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Two Lilac Fairy Questions

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Does modern scholarship support Natalia Roslavleva's contention that Marie Petipa wore heeled shoes in Act II of Beauty. And if so, when did bourees displace her stridings about?

I have read somewhere that the variation the L Fairy now executes in the Prologue pas de six is by Lopokov. If this is true, how did this come about? Does it have anything to do with a suppression of the original variation because MP had a limited technique? Petipa, it seems, never felt compelled to give variations to ALL who had participated in his intradas, as witness the 3-variation pas de quatre in the Moscow DQ, and his devariationed version of the Gemstone pas de quatre that Doug has set out for us in the Desire/Florimund thread.

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So far, so good on the Rosavleva front. When the picture of Marie broke some years ago, there was a rush to add a seventh fairy to the Prologue because it looked like Lilac couldn't have danced dressed that way. (Answer: She wasn't dressed that way in the Prologue - she wore her "tarlatan") Now, more of the Mariinsky archives, and more of the libraries in Russia have become available to researchers because of the fall of the Soviet Union. The information so far collected seems to bear out Roslavleva.

And yes, it's been known for years that the present Lilac variation dates from about 1912, and is the product of Lopokov.

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rodney, as your questions have become so specific, and so well-researched in advance, i am wondering whether you are perhaps writing a book? or very exhaustive programme notes? ....or are you 'just' a history buff, or someone with a passion for accuracy and detail? i hope you don't mind the direct question...? :D

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Mel, many thanks for that information. Do you happen to know why Lopokov chose to rewrite the Petipa variation? Was the original insufficiently taxing?

Grace, I am writing a book (my eleventh!), but, like all its predecessors, it's on Eng lit. However, I have published musicological articles with a strong ballet content however (in Dance Chronicle and Nineteenth-Century Music and Brolga). And in the days when the SA magazine Arabesque was still extant (it was edited by the man who subsequently became the PR officer for Dawn Weller's ballet co--PACT--in Jo'burg), I wrote articles and reviews for that.

Gwendolen and Cecily, who are very skittish as a result of the cold front passing over Cape Town, and tearing in and out of the study like Valkyries on Benzedrine, breathlessly send you their love!

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I only looked at the Sergeyev notations once, at Harvard, but it occurred to me that what I was looking at was not what we know as the Lilac Fairy variation today. I was working from known portions of the choreography to the unknown in the notation, and it seemed to me that the variation notated was very easy, technically. It's actually there twice, but the other notation didn't seem to show the present variation, either.

We'll be proud to be co-conspirators in background for articles on ballet. :D

Gwendolen and Cecily? You mean your cats are named for the two coo-coo Pigeon sisters?

Here, try this; it's a general article on Beauty that we keep here:


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Curiouser and curioser. There are THREE variant variations for the LF? The one danced by the Bolshoi is the one, more or less, that David Poole staged in Cape Town--but it differs substantially from the RB one, which I have seen only once. There, I recall, there were developpes a la seconde fouetting into attitude derriere (as in the DQ Queen of the Dryads solo, which Nureyev transposed--for reasons never explained to me--into his deporteured Le Corsaire pas de deux in An Evening with the RB). The Bolshoi/Cape Town text has a vertiginous sentence of sissonnes and pirouettes doubles that must be quite hard to spot, and which therefore tends to veer drunkenly off the vertical--though I must say Speranskaya manages very well on my Bolshoi tape. What is puzzling here is why DP, who was nominally restaging the RB text, should have gone behind the Iron Curtain for his LF variation. He is no longer with us to ask.

I'm afraid I don't know the Pigeon sisters. My cats are named after the women in The Importance of Being Earnest. Thanks for the kitty icons, Grace, which, I take it, are greetings from your own. I haven't told you that Cecily (who is a third of Gwendolen's size, even though they get exactly the same rations--a quite different metabolism) is a wonderful Bournonville dancer. When she plays with her catnip mouse, she does a soubresaut first to the left, then to the centre, then to the right of her iconic prey, all four feet clamped in perfect firsts (if indeed a soubresaut can be launched from first!). It's as though she were dancing the Time Warp from Rocky Horror, and it's a delight to heart and eye.

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PS Many thanks for the Beauty hotlink, Mel. I think the summary of the ballet's themes (yours?) is a masterly piece of writing--so crisp and full of good ideas. Two queries, what is the origin of the phrase "trip to a woodshed"? I've never heard it before. And who is the ballerina in Romantic tutu? Is this from the vision scene? This Aurora looks as if she might have strayed in from Pas de Quatre or Les Sylphides!

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PPS Oh my goodness! Another erratum. They aren't developpes in the Queen of the Dryads, of course, but grands battements. Imagine trying to balance the former--though apparently Trefilova once did in Odette's variation in Act II. The conductor (one Hartmann, as I recall) was so fascinated by the score that he took it at a snail's pace so as to absorb all its beauties. And Trefilova developped untremulously, sur le pointe, in slow motion. Marvellous beyond words!

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Thanks for the roses! Yes, the entire thing is my work, with occasional prods and nudges by Alexandra to bring the quality of the writing to a proper uniform level. The ballerina is the Ballet Alert! Online logo, Silja Schandorff of the Royal Danish Ballet in the "sylphide" section of Harald Lander's "Etudes". She adorns every page of the e-zine.

A "trip to the woodshed" is a reworking or reforming of previous behavior. It takes its name from the archetypal trip made by naughty little boys with their fathers for a sound thrashing, which, it was hoped, would bring about a certain metanoia.

And the grand battement moment to which you refer in the Dryad Queen variation is actually part of a grand fouetté en tournant, sometimes referred to as an "Italian fouetté".

And the Pigeon sisters are Oscar and Felix's upstairs neighbors in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. Their idea of air conditioning is to stand naked in front of an open refrigerator. :wub:

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Many thanks for the info about Ashton, Ari. I didn't know that. It seems that the RB texts are full of such gussets and patches--eg the peasant's solo in Act I of Swan Lake, which was choreographed by Dame Ninette. And thank you for your woodshed aphorism, Mel. I am a product of the corporal punishment era, and was once caned at school when my entire Grade 9 class was sentenced to a collective punishment. This because we laughed with pointed crudity at all the jokes in a feeble Afrikaans story that our teacher made us read, whereas we wanted to revise for the next day's maths examination.

Inspired by Doug's recent posting about the Act III pas de quatre, and by Mel's interesting and suggestive account of the ballet (see hotlink above), I have been reading Wiley on SB. W makes the point that, even while the ballet appears to celebrate the myth of regal divine right etc, the allegory might also contain some unflattering implications (eg the supplantation of moral fairies by materialistic ones in Act III). I haven't been able to find out anything about Vsevolozhsky's politics, but I wonder if one could add the name of Florestan to the encrypted but critical aspects of the allegory (if they're there). After all, it is the name of Beethoven's hero in Fidelio--imprisoned, like so many under the rule of autocrats, even enlightened ones, without due process. In his preface to Little Dorrit, Lionel Trilling observes that "the trumpet call of the Leonore overture sounds through the century, the signal for the opening of the gates, for a general deliverance." Coupling the name Florestan with the numerical rank of XIV might, therefore almost read as a gesture of subversion. By the way, Estelle, Wiley seems to think that V, not Petipa, was prob responsible for the naming of the ballet's characters.

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As you can probably tell, Rodney, I relied heavily on Wiley for that subsite of our e-zine, and also on Beaumont and Cohen's International Encyclopedia of Dance.. Vsevolozhsky seems to have been some sort of closet liberal who had been installed into the theater directorate thinking that he wouldn't do much, as his politics and military background had suggested an extreme conservative. Wrong. V. turned out to be one of those reformers, and worked important changes in the operation of the Imperial Theaters. :wub: The naming of the fairies seemed to me to be one of those "trips to the woodshed" where the collaborators strove away together in order to make a successful libretto.

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Until the recent new production, which doesn't specify who did what, the RB has credited the Lilac Fairy variation to Lopokov since the 1973 production - maybe it's 'Ashton after Lopokov' but I don't remember ever seeing that in print, and it's not listed in David Vaughan's book. Is there some information somewhere that I've missed, Ari?

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Jane, in one of Arlene Croce's reviews of the RB's Beauty she refers to "Ashton's beautiful Lilac Fairy variation." It's not pure Ashton, since some of Lupokov's steps and the general structure and feel of the variation are his, but someone else clearly added to it and changed it subtly. This kind of emendation is, of course, very common, but there are no conventions as to who gets program credit for it.

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about the RB lilac fairy:

i am not going to get out a video and see what they are doing 'now', but...these pieces of information may help.

i have never been aware that ashton (or anyone else at the RB) had any hand in altering the variation that was originally taught (i ASSUME) from sergeyev's notes. but i may be wrong. after all, we all know there are TWO very acceptable versions of lilac fairy, as you have mentioned already. (i can't quite follow where you guys are getting a third one, yet - but i know that is just MY morning muddle-headedness, not any fault of YOURS!)

one possibility is that the reference by croce to ashton's version, means that ashton was director of the company at the time, and that she is referring to his STAGING, his PRODUCTION, NOT his choreography. is that possible? (YOU will have to do the date-checking: that's the kind of thing i can't be bothered with.)

i have copies of several Benesh-notated lilac fairy's, directly from the RB company.

in 1967, the variation consists of:

- commences with grand battement en rond en dedans, to tombé croisé devant into waltz en tournant (en dedans) - into chassé double RELEVE in 1st arabesque facing SIDE-stage left.

- then, COUPE under, en face, onto pointe ®. double rond de jambe en dehors, fondue, pas de bourree (BSF)* to double pirouette en dehors, to pas de bourree en tournant, to

- repeat the whole thing on the other side - but instead of the final pas de bourree, you land in 5th (R foot front).

- 3 sissones en avant in arabesque to downstage R, the 3rd one landing in 4th to prepare for double pirouette en dehors (arms 5th en haut) - which lands in 5th (R foot front),

- to enable a repeat of this sissone passage to the same side. the 2nd time, the double pirouette finishes with a turning pas de bourree en dedans, to posé in attitude croisé, to prompt corner, gesturing downstage.

- fondue, a few steps into posé attitude, 3 times, making a path of travel upstage (detail omitted by me, here!), to walk to arrive centre stage. preparation for:

- series of: grands battement relevé devant onto pointe, facing side-stage left - which fouetté to (high arm) 1st arabesque facing stage right, fondue/ relevé. swing the leg through en cloche to devant as you relevé, to fouetté again to 1st arabesque - this completes one full turn to the right. there's a bit more of this which i can't be bothered working out... (!) this sequence ends in a double pirouette en dedans, arms 5th, to tombé into waltz en tournant...to

- repeat the grands fouetté bizzo, up to the double pirouette (same side).

- finish is a pause in a pose (!), then,

- on the two bars of 2/4: assemblé over ®, relevé 5th (arms 5th), detourné (left) to land preparatory pose/B+, facing downstage right, arms 2nd position palms down, head looking left = centre.

make sense?

i hadn't intended to write out the whole thing, just enough to identify the signature phrases that make the versions recogniseable...and since THAT was a bit tiresome, i'll do the other one, later. (don't hold your breath!)

the 'other one' is Fyodor Lophukov's choreography, "as remembered by Madame Cleo Nordi, to whom it was taught by Lubov Egorova in Paris in 1923".

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Grace, thank you SO much for going to such trouble. I tried to copy your text so that I could paste it into a file, but the cursor wouldn't take. So I shall make manual notes once I have disconnected the computer. How I wish I had your mastery of Benesh. I suppose I could teach myself, but I made a hash of self-instruction harmony and had to get professional help with that, and my autodidact French and Xhosa are very ragged and error-prone.

The THREE variations spring from the fact that when Mel consulted Sergeyev's notes at Harvard, he found two texts (which I presumed were Petipa's daughter-flattering, simple original and Lopokov's more advanced surrogate), neither of which conformed with the LF variation then in circulation on the stage. But perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick.

Guess who's sitting on my lap and grooming her ample belly--and putting considerable strain on my lower back at the same time!?

With all good wishes (and thanks again)


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I have a question as to what is performed today at the Maryinsky--the original LF variation or the updated Lopukhov one? If what we see today is supposed to be more advanced...well, to put it politely, the original must have been very simple indeed as the current LF variation at the Maryinsky is not exactly difficult.

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about that furball between you and the keyboard, rodney: i too have one of those at this moment. i really tried to make it a rule to *them*: 'leave me alone when at the keyboard'...but it's not working. very distracting. and, as you say, not good for posture, for typing speed or for accuracy.

the variation above i will email or PM to you (although copying and pasting from my post should certainly be possible for you).

a little while ago, i started a Beginners Benesh course at the board, here. if you are interested, do a search, and you should find two threads. my energy tailed off, but soon i will pick up where i left off, and go forward again. :FIREdevil:

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Fascinating discussion -- thanks for raising these questions, Rodney.

Two comments. I'm a defender of Marie Petipa's Lilac Fairy -- it's not that she was a bad dancer and that her variation was simplified for her miniscule talents, as is often written; nor is it true that she was a character dancer, although by the time she danced people may have understood the danseuse noble to be a character dancer, since there were so few of them. The Lilac Fairy is a danseuse noble role -- mostly mime -- and stately rhythmic measures were the province of that genre. It's the great gift of the Mariinsky's new/old staging, for me, because the costuming and footwear are accurate, and you see her as she was intended to be seen.

I'd also comment on the Ashton Lilac Fairy variation. I've never read that he choreographed, or emended, the Royal Ballet version. I can't find any mention of that in the Croce that I've just skimmed again, and it's not included in David Vaughan's commentary on Ashton's contributions to Beauty. There's a mention in Croce of "the Royal Ballet's version" of the Lilac Fairy as being different from others, but not whose choreography it is. Ashton did choreograph a different variation for Aurora in the second act (better than Petipa's, IMO :wink: ) and also a variation for one of the fairies.

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Alexandra, thank you so much for this information. The idea of a danseuse noble is new to me. Would it also extend to the duchesses, queens and countesses in Giselle, Lac, Raymonda etc., or does it imply that there is at least a modicum of pointe dancing somewhere in the role? Yesterday I went through my copy of Theatre Street in pursuit of RG's Lac/emerald connection (which intrigues me no end), and came across two pictures of Marie Petipa I had forgotten about. She was indeed a beauty, and had absolutely SUMPTUOUS legs. They are enticingly on show beneath a skirt of rucked-up muslin while MP appears to swing in front a painted backcloth--appears only, for I am sure some invisible stage hands sweatingly kept the swing immobile so as not to blur the picture. She also appears elsewhere in TS in a mazurka costume. (Perhaps that ballet is identified, but if it is, I've forgotten, and Gwendolen once again prevents any consultation of TS for the moment.)

Is the additional Ashton variation for SB by any chance the Sapphire Fairy's. I saw it danced on the one occasion I was blessed to witness the RB Beauty--the matinee that marked Rosalind Whitton's (sp?) debut as Aurora. All I can remember about the variation is that it began with a pas de ciseaux. I thought at the time it might have been Macmillan's.

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Ashton did choreograph a different variation for Aurora in the second act (better than Petipa's, IMO  )

but didn't Petipa choreograph to different music?

The only sapphire variation I can find is on the tape of Vivana Durante in SB, and it doesn't include a pas de ciseaux, but maybe that's for the macmillanized version?

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Yes, Hans, I think Ashton's is to the Gold Fairy music. (writing this without looking it up.)

Rodney, the danseur/danseuse noble was one of the three 18th century genres. Noverre describes and differentiates them in his letters. Prince Siegfried, Jean de Brienne, Florimund are all danseurs nobles. In the 18th century, this was the genre of the gods and heroes (there are quite a few discussions on this from the past under "employ"). I think the court dances in Sleeping Beauty are the noble genre, and the Princess Mother and Benno, in Swan Lake, the King and Queen in Sleeping Beauty -- not sure about the Countess; we're too far from the original.

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Hans, is the opening step perhaps a grand echappe, then? Whatever it is, I remember thinking it was poorly integrated, for the dancer never repeated it (unless perhaps at the very end), and it seemed impertinent and excrescent. If the choreographer had second thoughts after 79, I wouldn't be surprised.

Alexandra, Ashton choreographed to the original B flat variation that Petipa cut before the ballet came to stage--to my great chagrin. It's terrible to have choose between "native" choreography to a corrupt score, and "alien" choreography to a correct score! I don't know how to resolve that textually. Lac class of 77 or Lac class of 95???

I have often heard the phrase danseur noble (without realizing it originated with Noverre), but never danseuse noble. I clearly must do some homework on employ, and I am glad the material is so close to hand!

I have consulted TS since speaking to you last (am now perched on the very tip of my chair with a numb derriere, while my cats sprawl in indolent luxury behind me), and found that MP's mazurka ballet isn't identified. I also looked again at the swing photo, and blow me down, John Michael, if the backdrop isn't identical to that of La Halte de Cavalerie (Roslavleva leaves out the second article--I hope she's right to). That seems to suggest that it was indeed a stage shot, because the inn has a working window (it's closed in the MP photo). And it's also unlikely that a studio would be supplied with a working swing, though who knows if those frivolous Romanovs didn't want to photographed a la Fragonard from time to time!

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On my tape, she does something like an echappé to 4th position, then a grand changement & repeat on the other side during the introductory bars.

If the Vision Scene variation by Ashton is the one that starts with enveloppés and some very strange port de bras, I definitely prefer the Sergeyev. It is more beautiful and more musical IMO. However, I do agree that the Ashton is better than the Petipa in the sense of using the music that was meant for that variation instead of the totally inappropriate "gold" music...but I maintain that Petipa did a good job of choreographing to the gold music :lol:, and who knows--we've never seen Brianza, so it might really have looked better with the gold music.

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