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romantic pas de deux for same-sex couples


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#16 Tessa

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 08:58 AM

Paul,
Concerto 622 is still in Pennsylvania Ballet's active repertoire. The last time I saw it danced was February 2001, I think. The central "Gemini" duet (interestingly, I've never heard it called that before) was typically danced by Jeffrey Gribler and David Krensing. Gribler's now retired and is the company's Ballet Master, but I'm pretty sure they trained another dancer in the role so I imagine it will only be another couple of years before we'll see it again. I find it to be an extraordinarily moving piece.

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 09:30 AM

Mashinka, now I remember the girls in grey -- I doubt my version was censored. I think it was that the girls in grey came on, counting, and did the steps, but nothing else :( (I didn't see the Royal, alas. But I remember the photos!)

It's interesting that both Jeux and Les Biches used two women as an injoke/metaphor for two men. Is that because two women dancing together strike most people as asexual? (I certainly never think of Serenade as a Lesbian gang meeting.)

#18 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 09:51 AM

Originally posted by Alexandra
Is that because two women dancing together strike most people as asexual? (I certainly never think of Serenade as a Lesbian gang meeting.)


Oh my. I'm really wondering if that's going to stick with me until the next time I see Serenade!

The comment to me about choreography as specific metaphor (dip = "kiss", serrés = "climax") is fascinating because I'd argue that it's fine, but completely unnecessary. The battements serrés can just be a series of battements serrés and you still know Odette and Siegfried are soul mates. Perhaps this is an extension of Alexandra's comments about realism, I'd even argue that "translation" of the metaphor is unnecessary. The abstraction gives me everything I need to know.

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 10:18 AM

Well, you've been brought up in a place and time that puts 100% of the value on abstraction, Leigh :( Petipa had a different language, and apparently, that dip was meant to be read as a kiss and would have been by his audience. It was an abstraction for a kiss. I don't know whether the fluttering beats as a metaphor for the heart trembling is a formal symbol, like the dip, or a near-realistic metaphor that we all can "read."

One could say the same thing about the mime speeches/gestures that indicate someone was a King. "I don't need to know what they mean. I know he's a King." But to the choreographer, I think the details matter. (And I think most choreographers would want at least some people who view their work to understand what they put into it.)

#20 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 11:13 AM

I'm sorry, I think I was still so entranced by the concept of a Lesbian Attack Gang Serenade (am I summoning this??) that I misinterpreted your comment on Beaumont. I thought it was an interpretation he made of the step, not almost a Delsarthe-ian mimetic gesture. I didn't realize that like flowers, the choreography of that time had specific meanings attached. Where does Beaumont write about that?

Carbro - this again is only my experience, but I found the more satisfying and solid the male/male choreography I made, the more pulled away from pure classicism (or at least, one kind of classicism) it had to get. It remained "balletic" but the most successful sort of same-sex partnering got a lot of its inspiration from Contact Improvisation, which has pretty much figured out a paradigm for same-sex work. The conundrum is that the ballet vocabulary doesn't have much place in it, which is no sin, but if one is a ballet choreographer, and finds oneself using little or nothing or one's "native tongue", it is a conundrum.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 12:36 PM

Leigh, if I'm remembering correctly, the comments on Swan Lake choreography are in Beaumont's "A Ballet Called Swan Lake." I'll try to check it later this evening.

I think your comments on male-male choreography and ballet are quite apt, and it's one of the problems. Because there isn't a ballet model, people turn to the models that exist, i.e., contact improv or modern dance, which turns away from ballet. There were once models of male-male choreography, though. There are quite a few drawings in Miriam Hannah Winter's "The Pre-Romantic Ballet." I should have time to scan some and put them up on the site and linlk to them. She used one for the cover, and since it's a heavier, older, bearded man lifting a young, slim man, and they're both in "dresses" (i.e., classical dress), for years I thought it was a man and a woman -- I didn't look at it closely. We gained a lot in the 19th century, but we lost some things as well :(

Back to women meeting in the moonlight -- that was an image that frightened good, Churchgoing men for centuries, because it harked back to pagan times, when women had the power to keep men out of their meetings. Which may have been about quilt patterns and child rearing, but were thought of as gatherings of witches. Lots of things to think about in Serenade :D

But all this gets away from Paul's question -- which I'm very glad he raised. I would hope that someone would break away from the improv and modern dance models and look to classicism. Ashton did -- the danced conversation between Elgar and his friend in "Enigma Variations." The relationship among the men in "A Month in the Country." Not a gay love story, to be sure, but ways to depict men on stage beyond King or porteur -- or male soloist. (I think Ashton is woefully underestimated as an innovator in ballet narrative. He made it look so natural, people never realized that every story ballet he did was filled with new ways of telling a story and depicting character. The Tutor in "Month" is characterized completely in movement. So were the men in his "Romeo and Juliet."

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:16 PM

It's not romantic, but it's not our idea of male-male dancing in 1804, either.

This is James Harvey d'Egville as Ulysses and Andre Jean-Jacques Deshayes as Achilles disguised as a handmaiden of the Princess Deidamia. (King's Theatre, London).

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#23 dirac

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:20 PM

Deshayes looks quite fetching, but I'm afraid it just reminds me of a scene from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. :(

#24 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:22 PM

There's also a line drawing of a man and a boy (Odysseus and Telemachus) doing a thing that looks like a sauté arabesque lift from about the same period. Maybe Blasis choreography? And speaking of Blasis, there's a bit in the libretto for The Creatures of Prometheus which has Prometheus lifting both a man and a woman simultaneously and carrying them off! Oof!;)

#25 grace

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:40 PM

"I certainly never think of Serenade as a Lesbian gang meeting." (Alexandra)


:eek: :( :( :confused:


sorry - i posted this before my page refreshed, to show me that the discussion has moved on...

#26 grace

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:46 PM

now that i've seen the newer posts: i do believe those kinds of descriptions ARE in beaumont's books (i am too lazy to check - but it sounds right to me), however, while i love that kind of observation myself, i always took it to be BEAUMONT'S analysis, not his reporting of petipa's intentions...you know, i just assumed that this is the way HE sees it - and it's marvellous, and revelatory analysis...but it MAY be just HIS view...

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 08:01 PM

Just in case others see my post about Serenade out of context -- or the comments by Leigh or Grace -- I hasten to say that I was using that as an example of the way a ballet with an all-male cast, where the men partner each other, or relate to each other physically, is interpreted by an audience differs from the way an all-female ballet is perceived. It was not a performance suggestion, nor a new analysis!

Grace, I got out "A Ballet Called Swan Lake" but couldn't find that passage -- I'd forgoten how detailed that book is. I did notice that he sometimes says, "I think" when describing the ballerina's facial expression, but the comments on choreography are more this is what is done here, that is what is done there. I can't remember -- it's something I read 25 years ago and filed in my "Swan Lake" file. But he did discuss this with so many dancers and balletmasters of the time, so even an opinion is more than a critical comment. I think.

Back to Paul's original question -- and picking up an earlier response by Leigh that talked about models for male-male duets being taken from contact improv -- what classical models are there? Is it possible to do this in classical ballet? If so, how?

#28 carbro

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 08:45 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
I certainly never think of Serenade as a Lesbian gang meeting.


No? Just wait until the copyright expires!

#29 Estelle

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 05:52 AM

A related question would be that it's not so easy to make a non-romantic male-female pas de deux...

#30 Alexandra

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 05:59 AM

Very good point, Estelle! And a related point to that is when there have been non-romantic pas de deux for a man and a woman, current stage practice, and critical viewing, tries to turn them into something romantic. I'm thinking about the pas de trois for Elgar's wife, Elgar and a male friend that originally depicted comfort and friendship and now (reportedly; I haven't seen it) gives hints that the friend is sleeping with one or both of them, and that Ashton was either too shy or too emotionally constipated to make this overt.

I hope this is a phase, but if it is, it's been a long one.

The other problem is lack of what we call "out of the box" thinking. It's so easy to fall into following models: a ballet must have a romantic pas de deux. It's hard to break out of that.


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