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2017 Fall Season

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42 minutes ago, Barbara said:

I saw Reichlin/Jantzen do the Balanchine one act Swan last winter season and they brought me to tears. I don't know if I can bring myself to see the Martin's Swan. I suppose if I sat through the Bolshoi's I should give the Martin's a try. Thoughts?

 

The scenery is horribly garish. It always takes me the better part of the first act/scene to get over it, but it does get better from there.

Two things in its favor - the music is played beautifully, with much more depth and urgency than at ABT. And the ending is devastating - truly tragic.

I'd try to go see Mearns, she's magnificent. Not a standard O/O if she was dancing this with a traditional company, but the most traditional of the NYCB O/Os (so far), and yet with her own idiosyncratic take on the role, and thrilling dancing. I'm sure we'll see her on opening night. .

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19 minutes ago, Barbara said:

I saw Reichlin/Jantzen do the Balanchine one act Swan last winter season and they brought me to tears. I don't know if I can bring myself to see the Martin's Swan. I suppose if I sat through the Bolshoi's I should give the Martin's a try. Thoughts?

 

Sigh. This is a tough one. I despise Martins' Swan. First and foremost, it's an ugly production - any eyesore pure and simple. The sets and costumes aren't just hard to look at: they aren't theatrical - i.e., they do nothing to help tell the story by providing context or a dramatic frame. This is a problem because Martins has so stripped his version of any effective storytelling that it leaves his dancers without much space to create a genuine, dramatic resonance. T. Reichlen and T. Angle -- who managed to wring a whole Tudor ballet out of the last five minutes of the "Wienerwald" section of Vienna Waltzes (that's the first section) -- could do nothing with it despite some pretty glorious dancing. 

 

So, there are dancers one wants to see, but they're pitted against a production that works against their talents at every step.

 

In any event, I've vowed to stay away from this production until Martins decides to stop casting Von Rothbart with dancers of color. 

 

 

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On 8/26/2017 at 1:10 PM, Barbara said:

I saw Reichlin/Jantzen do the Balanchine one act Swan last winter season and they brought me to tears. I don't know if I can bring myself to see the Martin's Swan. I suppose if I sat through the Bolshoi's I should give the Martin's a try. Thoughts?

 

I wouldn’t miss Swan Lake.  While it is not my favorite production, ABT and the Bolshoi’s Swan Lakes have their problems as well.   At least with NYCB, you can always count on seeing outstanding dancers at every performance.  Sure, I prefer some dancers over others, but I never have to worry about getting stuck getting with “Cast D”.  NYCB is chock full of remarkable dancers these days.

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On 8/26/2017 at 2:02 PM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Sigh. This is a tough one. I despise Martins' Swan. First and foremost, it's an ugly production - any eyesore pure and simple.

 

In any event, I've vowed to stay away from this production until Martins decides to stop casting Von Rothbart with dancers of color. 

 

 

 

What a shame that you hate the production so much.  Of course to each his own, but I guess I don’t understand your comment with regard to Von Rothbart.  If you are skipping NYCB’s Swan Lake because of Von Rothbart casting, then I have to assume that you also skip ABT’s Swan Lake.   Just for the record, it was an absolute joy to see ABT’s Calvin Royal III dancing Von Rothbart this year.  He’s a handsome and thrilling dancer.  I can’t wait to see more of him dancing lead roles. 

 

In the meantime,  I am going through ballet withdrawal, and look forward to NYCB's fall season, which for me, includes Martins Swan Lake. 

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33 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

 

What a shame that you hate the production so much.  Of course to each his own, but I guess I don’t understand your comment with regard to Von Rothbart.  If you are skipping NYCB’s Swan Lake because of Von Rothbart casting, then I have to assume that you also skip ABT’s Swan Lake.   Just for the record, it was an absolute joy to see ABT’s Calvin Royal III dancing Von Rothbart this year.  He’s a handsome and thrilling dancer.  I can’t wait to see more of him dancing lead roles. 

 

In the meantime,  I am going through ballet withdrawal, and look forward to NYCB's fall season, which for me, includes Martins Swan Lake. 

 

I should have worded my original post more carefully. There have been many seasons in which NYCB exclusively cast Von Rothbart with dancers of color: Fall 2015, for example, when Silas Farley and Preston Chamblee alternated in the role, which unfortunately makes it seem like skin color is the determining factor. I sat through more than one performance featuring the magnificent Albert Evans as Rothbart and the underwhelming Nilas Martins as Siegfried.  I dunno, maybe I was in the tank for Evans, but that just seemed nuts to me -- and unfortunately it's a pattern that seems to have persisted. It strikes me as tone-deaf at best (especially in the current environment), and it pains me every time it happens. The company has plenty of good things it could (and should!) give both Farley and Preston to do, and its version of Rothbart isn't much of a of break-out opportunity in any event.

 

ABT's situation is very different: many of its principal and up-and-coming dancers rotate through the "Purple Rothbart" role and it would be surprising if a dancer the company viewed as a genuine prospect didn't get a crack at it. There is little doubt in my mind that ABT cast Royal in the role because of his talent and I would have been happy to see him perform it.

 

Finally, I gather I am the only balletomane on the planet who doesn't like Swan Lake. Heck, I don't even like the Maryinksy production. But yes, I find Martins' version a special kind of hell. (My favorite version is Matthew Bourne's; that's how warped I am about this particular ballet.)

 

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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Finally, I gather I am the only balletomane on the planet who doesn't like Swan Lake. Heck, I don't even like the Maryinksy production. But yes, I find Martins' version a special kind of hell. (My favorite version is Matthew Bourne's; that's how warped I am about this particular ballet.)

 

 

I wouldn't say "warped" -- more like unusual.  Perhaps not a question for this thread, but I'd be curious to know what about the ballet doesn't appeal to you?

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35 minutes ago, sandik said:

 

I wouldn't say "warped" -- more like unusual.  Perhaps not a question for this thread, but I'd be curious to know what about the ballet doesn't appeal to you?

 

Short answer:

 

1) I don't find that the transition from swans to maidens to swans again is clear enough theatrically and I find the attempted mimesis of the whole swan arms thing utterly annoying. 

 

2) Plot silliness masquerading as eternal truth. Ether Sigfried is a giant dolt for not being able to distinguish Odette from Odile or the whole broken vow thing is a false test: if Odile is in every way a faithful replica of Odette, and Sigfried thinks he's asking for Odette's hand, he hasn't broken his vow in any meaningful sense. (I have a similar problem with Tristan and Isolde: how meaningful is their love if a magic potion was required to achieve it, but I digress ...)

 

3) Meh. Not a fan of maiden-as-love's-victim. Give me Swanilda, thank you very much.

 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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For me I view the Odette/Odile issue as how we all have an ideal love, but we are momentarily stunned by "red hot sex" or the "fun person" (the superficial stuff)......it is human. It happens. Everything is a metaphor.....We can be dazzled by people we shouldn't be dazzled by and almost lose the whole game. I find it very human and timeless.

 

I do have to defend Tristan und Isolde. In the opera there have been productions that imply Brangaene did indeed give them the "death" potion and not the love potion as she says. And facing future death they realized their love. Remember, the final aria is the Liebestod (Love Death). Regardless, the love potion is actually a metaphor too....the opera actually takes the more concrete story of the origional middle ages tale and creates a very metaphysical universe where love is like death and we become one with the universe by loving and dissolving into death/universe/love.......it is actually very deep. I would not read Tristan und Isolde concretely. It is mystical, spiritual, deep, complicated...,,

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28 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

For me I view the Odette/Odile issue as how we all have an ideal love, but we are momentarily stunned by "red hot sex" or the "fun person" (the superficial stuff)......it is human. It happens. Everything is a metaphor.....We can be dazzled by people we shouldn't be dazzled by and almost lose the whole game. I find it very human and timeless.

 

This seems right to me. I don't tend to think of ballet narrative as realist drama.

 

Edited to add:

Or Wagnerian narrative, for that matter.

 

Edited by nanushka

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I agree w. Kathleen that NYCB's tendency to cast only black dancers as Rothbart  (a character role, not a dancing role)  is offensive.  I hope that the trend does not continue when it is revived this fall. 

 

Edited by abatt

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20 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Short answer:

 

1) I don't find that the transition from swans to maidens to swans again is clear enough theatrically and I find the attempted mimesis of the whole swan arms thing utterly annoying. 

 

2) Plot silliness masquerading as eternal truth. Ether Sigfried is a giant dolt for not being able to distinguish Odette from Odile or the whole broken vow thing is a false test: if Odile is in every way a faithful replica of Odette, and Sigfried thinks he's asking for Odette's hand, he hasn't broken his vow in any meaningful sense. (I have a similar problem with Tristan and Isolde: how meaningful is their love if a magic potion was required to achieve it, but I digress ...)

 

3) Meh. Not a fan of maiden-as-love's-victim. Give me Swanilda, thank you very much.

 

 

Thanks so much for the specifics.  I have a similar conversation often with modern/contemporary dancers who have a certain disdain for ballet and cannot understand why I find it intellectually fulfilling.

 

I had the good fortune of seeing Cynthia Gregory in act two many years ago, and the clarity of her upper body detail was such that I had no trouble at all with the moment of transformation.  Although very few performers have had the same effect on me in subsequent performances, I still carry that with me into the theater when I go to see the ballet. 

 

I think actually the trouble with Siegfried isn't the fact that he's fooled by Odile (there's a certain suspension of disbelief in live theater when it comes to "twins" that we don't deal with in films), but his youth in general.  He's often played as a boy who is trying to establish himself as a man, but the "surly teen" possibilities in the scenario ("no I won't do what you tell me to do") make it hard for him to appear as a serious romantic hero, who is usually more autonomous.  Even though children in real life are not absolved of the consequences of their choices (physics being what it is) we have a tendency towards forgiveness for kids that we don't have for adults.

 

So if you're having trouble with the "woman as victim" theme, I assume that Giselle is a problem too?

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18 hours ago, Birdsall said:

Everything is a metaphor.....

 

:offtopic: Moderators - please move this to another thread if you think it appropriate!

 

Nope. I'm taking the plots at their word. Indeed, I take plots both literally and seriously (:wink:) because in narrative forms like story ballets they are the engine of meaning. This has nothing to do with "realism" in the sense of absolute fidelity to observed reality: a work can be both fantastical and serious at once provided it is intellectually consistent. That's what proper world-building is all about. What I'm arguing is that Swan Lake doesn't have the kind of intellectual, moral, or psychological consistency that, say, Giselle and La Sylphide have, despite the fact that both of the latter rely heavily on the supernatural. I think this makes them better ballets, but of course your mileage may vary. (If I never saw Swan Lake again, my life would not be materially altered for the worse, but I'd be absolutely disconsolate at the thought of losing La Sylphide, which I think is just about the most perfect story ballet ever.) 

 

Swan Lake's plot has the following key drivers: 

 

1) Odette is under an enchantment from which she can only be released by an unbroken vow of first and true love.

2) Prince Siegfried must choose a bride at his 21st birthday ball, because that's what grown-up princes do.

3) Rothbart tricks Siegfried into breaking his vow to Odette via a ruse -- disguising his daughter Odile so that she looks like Odette -- perpetrated at the very ball at which Siegfried must choose his bride.

4) Siegfried rushes off to beg forgiveness for his (presumed) betrayal. 

5) Note that there is no ending here! More on that below.

 

(I'm talking about the 1895 libretto; the 1877 version is rather different in a number of key respects, including Benno's not being fooled by Odile and a rather grim ending which features neither redemption nor the triumph of true love over evil. It's a better plot.)

 

So, Siegfried thinks he's (ahem no pun intended) killing two birds with one stone:  he's being true to both Odette and his social obligation to marry. Siegfried isn't undone because he thinks Odile is smokin' hot; he's undone because he thinks she's Odette. In essence, Rothbart gets him on a technicality. As far as I'm concerned, this makes the ballet hollow at its core. We are set up to believe that Siegfried has done something for which he must beg forgiveness and by which Odette will be forever doomed, but what is his crime? Although he doesn't perceive the spectral Odette pleading with him not to be deceived -- which is potentially some kind of moral failing -- why would he when he has every reason to believe he's got the flesh and blood Odette right there in front of him? I've yet to see a staging where that spectral Odette is more than a dim figure far away from center stage; half the time the audience doesn't notice her. If Siegfried's crime is being deceived when he shouldn't have been, the staging and choreography need to make that the focal point of the act. (As it happens the focal point seems to be counting fouéttes) Now, I can imagine different staging / choreography that would render Siegfried's inability to perceive the spectral -- but true -- Odette a genuine moral culpability, but that would make it impossible for the same ballerina to dance both roles, and there isn't an AD on the planet who'd even think of touching that one.

 

Finally, I think it's telling that every director seems to believe that they can change the ending without doing violence to the whole -- or perhaps even believes that by changing the ending they're fixing something. A Choose Your Own Adventure approach to dramaturgy doesn't suggest a coherent dramatic arc. In theory, my outline of the plot should have included the ending, but now we are treated to everything from living happily ever after to death and destruction. But no matter which ending we get, it doesn't really solve the problem of that hollow core. 

 

Not to digress too much, but here's my problem with the love-potion in Tristan: it absolves Tristan and Isolde of any moral agency. I'd find it a more interesting drama if Tristan and Isolde fell in love without the aid of a potion, despite their past history and in full consciousness of their transgression. 

I do give Wagner full props for the Tristan chord and the impact his use of chromaticism had on common practice tonality. (The Tristan Chord was my ringtone for a while, which is about the geekiest thing imaginable). 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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4 minutes ago, sandik said:

So if you're having trouble with the "woman as victim" theme, I assume that Giselle is a problem too?

 

Yes and no. I think the ballet gives us leave to rage against the agents of Giselle's victimization: Albrecht's unthinking cruelty and the social structure that has trapped them both. Every now and then I do get annoyed with her having to save him, though.  

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On 8/27/2017 at 2:37 PM, NinaFan said:

 

What a shame that you hate the production so much.  Of course to each his own, but I guess I don’t understand your comment with regard to Von Rothbart.  If you are skipping NYCB’s Swan Lake because of Von Rothbart casting, then I have to assume that you also skip ABT’s Swan Lake.   Just for the record, it was an absolute joy to see ABT’s Calvin Royal III dancing Von Rothbart this year.  He’s a handsome and thrilling dancer.  I can’t wait to see more of him dancing lead roles. 

 

In the meantime,  I am going through ballet withdrawal, and look forward to NYCB's fall season, which for me, includes Martins Swan Lake. 

Agreed. This is getting ridiculous. Now we're offended when black dancers are cast? Btw, Von Rothbart was one of Albert Evans' signature and favorite roles. Maybe Martins and the ballet masters have found that Chamblee and Farley have the theatricality needed to portray an over-the-top villain. 

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14 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

Agreed. This is getting ridiculous. Now we're offended when black dancers are cast? Btw, Von Rothbart was one of Albert Evans' signature and favorite roles. Maybe Martins and the ballet masters have found that Chamblee and Farley have the theatricality needed to portray an over-the-top villain. 

 

Nope. I'm offended if dancers are cast because they are black. 

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2 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I'm taking the plots at their word. Indeed, I take plots both literally and seriously (:wink:) because in narrative forms like story ballets they are the engine of meaning.

 

I wish I could put into words exactly how I experience both narrative and non-narrative ballet (I'll continue to think, and perhaps try), but I'm pretty sure this is not it. Even when a work has a narrative, that to me is not "the engine of meaning." It's more like an underlying structure on which meaning is then built up through the emotional and associational resonances of dance movement. In this way, I don't really experience a Petipa narrative ballet and a Balanchine non-narrative ballet all that differently. To me, it just doesn't really matter all that much if the narrative structure is thin, nonsensical, contrived, illogical, silly, racist, or any of the other things that the stories of narrative ballets so often are. That's not where the real meaning of the work lies for me. Or maybe meaning isn't even the right word?

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1 minute ago, nanushka said:

 

Even when a work has a narrative, that to me is not "the engine of meaning." It's more like an underlying structure on which meaning is then built up through the emotional and associational resonances of dance movement. 

 

I don't think this is very much different from what I was referring to with "engine of meaning." The plot is the mechanism by which the characters reveal themselves to us; they are what they do (or don't do, as the case may be) and how they do it.

 

To me, a non-narrative ballet depicts or evokes an emotional state or a state of mind; it doesn't tell us much about what provoked that state of mind beyond the basics: "we're in love!" or "I grieve." A narrative ballet places that emotional state in the context of some specific action or situation: "the guy I don't love just informed me that the guy I do love has betrayed me and I am so out of my mind with grief that I will now proceed to dance myself to death."

 

I don't ask for much plot; as Balanchine put it, how much story do you need? But I do draw the line at some things: a racist plot would be one. A frothy plot is fine; a contrived one less so. Plots also imply a moral arc: some are worth attending to; some are better off abandoned.

 

And I absolutely agree with you regarding the affective potential of dance: it is body language in its most potent form. It is ideally suited to the ineffable. 

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Thanks to all for these thoughtful comments about narrative, plot and meaning, dance and the ineffable, Swan Lake, Giselle, female victimization and so on. I learn from so much from my fellow BA members. You give me much to think about. 

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9 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

:offtopic: Moderators - please move this to another thread if you think it appropriate!

 

Nope. I'm taking the plots at their word. Indeed, I take plots both literally and seriously (:wink:) because in narrative forms like story ballets they are the engine of meaning. This has nothing to do with "realism" in the sense of absolute fidelity to observed reality: a work can be both fantastical and serious at once provided it is intellectually consistent. That's what proper world-building is all about. What I'm arguing is that Swan Lake doesn't have the kind of intellectual, moral, or psychological consistency that, say, Giselle and La Sylphide have, despite the fact that both of the latter rely heavily on the supernatural. I think this makes them better ballets, but of course your mileage may vary. (If I never saw Swan Lake again, my life would not be materially altered for the worse, but I'd be absolutely disconsolate at the thought of losing La Sylphide, which I think is just about the most perfect story ballet ever.) 

 

Swan Lake's plot has the following key drivers: 

 

1) Odette is under an enchantment from which she can only be released by an unbroken vow of first and true love.

2) Prince Siegfried must choose a bride at his 21st birthday ball, because that's what grown-up princes do.

3) Rothbart tricks Siegfried into breaking his vow to Odette via a ruse -- disguising his daughter Odile so that she looks like Odette -- perpetrated at the very ball at which Siegfried must choose his bride.

4) Siegfried rushes off to beg forgiveness for his (presumed) betrayal. 

5) Note that there is no ending here! More on that below.

 

(I'm talking about the 1895 libretto; the 1877 version is rather different in a number of key respects, including Benno's not being fooled by Odile and a rather grim ending which features neither redemption nor the triumph of true love over evil. It's a better plot.)

 

So, Siegfried thinks he's (ahem no pun intended) killing two birds with one stone:  he's being true to both Odette and his social obligation to marry. Siegfried isn't undone because he thinks Odile is smokin' hot; he's undone because he thinks she's Odette. In essence, Rothbart gets him on a technicality. As far as I'm concerned, this makes the ballet hollow at its core. We are set up to believe that Siegfried has done something for which he must beg forgiveness and by which Odette will be forever doomed, but what is his crime? Although he doesn't perceive the spectral Odette pleading with him not to be deceived -- which is potentially some kind of moral failing -- why would he when he has every reason to believe he's got the flesh and blood Odette right there in front of him? I've yet to see a staging where that spectral Odette is more than a dim figure far away from center stage; half the time the audience doesn't notice her. If Siegfried's crime is being deceived when he shouldn't have been, the staging and choreography need to make that the focal point of the act. (As it happens the focal point seems to be counting fouéttes) Now, I can imagine different staging / choreography that would render Siegfried's inability to perceive the spectral -- but true -- Odette a genuine moral culpability, but that would make it impossible for the same ballerina to dance both roles, and there isn't an AD on the planet who'd even think of touching that one.

 

Finally, I think it's telling that every director seems to believe that they can change the ending without doing violence to the whole -- or perhaps even believes that by changing the ending they're fixing something. A Choose Your Own Adventure approach to dramaturgy doesn't suggest a coherent dramatic arc. In theory, my outline of the plot should have included the ending, but now we are treated to everything from living happily ever after to death and destruction. But no matter which ending we get, it doesn't really solve the problem of that hollow core. 

 

Not to digress too much, but here's my problem with the love-potion in Tristan: it absolves Tristan and Isolde of any moral agency. I'd find it a more interesting drama if Tristan and Isolde fell in love without the aid of a potion, despite their past history and in full consciousness of their transgression. 

I do give Wagner full props for the Tristan chord and the impact his use of chromaticism had on common practice tonality. (The Tristan Chord was my ringtone for a while, which is about the geekiest thing imaginable). 

 

Ok, big fun here!

In general, I don't look to classical era ballets for great swathes of dramatic consistency.  I do look for technical innovation and development, because in my big book of ballet, that's what Petipa was all about.  Everyone's favorite anecdote about Petipa is (or at least the dance historian types I hang out with love to remind you that) he would pick up whole variations and move them around (with their scores intact) from ballet to ballet depending on who was performing and what their special skills were.  The element that he seems to have held onto from the original court ballet was the idea of physical virtuosity in the context of what would seem to us today like a variety show -- act after act of special skills, linked together mostly because one followed the other in the schedule.  He loved a festive ending, with everyone dancing their best bits.  When he has to tell a story, he often relies on familiar tales (like Sleeping Beauty or chunks of Corsaire) -- otherwise the plots are pretty spotty, as you point out here.

 

My theory (you knew I had to have one) is that Swan Lake is actually two different ballets.  The earthly acts (1 and 3) are echt Petipa with set pieces and novelty acts all over the place.  Yes, there are some characters, and they have some plot, but mostly it's about the technical thrill.  The drama is melodrama, and sits separately from the virtuosic material, almost like aria and recitative in opera.  The unearthly acts (2 and 4) are long aria-like sequences that reflect back onto the spiritual imagery of the Romantic period.  They aren't specifically recreations of Romantic era materials, but they reflect that work, both technically and narratively. 

 

I know that it's bascially an accident that the work had two different choreographers, and that Ivanov is supposed to be working from Petipa's notes, but I still think there are so many disparate elements between the acts.  Even the musical score seems distinct to me.  But fundamentally, it boils down to this for me -- I believe that if Petipa had been well enough to complete the whole work, it would have been a significantly different production.  Ivanov is looking forward to Fokine here.
 

 

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9 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Yes and no. I think the ballet gives us leave to rage against the agents of Giselle's victimization: Albrecht's unthinking cruelty and the social structure that has trapped them both. Every now and then I do get annoyed with her having to save him, though.  

 

I loved teaching the Romantic era when I taught dance history, in part because I think a chunk of the fundamental elements of Romanticism line up with/are supported by the fundamental elements of ballet technique, especially for women at that period.  Especially in something like Sylphide, where the relationship between pointework and the supernatural is so obvious it gets a bit uncomfortable sometimes, but even in Giselle, where all young women dance on pointe unless they are Bathilde, it seems to me that Giselle's skill at dancing is almost otherworldly.  But beyond that, I think that Giselle is all about love -- that it is a force unto itself, that it can destroy as well as heal.  Alberecht is both redeemed by Giselle's love and

punished by it -- living for the rest of his life with someone who has forgiven him he will never forget those fundamental experiences.

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I've reconsidered and decided I should at least see this Swan Lake once. I feel certain the orchestra will play beautifully so there's that. Given my work/vacation schedule the date I landed on is Tuesday Sept 26. Not sure who will be dancing but would be happy with practically any of the dancers. Perhaps not Bouder in this role; love her in so many things but not sure about O/O. Time will tell. Thanks for all your thoughtful insights.

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14 hours ago, sandik said:

 

My theory (you knew I had to have one) is that Swan Lake is actually two different ballets.  The earthly acts (1 and 3) are echt Petipa with set pieces and novelty acts all over the place.  Yes, there are some characters, and they have some plot, but mostly it's about the technical thrill.  The drama is melodrama, and sits separately from the virtuosic material, almost like aria and recitative in opera.  The unearthly acts (2 and 4) are long aria-like sequences that reflect back onto the spiritual imagery of the Romantic period.  They aren't specifically recreations of Romantic era materials, but they reflect that work, both technically and narratively. 

 

 

I think you gave my rant more thought than it deserved!

 

Yours is a helpful reminder that at a certain point in time, a ballet was intended to be a SHOW: spectacle, pyrotechnic display, melodrama, nods to the memes of the day (spectral maidens), specialty acts (national dances) etc. The formal elements -- the standard pas-de-deux with alternating variations and a coda; the entertainment-within-an-entertainment divertissements; the white acts; happy peasants dancing for the royals; etc. -- kept the proceedings legible: everybody knew what to expect when. I wonder if we've lost some of that legibility as directors have pushed and pulled some of these story ballets out of shape?

 

I wonder if there was a ballet equivalent to opera's aria di sorbetto: an aria for a secondary character that does nothing to advance the plot but does give you a chance to grab a snack before the evening ends.

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Indeed, it is always useful to remember that the conventions of audience behavior/attention/etc. were very different in earlier eras, and that those differences had a significant impact on the expectations, choices and values of creators, artists and audiences.

 

It's also important to keep in mind that what falls apart in the intense light of reflective scrutiny may in fact work much better in live performance. In Shakespeare, for example, there are narrative inconsistencies that become quite obvious when one is reading the plays and giving them academic-style analytical attention — but of course that's not what Shakespeare was writing for. He was writing for a live audience, and as long as it worked in the theatre, he likely didn't give a hoot what any subsequent quibbler might have to say.

 

(Which isn't to suggest that Kathleen's points are those of a mere quibbler or that the problems she notes wouldn't be at all apparent in live performance — just extending the discussion one further step.)

 

Edited by nanushka

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55 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Indeed, it is always useful to remember that the conventions of audience behavior/attention/etc. were very different in earlier eras, and that those differences had a significant impact on the expectations, choices and values of creators, artists and audiences.

 

 

I realized this when I first read Stendahl's The Charterhouse of Parma. I think half the meaningful dialogue takes place in an opera box while an opera is in progress!

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