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Stage Size

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#1 fendrock


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Posted 20 December 2002 - 05:30 AM

I went to a student production of the Nutcracker last night, which was held in a small theater (about 300 seats).

I was struck by the small size of the stage. This clearly had an impact on the choreography, for instance, the snow corps only had eight members.

This made me wonder -- is there such a thing as "standard" stage size? Does choreography frequently reflect the size of the stage used by the choreographer (as an example, maybe Petipa)?

#2 citibob


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Posted 20 December 2002 - 06:19 AM

Balanchine's choreography was affected by the massive size of the Lincoln Center stage.

The precursor of England's Royal Ballet, I believe, started out on an 18'x18' stage.

#3 Alexandra


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Posted 20 December 2002 - 07:41 AM

Fendrock, you're onto something -- not just the number of flakes or swans you can have, but the entire shape of the choreography.

There is no standard size stage -- the Bolshoi's is HUMONGOUS which not only allows them to have what looks like the entire Roman legion onstage, but is why their 20th century choreography emphasizes big jumps and runs around the stage rather than small footwork.

Bournonville's first stage was 24 feet wide (I don't know how deep) which is why his dancers never make an entrance -- No Princes walking around the stage to take a variation. You enter, often with a grand jete en avance, and take it from there.

Balanchine's stage at City Center was long and narrow -- and that's reflected in the shape of the choreography of many of the ballets created there. (Think of "The Four Temperaments") When he moved to Lincoln Center, he changed some ballets to reflect the new size and shape of the State Theater; Nancy Reynolds' "Repertory in Review" said that he'd always choreographed for a big theater in his mind, so that the works could be adapted because he knew he would have a big stage some day. (And, of course, he had the Maryinsky Theatre's proportions to judge by.)

I don't know how small the Mercury Theater was -- 18 x 18 sounds pretty small, but it may well have been. There was a staircase, too, which had to be incorporated into the early ballets of both Ashton and Tudor. Ashton later said that he thought the size of that theater shaped his whole career, because his early works were so intimate and so small-scale. When the company moved into the Sadlers Wells Theatre, it was bigger, and without a staircase (I hope I'm not confusing the two; I'm writing all this from memory), but not nearly as big as the Covent Garden stage would be. A large number of Ashton ballets dropped out of repertory when they moved to Covent Garden because the designs would not fit -- they were too small and the scale would be ruined if they were redesigned -- and/or becuase (like "Nocturne") the ballets were too intimate to play in a bigger house. Ashton's style always included small footwork, attention to the kind of details one could only see well in an intimate theater.

#4 Mary J

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 02:03 PM

My recollection is that they used the actual Mercury Theatre in "Red Shoes" - I think they had 4.35 swans in the Moira Shearer Swan Lake that was excerpted.

#5 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 04:32 PM

Yes, Alexandra, you are right, the Mercury stage was tiny - the size of an avarage sitting room! I know because I was there.

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 05:47 AM

There is an early "home movie" of Ashton performing in his own "Capriol Suite" at the Mercury. He used the lack of two-dimensional space (width x depth) by taking much of the choreography into the air! It must have been a fairly bouncy ballet, from what I could see.

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