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Everything posted by Laurent

  1. Yesterday's « Giselle » with Ludmila Pagliero and Mathias Heymann brought tears to my eyes. These two are true artists. They are living on stage "dans ce ravissant chef-d’œuvre de chorégraphie”, as the 19-th century critics were calling « Giselle », they don't just represent. I was thinking of that great Muse of Serge Lifar, Nina Vyroubova, when watching Pagliero's Giselle. Heymann is a sublimation of masculine balletic art. In the end, if ballet wasn’t capable of moving you profoundly, if it wasn’t lifting you up, it would not be the Grand Art it is.
  2. Suppose somebody indeed wanted to 'replicate' the 1921 production (on the side: I don't think it is useful to apply the verb 'replicate' to ballet productions in view of what I wrote earlier). The issue of the text immediately arises and I don't see how this issue can be solved on the basis of 'interviewing everyone who had seen the 1921 production' and similar activities. Those folks, if we could find any, would be over 100 years old. How many would be able to describe in detail the steps. In any case, there wouldn't be any need for this, since there are very detailed descriptions and sketches, documenting what was happening on the stage at Alhambra, all of this was done over a number of representations, the notes and sketches are stored at Blythe House where the Victoria and Albert archives are located. These materials must be studied and, no doubt, they were diligently studied also by Ratmansky. Yet, these are no more than secondary sources for the purpose of establishing the text. As secondary witnesses they are invaluable, none of this, however, would solve the question of establishing the actual text. There is only one primary source today, let's give it its proper name, not some legendary "original" source but the unit MS Thr 245 (204) of the Harvard Collection, one of the 94 units that contain materials in Stepanov notation. So, whatever the "intentions", whatever the publicity statements, if the production was meant to count as a reconstruction, it had to be based on it. In view of its imperfections, omissions, lacunae, in view of our incomplete mastery of the Stepanov system itself, as it was used in the notations of the Harvard Collection, every other piece of evidence also had to be, of course, collected and evaluated. The end result is the production that reuses the scenery, reuses the costumes, reuses the core text of the 1921 production. It even reuses the execution flourishes of Pierre Vladimiroff from the 1921 production. If I understand, you are saying "None of this was intended. It just happened". Let it be. My interests and expertise are in the area of ballet archeology, not psychology.
  3. The 1921 production and the Ratmansky's production were not based on an "earlier source". They were based on the same source. If a person who saw the original production of 1890, the reprise of 1914 and the production of 1921 was brought back to life and shown the Ratmansky's production, he would most definitely think that Ratmansky modelled his on the 1921 production. The difference is, if we are talking about the text, which is only a fraction of the grand ballet-féerie production, in 1921 Serguéev knew well what was in the notation, while Ratmansky and his collaborators were often only left to guessing and they were facing the serious problem of partly notated pas or not notated at all. Secondly, several of the people who knew the text by heart were involved in the 1921 production. André Levinson, who saw very recently "Sleeping Beauty" at Mariinsky, is a witness to the faithfulness of the 1921 production. I do not understand the meaning of the statement about "would have been a lot less work". My guess it would be more, or, rather, it would be an impossible task, besides being pointless. To make myself clear, my information is based on the direct knowledge of the material I am talking about, not on publicity statements or what media made out of it. Ratmansky took the visuals of the 1921 production, and in the case of the original Sleeping Beauty the visuals were the main factor contributing to its appeal and popularity, he took the core text, for obvious reasons, some of them explained above, he wasn't interested in Nijinska's additions, he even retained the execution tricks à la Pierre Vladimiroff from the 1921 production. All of this means he modelled his production on the 1921 production.
  4. He couldn't "replicate" it, even if he wanted. But he retained its essential core, plus some inessentials, like the fish-dives. What goes into a ballet production? The short answer is: libretto, music, scenery, costumes, choreography. The libretto was nothing but an adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, "La belle au bois dormant", that saw a number of stage adaptations before, including a wonderful ballet-féerie by Aumer and Hérold with Lise Noblet and Marie Taglioni. Leaving the libretto aside, we are left with the remaining four. Of those four, when we talk about the original "Sleeping Beauty" of 1890, the scenery and costumes were decidedly the winners, and the choreography came dead last. The 1921 production had completely new scenery and costumes, N.K. Serguéev was involved in the production. For the production, he used the notations his team made some 13-15 years after the 1890 première. Exactly the same notations Ratmansky was using. André Levinson' testimony leaves absolutely no doubt about the fact that the "texte chorégraphique" of the 1921 production was based on those notations: Pour le texte chorégraphique Diaghilev pouvait s’appuyer en toute confiance sur les notations et tracés conservés par le régisseur Serguéev et surtout sur les souvenirs des exécutants. These words come from the best informed ballet critic who saw the Mariinsky production and the Alhambra production. The greatest complaint both from the critics and from the balletomane public against the original choreography was that there was so little of it. The decision was made to augment the text by additional numbers. Nijinska was credited with it, but only to the trained eye of André Levinson we owe the information that, for example, the text she used for the variation of Fée de lilas was, in fact, Ivanov's, whose name did not appear on the affiche. The variation of Fée de lilas, presumably one from the notation, was still seen at Alhambra, it was assigned by Nijinska to the new fairy, the "Fairy of the Mountain Ash", that appeared just before Fée de lilas. There is little doubt the reason for this was that the original Fée de lilas variation was considered too insignificant. Nijinska's decision paid off. The Fée de lilas made the greatest impression on the critics of all the roles (!). She eclipsed even Aurore (!) Nijinska also did some "restoration" work. She reinstated the Aurore "Néréide" variation that was excised before the 1890 première. The fish-dives were very much "historical", they came from the expanding execution practice. Pierre Vladimiroff, the Prince in the 1921 production, wanted them. Such things should be considered in the same lighty as ornamental flourishes in the musical virtuoso practice, left, usually, to the artiste. Ratmansky, for obvious reasons, decided not to use Ivanov's variation, the "Nutcracker" is too well known to today's public. He used what is reliably known to have been the basis for the 1921 production, the Serguéev notations. That they were used for the 1921 production is certain. What is not certain is how do they correspond to the original chorégraphic text of 1890. No production in those times was ever a "replica," not even a replica of oneself. The actual text could undergo changes from one night to another, some things added, some excised, some changed. This was happening even when the principals stayed the same. When the roles were being passed from one performer to the next one, the adjustments were even more likely. It was then part of the ballet master's responsibilities to make adjustments for a given artiste. Finally, one must weigh in the factor of generally felt dissatisfaction with the choreography of the 1890 production, expressed both by the critics and by the audience. A distinctly likely possibility is that Marius Petipa addressed those criticisms, and he could have been making various alterations, up until 1903, the time of his retirement and the time when the notators of Sleeping Beauty began their work.
  5. This is Henri Justamant's notation of "Giselle". Marian Smith's belief that Justamant could have been supervising the last run of "Giselles" in Paris in 1868 is incorrect and that, thus, the manuscript, now at Köln, may be a witness to the final form "Giselle" took in the 19th Century in Paris. Justamant's "Giselle" is, incidentally, for a somewhat smaller ensemble than the original 1841 production at Académie Royale de Musique and, in 1863, the reprise of "Giselle" in Paris, for Marthe Mourawieff, saw the introduction of new dances and increasing the size of some ensembles. Ratmansky was reproducing the "Sleeping Princess" of 1921, thus the fish dives were entirely appropriate, not the original "Sleeping Beauty".
  6. Would you find it more "bearable" if you learned that the music wasn't composed for the Swan Lake and that Tchaïkowsky may have never given permission to use it? At this (and the British) ballet forum it became a matter of good taste to publically express one's disdain for Grigorovich's staging of Swan Lake as if he committed a serious crime against the sacrosanct integrity of the work. Could it be that this attitude is based on incomplete knowledge of the history of Swan Lake? This parallels the situation with the attitude towards the original, "glorious", Petipa choreography for the Sleeping Beauty versus the "corrupt", Kirov, version. One is accorded uncritical adulation while the other is scornfully rejected. The irony is that the original Sleeping Beauty was remembered and praised for the music, for the costumes, for the decorations, not for the choreography. In fact, it was noted by a number of critics present at the première that choreography was scant and derivative. In a long, detailed report of over 2000 words, from a special correspondent of The New York Herald, who was present at the première in Petersbourg, Marius Petipa's name is not even mentioned once, the work is pronounced to be primarily the triumph of the composer, the costume designer and the author of the scenery.
  7. The original libretto of Théophile Gautier provides a clear answer: Giselle expired as a result of a fatal stab that reached her heart. Nowhere in the libretto Giselle is mentioned to suffer from cardiac problems. elle répète le motif qu’elle a dansé avec son amant ; mais bientôt ses forces s’épuisent, elle chancelle, s’incline, saisit l’épée fatale apportée par Hilarion et se laisserait tomber sur la pointe si Albrecht n’écartait le fer avec cette soudaineté de mouvement que donne le désespoir. Hélas ! c’est une précaution inutile ! le coup de poignard est porté ; il a atteint le cœur et Giselle expire… ("she repeats the motive that she danced with her lover; but soon her strength was exhausted, she staggered, bowed, seized the fatal sword brought by Hilarion, and would fall on the point if Albrecht did not pull out the iron with that suddenness of movement which gives despair. Alas! it is a useless precaution! the stab has already been carried ; it has reached the heart and Giselle is expiring…") Giselle anxiety bordering on madness is, by the way, primarily the result of seeing Bathilde, who she recognizes is that beautiful noble woman she saw in her terrifying dream, wearing a wedding ring before betrothal to Loys.
  8. Many of us in Paris are no more in the mood of commenting on her possible actions, just patiently waiting for Aurélie Dupont to be replaced by somebody who could save ballet in Paris.
  9. You are absolutely right. These tours de force appeared precisely as showcase pieces and during that period it was quite common, and expected, to have encores. Audiences often demanded that a particular variation, pas seul, or fouettés, were repeated. Complaining about "milking" (??) It sounds like uttered by somebody who doesn't understand the genre. The ballet "Sleeping Beauty" is a child of the era that created ballet-féerie, with its glitter, sparkle, little concern for dramatic contents and, as its pinnacle, the étoile-ballerina. This is when this term becomes widely used. Balletomanes prone to making proclamations about technical superiority of some dancers over others because of what the former ones are capable of, in some of those tours de force, (the supposed "inferior" ones are, invariably, the ones that they seek every opportunity to denigrate), should be reminded of what they are most of the time unaware, and what they may not see. The actual pointe shoes worn by various ballerinas in such pieces can be very different. If we are talking about the soloists of Royal Ballet, the pointes worn by Marianela Nuñez (I examined them), or by Lauren Cuthbertson, are 'pointes' only in name. In reality these shoes have massive blocs whose shape and a very large area facilitate balancing and make, for example, diagonals with multiple tours en pointes much-much easier. Many times when I look at the pointe shoes worn by some of today's ballerinas considered to be virtuose, my first reaction is, what an astounding virtuose must then have been, in comparison, such Amalia Ferraris, or the queen of Paris, 'divina' Elena Cornalba, or even Carlotta Brianza, the original princesse Aurore...
  10. I am not sure who may be crediting Petipa with the choreography of the Dream scene but this view is erroneous, and on more than one ground. First of all, the Dream of Don Quichotte in Petipa's version is completely different; in contrast to Gorsky's, it is a "horror vision" in which Don Quichotte is facing one obstacle after another, in which he is battling an army of cacti, in which he is confronted and surrounded by monsters, crocodiles, dragons. He is combatting them bravely. His dream ends with a vision of a garden with Dulcinea reclining on a bed. Her servants wave branches at Don Quichotte, Dulcinea raises, approaches him and crowns his head with a laurel wreath. At this point the vision and the dream end. There is no Queen of dryads, no dryads, no Cupidon. Secondly, the choreographic text of the Dream scene is alien to the patterns used by Petipa. Gorsky made absolutely no secret that he considered those patterns dated and "obsolete", and that he had no intention whatsoever to follow them. None. The Queen of Dryads variation, danced for the first time in 1900, in Moscow première of Gorsky's ballet, by Mme Gratchevskaïa 1ère, was indeed set to music by Simon, Simon also composed music for the dance of Mercedes. The ballet ends in Gorsky's version completeley differently than in either of the Petipa versions. A general comment that may help understand that Gorsky's version was a new work, not an updated version of the work by Petipa. Petipa's ballet was about Don Quichotte, he was that work's central figure, the story of Basile and Quitterie was woven into it as a secondary thread. In Gorsky's ballet, Basile and Quitterie are the protagonists, the figure of Don Quichotte is so diminished that it becomes dispensable.
  11. The vision scene is considered to be by Gorsky as well, he may have borrowed from Petipa ballonné, his favourite step, no more.
  12. We cannot be certain that in the Don Quichotte we see today there is anything left of Petipa. The dances that Macaulay meant are entirely by Gorsky.
  13. A worthwhile commentary, if you are able to read French, Sergueï Polounine le prince errant de l’âme russe https://www.lecourrierderussie.com/culture/2019/01/serguei-polounine-br-le-prince-errant-de-l-ame-russe/?fbclid=IwAR21s5lGij7denqzVoiS__w-8eLBmdpcAYCE_t8DXjNvWZYKE8JKk2zms7k
  14. Within quotes I would put rather the word "worthwile". In the matters of ballet history Macaulay remains a dilettante, he confuses his own writings with historical realities. In his recent sociological essay he tells us, for example, about Marius Petipa's images of women the following: The dances one can see in "Don Quixote" are entirely by Gorsky, not by Petipa. Ballet history basics, a telling blunder revealing how much or, rather, how little, Macaulay knows about the history of ballet.
  15. Le Cygne (Saint-Saëns) , 22 December 2018,
  16. … and it isn't. Smirnova's Giselle didn't convince me at all, taking acting classes is not enough, she is simply not credible in the parts of naïve, vulnerable, pure heroines. I would like to see her in the roles of powerful women, like Lady Macbeth, eliminating all her rivals in a premeditated manner. What is wrong with Kim? I saw him several times this year, sometimes from the closest possible distance, he is an exceptional artist.
  17. The libretto of the original Petersbourg production states very clearly: (in front of me I have the Russian text of the libretto published in 1899)
  18. The absolute worst for me is seeing the cesspool "culture" of calumnies, filth and fabrications, notoriously associated with the Moscow "fanboys" of Bolchoi (some would be more correctly termed "dealers"), is being exported across the continents by the Russian expatriates steeped in it from top to bottom.
  19. Not all of her casting wishes were met by the Royal Ballet management. She had to work with what she had at her disposal. I hope this is not addressed at me, as I never said (or believed) anything like that. I didn't say anything at all about the recent Berlin "Bayadère". Above I responded to the unfounded claim that the Stepanov notation "proved that Marius Petipa's choreography was very musical". It could not prove it do to its intrinsic limitations, apart from the fact that many numbers are, simply, partly notated or had not been notated at all. Moreover, notation of some numbers is ambiguous.
  20. If "he choreographed on the melody" (whatever this is supposed to mean) is a proof of "Petipa's choreography was very musical", then every choreographer must be similarly considered "very musical". Notated sheets in the Harvard collection can hardly provide a proof of it due to the nature of the notation. I am not even alluding to the fact that the actual sheets are often partially notated. We are short of 24, if one wants to be factually correct, because, ideally, there should be 48 of "ombres"; this wasn't Makarova's choice, however, this was dictated by the necessity. Royal Ballet is a surprisingly small company, it doesn't have even 32 competent corps de ballet danseuses.
  21. "Petipa's musicality" meant as a historical reality or as a balletomane's fantasy? Are you aware that "musicality" was not considered by his near-contemporaries like Lopukhov, whose direct descendant was Balanchine, to be one of the strong sides of Marius Petipa's choreography?
  22. This recording is not The fact Makarova coached doesn't mean she was happy with the result. I don't want to go into the technical details to harm the dancer but whoever had the idea to post this recording on the internet made more harm than good to her and didn't help the reputation of the company either. Unfortunately the press/publicity departments of even the biggest companies often employ people who have little or no professional knowledge of ballet.
  23. I agree with cubanmiamiboy, it was "obvious" to anybody who had the slightest knowledge of the company and Balanchine's devotion to his Muses. If during the Romantic period ballet placed Womanhood at its centre, then in Twentieth Century it was Balanchine who continued this worshipful attitude to feminity expressed through movement and gesture.
  24. If Nagahisa, you feel, is “vastly inferior", then what to say about Lukina? She must then feel hopeless. Yet seeing so much of Khoreva, and also seeing very tentative recent performances by Lukina, I still must say that Lukina's artistry, if not her technique, is colossal compared not only to Khoreva but, in fact, to the majority of active dancers today. With Lukina I have an immediate feeling that I am in presence of High Art, with Khoreva (and she has her moments of high artistry), I don't have that feeling, in general. In fact, and I said that elsewhere, none of the "magnificent four”, who graduated from Academy Vaganova this year, artistically seems to be as compelling as, for example, Khiteeva, or, Nastia Smirnova, who may not have made that much of an impression in the Vaganova Prix, and there are some anatomical problems that may be affecting her future career, yet, when she is on the floor, she radiates. Compared to what I saw in June, it seems Khoreva made the greatest progress of the four I mentioned, she has had many weeks of high level coaching the other three hadn't. This is why Nuykina, which was as impressive and possibly more interesting in the future, looked rather pale compared to Khoreva, in the Suite en blanc that was broadcast. My view, from the perspective of Paris, on the Suite en blanc that we saw, is that the choreographic conventions of Lifar, with their different phrasing and articulation, feel rather awkward to Vaganova trained students, and there was no one who would explain and correct certain things, and made sure that those things are implemented (in spite of Maina Gielgud being there). Thus, I was more impressed by natural movement and gestures of Khiteeva in her Flora variation, than by any of the girl soloists of Suite en blanc.
  25. I am very fond of Khoreva, but I think Nagahisa possesses artistry to a much higher degree. "Manufacturing" Khoreva's career by means of the social media aggressive presence and promotion, I am afraid, will backfire, and I am not talking about petty resentment some may feel, I am talking about the young danseuse's artistic development. This whole attitude of premeditated, well-planned, "shaping" every aspect of you, from your own body being being literally moulded to the "optimal" shape in every limb, to daily "shaping" one's image in the media, I feel increasingly uneasy about it. Manufacturing a dancer like we manufacture "genetically modified food"? To have an optimal look, shape and taste? Is this the way of the future for manufacturing the most successful dancers? I hope not.
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