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  1. There seems to me to be two versions of the ballet “Bolero,” one which is set in some type of tavern or cafe and in which there are more interactions between the main female dancer and the male dancers (I suspect that this is the original choreographed by Bronislava Nijiska) and the second which is more abstract, with simply a circle table that a woman dancers on and which the men dance around with little or no interaction between the woman and the men. I have also seen the second version with a man dancing in the middle and with men dancing around. A new take on this ballet could be to occasionally have a man dancing on the table surrounded by women as a gender switch. Also, could anyone tell me if the first version of “Bolero” as described above is the original choreographed by Bronislava. Tom,
  2. It seems to me that various productions of The Sleeping Beauty assign various names and gifts to the fairies in the prolog. In Tchaikovski’s original score at the Tchaikovsky research website the names of the good fairies are given as: Candide, Coulante: The Fairy of Blooming Wheat, Breadcrumb, The Singing Canary, Violante and The Lilac Fairy. Most of these names give me only a vague if any idea of what the gift would be, but here is a website that gives an explanation for all of the names: https://expressionplatform.com/the-fairies-of-sleeping-beauty/. Candide (Candour) = Purity, honesty, sincerity and integrity Coulante: The Fairy of Blooming Wheat (Fleur de farine) = Beauty Breadcrumb (Miettes qui tombent) = Generosity Singing Canary = Lovely, melodious voice Violente (finger fairy) = Force, passion and temperament Lilac Fairy = Wisdom What is interesting is that Aurora never got the gift of wisdom. The website gives interesting, expanded explanations as to the connections between the names and the gifts and how they fit into Russian traditions. It also gives the names of the fairies from other productions of the ballet. In Perrsult’s story, the fairies are not given names and six of the young fairies give gifts of, beauty, wit, grace, dancing perfectly well, singing like a nightingale and to be able to play all kinds of music to the utmost perfection, while the seventh young fairy hid behind some hangings as she correctly suspects the old fairy is going do some harm. Tom,
  3. Diane, thank you for your kind comment that this information is “Intriguing!” and with an exclamation mark even. Also thank you Cuban and Volcano for your helpful information. I agree that the Ogre and boys is a weird number. According to the original score for the ballet, there are 558 bars of music between the start of Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat to the end of Tom Thumb. Of that a total of 228 (41%) is for Cinderella and her Prince, 75 bars (13%) for Tom Thumb, 68 bars (12%) for Little Red Riding Hood, 44 bars (8%) for Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat and 25 bars (5%) for the Blue Bird and Princess Florine. In addition there is a total of 118 bars (21%) for Adagio and Coda under Pas de quatre. I’m guessing that all four - Cinderella, her Prince, The BlueBird and Princess Florine dance together during those two sections. This means that Cinderella and her Prince were originally given the most dance time and the BlueBird and Princess Florine - which it seems to me now get the most - had relatively little dance time, particularly by themselves. In Bronislava Nijinska’s Early Memoirs there is a short chapter entitled “Nijinsky Dances the Blue Bird” (chapter 24, pages 207 to 210). It was pointed out that prior to Nijinsky dancing the role “Only the large rigid wings mounted on a wire frame served to identify the character as a bird.” These “. . . large wings extended upwards from the shoulder in a curved shape and covered the arms and hands.” The dancer also wore an “elaborate full-skirted coat.” It was further noted that “In the original costume a dancer could only perform the pas with his legs; his body was encumbered by the large rigid wings.” However, Nijinsky changed this. “The birdlike wings were part of his dancing body; his arms did not bend at the elbow, but the movement as in the wing of a bird was generated in the shoulder; the movements of the dancing body were the movements of a bird in fight.” According to this chapter “Nijinsky had created a whole new theatrical image of the Blue Bird.” This performance was in 1907. Nijinsky’s re-interpretation of this dance may have been the spark that shifted the emphasis from Cinderella to the Blue Bird. So, it may be the case that it wasn’t only that the Cinderella music was removed, but also some of Cinderella's music may have gone to the Blue Bird. I feel a similarity between the dance of the Blue Bird and that of the Spirit of the Rose, which Nijinsky originated. Tom,
  4. As perhaps all people on this website know Tchakovski’s 1889 ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” was taken from Charles Perrsult’s 1693 fairy-tale “La belle au bois dormant” (“The Sleeping beauty In The Woods.”) In addition, according to the Tchaikovsky research website - see here: https://en.tchaikovsky-research.net/pages/The_Sleeping_Beauty, there are characters from six other fairy-tales entertaining the wedding guests during the third act. These tales are “Le Maistre Chat, ou le Chat Botté” (“The Master Cat or Puss-in-Boots”), “La chat blanc” (“The White Cat”), “Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre,” (“Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper”), “L’oiseau bleu,” (“The Blue Bird”), “Le petit chaperon rouge,” (“Little Red Riding Hood”) and “Le petit Pouçet” (Little Thumb). Note that Puss-in Boots and the White Car are from two different tales. The two that particularly interest me are “The White Cat” and “The Blue Bird.” They were both written by Madame d’Aulnoy (Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, baronne d’Aulnoy). She was born in the Normandy region of France in 1652. I’ve read both stories, “The White Cat” more recently and “The Blue Bird” years ago. The part of the story of “The Blue Bird” which inspired the pas from the ballet is in the first half of the fairy-tale. During the second half of the tale Princess Florine goes on an extended and difficult journey to find and save her prince. While it appears at the beginning of the “White Cat” that the story will be about a prince, a female character quickly becomes the protagonist. So, in both stories female characters are given important roles and in “The White Cat” the most important role. The other four tales were written by Perrsult. Two dances that are often removed from performances are Cinderella and her Prince and Tom Thumb, his Brothers and the Ogre. Here are videos featuring these dances. “Cinderella and Prince Fortura” (2 ½ minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACZvARLazfs and Tom Thumb, his Brothers and the Ogre (2 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w_anN-sMi4. In the story the Tom Thumb character steals the Ogre’s Seven-League Boots. Tom,
  5. This link goes to a webpage entitled “6 female choreographers you might not know” (https://www.lafabriquedeladanse.fr/2018/evenements/6-femmes-choregraphes-que-vous-ne-connaissez-peut-etre-pas/). (If you have trouble using the linke kindly let me know.) The page is in French, but can be translated into English, although some meaning may be lost in the translation. For example in the first paragraph is the line “Les critiques de journaux (eux aussi des hommes) consacraient des colonnes entières pour un danseur, contre quelques lignes pour une danseuse,” but the English is “The newspaper critics (also male) devoted entire columns to a dancer, against a few lines for a dancer.” The female choreographers are: Françoise Prévost, b. 1680, Marie Sallé, b. 1707 Marie Taglioni, b. 1804 Mariquita, b. 1840 Madame Stichel, b. 1856 Bronislava Nijinska, b. 1891 Particularly of interest is this in the entry on Marie Taglioni, “Coming from a family of dancers and choreographers, we realize that in addition to being a magnificent first dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet, Marie Taglioni most certainly co-choreographed with her father Filippo Taglioni. We can cite in particular the creation of La Sylphide in these speculations…” In addition the dancer also choreographed “Le Papillon” for Emma Livry who was Marie Taglioni’s pupil. Françoise Prévost choreographed her own dances in the ballet “Les Caractères de la danse” described as “a ballet presenting itself as a small study of movement with a series of fast, slow, cheerful, lively, graceful noble dances.” The Oxford Reference website states that in this work Françoise Prévost “. . . danced and mimed the parts of eleven different lovers, both male and female,” see here: https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100344443. Tom,
  6. Dirac, thank you for your kind reply. Tom,
  7. I’m interested in women who are in decision making positions in ballet, which is why I read Bronislava Nijinska’s Early Memoirs and posted about it. Recently I have been researching Marie Sallé and having found information I decided to write this post. However, in regard to the history of ballet I am an amateur, so I don’t claim that I know more about this subject than others on this website. Actually I am hoping that others would be able to add to this post so I can learn more. I seem to remember that there is a thread on “women in ballet,” but I can’t find it now. I also searched for information on Marie Sallé, but did not find anything. If someone could help me locate that information I would appreciate it. Born in 1707 Marie Sallé is described as the first woman to choreograph a ballet in which she danced. She choreographed the ballet “Pygmalion” in which she danced the role of Galatea. This work premiered at Covent Gardens in London on February 4, 1734. The following is a contemporary description of the action of the ballet: “‘Pygmalion enters his studio accompanied by his sculptors, who execute a characteristic dance, mallet and chisel in hand. Pygmalion bids them throw open the back of the studio which, like the forepart, is adorned with statues. One in the middle stands out above all the others and attracts the admiration of everyone. Pygmalion examines it, considers it, and sighs. He puts his hands on the feet, then on the body; he examines all the contours, likewise the arms, which he adorns with precious bracelets. He places a rich necklace around the neck and kisses the hands of his beloved statue. At last he becomes enraptured with it; he displays signs of unrest and falls into a reverie, then prays to Venus and beseeches her to endow the marble with life. “Venus heeds his prayer; three rays of light appear, and, to the surprise of Pygmalion and his followers, the statue, to suitable music, gradually emerges from its insensibility; she expresses astonishment at her new existence and at all the objects which surround her. “Pygmalion, amazed and transported, holds out his hand for her to step from her position; she tests the ground, as it were, and gradually steps into the most elegant poses that a sculptor could desire. Pygmalion dances in front of her as if to teach her to dance. She repeats after him the simplest as well as the most difficult and complicated steps; he endeavours to inspire her with the love which he feels, and succeeds.’” The above was published in the Mercure de France for April 1734. See https://danceinhistory.com/tag/marie-salle/, under the heading “The First Ballet at Covent Garden” near the bottom of a long article. According to another article (see here: https://londonhuawiki.wpi.edu/index.php/Marie_Sall%C3%A9) “She [Marie Sallé] has dared to appear in this entree [Pygmalion] without pannier, skirt or bodice and with her hair down, she did not wear a single ornament on her head. Apart from her corset and petticoat she wore only a simple dress of muslin draped about her in the manner of a Greek statue.” Panniers were hoops worn in order to extend a women’s gown at the sides during the 18th century. Also, the corset that she wore may not have been like the ones worn during the late 19th century. The word “corset” comes from the French and means small body (cors = body), so it was a garment that was smaller than the stays worn at the time. Also, it would not have been as tightly laced since the eyelets through which the laces went were sewn and not made of steel as later was the case. It appears to me that a bodice would have referred to stays which would have been fully boned and laced up. The following information on Marie Sallé can be found at this link: https://peoplepill.com/people/marie-salle. “As a choreographer she [Marie Sallé] integrated music, costumes, and dance styles of her ballets with their themes, thereby anticipating the reforms made by choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre in the late 18th century. She argued that costumes should reflect and represent the character, a novel idea at the time. This engendered a sense of ‘realism’ that had been largely ignored up to this point in the evolution of ballet and also allowed for greater physical freedom among the female dancers, especially, allowing them more opportunities without the restrictions of unwieldy and elaborate clothing on stage. She changed the costume from heavy long dress to muslin flowing material which caused shock and delight. She often performed without a skirt or bodice(sans-panniers), rebelling against the traditional costume and accepted gender norms of a very regimented era. She also worked in collaboration with composers such as George Handel and Christoph Gluck, commissioning compositions from them for her choreography, which helped to garner more respect for ballet as its own distinct art form.” Tom,
  8. Diane, thank you for your positive comment. I like to know who reads my posts and if the links are of any use. Tom,
  9. Here is a short video from BBC News about the restoration of Anna Pavlova’s “Dying Swan” tutu by the Museum of London: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-london-56613921. I seem to remember reading various dates for the premiere of “The Dying Swan” ranging from 1905 to 1908. This article gives the date as 1907. Does anyone know the actual date? Tom,
  10. One of two things I like about the tale of “Prince Hlini and Signy” is that it switches the gender roles, with the male being the helpless one (the “damsel” in distress) and the female, Signy, being the one who saves him. The other is that the most active characters, the ones that move the story along, are all female - Signy and the two Giantesses. While the prince does some things it is only at the direction of Signy. Also, Signy did not have to marry the prince to be rewarded. She married him because she wanted to and I surmised it was because he was so beautiful. I pointed out that the story could still be called “Sleeping Beauty” because a male can be beautiful. This does not mean that the story of the ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” does not have strong, active female characters. The two most active characters in the ballet are the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. They are the ones who move the story along. In the prolog the Lilac Fairy counters Carabosse’s curse; in the first act she puts all to sleep, in the second act she brings the Prince to Aurora's bed and she is the guest of honor in the third act. This also is the case in the Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty.” Aurora/Briar Rose is very passive, but it is the three good fairies that actively save her and bring the prince to her. The good fairies also fight the evil fairy. Here is a short video (4 minute) - a spoof on the Disney movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k8ZbajJ6bs. Tom,
  11. This is an Icelandic tale entitled “Prince Hlini and Signy.” It is along similar lines to “Sleeping Beauty,” except that the sleeping beauty - Hlini - is male and the one who saves him -Signy - is female. The story is not very long and can be found here: https://steelthistles.blogspot.com/2020/09/strong-fairy-tale-heroines-29-prince.html. If you would rather you can read my summary of the tale under “spoilers.”
  12. Tom47

    The Stolen Veil

    What about the names of the characters from Swan Lake? The names Odette and Odile seem to go very well together as when a woman is said to be dancing the role of Odette/Odile. According to this webpage http://bewitchingnames.blogspot.com/2011/03/odette.html#:~:text=Odette%20and%20Odile%20are%20the,Odalys%2C%20Otilia%2C%20and%20Ottilie, Odette and Odile are both the “same” names as they are both “feminine versions of Otto,” however, Odette is French and Odile is German. Otte means “prosperous” or “wealthy.” Another website “BabyNames.com” gives both Odette and Odile as being French and that they both mean Rich or Wealthy or Wealth, while the website “TheBump.com” gives both names as being German. There are historical Odettes and Odiles. Odette de Champdivers was born 1390 in France. She became the mistress of King Charles VI and was known as “la petit reine.” Books about her were written by French authors Honore de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas and a French rose was named for her, so her name was well known. There was a Saint Odila also known as Odile. She was born in France in the 7th century and her father was the Duke of Alsace. A mountain in Alsace is named Mont Sainte Odile. Also, there is the Saint Odilia of Cologne who lived during the 4th century. Both saints are connected with blindness. Another Odette, although not one who could have had any influence on the ballet, was born in France in 1912. In 1942, during the Second World War she became a spy for the British Government and was sent back to France. Siegfried was a legendary tragic Germainic Hero. Thus, it seems an appropriate name for the protagonist of Swan Lake. The name refers to “Victorious Peace”. (Siegreich = Victorious and Frieden = Peace) Further, Wager’s full “Ring Cycle” premiered in 1876, one year before the premier of “Swan Lake.” The opera “Siegfried” is the third part of the larger work. Rothbart is a surname that originated in the German state of Bavaria. It means Red Beard in German. (Rot = Red, Bart = Beard} The early Rothbart family was influential in various conflicts in the area. The name Benno appears to have come from the story “The Stolen Veil” (see first post). It is a German name meaning “Bear.” Prince Siegfried tutor’s name, Wolfgang, is a German name meaning “Traveling Wolf.” These names tend to be German, with the somewhat exception of Odette/Odile, which are connected with Germany and France. I’ve always felt that Swan Lake was set in Germany, because of the name Siegfried. On the Tchaikovsky Research website, under the Synopsis for “Swan Lake” it is stated that “The action takes place in medieval Germany.” This supports the idea that the story was inspired by “The Stolen Veil,” which also takes place in Germany. However, the swan maidens from “The Stolen Veil” are not German or French, but Greek. I have not found any connection with the names Odette or Odile and swans or any other type of magical birds or other magical beings. So, basically whoever named the characters in the ballet seems to have primarily picked names that were or could be German. I still don’t understand why this ballet is sometimes described as having four acts and sometimes three acts and four scenes. It makes more sense to me that it would have four acts or if not two acts and four scenes. Can anyone shed any light on this. Tom,
  13. Tom47

    The Stolen Veil

    There are many folktales similar to the Stolen Veil. Some stories contain swan maidens or women who can become some other type of birds. There are also stories involving seals who can remove their seal skins to become human women, an example is the story “The Silkie Wife.” Just think we could’ve had Seal Cove instead of Swan Lake. In the folktale “The Six Swans” six brothers are transformed into swans by an evil stepmother and their sister has to work for six years to break the spell. During that time she cannot speak or laugh. This has little to do with the current “Swan Lake” story, except that humans are cursed to become swans and even less to do with the original story of the ballet. However, I find this story interesting because the sexes are reversed with males becoming swans and a female, their sister, being the protagonist who must heroticly save them. An animated video (12 minutes) showing this story can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-DHibAdm48. Tom,
  14. I’ve read that in 1922 Broislava Nijinska danced the title role in “The Afternoon of a Faune” No doubt Bronislava had no problem with the technical side of this as she helped her brother in the development of this part. This intrigued me. In the ballet the Faune is visibly attracted to the Nymphs in a sexual way and appears to try to pressure them into the act of sex. On the other hand, the Nymphs are shy and they resist his advances. This led to me thinking about reversing the sex roles in this ballet. There is a myth about a Naiade - a water Nymph - who abducts a beautiful, young man named Hylas. Hylas was an Argonaut, in myth a member of the crew of the ship the Argo. In going on land one night to obtain fresh water Hylas came to a spring. As he bent down to scoop water into a pitcher, the Naiade saw him “close at hand with the rosy flush of his beauty and sweet grace.” With this Aphrodite made the Naiade’s “heart faint, and in her confusion she could scarcely gather her spirit back to her. But as soon as he dipped the pitcher in the steam, leaning to one side [. . .] straightway she laid her left arm above upon his neck yearning to kiss his tender mouth; with her right hand she drew down his elbow, and plunged him into the midst of the eddy.” Hylas cried out and was heard by one of his comrades, but was never seen again. This story has only one Naiad seeing Hylas, but a description of another version of the myth is that “From the depths of the spring, the Naiads spied the beautiful Hylas as he leant over the surface of the spring. The Naiads decided that this mortal youth should be theirs, and so one Naiad, possibly named Dryope, reached up through the water, and taking hold of Hylas pulled him beneath the surface of the spring, causing Hylas to cry out in surprise.” See here: https://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/hylas.html. In both myths Hylas and Hercules were lovers. There are many paintings of this episode, five of which can be seen at this link: https://www.tutorialathome.in/passionate-painting/hylas-nymphs. One of the paintings is by a female artist - Henrietta Rae. The two below Henrietta Rae’s are paintings illustrating the version with only one Naiad. So, in “The Afternoon of a Faun” the male Faun can become the female Naiade and the female Nymphs could become Hylas and the male Argonauts, with the music and the style of dance remaining the same. As to the story, it could be kept the same or replaced by the story of Hylas and the Naiade. The re-imagined ballet could be called “La nuit d'une naïade.” Tom,
  15. So, what does all this mean? First, there seems no reason from slavic mythology and in particular from the two paragraphs that Heinrich Heine wrote, for Giselle to be forever freed from the power of the Wilis and to return to her grave to rest in peace, since she is not forced to become a Wilis, but becomes one because in her heart there still remains that passion for dancing which she could not satisfy during life. Second, it appears that the word Wilis is correctly pronounced with a “V” sound at the beginning and not a “W” sound. Also, the “s” at the end appears to be redundant, as the letter “i” at the end could, in some slavic languages, signify a plural. Considering this it would make sense for the English spelling, for the plural, to be either Vilas or just Vili. In that case the “Wilis” from the ballet are Vili or Vilas or maybe Vily from slavic mythology. Further, a Mavka or a Rusalka are similar to a Vila and thus to the beings in the ballet and these cousins to the Vila and the beings from the ballet are not all bad and have a beneficial side to their natures. Even the nature of the Vili seems to have both a benevolent as well as a vindictive side. Some may think I am being picky in this and I guess I am, but I find the ending as described in the Petipa website unsatisfying. I don’t feel Giselle wants to rest peacefully - she wants to dance. Then on top of that I find all this information about mythical beings interesting. I did not know very much about slavic mythology before and I enjoyed learning about it. Tom,
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