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Differences among Petipa ballets

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#31 doug


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Posted 02 June 2001 - 12:44 PM

I'll try and respond to all the points based on things I've found/noticed:

Re SLEEPING BEAUTY - There are notations for two Lilac Fairy variations - one is headed "M. Petipa." It involves pointe work, but is pretty basic. The other variant is the one we know from the Royal Ballet's BEAUTY. PNB in Seattle just got Ronald Hynd's version and the Lilac variation matches the notation very closely, even more closely than what the Royal does now. The Lilac variation the Kirov includes in their new BEAUTY is neither of these - !.

I've gone over Nijinska's comments about Nijinsky's Bluebird. Nothing seems to diverge much in description from the steps included in the notated version, which is pretty close to what we see today. She seems to state that he didn't change the steps but danced them in a freer way, more or less.

In the final act, some of the fairies are guests at the wedding. I think it is Canari that comes in a cage with cupids in Shirley Temple wigs sitting on the edges. Maybe this is what Balanchine was refering to. There also are other cupids in that act.

By the time Balanchine was dancing BEAUTY at the Maryinsky, the sets and costumes were no longer the original ones, but those designed by Konstantin Korovin. They may have included the fountains and the rest that he mentions.

James - I did write the article on Marc's site - thanks. I really like the Kirov's BEAUTY. There are some things I would have done differently, but the big picture is that they are the first company (that I know of) to try and do a full-scale reconstruction of a Petipa ballet, using original set and costume designs, along with period notations of the steps (though they also used a number of video sources of a number of more recent productions). It was an eye-opener for many folks. My opinion is that the public is more open to projects like these than they were in the not-so-distant past. The general feeling of "newer is better" seems finally to be wearing off, so that new and old can be embraced and appreciated for their different attributes. This notion certainly has worn off in other areas of the arts, particularly music.

Re DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH. Lacotte's production for the Bolshoi can't really be called a reconstruction. Nearly all of the choreography is his own (although I had hoped he would use the Stepanov notations). I provided a few variations for the production based on notations dating from around 1905 but they don't amount to much in the final production. The River variations, in their notated form, are great examples of ballet character dances.

Another point I've been thinking about is the notion that a particular step/pose is the signature step of a given ballet. For example, attitude as the signature pose of SLEEPING BEAUTY and arabesque as the signature pose of GISELLE. I don't agree with this in regard to BEAUTY. The notated "attitude" in the Rose Adagio is really a 90-degree arabesque with the knee bent slightly (about 45 degrees) - more like a relaxed arabesque than the tighter attitude we often see today. I also don't buy most of the modern philosophical/psychological arguments about the meanings of the various ballets and the inference that Petipa and his collaborators were trying to infuse ballets with psychological ideas, most of which were not introduced until long after the ballets were created. Just my opinion. :)

[ 06-02-2001: Message edited by: doug ]

#32 doug


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Posted 03 June 2001 - 02:55 PM

Mel, I've got the notation out here. The second variation (with cabrioles) in the Shades scene was danced by Varvara Rykhlyakova in December 1900 when the notation was made. The first fermata (hold) in the music coincides with a pique arabesque on the right foot coming from 5th position plie. The ballerina continues with tombe, pirouette, etc. Second fermata is also a pique arabesque on the right foot, just like the first. The third fermata (towards the end of the variation) is not marked as a fermata in the notation. The step at that point in the music is the last of a series of releve attitude en avant on alternating feet (left foot for the final one). Final pose is sus-sous from fifth position plie, left foot front.

BTW, this notation was not made by Nikolai Sergeyev. He didn't started notating much until 1903, when he took over the ballet master position at the Maryinsky. I'm not sure who made this notation.

Hope this info helps.

[ 06-03-2001: Message edited by: doug ]

#33 doug


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Posted 06 June 2001 - 06:15 PM

Cargill, you may well be right about the Kirov's new BEAUTY and its emphasis on mercy in the Act I opening. Or . . . they might simply have wanted to open the cuts in the music, therefore necessitating an extension of the action? Just a thought.

I'd have to check on the Maryinsky redesign of BEAUTY. It may have been redesigned by Korovin when Gorsky revived it at the Maryinsky on Feb 16, 1914. That sounds right to me. This was apparently when the new Lilac Fairy variation was added by Lopukhov.

Mel, I hadn't thought that Sergei Legat did notation work, but I can't rule out the possibility. I've found that most notations made after 1903 are in the hand of Nikolai Sergeyev, with the exception of variations and excerpts that were notated by students.

Dale, I'm not sure why Konstantin Sergeyev changed the classic ballets, but I assume he wanted to put his stamp on productions and perhaps also felt the need to "update" them - ? Most of his BEAUTY changes came in the Prologue, with the choreography for the large corps of Lilac attendants. The fairy variations were retained but became awfully watered down, as well.

Being a purist, I like to see dances in their original form, so far as possible. Obviously bodies and aesthetics change, but it is possible to retain the steps. AGON looks so different now from the filmed version of 1960 but the actual steps have changed very little.

Re: DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH, Lacotte felt it was not possible to revive the ballet from notation and also felt the ballet was too long. Not being a reader of Stepanov notation, a decision to stage the ballet from notation would have greatly altered his plans and contribution to the revival.

The new POB PAQUITA appears to be similar to PHARAOH in this regard, although I have not seen it so I can't make a good judgment here, and I've also not worked much with the PAQUITA notations.

James, I haven't seen Perm but I have heard now and again that their productions of 19th-century Russian ballets have changed less than the Kirov productions.

Moving on to SWAN LAKE, I like the fact that young student girls performed as swans in the first lakeside scene. They remind me of the young girls in MOZARTIANA - not cute, but simply smaller people.

Children were used on a regular basis in 19th-century ballets and I'd love to see a return to that practice. I suppose having a school connected to the professional dance institution is often the deciding factor.

#34 doug


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Posted 07 June 2001 - 01:43 PM

You're right, Marc, that not everyone shares the desire to see original steps in ballets. Good thing, too, or we wouldn't have a lot of the wonderful productions that are around today. However, the notion of retaining the original steps isn't particularly new. Karsavina was writing about 'lost steps' in "Dancing Times" in the 60s and Arlene Croce figured out early on that dances ascribed to Petipa weren't necessarily by him.

I also think that improved communication (this sort of message board, for example) and greater access to resources have begun to allow these issues to be researched and discussed.

For me, it ultimately comes down to correct attribution. The mid-late 20th century saw an incredible amount of misattribution of choreography to Petipa that was really the work of others (or in such altered form as to be unrecognizable as Petipa's). Other arts genres - music, visual arts - would not tolerate these misattributions, particularly when used for marketing purposes. I don't feel there's anything inherently wrong with changes to old choreography (although I don't understand why a completely new ballet isn't made in the first place), but those changes should be correctly attributed. Using Petipa's name to sell a production that includes very little of his choreography is wrong, in my opinion. I think the US suffered the most here, taking as gospel truth many 'after-Petipa' productions that bore little choreographic resemble to his real work.

This issue is slowly being addressed, as far as I can tell. Attributions are being sorted out. Those working to recover old steps are contributing, as are those choreographing new versions of old ballets and taking responsibility for them. Good things, all around.

#35 doug


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 06:15 PM

These are such good points - thanks, everyone. Thanks also, Jeannie, for the list of ballets.

My initial point had been to discuss the differences within Petipa's oeuvre - how one ballet differed from another when originally presented. As we all know, a variety of changes have been made to the ballets over time. Distinguishing characteristics of individual ballets have been blurred. Part of the benefit of research into original or early productions is finding what made each ballet 'tick' in its time. If I were able to reconstruct ballets on a regular basis, I would certainly approach each one somewhat differently based not only on the available sources but on the particular aesthetic of each work and when/where it was created.

#36 doug


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Posted 10 June 2001 - 11:08 AM

I provided one of the male variations in DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH in the temple courtyard scene (it comes after the variation for two women that has all the chugs - the double tour at the end was added, btw). All of the Russian male variations that I have seen notated are of the French-Bournonville sort - and these were notated mostly in the first decade of the 20th century. I have examples from Petipa ballets (though not neccesarily choreographed by him?) and Gorsky.

I think Petipa 'as we know him' ultimately dates from the 1930s/40s/50s, during which time his ballets were revived and altered in Russia (although this process of alteration began earlier with some ballets) - again, a simplification, but this is what I am finding.

The only male variation that comes close to the sort we generally see today in classic full-lengths is Desire's variation from BEAUTY Act III, but even there the notated version seems to be a mix of old and new (it was the version danced by Sergei Legat). It is a ***very*** difficult variation, stamina-wise, and I've never seen it danced, although it is similar in part to some versions danced today.

All in all, I think Russian balletic style in the late 19th century was still very French and the Italian influence was incorporated to the extent it could be compatible with the French style. When I first started working with the notations, I kept thinking how like Bournonville so much of the dances looked. That is, of course, because the Bournonville style retains so many elements of the old French, and the style of 'Petipa' (via the Vaganova school, et al.) has lost much of that.

I am still trying to sort out these ideas and impressions, and I really appreciate all the input. :)

[ 06-10-2001: Message edited by: doug ]

#37 K2356



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Posted 04 January 2002 - 10:32 PM

In the January 1967 issue of Dance Magazine
there is a artical that states that Fedor Lopukhov
claims the credit for the Lilac Fairy Variation
in sleeping beauty.The artical tells a story told
by Mariinsky balletina Elizaveta Pavlovna Gerdt
(who later trained M.Plisetskaya,E.Maximova and other dancers)
the story goes on to say the first interpreter of
the Lilac Fairy was Petipa's daughter Maria.Gertd states Maria Petipa
..."she was no longer young and her plump,heavy
torso was in striking contrast to her slender
beautiful legs in heel shoes.I knew from my
father that she never was a classical dancer and
never danced on pointe.The variation of the
prologue was therefore omitted,restricting the
part of the Lilac Fairy to a mine character.Later
when i took the this part from Lubov Egorova,
about 1910-12,she taught me the variation.Egorova
told me then that she asked Fedor Lopukhov to
produce the variation,which he did very skillfully......"
the artical goes on to say that this variation
known everywhere as a work of Petipa,was really
the work of Lopukhov.

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