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moira lawry

Commedia ballets

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What ballets use characters or inspiration from the Commedia dell'Arte? How do they show improvisation?

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Just off the top of my head, there's NYCB's Harlequinade, which is based on the longer Les Millions d'Arlequin, "Carnaval" by Fokine, "Pulcinella" by Massine, "Pierrot Lunaire" by Tetley, and those are the ones that pop to my mind when somebody asks for ballets based on commedia.

Although commedia was based on improvisation, ballets using the characters are just the same as other ballets - highly regular and scripted. There is not much chance of the audience yelling at a commedia character in a ballet, and his/her having to top the wiseacre!;)

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There was also "Harlequin for President." :( I don't think that one lasted too long.

There's a commedia troupe that still plays in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. (The story is that it was an Italian company that came through in the mid-19th century, liked the place, and stayed.) They do pieces that look 18th century, if not earlier, and there's no improv in them; they, too, are set. They are very, very simple.

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