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Glen Tetley's Voluntaries


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#1 glebb

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 04:09 AM

I first saw Glen Tetley's 'Voluntaries' performed by The Stuttgart Ballet in 1977, at the MET with the original cast (of principles). It was an extremely moving experience seeing legendary artists: Haydee, Cragun, and Kiel, dancing in tribute to John Cranko. It was also a new experience for me, seeing the beautifully schooled dancers in a very comtemporary work.

I later saw 'Voluntaries' performed by ABT, (more than ten years ago). Even with my favorite ballerina Makarova in the lead, it never lived up to the first experience I had with the ballet. Of course there can be many reasons. Maybe I was not sitting in the ideal area of the theatre, or maybe I was not in the correct frame of mind. Makarova's interpretation seemed light compared to Haydee's very grounded, rich performance. The pas de trois wasn't as dramatic and daring. Maybe I was expecting too much. I'm pretty sure that the Stuttgart dancers went to a very deep place when performing the ballet.

It would be great to take a look at this ballet again, many years later. I don't know if it is being performed much in the U.S. Does anyone know if there is a performance of 'Voluntaries' on video or DVD, for sale?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 05:52 AM

I don't know of a video, Glebb.

I had a similar experience watching "Voluntaries." The first time I saw it it was new, and the Stuttgart dancers, as you noted, danced from pain. (It was a tribute to Cranko, who had just died, very young and very unexpectedly.)

When I saw it later, I thought it was a mess. The organ crests, the dancers are lifted. Running on and off without any reason.

I had been seeing a lot of Balanchine in between my first viewing (which was my first season watching ballet, and I knew nothing) and my second, and his ballets had trained my eye to expect a certain response to the music and a specific structure. I agree about the difference in weightedness, too. With Makarova, my hazy memory tells me, the ballet was about being lifted and making pretty shapes in the air.

#3 Paquita

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 09:25 AM

I haven't come across any videos either. It's a shame because I'd love to see the Stuttgart's 1977 performance.
I had the chance to see Voluntaries twice recently, at the National Ballet of Canada as part of a triple bill that also included Apollo and Intermezzo. I enjoyed both casts that I saw. I thought it was slightly uninspired the first time- perhaps the dancers were too busy/exhausted from rehearsing Kudelka's world premiere of 'the Contract'. The dancers just seemed to be jumping all over the place. However on a second viewing it was quite powerful. The pas de deux conveyed a yearning for release from grief. It was a very suitable choice for the company's 50th anniversary, as both Tetley and Cranko had a profound impact on NBoC. Poulenc's score is not exactly a favourite of mine, however the organ music does seem to capture the reverent and anguished nature of the choreography well.
I'm not sure what other companies have the ballet in their repertoire... but I don't think it is performed very often in North America.

#4 glebb

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 12:16 PM

I think PNB has had this ballet in their rep as well.

#5 casloan

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Posted 08 June 2002 - 07:28 PM

Milwaukee Ballet did it this year, too. But, alas, I did not see it (it was in February, and the rest of the program was not my cup of tea).

I did not see it with Stuttgart, either (I'm sorry to say, from your description, Glebb). However, I loved Makarova in it with ABT (she was one of my all-time favorites, too), and I had very much enjoyed the Poulenc music itself, before I ever saw the ballet.

I've always felt it was a bit sad that Makarova came to the West for the freedom to dance new works, but found herself constantly cast in the classics and "warhorses." In the latter category, I will never forget one night in Chicago when the conductor and orchestra "blew" the opening of her "Don Quixote" variation. She stepped out, shook her closed fan at them, (as if to say "tsk, tsk, tsk") and marched back to the wings. Humbled, they began again. This time, she danced -- brilliantly, of course. I recall that, even then, I could not think of other dancers who would dream of doing that - much less actually dare to do it.

#6 glebb

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 08:09 AM

I will never forget one night in Chicago when the conductor and orchestra "blew" the opening of her "Don Quixote" variation. She stepped out, shook her closed fan at them, (as if to say "tsk, tsk, tsk") and marched back to the wings. Humbled, they began again. This time, she danced -- brilliantly, of course. I recall that, even then, I could not think of other dancers who would dream of doing that - much less actually dare to do it. [/B][/QUOTE]


Oh, I believe she would dare to.

I'm reminded of a story I was told back in the day of Natalia Makarova's reign at ABT. She was not scheduled to dance and was asked to substitute at the last moment because of another dancer's injury.

Someone said to her "With you dancing tonight, it will be just like a gala!"

Makarova's response: "Darrrrrling, Every time I dance is gala!"

#7 Estelle

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 08:32 AM

I think that "Voluntaries" was in the POB's repertory in the late 1970s (I seem to remember a photograph of a very young Elisabeth Platel in it, but am not sure).


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