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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    fan, wannabe, humor writer
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  1. That entire clip comes from the wonderful Balanchine documentary, originally on PBS, now available on DVD from www.kultur.com and elsewhere. The brief opening by Martins (used in the Balanchine documentary) was taken from the "Gala" in The Turning Point in 1977. (It's puzzling that they omitted Farrell entirely on the Balanchine documentary, as she appeared briefly in the Gala scene with Martins.) The complete McBride/Baryshnikov version is in the 1978 "Choreography by Balanchine," originally broacast on PBS, later released on VHS, now available on DVD. I don't know where the Verdy, Hayden, and d'Amboise footage came from -- although Balanchine did stage quite a few things for television in the 1950s and 60s, so that seems a likely possibility. The footage of Martins is not from The Turning Point…although I haven’t seen it, it's very possible that it’s from the VHS Peter Martins: A Dancer because the catalog lists it as having the male variation (the costume in the documentary is slightly different from the movie, which would also explain the absence of Farrell). The Turning Point only has a clip from the coda, which was my first encounter with the piece and I fell in love with it then and there, thanks to Suzanne Farrell’s musicality. I’ve scoured the net since and have found many a Tschai Pas, but I believe Balanchine perfected the choreography (at least, for the coda) on Farrell/Martins. For example, the fouettés with the intermittent emboîté en tournant sur les pointe, is something many ballerinas struggle with. A lot of them will do the first half of the emboîté, but instead of placing the second foot onto pointe before the plié, they cheat and dump straight into the plié. A few manage to find that moment on pointe, but can never manage to get it around fast enough, and make it musical. Farrell placed a foot on each pizzicato note with sheer perfection. I also much prefer the fish dives Farrell/Martins did, with Farrell diving face first in a tight fifth position. It’s a much cleaner line, and Martins would catch her midair, swing her down before pulling her up to set her down in arabesque, which completely accents the musical phrase so much better. Many dancers can’t manage that swinging effect, and instead awkwardly catch the ballerina in a retiré position, which unfortunately has a sort of…“splat” effect (though I hate to put it that crudely). Even McBride/Baryshnikov’s version is like this, and I personally don’t like the way it stops the momentum of the piece. I used this picture in my blog to illustrate my point about the lines: Fish Dives - image I don’t mind a virtuosic coda, but more important for me is the illusion of flight…and not in the lofty sense but like running down a hill and being unable to stop yourself. Thus, I also like to see in the final lift that goes offstage, the ballerina extend her leg forward. Seems like dancers outside of NYCB like to arch back and extend their leg straight up, but for me it ruins that sense of forward momentum. To answer the original question, it seems like McBride/Baryshnikov is the definitive performance by default, in my opinion. The only other commercially available releases with the full ballet (the McBride/Olson on The Art of the Pas de Deux is only the Moderato) are the Bussell/Solymosi from the Gala Tribute to Tchaikovsky (which is way too slow…the tempo will make you age!) and Hayden/d’Amboise from Firestone Dances: Historic Ballet Performances. It’s definitely not the footage that was mixed into the clips for the Balanchine documentary, but from around the same time, and has the extended male variation (basically the first 48 counts are repeated). Unfortunately it’s not a great recording, as Hayden has a misstep on a pirouette that throws off her timing in the coda and the camera also catches her walking casually off to the side since it wasn’t on a stage with wings. It is an interesting one though because of the extended male variation, and Hayden does a beautiful variation at lightning speed (the opening of which is slightly different than what Violette Verdy did). The new DVD, Violette Verdy: The Artist Teacher does have Verdy doing just about the full variation minus a second or two at the beginning (though this too is different from the footage in the Balanchine documentary) and I have to say it was my favorite performance of it by far. She’s very upright in it, and her port de bras is so clear, which I think is one of the problems with performances of it today, even with NYCB, is that dancers are putting too much port de bras in it, and it muddles the choreography. Verdy keeps it simple, and your attention is drawn to where it should be, which is her gorgeous (and fast!) feet. Also a note of interest, a fellow balletomane pointed out to me that he looks for the complete phrase in the arabesques en voyage towards the end of the variation, as Verdy completes the phrase into a little assemblé, while many dancers today (outside of NYCB) will do a few, and then cheat by running back and preparing for the turns. My feeling is that it is possible to “own” this ballet, based on the excerpts of Verdy and Farrell/Martins…the footage just isn’t available and remains only in the New York Public Library and in the minds of people who saw them. Of contemporary performances I’ve seen on the internet, I find Angel Corella to be brilliant in it, as he has the lightness and speed to run with it (and also manages the “swing” I mentioned in the fish dives, though not as refined as Martins did). There’s video of him doing the coda with Xiomara Reyes, who was also quite good (haven’t seen her variation or the moderato though). I did see the Ferri/Bocca mentioned, which was nice though she suffers in the coda. Most (if not all) Russians I can’t watch in this pas de deux...they use an unforgivable amount of rubato that does not suit my tastes at all. The French are not as bad, though too soft and a little loosey goosey for me. There are many more I can list but won’t, for fear of the Trust finding them and having them taken down…but for the large part, I found them pretty, but rather unsatisfactory. I guess that’s what happens when Farrell/Martins is your first exposure to the ballet though. My greatest hope is that there’s additional footage from The Turning Point in storage somewhere, with a full gala, and will be an extra feature on a rerelease of the DVD (which is hard to find, and astronomically expensive even for a used copy). Until then, I’m going to keep searching the net, saving videos when I can and Frankenstein the good bits together.
  2. Correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, but at least some of that Depression-era art was created under government sponsorship by way of the 'put people to work' programs. I don't know if any ballet or other dance was created as a result of these programs during the Depression, but that might be an interesting avenue to explore: governments tend to focus on 'needs' and if scarce funds were allocated for the arts, then somebody must have thought the arts and artists were 'needed' in some sense beyond simply providing the basic necessities of life (e.g., food and shelter) for the general population. That's actually a great point...I hadn't thought of that! I was also recently reminded of a quote from Theophile Gautier (balletomane as well as the writer of the libretto for Giselle), which might inspire some ideas... He was very big on creating art for art's sake, and I would definitely recommend in depth research on him not just for his reasonings on valuing the arts but because of his deep connection with ballet. There's bound to be something specific that can be applied to an argument.
  3. Unfortunately I don't have the article on hand, but considering the economy (assuming you're American!) there have been a number of articles lately dealing with the importance of the arts as a whole, because of budget cuts for programming and because people are trying to save money. So there are definitely some good resources to make this a very relevant and current topic! (If I find that article, I'll post a link). What I took from that article though is that we don't need the arts. But they give life purpose, and empower us in a way to distinguish us from animals. Everything else we do can be seen in the animal kingdom...working to survive, a capacity for love, compassion for others and playing. But when animals sing, dance or create an artistic display of some kind, it's to attract a mate for procreation. They can't create art out of passion. But back to the topic of funding, even with a lack of funding the arts can never be eradicated. There was amazing art being created during the Great Depression, and it might just be that desperation is what fosters the growth of the finest art. This is something Carlos Acosta feels has made him a better dancer than many others because for him, ballet is truly his life, while in a society like America which has many luxuries, art becomes a hobby and artists are regarded as hobbyists. An interesting sub topic might be how money has affected ballet, which is regarded as one of the more opulent and expensive arts and how it could/would continue when there isn't so much money to go around. Or why it should continue as is, when it is indeed so expensive.
  4. I've been thinking about writing a novel too (a search turned up this topic) and I think you should avoid naming too many steps. I'm looking for answers about copyrights and such too, but what I have found is that for songs, one can mention a song title, but must mention who it's by. But when you quote actual lyrics, you have a problem and that requires special permission (there is some debate as to whether you can quote a line or two, but not an entire stanza...it's complex). Apparently, it's a generally avoided practice to quote lyrics unless it's absolutely essential to the story. If it's the same in dance, I'm guessing mentioning a ballet and who it's by is ok, but listing specific steps would be like quoting lyrics. I'm sure you can describe what the choreography is like, and insert a step or two like "she sprung into the air in a magnificent sissone," since a sissone by itself can't be copyrighted, but then listing the immediate steps afterward is probably not good.
  5. This is kind of an odd topic and a search through the forums archives gave me some info, but does anyone have insight into copyrights and ballets? I've thought about writing a novel, just kind of a fun story (nothing dramatic or serious...I'm no good with that kind of stuff) set at a fictional world class ballet company. However, I'm stumped...I feel like briefly describing a ballet company's entire season is kind of integral to the story for realism. Things are always dicey for Balanchine stuff, and maybe Ashton and MacMillan as well? From what I gather, because they are deceased, mentioning them as a person should be ok...like if a character said: "who does he think he is, Balanchine himself?" But it looks to get dicier when it mentions a work...like if a character said "Yeah, they performed Balanchine's Agon last season." I would think this would be ok, because I've done a little research and apparently mentioning song titles (as long as the composer/performer is mentioned as well) is ok, but quoting lyrics requires special permission, so I likened it to listing steps in choreography. Obviously, I'm not going to lay out every single step in a ballet, or even a significant sections of choreography, although I might insert "arabesque" or "fouette" or a step here and there. As a poster said, it was a better idea to evoke a feeling rather than decribe steps themselves, and that's probably what I'd shoot for, because I want it to be readable to a general audience. I mean, Manon was a ballet that I fell in love with, and would to be able to write about that experience a bit with a character maybe seeing it for the first time and having a short conversation with other characters about it...I just don't know if that's legal? Or Symphonic Variations was another ballet that really moved me...but RB has exclusive rights to it I think, so would I have to mention RB? Or can a fictional company just perform it, even if a company in the real world needs rights to do so? Plus, I like to make jokes, and who knows how that would work. I'm sure Giselle is in the public domain, but I think of scenes like maybe someone dresses as a ghost for Halloween and someone else says "It's GISELLE!" or something stupid like that. I can't imagine the Balanchine Trust would be thrilled if I made a joke like that involving one of his ballets...but I want to. I guess these are better questions for a publisher, but I would hate to write an entire novel just to have a publisher tell me it was a copyright mine field. Any help or ideas would be most appreciated!
  6. youdancefunny


    I'm Steve and this, is my story. I discovered ballet whilst a college student, and have basically been obsessed ever since. I was (am?) a classically trained flautist, and was always the geeky kind of person to buy classical music cd's rather than what's new or "in" (this, I DEFINITELY still am). Naturally, ballet fits my tastes like the chocolate coating on a truffle and I loved being able to dance to music that I could relate to. I read and learn as much about ballet as I can, but with a light hearted approach. History was never my strongest subject in school, and accordingly I will never be able to have an intelligent opinion on the history of ballet, or even an intelligent opinion about ballet in general. In fact, I'm pretty easily pleased when it comes to ballet because I like just about everything...I feel like a kid in a candy store discovering a whole world for the very first time. Sometimes I wish I could have started ballet as a kid, but I also think there's something unique about learning all there is to it as an adult. Or not. I started blogging about ballet (and a little bit about other dance forms, but mostly ballet) at the beginning of the summer, to record a life changing experience. I had seen my local ballet company (BalletMet) do a few productions in college, with the only full length work being Romeo & Juliet (which, I actually hate the story and the score...poo). Correction...I know I saw Nutcracker, but I can't remember if that was high school or college. Anyway, the life changing experience I referred to earlier was getting to see two major international companies perform, under pretty crazy circumstances...Bolshoi performed Le Corsaire at the Kennedy Center, and Royal Ballet was there just a week after with Manon. I was going to be on vacation in Washington DC to visit family, and the stars had aligned for me to have the opportunity to see two amazing companies within a week! Hallelujah! I won't lie...I was really excited for Bolshoi because I didn't know that much at the time and thought the Russians were the big deal...but I absolutely fell in love with the Royal Ballet (and Manon...and Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo), so RB is my favorite company. Plus, Bolshoi changed principal casting on me, and I didn't get to see Natalia Osipova as planned, and I'm a little bitter about it. But I know I was still lucky...I may never find a way out of this town to see one of the top companies to perform again, so I feel incredibly fortunate. So, I live through the internet, try with varying degrees of success to blog about ballet in humorous ways, and know what I like and like what I know. Nice to meet you!
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