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the Golden Age


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#1 Jane Simpson

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Posted 07 August 2001 - 10:20 AM

Another silly season topic: if you could fast forward through one decade of ballet history, seeing anything you wanted regardless of geography, which would you choose? I'd be torn between the 1960s - which I did live through and did see some of, but not nearly enough - and maybe the 1880s - or maybe the 1920s, to see Diaghilev and Pavlova?

(Actually I've been wanting to use this topic title for some time so that when you add a reply the message will come up 'Sit tight...we are taking you back to the Golden Age' - well, I can dream!)

#2 cargill

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Posted 07 August 2001 - 01:11 PM

I would have to vote for the Diaghilev period. I have spent most of my life feeling bereft because I wasn't in Paris in 1909. But lately I have had such a yearning for Bournonville ballets, that being in Copenhagen in the 1870's seems like my idea of heaven. And of course, there is the Romantic era, with all those Perrot ballets we will never see. And of course, New York in the 1950's with those wonderful ballerinas. Since I won't have a chance to see any of them, I vote for them all.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 09 August 2001 - 02:02 PM

Thank you for posting this, Jane -- I'm sorry I missed it earlier; it's a lovely idea for a topic.

We have taken similar journeys. My first "phase" in ballet was Ballet Russe. I read everything about it I could get my hands on, and 25 years ago I would have answered this question, without hesitation, as Paris, 1908-1914. And then I must have OD'd on the Ballet Russe, because now it would be at the end of my list. (Partly this may be because I've never seen a totally convincing performance of a Ballet Russe ballet.)

I didn't get to live through the 1960s in London, and would be quite tempted to pick that one, but I think, if I could straddle decades, I'd take 1955-1965 in New York. That way, I'd get what was arguably Balanchine's most creative period, PLUS regular visits from the Royal and the Royal Danes (and a lot more, to boot).

And then you had to go and mention Copenhagen in the 19th century, so I'm going to pick one decade a century. (For the 18th, I'd pick the time when the Gardels were reigning in Paris.) I'd love to see all the grand, serious ballets of Bournonville's that were scuttled in the 1930s. I think that would be the 1860s (he retired in 1874, and probably his last four years weren't his best). An English visitor to Scandinavia, Edward Gosse, wrote of "The Lay of Thrym" that it made all other ballet in Europe look trivial in comparison.

#4 dirac

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Posted 09 August 2001 - 04:30 PM

My first thought was of the Ballets Russes. On further consideration, I decided to opt for a more recent era and return to the sixties and seventies, only this time I am older, independently wealthy, and have a private plane to take me anywhere my favorite companies, or even less favorite companies, happen to be.

#5 atm711

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Posted 09 August 2001 - 08:32 PM

My vote is for the Diaghilev years -- all 20 of them.--If I can pick a few years here and there, I would love to see Spessivtseva's Giselle and I would really like to re-visit Ballet Theatre's 1944-45 season. There's always "The Twilight Zone".

#6 felursus

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Posted 09 August 2001 - 09:07 PM

I was "around" in the 50s but a bit too young to really appreciate what I saw. I really lived through the 60s in New York and the 70s in London. I guess I would like to be a bit older (for the 50s) and a LOT richer - I'll take that private plane too, please, Dirac! I'd like to have been rich enough to be the person who threw all the parties, so I wouldn't have had to freeze my toes off at the stage door. (It has always been my favorite thing about the new Met that the stage door is underground, quite warm and sheltered! If you had asked this question 20 years ago, however, I probably would have said "The Diaghlev Years" and Russia from slightly before - say the 1890s. I would also have had to be exceedingly rich to keep up with the blue-blooded balletomanes of the period. One would need to fete one's favorite dancers with caviar and champagne. After reading that in a bio of Nijinsky when I was quite young, I thought that the height of elegance and sophistication and assumed that that was what everyone had after the ballet in Imperial Russia! :(

#7 Helena

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Posted 10 August 2001 - 04:53 AM

I was in London in the 1960s, so to choose that would probably be cheating, though I'd be very happy to see it all over again. The amazing thing is that although we knew it was astonishing, we took it for granted in a way - we thought that that was what ballet was, genius all over the place, an endless stream of brilliant dancers and brilliant new ballets.

Now, my choice would depend on whether I'm going back to become a person of the time, or whether I'm going as myself with my present knowledge and experience.

If I'm going to become a person of the time, I think I would choose the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, Paris 1909 onwards - because, even though as Alexandra so rightly says, not all of the ballets from that era stand up to scrutiny, I think at the time the explosion of colour, music and originality would have been very startling and exciting. Imagine being at the "scandalous" opening nights of L'Apres Midi d'un Faune and Sacre du Printemps, and seeing the Russian splendour of Firebird and Petrouchka for the first time. And think of the dancers...

If I were to go back in time as myself, as I am now, I think my choice would be London in the 1930s - not because I think it's the greatest ballet decade, but because for me it would be the most interesting. I'd love to see the very beginnings of English ballet, how it grew, what people like Ashton, Fonteyn, de Valois and Lambert were like then.

#8 Jane Simpson

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Posted 11 August 2001 - 07:06 AM

Mm, yes, I like the idea of the 1930s - you could just catch Pavlova at the beginning, too, and then there'd be Cotillon and Serenade, and the Ballets Russes with Massine's symphonic ballets and the baby ballerinas, and Lilac Garden and Dark Elegies - and you could drop into Leningrad to see Ulanova in THe Fountain of Bakhchisarai. And The Green Table, and Lifar in Icare.


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