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Cast changes = choreography changes?

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We've seen the Joffrey's Nutcracker twice in the last week, with different casts. The Sugarplum/Cavalier choreography was different the second time around -- not hugely, but some lifts and jumps were omitted or modified. How common is it to modify choreography according to who is dancing? I assume this sort of thing might be influenced by a dancer's talents, health/injury status, partnerships, etc?

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It may depend upon whose choreography it is, but it isn't uncommon, particularly in solos or duets to tailor the steps to the individual dancers.

An example of a famous piece of choreography with almost constant changes to it is Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. From dancer to dancer, the man's variation seems done ad libitum, but the structure (how it's phrased musically; where the dancer changes to another step) remains the same. But at POB last week, Manuel Legris entered in the coda with a sort of split-kick jete, and Jose Martinez did cabrioles.

Now, changing steps for the corps de ballet is a different matter. It's done, but that sort of change is no longer "tailoring".

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Throughout ballet history, there's a notable tendency to modify choreography to fit dancers. Now things are not as strange as they once were, where a dancer could interpolate whole pas de deux from other ballets in the ballets they perform, but differences in choreography are known within a single score. Le Corsaire, for example is such a mixed-up score that you could interpolate "Tea for Two" and a lot of people wouldn't find it odd. In the Diaghilev revival of Sleeping Beauty, Bronislava Nijinska threw in the "fish dives" in the grand pas de deux, and some of the ballerinas refused to do them!

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Mell, you are a funny guy..

Yes, it seems that way to me too -- just think how many versions even of hte Black Swan there have been for ballerinas with knees that wouldn't do the fouettes -- some of the greatest dancers of the last century -- Maya Plisetskaya and Antoinette Sibley (during the last part of her career) did another set of brilliant turns rather than the fouettes.

Balanchine rechoreographed ballets for new circumstances -- for new dancers, or for television -- passages that weren't effective on TV got excised, and he came up with something that would photograph better.

Violette Verdy did a whole buncho f steps in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux that nobody else does -- a fabulous sequence of attitude turns (like 8 en dedans in a row), if I remember right, from watching it at the NyPublic Library.....

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In the Diaghilev revival of Sleeping Beauty, Bronislava Nijinska threw in the "fish dives" in the grand pas de deux . . .

How utterly fascinating! Those dives today are so iconic of the pas! Do you know, Mel (or anyone), what was there originally, as set by Maestro Petipa? I would imagine some kind of supported pirouette into arabesque or second, but would love to know for certain.


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Paul, I'm just finishing an article for Dance View on Verdy coaching Tchai Pas and she coaches that exact moment. Here's a short quote: (Blatant commercial for Alexandra: This is a great reason to subscribe to the print version and support this site!)

Verdy looks at the final part of the coda.  “Really that hasn’t changed much.”  Somogyi bourrées forward and does alternating single and double fouettés ending with a perfectly nailed triple.  Verdy recalls the original version.  “I did relevé [in back attitude] en tournant slowly off the music . . .[balanchine] said ‘Do what you want here’ . . .but then I changed it when I saw what it looked like.  It was a nice idea but I don’t think any one would want to do it.  It was counter the mood.”  She asks Somogyi “just to try . . . just for the record.  Keep your nice double fouettés.”
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There's a clip of this step in the upcoming re-broadcast of Balanchine Part I and II (in January on PBS and then released on a DVD in February; it was originally shown in 1984). There's a section where several different recordings of Tchaik. Pas are spliced together to show how many different variations of the ballet there are. Verdy is seen doing the first version on, I believe, The Bell Telephone Hour (Villella was her partner but was not shown in the documentary). It's interesting that Hayden does the same step in the 2nd movement of Western Symphony instead of the Italian Fouettes. That's been changed too.

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Carbro, there was no mention of this one being any different in procedure than any of the previous sessions. So once all the post-production work is completed, I would think so.

Dale - I remember seeing the film of Hayden doing the releves as well now that you mention them. I'd have to say that in both cases the change was an improvement.

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