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BW

story ballets vs plotless ballets

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I could certainly be wrong, but I think it is generally considered to be Fokine's Les Sylphides, though of course one could argue that Petipa inserted plotless ballets into his full-lengths. Jadin Animee, for instance, or the vision scene in Sleeping Beauty. Actually, that isn't too farfetched an argument, since Balancine riffed on those his whole life. But complete and plotless, I think would be Fokine. Of course, there were many one-act ballets, which haven't survived very well (Some of Bournonville's have), but they had plots.

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What about 'Pas de Quatre" and Petipa's "The Seasons"? And Bournonville did several divertissements that were intended as curtain raisers to plays. One is "The Mandarin's Daughters" and was a Chinese chess game!

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Well, I am a lover of dance. And story ballets just tend to get in the way of the dancing. I used to be much more adamant about it, but in my dotage, I have mellowed and am willing to sit through the Midsumers Nights Dream or Sleeping Beauty that Martins forces on us subscribers. But thankfully it is usually limited to one full length per spring season (and thankfully usually none in the winter). Oh an occasional Prodigal Son is tolerable and a rare Copelia or B's 1 act swan lake.

But although I enjoy seeing the beautiful costumes, it would suit me a lot better if they just put them on display in the lobby. The really neat ones aren't danced in anyway.

Thats not to say all costumes are terrible to see the dancers, the ones in Union Jack, or Vienna Waltzes, or 4 Seasons or the Concert or many others are both interesting and don't seem to interfere with the dancers dancing or the viewers viewing.

On the other extreme are the what must be 50 pounds of costume that the king and queen in Sleeping Beauty wear. So they end up as window dressing.

I went to a talk by Melissa Barak, the new wonderkind choreographer/dancer at NYCB. She said whenever she hears music she thinks of steps to put to it. That is what I want to see. How the choreographer can create beautiful movement to accompany the music.

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Hal, there are many costumes that I've seen that I do not care for and some of them are in Four Seasons! Neither am I fond of 50 lbs costumes on anyone, but I still enjoy story ballet's if they're well done. And, story ballet or plotless - a costume can still enhance the dance. I'm sure there are a few good costume designers around these parts that would back me up on this! :)

If only my French was better, I could say "To each his own"! :)

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Chacun a son gout, BW.

I am also a lover of dance., although I stoutly resist saying I am in my dotage and will do so when I am 80. I am also a costumer. I make a great variety, classical and modern, but all are danceable. Some roles, as the King and Queen in Beauty, are traditionally not dancing roles, but more for character portrayal....But you are correct in saying that a good dance costume should always have a sense of the body and the dance within it.

I happen to love story ballets, but I don't think it necessary to pan so-called plotless ballet because of it.

This is the wonderful thing about this country--no one 'forces' anything on you--Hal, your unwanted tickets for the ballets you don't enjoy would be very eagerly and gratefully received by any number of ballet students or others who cannot afford tickets. Rather than making yourself suffer any further in your life, you might call SAB (212-769-6600) and offer them your donated tickets. You might be able to get a tax writeoff, in fact. When the Paris Opera Ballet was here doing Bayadere a few years ago, my son was able to attend just because someone such as yourself who did not want to "be dragged to another costume-y ballet" gave the school their tickets and it was a most memorable experience for a young person. He is still grateful to the person who did it.

Interestingly enough, the award for the worst costuming/conception recently is not for the Slime Monster in the ABT Swan Lake, but for Eliot Feld's Organon for NYCB.....the aluminum jungle gym with Damian Woetzel in his Mowgli garb clambering across the stage , the great Twirling Parachute, the cute little black socks on the women. Vile. Plot or no plot.

The dancing is usually enough of a story for me, but like well-done illustrations for a book, the costuming is another element to augment the text.

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Just thought I'd bump this thread back up to the top for a bit of air - and for the benefit of those who have never seen it. :)

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I wonder whether there is not another dichotomy than the story vs. the non-story ballet. There was a time for me (back in the 70s) when ballet began and ended with Swan Lake (and La Bayadere, Sleeping Beauty). But let's face it some of the plots in classical ballets are pretty basic. I suspect most can be summarized in 25 words or less. I realize it was not only the story and the spectacle that attracted me but what I felt was the beautiful music. Music, for whatever reason, I could relate to emotionally. I think Balanchine understood this. He made Stars and Stripes and Union Jack knowing they were crowd pleasures. No real story there. I suspect that most people enjoy something like the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux because of the exciting dancing and the accessible music. At the other end of an admittedly rather simple continuum is something like Agon with its serial and atonal music. I think many people find both the music and the dancing difficult to access. Now that I know intellectually what Stravinsky and Balanchine were doing I enjoy that ballet much more now and understand the creative genius in it. However, I had to do a lot of reading and take a few courses to get to this point.

My wife and I have a season subscription to New York City Ballet so that is where our committment is. I think it is the variety and the number of different ballets that attract us. However, on a selective basis we make forays over the ABT and have enjoyed it immensely. One of the most execiting evenings of dancing I have ever seen was provided by the Kirov's La Bayadere last summer.

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I love both story ballets and plotless ballets but I look for and enjoy them in different ways. In a story ballet I need to really believe in the characters and thier motivations. Even if the plot is really goofy [which alot of story ballets are] ,if it is danced with conviction, taste and energy then I can believe and be moved by it.

Good plotless ballets offer me a chance to visually "hear the music" if that makes sense. I'm thinking of almost all of Mr. Balanchines plotless ballets. For example, in Agon. If I could "see" sound or music than watching Agon lets me see Stravinsky's music in a literal way, the dancing reflects the music like a mirror. Of course not all choreographers were or are as gifted with an ear for music like Mr. B but you get the idea. Mr. B also said that when you have a man and a woman on stage together, how much more story do you want?

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