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Written record of Ballet

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Beefed up? Major Mel (you really should be promoted to Major General for this!!), what you've done is far more than what I was asking for ... actually your section "The Dances" really addresses my question, especially when combined with "The Story" (syllabus).

Is there anything that contains either those two elements, or just "The Dances", for a significant part of the current ballet repertoire?

Thanks and regards,


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We're building them here, slowly, slowly - I gotta get back to Giselle. I've been researching and drafting, but I really should get that ball rolling again. If you like what you see, you're free to print it for your own use, and take them to any ballet that we will cover (Then tell people where they can find them;) ). Some, of course, will be different from the most usual productions that we find about, although the Giselle we most often see has passed through a Petipa filter. Directors love to fiddle with the basic documents, though, and so finding a "plain-vanilla" version of Swan Lake, say, is getting harder and harder to do.

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re Bilbo's last post on page 1:

BilboBaggins, in your first para, where you say 'syllabus', i assume you mean 'libretto'?


sorry that when i wrote this post, i hadn't seen that there was a page 2. from page 2, i'd like to underline alexandra's comment:

"trust me on this one, Bilbo B -- the market is infinitesimal."


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Originally posted by BilboBaggins

... is there perhaps an annotated syllabus or libretto, so that not only is the plot line described (that's in most program guides), but the key dance movements are identified? What is the ballet equivalent of the Opera Lover's Guide to Operas, providing a syllabus and interposed a gude to the major arias?


Hi Grace:

Yes, I guess I was thinking of a libretto as the full and complete translation of the text [e.g., of an opera], whereas by syllabus I meant an outline or overview of the story, and when I talked about an "annotated syllabus" I was imagining an overview that included the names of particular dance movements associated with given points in the story ....

... and I certainly accept Alexandra's point, which is a commercial reality, although it is sad to think that people who appreciate ballet are unwilling to support more knowledge of such beauty and art ...

and Mel, I will be more than happy to use whatever educational material is available on BA ... and try to add whatever I can to the stream of knowledge, or support those who do ...

As for variations, for me, without a sense of what the "plain" original version was, I may not be able to recognize the variations that subsequent choreographers have added ... gotta start somewhere!



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bilboB - the word 'libretto' is the one usually used, in ballet AS WELL AS in opera, for the storyline. the word 'syllabus' is inclined to mean other things in the ballet world.

i would agree with someone up above who recommended collecting (only the very best of) the programmes offered - those with good background information, rather than lots of advertisements and photos.

i imagine it would be worth your while, to obtain and read cyril beaumont's few books titled 'The Ballet Called .......'. these exist for Giselle and for Swan Lake, but i don't know if there are any others. these come as close as possible to what you are asking for - but of course they are about 50 years old....nevertheless, you will probably find they are obtainable, if you search patiently...and/or contact dancebooks (woops - no longer 'in london') for a used copy.

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i would like to go back to some comments of mel's, which i have been 'ignoring' in an effort to keep the discussion fairly simple and superficial:

I don't believe that reading a notation score would in any way undermine copyright or patent rights to the material recorded. Those who can are free to read whatever they can. It is only when the material so written is plagiarized that the creator's rights come into play.
the first comment is of course true - it is not the READING of the score that breaches copyright, but rather the RECREATING of the encoded material - which might follow from the reading. i thought we would all understand this.


As Benesh was only developed ca. 1955, we are still quite a way from most of the material passing into public domain, but at some time in the future it will. We will have to see then what becomes of the material. The possibility of automobile accidents and jaywalking has not restricted the opening of roads and streets.
this second quote refers to the '50 years beyond the death of the creator' rule. although benesh was created mid-20th century, as many as possible earlier works have been notated (e.g. swan lake, nutcracker, coppelia, ...whatever). therefore, this choreographic material is already well into the public domain, (although the specific PRODUCTIONS aren't - but let's leave THAT out, for now!). these scores exist.

there is quite a bit of (benesh) notated choreography from that 'pre-the 50 years' era, which IS readily available. for example, little booklets of notated solos from the classics, which have been notated quite simply, without too much of the detail which would mark them as belonging to a particular PRODUCTION. in other words - as 'pure' as possible...and therefore regarded as 'fair enough' to put out in the market place.

whether or not the benesh institute still even prints or sells these, i don't know - because so very few people are ABLE to read the stuff, that there really isn't much of a market. but they HAVE been made publicly available in the past.

finally, getting down to mel's last and (to me) most interesting point :

"The possibility of automobile accidents and jaywalking has not restricted the opening of roads and streets."

i'm not going to think too much about this analogy, as the mental picture just confuses me, i'm afraid. :confused: but the point he makes is a valid and significant one:

*we can all buy copies of plays (for example) written by living playwrights - and their copyright is not breached by the TEXT being available. putting it into performance is what breaches the copyright.*

am i right, here? .... i believe so, in your country, as well as mine.

in legal terms, it IS the same with a ballet score - and yet, the reins are held tightly by the powers that be, fearful of plagiarism...

...food for thought, i believe.

thanks for bringing up this point, mel.

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The text/production analogy for a copyright is very apt, and exactly comparable to the notated score for a ballet. I hope that the RAD's initiative has been bearing some fruit, as more and more students become familiar with Benesh, and are able to read the material and may learn generically from it, rather than quoting it outright. It's an important tool for learning about choreography and movement analysis in general. This is a "fair use" utilization of copyrighted works.

Because of relatively recent developments in international copyright and patent agreements and treaties, the old "50-year" doctrine is about as dead as a doornail, though. Rights to a work extend not only to the creator (a new wrinkle, especially valuable to graphic artists), but to the recorder (the choreologist, in the case of ballets), the publisher, and to the archive/library to where the original material is retained. The result is a real mare's nest, and can result in someone trying to arrange all the strands of spaghetti on his plate into straight lines before material can be used. The only thing that everybody agrees upon is that if it were entirely put together before 1926, it's all public domain.:rolleyes:

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that's the bit i was trying to avoid talking about, here.

FOR DANCE - in the UK and in australia, to the best of my knowledge, there are no rights to the storage venue. nor any to the publisher.

also, any rights to the actual 'heiroglyphs' written on the page (as opposed to the choreography) which go to the notator (choreologist), actually go to the company which employed him/her - NOT the individual person (of course this is assuming they were employed to notate, which is almost always the case).

there is also copyright in the PRODUCTION, including the stager's/director's interpretation, the sets, the costumes, presumably the lighting design, etc...

additionally, there is copyright in the actual notation (language) - but that's a whole OTHER vexed issue, which, i'm told by an australian arts lawyer, may in fact be a fantasy of the Benesh Institute....(that's another question which i find fascinating.)

all of the same points should apply, no matter what notation method is used, but it certainly would be interesting to have a laban expert on this board, to compare notes, occasionally.

sorry to have detoured this far, BilboB, but there is always a concern for accuracy of information on this board - that's one of the best things about it.

mel, i checked out that link, above, to your swan lake notes: quite an achievement - i'd never been aware of these before. bravo! :) these should serve BilboB well.

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That's what I mean about the new copyright conventions; they're so convoluted, with individual exceptions for "ancient usage" in some nations, and rights of a transcriptionist written in, that many libraries and archives are now lost in a sea of confusion as to what may be used, and how, and by whom, and when! As with so many things, the effort to simplify has led to a mess that makes many collecting archives nearly worse than useless, no matter what the medium. It's still a running battle, and it's more complex than it ever was before!:)

Thank you for the roses on the Swan Lake pages, there'll be more soon. :)

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