The Classics, Old Fashioned or Contemporary
Posted 13 September 2002 - 02:54 AM
So on the surface at least, the classics may seem to be old fashioned with the costumes of kings and queens and court jesters and so on. But underneath perhaps there beats a heart of youth and freshness that is very much a contemporary art form. I can think of several reasons to back up Nedezhda's remark but I wanted to open the question up to everyone else first to see what comes up.
So what do you think? Are the classics a bit old fashioned, or are they really fresh contemporary works in disguise.
Posted 13 September 2002 - 05:20 AM
Posted 13 September 2002 - 11:33 AM
I just finished reading a book by Joseph Campbell called The Power of Myth. The whole premise is that we are constantly re-living and re-evaluating ageless myths.
So that is possibly what you are getting at...I think ballet is a story with almost mythological implications. Underneath the story of Swanilda, Clara, Odette/Odile are myths that repeat themselves over and over.
So anyways, I think that is why the classics are so modern.
Posted 13 September 2002 - 12:01 PM
Allegro, I think your reference to Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth" is very apt. Many of the ballets now considered classics are based in folk lore, and they do still speak to us, and need to be revived every generation or so -- and they pick up a little bit from each generation, too.
Posted 14 September 2002 - 02:39 AM
I would like to take it just a little bit more into the idea of contemporary and at the same time keep the thoughts that have already been expressed. Power of Myth goes deeply into it, but Ford Motor Company has verified that all this is completely contemporary and even fashionable.
[remark deleted by A.T.]
Posted 14 September 2002 - 03:28 AM
So now, to connect this with classical ballet... well its not very hard to make the connection since it is the classic stories that have "no boundaries".
I'll give an example: Giselle.
If the story of Giselle had ordinary boundaries the story would have to end in Act 1. Giselle is dead in act 1!! If this was one of those so called "modern real life" stories, you would have to take her to the grave yard and bury her and that would be the end of the story. BUT NO... that boundary of death is broken. Not only is Giselle in Act 2, but she becomes the hero in the second act!!
It is the classics and the classic stories that continually break boundaries. Some people when confronted with a no boundary story say "its a fairytale".
These are not fairytales. These are simply stories that break the boundaries of "material" life. If a person thinks that the only real things in life are the things that we can see with our senses, then of course they will say "fairytale". But if you realize that there is more to life than what we see, then these no boundaries stories become the actual real life stories!
Classics speak to the soul. Its just that simple. And speaking to the soul requires that the boundaries of material life have to be broken. The classics do it, the more "modern" so called "real life" stories do not. So in fact, it may just be that the things that are thought to be modern today are in fact shallow and materialistic, and the stories that are thought to be old fashioned are in fact completely contemporary. It is just a matter if seeing them in the light of "no boundaries".
The Classics are contemporary stories. They know no boundaries, they speak to the soul, they are "so contemporary"... just as Nadezhda said.
I rest my case.
Posted 14 September 2002 - 04:13 AM
Posted 14 September 2002 - 07:31 AM
"Giselle" is a Romantic ballet, and Romanticism was all about breaking boundaries. Here we get into words again. The neoclassical ballets that preceded them were all about finding ways to make the old rules work, to make art while staying firmly within boundaries. The Greeks, of course, who did the first plays had no boundaries, which is probably why the plays were so great.
There were objections in the 19th century by classicists who felt that Giselle and her sisters (there were 400 Romantic ballets, says Cyril W. Beaumont, most of them about some wan female spirit) were sentimental and not at all heroic. "Iphigenia" was a tragedy because her story was about dynasty and power and the fate of a people. "Giselle" was just a girl who fell in love blindly and couldn't deal with the consequences, too trivial a subject for a classic treatment.
To muddy the waters further, there's a school of thought today (to which I subscribe) that "Giselle" became a great classical ballet chiefly because of the intervention of Petipa, who transformed the second act into a grand ballet classique, giving the work a formal structure that elevated it from the sentimental. I'd guess, too, that it was 20th century performances that brought out the story's undercurrents and made them primary. For Gautier, "Giselle" was a story that made a pretty ballet.
Posted 14 September 2002 - 07:57 AM
Posted 14 September 2002 - 08:16 AM
What makes a "classic" a classic and what makes that classic look contemporary? There are many different angles from which to consider this, and we've seen a few, but what do others think?
Posted 14 September 2002 - 08:50 AM
Posted 14 September 2002 - 09:10 AM
Posted 14 September 2002 - 01:28 PM
I'd also forgotten Wordsworth's "spontaneous overflow of emotion." That's the way we see the 19th century now -- all wars and rebellions, political and artistic. Then, though, there's the sense of a bottle uncorked. Now, it's spontaneous overflow of emotion 24/7.
Posted 14 September 2002 - 05:15 PM
For me, the 'classics' are definitely timeless. Both La Bayadere and La Sylphide have made me cry because I am a hopeless romantic at heart and I don't think the kind of feelings ballets like that inspire have changed since they were devised, or even before!;)
I am also a student of cultural history and I am very interested in what sort of things appeal to people depending on the political situation etc. I guess this might lead me to ask, are ballets political? Do they have a satirical message? Often they have very moral messages, and some good 'advice' on love...! If they were political in a very abstract sense, we could always adapt their messages to what was happening in our world, even if they were written over 100 years ago. Let me have a think about this...
Posted 15 September 2002 - 03:27 AM
What makes a classic a classic? It's the most important question. I already have an idea on it but I want to refine the idea a bit before posting anything. No boundaries is certainly a part of it, but that is not the whole thing of course.
And Mel, I was thinking about the british princess also... but I hadn't made the connection with the story of Giselle. So that was very interesting to see it.
Thanks so much for the encouragement Kate B. I have fun posting these kind of things, but sometimes I worry a little bit that I might be a little out of tune with the nature of this site since I like to be playful most (all) of the time. I'm not very serious, I like to play. So that comment of yours is very helpful. So now I'm thinking "play is OK"... with responsibility of course.
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