Theme and Variations: distillation or gloss?
Posted 24 January 2002 - 10:26 AM
I thought this was an interesting distinction. Which do you think it is? A distillation -- Sleeping Beauty boiled down to 20 minutes, everything extraneous removed. In other words, if we had to lose Beauty to the time capsule, Theme would suffice.
Or a gloss -- a work that captures the superficial charms of Beauty (and certainly is by someone who understood that ballet and its tradition thoroughly) but lacks the depth of the original?
Posted 24 January 2002 - 11:40 AM
When ABT approached Balanchine to create a ballet for them in '47, they didn't ask for a ballet to replace Sleeping Beauty, they asked for one to replace Act III, or the wedding scene only. So perhaps that's a more useful comparison. Theme is self contained even with the creation of Suite 3 around it - it's undergone the reverse process of Aurora's Wedding, which lost the rest of the ballet!
Is Theme a distillation or a gloss? Choreographically, it's a distillation of Act III, but I don't think it can substitute for the full ballet in the repertory. It was meant as a divertissement. Sleeping Beauty makes a moral statement that Theme does not have the time to make.
Posted 24 January 2002 - 11:45 AM
I think the idea of the relationship to Sleeping Beauty came from writers, not the program notes (I write this not reading the program notes). I don't think it's either a distillation or a gloss, but something separate. Probably because I read Payne's book around the time I was first seeing "Theme," I've always compared it to "Ballet Imperial" (which, of course, at the time I hadn't seen) and admired Balanchine for giving ABT a ballet that LOOKED like a grand ballet but wasn't quite one -- the soloists aren't really soloists; ABT didn't have four soloists, in the sense of Sleeping Beauty fairy-level top soloists, then, but the ballet makes it look as though it did.
One of the reasons why I do rate it a great ballet, though, is because it can accommodate the "Gut Cruncher" dancers as well as the perfumed ones. It can be about music, or technique, or speed, or line, or love, or a spiritual connection and, occasionally, all of those things. Distillation for me, more than gloss, if I can only choose between the two.
Posted 24 January 2002 - 12:01 PM
I actually am comfortable, though, thinking of it as a "distillation" of Sleeping Beauty -- though as per above, I would have to add "Balanchine's" distillation. It offers HIS conception of what the essence is. (And in its multiple perspectives on the ballerina, it does, for example, draw on aspects of Aurora from all three Acts...)
P.S. Alexandra and I posted simultaneously -- I guess -- so I hadn't read her post when I wrote this. I would have framed things a bit differently if I had, but am too lazy to rewrite...
[ January 24, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posted 24 January 2002 - 01:52 PM
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