his variation. 2-the choreography for the variation is well-notated and was intended for the Delibes music. 3-the variation is exactly the kind of male choreography that would have been danced circa 1904, when most of the Paquita choreography was notated.

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From what I have seen of Lacotte's " reconstructions" he invariably gives the public what they expect to see rather than what they would have seen and so are best taken with several cartloads of salt. They may be fun to watch occasionally but they can't be taken seriously as attempts to stage nineteenth century works. The pointe work in the first act of La Sylphide tells us everything we needs to know about his approach to restaging. I seem to recall at the time that his La Sylphide was first performed that he was asked why he had put the female corps on point in act one and admitted that there was no historic basis for his decision and that he had only done it because that is what the audience expected. He did not seem too concerned that this negated trying to recreate something of the impact that Taglioni's pointe work had had on La Sylphide's early audiences.

I found this Pacquita fascinating and would love to see similar work undertaken on Swan Lake. I seem to recall that someone found a record of the last revival of Giselle at the Paris Opera dating from the 1860's which was said to contain notation it would be interesting to see what that looked like and then of course there are those reconstructions of bits of La Vivandiere which surfaced round about the same time and bore little or no likeness to each other. I do not expect a DVD of this reconstruction but it would be nice.

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Edited by sandik

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From what I have seen of Lacotte's " reconstructions" he invariably gives the public what they expect to see rather than what they would have seen and so are best taken with several cartloads of salt. They may be fun to watch occasionally but they can't be taken seriously as attempts to stage nineteenth century works. The pointe work in the first act of La Sylphide tells us everything we needs to know about his approach to restaging. I seem to recall at the time that his La Sylphide was first performed that he was asked why he had put the female corps on point in act one and admitted that there was no historic basis for his decision and that he had only done it because that is what the audience expected. He did not seem too concerned that this negated trying to recreate something of the impact that Taglioni's pointe work had had on La Sylphide's early audiences.

Lacotte has to grapple with some of the same elements that the Russian restaging of Sleeping Beauty did a few years ago -- audiences were curious about the renewed historical detail, but didn't recognize the work as the SB they knew. I prefer the more accurate reconstructions, like this Paquita, but they are a difficult proposition for some parts of the audience.

I found this Pacquita fascinating and would love to see similar work undertaken on Swan Lake. I seem to recall that someone found a record of the last revival of Giselle at the Paris Opera dating from the 1860's which was said to contain notation it would be interesting to see what that looked like and then of course there are those reconstructions of bits of La Vivandiere which surfaced round about the same time and bore little or no likeness to each other. I do not expect a DVD of this reconstruction but it would be nice.

Come to Seattle the next time PNB dances their production -- between Doug Fullington and Marian Smith, they included as much of the available notated materials as they could. I'm sure I'm biased for my hometown company, but I think it's an excellent production -- dramatically compelling, stylistically intact and kinetically engaging. I think you would recognize it as Giselle, but also admire its period integrity.

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No fouettes in the Paquita notation. The only ballet in which they are notated is Swan Lake.

We interpolated the Delibes variation for Lucien for three reasons: 1-no variation is notated for Lucien and no music is included in the sources for his variation. 2-the choreography for the variation is well-notated and was intended for the Delibes music. 3-the variation is exactly the kind of male choreography that would have been danced circa 1904, when most of the Paquita choreography was notated.

Reconstruction is an exercise in these kind of compromises -- I think you made an excellent decision here, especially considering Petipa's own flexibility when it came to switching around composers and whole dance elements between different works.

Doug -- is there an easily accessed index to the Stepanov archives? Some list where the general audience can learn more about what is available to scholars and reconstructors for projects like this Paquita?

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I seem to recall at the time that his La Sylphide was first performed that he was asked why he had put the female corps on point in act one and admitted that there was no historic basis for his decision and that he had only done it because that is what the audience expected. He did not seem too concerned that this negated trying to recreate something of the impact that Taglioni's pointe work had had on La Sylphide's early audiences.

off%20topic.gif Yes, it was a nonsensical decision for precisely the reasons you mentioned, and anyone familiar with Bournonville's ballet would certainly not have expected to see the mortal women on pointe.

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I was teaching dance history several years ago when the only version of La S I had available on videotape was Lacotte's -- I showed it to my students, but we had several discussions about why people "mess with the real stuff" (quote from student, not from me)

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As far as Lacotte's reconstruction of La Sylphide is concerned there was not a much loved version whose validity the reconstruction would be seen as challenging which is why, for me, his decisions to put the female corps on pointe to meet the audience's expectations makes no sense. If you set about reconstructing a work that has not been seen for over a hundred years there is no need to stuff it full of anachronisms to make it palatable for a modern audience. I appreciate that the position will be different in the case of a ballet with an apparent continuous performance history particularly when that is combined with a self proclaimed reputation of perfect custodianship which has been fostered over the years.

.

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Then should the women in the Royal Danish Ballet go back to turning on half point in Bournonville ballets, which they did when I first saw the company?

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Perhaps that would be interesting to see... Giving the ballet a softer quality... I've never begrudged men their turning on half pointe... Why would that be denied sylphes...

But I would want to see Paquita on full pointe!

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Then should the women in the Royal Danish Ballet go back to turning on half point in Bournonville ballets, which they did when I first saw the company?

I think so, yes.

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Hello everybody! smile.png

I was away in Munich all weekend and as part of my trip, I went to see Paquita live, so I think it's only fitting to give a report on what I saw.

First of all, Paquita was originally created by Frenchmen Joseph Mazilier (choreographer) and Eduard Deldevez (composer) and was premièred at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris in 1846. The originators of the roles of Paquita and Lucien were Carlotta Grisi and Lucien Petipa (younger brother of Marius Petipa). In 1847, Paquita was first brought to Russia and was premièred in St Petersburg by Pierre Frederic-Malvergne and Marius Petipa, who also danced the role of Lucien alongside the Russian Prima Ballerina, Yelena Andreyanova.

In 1881, Petipa staged his famous revival of Paquita and it was in this revival that the ballet's two most famous pieces were created - the Pas de trois and the Grand Pas Classique. Dancing the leads roles of Paquita and Lucien in this revival were Ekaterina Vazem and Pavel Gerdt. The ballet was notated ca. 1904 when Petipa was rehearsing Anna Pavlova in the title role.

As far as full-length ballets go, Paquita is not one of my personal favourites - I don't think it's a bad ballet; I just don't find the story very interesting and engaging. With some of my favourite ballets like Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda, I always look forward to seeing everything about them, whereas with Paquita, I only look forward to seeing the two pieces everyone knows and loves - the Pas de trois and Grand Pas Classique. Does this mean Paquita was not worthy of being reconstructed? Of course not! Every ballet in the Sergeyev Collection is worthy of being reconstructed and this was certainly a very worthy start for Alexei Ratmansky in his journey to reconstruct full-length Petipa.

So anyway, let's dive into the performance.

Cast

Paquita: Daria Sukhorukova

Lucien: Tigran Mikayelyan

Inigo: Cyril Pierre

General d'Hervilly: Peter Joseph

Governor Don Lopez de Mendoza: Norbert Graf

Pas de trois: Adam Zvonar, Ilana Werner and Mai Kono

Variations: Stephanie Hancox, Severine Ferrolier, Alisa Scetinina, Zuzana Zahradnikova

Act 1

The first act was staged very well in regards to the reconstruction of the notation and the restoration of mime scenes; the dances were very enjoyable and the mime scenes were excellent. The style that Ratmansky staged the choreography in was so refreshing and full of Petipa aesthetics, which is fast footwork, not gymnastic extensions. I did not miss gymnastic extensions for one minute! It was a welcome change to see the ballerinas lifting their legs as high as 135 degrees from time-to-time rather than ALL the time! The fast footwork was glorious and not to mention, the lovely fast and accurate tempi; how wonderful it was to see dancers actually DANCE in a reconstruction, which is unfortunately not what we got in Sergei Vikharev's reconstructions.

However, the scenery was not the best; my friend and I both thought it was very cheap-looking, but the costumes were beautiful and the cheap-looking scenery didn't ruin the show. The Pas des manteaux (a Spanish dance danced by women, with half dressed as matadors and partnering the others) and the Pas de sept bohemiens were charming and enjoyable dances, but of course, the big highlight of the first act for me was the Pas de trois; how wonderful it was to see it in its notated form! Adam Zvonar was superb in the male role and the male choreography was absolutely splendid! People often seem to think that Petipa's male dancers didn't do very much dancing, which is not the case; they did plenty as their variations were more technically demanding and had a lot more material than many of the traditional male variations danced today. In the male choreography here, there were plenty of jumps and turns and Zvonar danced marvellously. He certainly mastered the style in which Ratmansky staged the choreography and in my opinion, he was the best out of all three dancers. Mai Kono was lovely and charming and again, danced beautifully, but Ilana Werner seemed very nervous and as a result, her performance lacked. However, she held it together and completed all the choreography.

Note: the Pas de trois is often called "the Minkus Pas de trois", but in fact, only the coda is by Minkus. The male variation is by Adolphe Adam and the rest is by Deldevez. It really should just be called "the Paquita Pas de trois".

Act 2

The second act began with a dramatic scene in which Paquita foils Don Lopez de Mendoza and Inigo's plan to kill Lucien and then goes into the final scene in which Paquita's true identity is revealed. The pantomime in the whole ballet was really enjoyable; it was so great to see mime action for certain things I had never seen mimed before e.g. a lightning storm. It just goes to show that we do not need dancing in every single moment of a ballet to make it entertaining; mime itself is entertaining and we really need to bring it back into the classics. The scenery in the second act, particularly the ballroom was certainly better than the first and the Napoleon-era costumes were gorgeous!

And of course, the big highlight of the second act was the Grand Pas Classique and just like the Pas de trois, it was wonderful to this Grand pas in its notated form; it really made me wonder why anybody would even think of changing it! The children were absolutely wonderful and the audience loved them; my friend couldn't get over how clever they were! Unfortunately, the corps de ballet was off count at one or two points, but they still kept the show going and they showed me the notated choreography. There were six variations staged - four for soloists, one for Lucien and one for Paquita. I had not expected to see a variation for Lucien since Minkus certainly did not compose one for Pavel Gerdt in 1881, but the variation that Doug and Alexei used was wonderful; I really enjoyed it! It's always a pleasure to see variations of late 19th century/early 20th century male choreography and this variation was a wise choice for Lucien. I was also happy that it is choreographed to the music of the male variation from Sylvia because that's one of my favourite pieces of music.

It was also a huge relief to not have fouettes in the coda! This just proves that we do NOT need fouettes, or helicopter jumps for that matter, to make a coda grand. As entertaining as they can be, sometimes, it really does feel that the only reason these steps are in the codas of the famous traditional versions of Grand Pas and pas de deux today (except of course for the Act 2 Swan Lake Pas de deux) is for showing-off purposes and as a result, they really can look tacky. I also liked how the Grand Pas and the ballet ended - rather than with Lucien lifting Paquita onto his shoulder, they simply embraced, which was a lovely touch and very Petipa.

Overall, I really enjoyed this reconstruction. Daria Sukhorukova was very charming as Paquita and she mastered everything in the role - the choreography, the style, the mime, everything! Tigran Mikayelyan was just as wonderful as Lucien; they had a really good partnership and it was a very enjoyable performance from both of them; technically brilliant in their dances and very expressive in their mime.

I sincerely congratulate Alexei Ratmansky and Doug Fullington for all the hard work they both put into this reconstruction and I'm so glad I had the privilege of seeing it live. I must say that they have proved to be the right people to reconstruct Petipa and all this certainly looks and feels like a step in the right direction for ballet. So that's Paquita; next stop, Ratmansky's reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty at La Scala... (I hope lol)

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I envy you the chance to see this production live -- it was very impressive in that live feed last winter and i can only imagine that (as the musician's union bumper stickers said) "live music is best."

I've put a lot of thought into our evolving concept of virtuosity, and was interested in your comments on turning/jumping. As we see more reconstructions, I think we'll find even more examples of this distinction.

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I agree that Paquita is not the best story. I love the famous excerpts but the whole ballet (I saw this Munich version online and I have also seen the Paris Opera Ballet version by Lacotte on dvd) doesn't seem all that engaging as you say. I know you will shake your head (and others will too), but I actually do not like very much mime. I think it is interesting to see how the mime was, and it does tell the story or parts of it, but once you've seen the mime once and you've seen a ballet over and over the mime gets in the way, in my opinion. It is a case of, "Okay, I know this already....let's get over this and get to the dancing!" LOL I think this is why mime has declined. To some of us who are mainly interested in the dancing and the acting embedded in the dancing steps, we sort of get bored by the mime b/c we've seen it and know the story already. With that said it is not black and white. Even in opera you have recitative versus arias/duets, etc. And often the recitative is beautiful and you miss it if they cut parts of it out (although this is happening less nowadays). So there are instances when I think mime is necessary and other times when I feel it goes on too long. I am probably in the minority on this topic. For example, as someone who has seen Swan Lake many times and knows the story well, I don't really care if Odette mimes about tears creating the lake. It makes no difference to me if a production includes that or not. I think, in contrast, it is sometimes nice to see Giselle's mother explain the Willis like in the Royal Ballet production. However, even that I am not upset if it is left out. I guess to each his own.

I am glad you got to see that Paquita. I do agree that it is fascinating to see the way dancers danced back in the day. Not 100% sure I want all ballets returned to that type of dancing, but I do like that it is being investigated and put on stage for people to learn and enjoy.

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I agree that Paquita is not the best story. I love the famous excerpts but the whole ballet (I saw this Munich version online and I have also seen the Paris Opera Ballet version by Lacotte on dvd) doesn't seem all that engaging as you say. I know you will shake your head (and others will too), but I actually do not like very much mime. I think it is interesting to see how the mime was, and it does tell the story or parts of it, but once you've seen the mime once and you've seen a ballet over and over the mime gets in the way, in my opinion. It is a case of, "Okay, I know this already....let's get over this and get to the dancing!" LOL I think this is why mime has declined. To some of us who are mainly interested in the dancing and the acting embedded in the dancing steps, we sort of get bored by the mime b/c we've seen it and know the story already. With that said it is not black and white. Even in opera you have recitative versus arias/duets, etc. And often the recitative is beautiful and you miss it if they cut parts of it out (although this is happening less nowadays). So there are instances when I think mime is necessary and other times when I feel it goes on too long. I am probably in the minority on this topic. For example, as someone who has seen Swan Lake many times and knows the story well, I don't really care if Odette mimes about tears creating the lake. It makes no difference to me if a production includes that or not. I think, in contrast, it is sometimes nice to see Giselle's mother explain the Willis like in the Royal Ballet production. However, even that I am not upset if it is left out. I guess to each his own.

I am glad you got to see that Paquita. I do agree that it is fascinating to see the way dancers danced back in the day. Not 100% sure I want all ballets returned to that type of dancing, but I do like that it is being investigated and put on stage for people to learn and enjoy.

Lol, yes Birdsall, I think mime is going to be looked at in this manner for a while, at least by those who are more used to what the Russians do, but I hope as time goes on, it will be accepted more throughout the world.

One of the reasons why I like mime is because it gives the dancers the opportunity to show their abilities as actors in story ballets and many ballet dancers are really good actors. So it's always nice to get the chance to see both their abilities as dancers in the dancing and their abilities as actors in the mime and that's something I always like to see, especially from my favourite dancers. Take Johan Kobborg for example; as well as a terrific dancer, he was always a really great actor and every time one would go and see him perform, they would always look forward to seeing both his dancing and his acting. That's certainly the case for me whenever I watch a performance of his.

The problem I have with dancing instead of mime in places such as Odette's entrance in Swan Lake and all of the Lilac Fairy's appearances in the Russian productions of The Sleeping Beauty is that it all really feels like filler. I'd like to see Odette having a good bit of acting and proper interaction with those around her instead of just having her prancing around all the time. Same goes for the Lilac Fairy.

In relation to what you say about Berthe, that's another benefit about mime - it gives the main non-dancing roles something to do; roles like Berthe, Siegfried's mother, Von Rothbart, Drosselmeyer, Carabosse and Aurora's parents. After all, they're not there for nothing; they're actually there for a reason and they play an important part in the ballets they're in. I miss all their big mime scenes in productions that don't include them, especially Berthe's mime scene about the Wilis, King Florestan's mime scene before the Rose Adagio and Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy's mime scenes.

Mime is important because it helps to balance the dancing and the narrative of story ballets; unfortunately, the Soviet authorities didn't really understand that because let's face it, what did they know about ballet?

And yes, it was fascinating to see the way dancers danced back in the day and I would like to see this style brought to all the classics. After all, this is how the great ballerinas of the 20th century such as Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya danced. However, I highly doubt that all the tall, long-limbed Vaganova ballerinas today could master this style, primarily because of their heights and long limbs, but I don't think the Vaganova male dancers would have a problem with it; they'd be fine. Petite ballerinas would not find this style too difficult, at least not as difficult as tall ballerinas anyway...

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I feel like there is a lot of acting integrated into movement at the Mariinsky. It is a different style, but each ballerina acts Odette and has emotions. I have watched so many Mariinsky performances on video and in person and there is tons of opportunities for acting, but it is integrated into the dancing a lot more than Petipa's time. Each ballerina does it slightly differently. I guess the Soviets wanted Dramballet and there are pros and cons to that, but I love it....the acting is often totally integrated into the movements of the dancers. Even in opera I much prefer how the 19th century began to have recitative sung with the orchestra so they blended with the arias much better than when they used a harpsichord to accompany recitatives (probably 18th century and earlier). Same with Broadway musicals. I like when they are through composed and they do not stop and speak and then start to sing. I like everything to flow and not have a stop and start quality when it comes to art. This is also the root of why I prefer the Mariinsky and Vaganova graduates. They have a flow to their movements unlike any other company, in my personal opinion. I want flow, flow, flow. If there is stopping and starting it breaks the magic spell for me. So for me personally mime actually breaks the spell and makes me realize I am not in this magical world. But like I said this is not black and white. There are some mime sequences I like. I just don't want it to go on and on. It makes me feel like they are trying to talk to dummies who aren't "getting" it when we got it long ago.

I have read that the Soviet authorities did not like mime because it was a coded language that the aristocrats knew (from going to the ballet for so long) and they wanted ballet to appeal to the masses. I think there are pros and cons to this. It changed ballet (and you think for the worse), but I actually think it makes the story flow and creates more poetry to the acting and dancing (because it is blended together).

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I feel like there is a lot of acting integrated into movement at the Mariinsky. It is a different style, but each ballerina acts Odette and has emotions. I have watched so many Mariinsky performances on video and in person and there is tons of opportunities for acting, but it is integrated into the dancing a lot more than Petipa's time.

Oh now Petipa's dancers would've integrated acting into their dancing as well because back then, technique was a means to an end, not the end like it is today. Plus, some of the dancers in Petipa's day were some of the most amazing actors ever and one prime example is the great Italian Prima Ballerina, Virginia Zucchi. Not only was she so expressive in her mime, she always danced with so much emotion, especially in the role of Esmeralda, her most celebrated role. She actually made the audience cry, she was so incredible and she even shed real tears during moments like the La Esmeralda Pas de six, which was created for her in 1886 by Petipa and Drigo.

We need more ballerinas like her today and I wish I could travel back in time and watch her perform Esmeralda! Lol!

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I often wonder though if we would react the same to performers of yesteryear the way audiences did back then. I have often thought I would love a time machine to go back and see Giuditta Pasta as Norma in 1831. But since Maria Callas is so famous in the role (with many recordings and even very brief film clips) and practically changed how we think of the role.....I wonder if I would be satisfied with Pasta's Norma. I am much more likely to enjoy Callas in the role in the 1950s much more. The problem is that we can not go back in time and actually see with our own eyes how these people sang or danced (the people before recordings that is), and often in my lifetime I have disagreed with critics, so I am not sure reviews from the past are always accurate. We have to simply assume the eyewitness accounts are accurate from the past. We are trusting without seeing for ourselves. We can read that Zucchi was expressive but until we get into a time machine and actually see for ourselves we can't really be sure. The performing arts have changed so much. I often wonder if the theatres were darker b/c they were lit by candlelight so people may have been watching people in dancing with less stage light. No idea. So what they were seeing might have looked better in the dark! LOL

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Thank you for the report, Amy. Like sandik, I loved the production when I saw the stream, so I envy you being able to see it live. And I agree with you about the joys of really beautiful, expressive and musical mime, especially since 19th-century ballet scores include so much music designed specifically for it. Superimposing something else onto that music never looks right to me.

Sadly, today there seem to be far more dancers adept at performing fouettés than mime. It's a pity that elements like mime (and épaulement and batterie...) have been neglected by recent generations, but I hope productions such as this one will help to re-insert them into the ballet dancer's arsenal to counteract what has become a somewhat monochromatic dancing style. I've had enough of the hard sell.

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