Tom47

Fairies, Sylphides, Wiles, Shades . . .

21 posts in this topic

One of my favorite things about ballet are the magical, mysterious or enchanted beings, depicted in that art form. Fairies are in "The Sleeping Beauty" and "A Mid Summer Night's Dream;" Sylphides are in "La Sylphides" and Wiles are in "Giselle" and the Magical Snowflakes, the Dancing Flowers and a Sugar Plum Fairy are in "The Nutcracker." In the ballet "The Firebird" is the Firebird and in "Swan Lake" are the women transformed into Swans. Three other such creatures are the Shades from "La Bayadere," the Spectre from "Le Spectre de la Rose" and Robin Goodfellow or Puck from "A Mid Summer Night's Dream." Also are the beings from classical mythology, the Faun and the Nymphs from "The Afternoon of a Faun"" and the Dryads and Amor from the dream sequence of "Don Quixote."

Tom,

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Theatrical dance has drawn characters from the supernatural realm pretty much forever.

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There is a freedom in portraying the magical, come to think of it...

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Sandi and Amy, thank you for your comments. Amy your point about freedom is interesting. I haven't thought about that before.

To All, It seems to me that the enchanted beings in ballet tend to be benevolent or at least benign although there are exceptions. Of the ones listed the Wiles may be the most evil, but that malevolence is only toward men and the Wiles might feel they are justified in what they do. Another interesting case is the Faun. Fauns differ from Satyrs in that Satyrs are known to chase women, in particular Nymphs, while Fauns are more into dance and music - they are more playful. In both the poem and the ballet, "The Afternoon of a Faun," the Faun is attracted to the Nymphs and in the ballet the Faun displeases the Nymphs, but he is not violent. Nymphs are not always passive, in the myth of Hylas the beautiful young man of that name is abducted by Nymphs. Here is a painting of that event:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CR-bac0UsAEYf46.jpg:large

Robin Goodfellow or Puck is more mischievous than bad or evil. There is the evil fairy Carabosse or Disney's Maleficent, however, Disney in a 2014 live action movie does explain her actions and so rehabilitates her. In "Swan Lake" there is Odile, but I have always thought of her as being under the control of Rothbart (her father?) so she is not really evil just unlucky as to who her father is.

Tom,

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Some of the enchanted beings in ballet, the transformed swans of "Swan Lake," were at one time human and could return to being human. Also in this way was the Bluebird from the last act of "The Sleeping Beauty" who, in his and Florine's own story (written by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy) was a King transformed into a bird and finally transformed back. On the other hand Wiles were human women who died with their true love being unreciprocated. Also, in classical mythology Shades are the specters or ghosts of the dead, so they also were at one time human.

Tom,

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The English word Fairy or Fairie goes back to c. 1300 and is connected with the Old French Fae, which in turn is connected with the Latin word Fata meaning a goddess of Fate or The Fates. I like Fairies and feel that they are very suitable characters for ballet. J. M. Barrie writes in "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" (1906, a prequel to the story of Peter Pan and Wendy) that "fairies are exquisite dancers," but this is only when the are happy for "The [the fairies] forget all the steps when they are sad and remember them again when they are merry." He goes on to write that ". . . fairies never say 'we feel happy' what they say is 'we feel dancey'." Arthur Rackham produced illustrations for "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens." Illustrations showing Fairies dancing can be found by doing Google image searches for the following:

There is almost nothing that has such a keen sense of fun as a fallen leaf

Fairies never say, "we feel happy": what they say is "we feel dancey"

My idea is when they are not going naked Fairies would dress in beautiful garments such as ballet dancers wear, tutus for the female fairies and tights for the males, but of course Fairies do not limit themselves to those items as they are so fond of dressing in many different graceful and charming styles. How that I mention it Fairies are not only female. There are also male Fairies and they are just as beautiful as the female Fairies.

Tom,

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It seems to me that Nymphs are similar in characteristics to female Fairies, although Nymphs may generally be considered to be larger than Fairies. Nymphs are supernatural beings, but are not full-fledged goddesses, which could also be said of Fairies. Further, there are many different types of Nymphs connected with various parts of nature such as forests or bodies of water. Fairies could also be considered to be of different types for example Tinkerbell from J. M. Barrie is a Tinker Fairy. Dryads are Nymphs associated with groves, woodlands, forests and trees. The Queen of the Dryads dances in the dream sequence of "Don Quixote" so I take the unnamed dancers to be her subject and her subjects would be Dryads. Sylphides could be seen as being Fairies of the air.

My guess is that every culture has a tradition of some type of enchanted being that could be seen as similar to Fairies or Nymphs. In the case of Arabian cultures that enchanted being could be Jinni or Genies. I found a Japanese "Fairy Tale" about a baby girl, named Kaguya, who is found inside a bamboo plant. As she grows up she explains that she is one of a race of Moon beings. These Moon beings could be the equivalent of Japanese Fairies. If anyone knows of Fairy like creatures from cultures other than European kindly let me know of them.

Tom,

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Sylvia is the leading nymph role, and Delibes created a gorgeous score, sometimes pillaged to add to other ballets, like Coppelia, for the ballet. Ashton created a version that is performed by the Royal Ballet and ABT. Mark Morris did a fantastic version for San Francisco Ballet in the mid '00's that was done for a second season, and his choreography for the nymphs was especially fine. (I've long wished for a revival and that PNB could acquire it - - I've cast it in my head many times - - but I don't think Morris' last collaboration with PNB went too well, and his name is hardly mentioned in any of the Q&A's anymore.)

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Sylvia is the leading nymph role, and Delibes created a gorgeous score, sometimes pillaged to add to other ballets, like Coppelia, for the ballet. Ashton created a version that is performed by the Royal Ballet and ABT. Mark Morris did a fantastic version for San Francisco Ballet in the mid '00's that was done for a second season, and his choreography for the nymphs was especially fine. (I've long wished for a revival and that PNB could acquire it - - I've cast it in my head many times - - but I don't think Morris' last collaboration with PNB went too well, and his name is hardly mentioned in any of the Q&A's anymore.)

I'd be grateful just to have it still around somewhere, so that I might scheme to see it.

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Helene, thank you for the information on "Sylvia" I haven't heard of it before and after your comment I found and was able to watch two short youtube videos. One was from the first act and the other was a number of short dances from a Royal Ballet production. It seems as you described it and I am looking to find a full length recording. I'm glad you commented since now I know of another ballet with mythological or enchanted beings.

To all, three of the mythological or enchanted beings are unique characters - Amor, Puck (Robin Goodfellow) and The Firebird. Amor is also known as Cupid or Eros and is male, although from what I've seen in the dream sequence of "Don Quixote" his role is danced by a woman. Amor, Cupid or Eros is generally depicted as a young boy, but is sometimes depicted as a young man. And I just learned that as Eros he plays a role in the ballet "Sylva."

While different characters Puck reminds me of Amor in that I think of them both as being young and mischievous. I also associate Puck with the Greek god Pan, as well as with Peter Pan. In my opinion the best representation of Puck is the performance by Mickey Rooney (age 14) in the 1935 film "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The third such being is The Firebird. She is from Russian folklore and instead of having a human form is in the form of a bird however, I feel she would get along very well with Fairies.

Tom,

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The Magical Snowflakes, the Dancing Flowers and Le Spectre de la Rose are somewhat difficult to categorize. Are they some type of mystical beings or are they just representations of objects that would not be expected to dance? In the ballet I see Le Spectre de la Rose to be not so much a representation of a Rose, but a representation of the young woman's pleasurable remembrance of the dance she just returned from. To me the dance of the Spectre is all about the young woman. In regard to the Flowers and Snowflakes of "The Nutcracker" ballet I am happy to see the dancers as representing some spiritual essence of those bits of nature. Perhaps this essence is a Fairy-like or Nymph-like spirit within those objects.

Lastly are the Fauns. On one hand I am tempted to equate Fauns with male Fairies however I chose not to do that. While Fauns are nicer than Satyrs I see male Fairies as being even nicer than Fauns. Female Fairies would not be displeased by male Fairies, as the Nymphs were displeased by the Faun in the ballet. Also male and female Fairies are part of the same group and are friends with each other unlike the Nymphs and the Faun. Further, Fauns are half human and half goat, with the bottom half being the goat, while I consider male Fairies to have as much a human form as female Fairies. However, the mid 19th century sculptor, Harriet Hosmer did produce an almost life size sculpture of "A Sleeping Faun" with human legs. See below:

http://s3-media3.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/j7OHpIDtdGnn3c5oHxve7w/o.jpg

Tom,

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Let's not forget the trolls from Bournonville's "A Folk Tale."

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Let's not forget the trolls from Bournonville's "A Folk Tale."

...oh yes...that made me think of Tharp's Princess and the Goblin (from a Victorian children's book) which has a troll kingdom (plus an ancestral spirit--great-great grandmother).

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Imspear, again like "Sylvia," "A Folk Tale" is a ballet that I have never heard of before, so thank you for the information. In looking it up I found that there are also Elves in the ballet and I found a trailer for a possibly Danish production of it. It seems something that I would enjoy and from the little I heard I liked the music. Also, from pictures I have been able to see it seems that is beautifully done.

Drew, thanks for mentioning the "Princess and the Goblin" this is another ballet I did not know of. In searching I found that The New York Times has an interesting 2012 article about this ballet and Ms. Tharp.

To all, I recently was reminded of the ballet "Napoli," from 1842 originally choreographed by August Bournonville. This ballet fits the topic of this thread in that it contains Sea Nymphs or Nereides. I also found information on the ballet "Onfine" which premiered in 1958 at Covent Garden, London and was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton with music by Hans Werner Henze and I found a short Youtube video entitled "Vera Zonrina in Balanchine's (Undine) Water Nymphs Ballet." I am not sure how connected the ballet in the video is to the "Ondine" ballet. The names Ondine and Undine appear to be interchangeable. Sea Nymphs, Nereides, Ondines and Undines seem to me to be related somewhat to Mermaids, except that Sea Nymphs have human legs.

Tom,

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The Bolshoi just premiered a new "Undine" ballet to the same Henze score Ashton used -- (Samodurov is the choreographer) -- the Bolshoi web-channel has some images and scraps of video. I think there was also an "Undine" sea creature in the Possokhov Hero of Our Time that premiered last year.

I think ballet (not just romantic ballet) has an affinity with these kinds of fantastical creatures and spirits of place. This thread could probably go on ad infinitum with examples and ideas.

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Drew I agree that ballet has an affinity with fantastical creatures and spirits and I would be happy if people continue to contribute to this thread, not only in regard to ballets which incorporate these beings, but also as to their thoughts regarding them. Again thank you for your contribution.

To all, In regard to the ballets "A Folk Tale" from Imspear and the "Princess and the Goblin" from Drew:

There seems to be two types of Trolls, both from Scandinavian traditions. One kind is large and is seen by humans to be "ugly." These seem to be related to Ogres. The other kind is smaller and looks human, however, they have tails. Perhaps these are cousins of Fairies. I see Elves as being closely related to Fairies and the difference may only be that Elves are from Scandinavian traditions and Fairies are from French traditions. The two traditions then mix in the British Isles. Further I think of Fairies as being more likely to have wings and Elves as more likely to have pointed ears. I used to think Goblins or Hobgoblins as being a type of Ghost, but in doing a little research I now think of Goblins are being more like the "ugly" Trolls, although smaller. As with beauty I feel that ugly is in the eye of the beholder so while Goblins and some Trolls may appear ugly or gruesome to humans they may appear beautiful to other Goblins and Trolls.

Tom,

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The 14 OZ books, written by L. Frank Baum are in effect New American Fairy Tales. In an earlier topic "Petitallegro" suggested that a ballet could be made based on "The Wizard of Oz." "The Wizard of Oz" is the first of the OZ books and the one that the 1939 movie followed. While that is a good idea, for a number of reasons I would prefer a ballet with characters from all the books.

I would suggest a ballet of two acts, with the first having a Dorothy like child, perhaps Betsy Bobbin (book 8) wandering though OZ. She meets with characters from the books and by the second act arrives in the Emerald City in time for a party, perhaps Ozma's birthday party (book 13). Starting in book 2 Ozma is the girl ruler of Oz. Ozma, Glinda the good witch of the south, Dorothy Gale and Jellia Jam, all of whom are friends, could dance a Pas de Quatre with Ozma in white, Glinda in pink, Dorothy (who eventually lives in OZ as a princess) in blue and white checks and Jellia Jamb in green. Jellia Jamb is a resident of the Emerald City.

My favorite character is Scraps the "Patchwork Girl of OZ" (book 7). She loves to dance and is very colorful. Scraps is a brought to life large doll made of quilting stuffed with cotton, who is generally happy, active and completely satisfied with who she is. In book 7 Scraps and the Scarecrow meet and fall in love. They could do a "floppy" humorous (but not stupid) Pas de Deux. I imagine that the piece would need to be danced by two very proficient dancers and I could see it being placed near the end and being the highlight of the ballet. Scraps could energetically dance some other pieces.

Also a character who is colorful and likes to dance is Polychrome the rainbow's daughter (book 5). Her dancing is light and fluid as well as happy, while her hair is long and unrestricted. She can also fly and leap as she is gossamer like. Her gown for the ballet could be long, flowing and translucent with rainbow stripes, while her hair could also be multi colored. I like the idea of a dancer, even a ballet dancer having long, free hair.

The Mist Maidens have a minor role in book 14. They are described as ". . . beautiful forms, clothed in fleecy, trailing garments of gray that could scarcely be distinguished from the mist. Their hair was mist-color, too; only their gleaming arms and sweet pallid faces proved they were living, intelligent creatures answering the call of a sister fairy." I would make their garments white instead of gray.

Two secondary characters from book 8 are Ozga the Rose Princess and Jo Files a brave soldier in the Oogaboo army. They fall in love with each other. Ozga is from the Rose Kingdom, which lies outside of OZ. I could see the couple dancing a romantic Pas de Deux with the Rose Princess in a rose colored empire style gown and Jo Files in a fancy military uniform.

The Mist Maidens would be danced by the Corps de Ballet. Another opportunity for the corps would be as the Good Witch Glinda's "girl soldiers" (book 1). They are described as being dressed in ". . . handsome red uniforms trimmed with gold braid . . ." Here is an illustration by W.W. Denslow from the first book, of three of Glinda's soldiers:

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/53/4f/5c/534f5cfc05a643c1017e577005b41135.jpg

"Petitallegro" also brought up the idea of having children dance as Munchkins, but that could be taken further. There are four divisions of the Land of OZ, not including the Emerald City. The people of those divisions each have their own names and their favorite color. The Munchkins are from the east and their color is blue, in the west are the Winkies whose color is yellow, there are the Quadlins of the south whose color is red and finally the Gillikins of the north whose color is purple. In the first act as Betsy Bobbin is traveling through OZ she could go through each division and this could be shown by her meeting up with and dancing with children dressed in the color of their particular homeland. Then at the end of act one there could be children dressed in green to show the entry into the Emerald City.

I imagine the last act of this ballet to be somewhat like the last acts of "The Nutcracker" and "The Sleeping Beauty" mainly entertainment. Further the other well known characters from the first OZ book, the Wizard, the Tin Man, the Lion, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (both who also came to live in OZ) could have cameos as guests at the party. I would even have the two Wicked Witches (after all this is a magical land) having been reformed attend. Other young characters I would like to have some part in the ballet are Zeb (book 4), Ojo the unlucky who becomes Ojo the lucky (book 5), Button Bright (book 5) all three boys and Trots (book 9) a girl. At the very end I would have all the characters dance together.

Tom,

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Sandi, that is interesting. The pictures of the performance on the website show it to be a colorful ballet, something I would like (Dorothy's costumes change color during the performance) and I also like the costumes beyond their colorfulness. There are a number of videos that I did watch and which I found to be interesting. In addition to ballet steps there is also some tap which I think is good. My guess is that the story of this ballet primarily is that of the first book and the 1939 movie.

Tom,

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      To All:

      Ballet is Magic!

      Moonlight and Roses (my new nom de plume)

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