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Choreography for the corps/ what's your favorite?

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MinkusPugni's question about favorite variations got me to thinking about choreography for the corps de ballet.

Which ballet and/or choreographer was best (in your opinion) at creating for the corps: steps, interactions, moving and massing the corps around the stage, etc.? And how important is this aspect of dance (as compared to the solos) when you go to the ballet?

I need time to come up with my own answers, though I know that Balanchine will be top of my list (just have to think of the best individual ballets).

P.S. Some effects only emerge when you are sitting -- or the camera is positioned -- high up. Nureyev's POB Romeo and Juliet has stunning corps patterns at the Ball and in the Market Place scene, but maybe this is only because the camera angles let you see the larger patterns, unlike some versions where you are thrust right into the action. Same is true with parts of Bolshoi's 1987 video of Raymonda. I like seats higher up (and don't like the Orchestra) precisely so I can see this aspect of the ballet.

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No surprises here--I often like Petipa's choreography the best, particularly the Kingdom of the Shades and Jardin Animé.

In terms of importans, in my opinion if you have to get only one thing right choreographically, it had better be the corps. What the corps does is the base for the soloists and principals to stand on, so to speak.

[Edit: I can't BELIEVE I forgot about GISELLE!!!]

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Of what I've seen recently, Brahms Schoenberg, Third Movement. The girls all kneeling in deep backbends either way, on a diagonal, then the lines move straight up and down stage, the principals come up between. The music then is the re-entry of the Tonic theme in a slow Polonaise. The corps work there gives you the chills. If I'm not mistaken Brahms is the first work made for the larger NY State Theater stage, after the company left City Center. The sudden expansiveness for the corps de ballet shows this.

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All of Serenade

The Reel from LaSylphide

Phlegmatic section of 4Ts -- in-out-pique-down

Coda of Chaconne -- dancers en masse enveloping us

Entrance of the Swans (Ivanov)

Third Movement, Symphony in C

Third Movement, Barocco

Coda of the Shades scene in Bayadere, with the women jete-ing in from the wings in a star formation

Balanchine's Garland Waltz

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I like the Shades scene as well, especially the "background" choreography for the pas de deux between Nikiya and Solor.

Serenade is another favorite, as is the male corps in Prodigal Son, especially when they link arms back-to-back and skitter around like insects.

I also enjoy the choreography for the "stars" or fairy corps in Ashton's Cinderella, specifically the two waltzes.

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yes to all of those, and YES to sitting upstairs and getting to see the designs...

Theme and Variations is GREATLY improved from this angle, and Emeralds, my GOd! the difference

Especially yes to Serenade and Barocco and the entrance of the swans....

Special thrills in the finale of Agon.

CHARACTER DANCES: Petipa's wonderful czardas in Swan Lake, czardas and mazurka in Raymonda, and all-time favorite, number 1 GRAND PRIZE, Balanchine's Mazurka in Coppellia

The snow scene in Lew Christensen's Nutcracker was glorious.

Mark Morris is way up there, near Balanchine and Petipa -- A Garden; Snow, Flowers, and finale of The Hard Nut, l"Allegro, il Penseroso, etc; Sandpaper Ballet; I love the Chinese Checkers patterns in "World Power"; "My Party" and the Texas Playboys ballet....

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Lew Christensen's choreography for "Waltz of the Flowers" in The Nutcracker...absolutely exquisite!

Concerto Barocco (the corps is the "star")

Serenade (my favorite Balanchine ballet...gorgeous corps choreography)

Giselle Act 2 (those Wili's arabesque hops...hard to top that!)

Another vote for Entrance of the Swans in Act 2 of Swan Lake...

No one has mentioned "Les Sylphides"...I love the corps in this ballet.

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Some previous posters have made me think of the corps contributions of certain inanimate objects.

-- the trembling, growing, magic Christmas tree in Balanchine's Nutcracker;

-- every batch of snow flakes ever dropped from above during the Waltz;

-- the spooky, meandering mists in every Giselle Act II, most Swan Lakes, and numerous others atmospheric scenes;

-- all those swirling capes, trains, and long medieval sleeves that seem to take on a life of their own in Romeo and Juliet, Raymonda, and other period ballets. (Technically, I suppose, people do manipulate these, unlike the others on my list.)

The movement and patterns are always just right, no mater how much they change from performance to performance.

P.S. Can anyone explain just those mist effects are created (and controlled) nowadays?

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The umbrellas mentioned by Helene in The Concert are among my favorite inanimate objects in ballet -- they are both funny and poignant. Umbrellas, in fact, figure prominently in ballets from Fille to Union Jack. But the Nutcracker tree is in a class by itself. It gets more awe-inspiring the older I get.

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For me, the dances for the corps de ballet are the most important aspect of the balelt. That and the music! That's why I love ballets such as Swan Lake, Coppelia and of course Serenade. Variations are the second most important thing: I love them!

My favourite corps dances would have to be:

1. Waltz of the Hours from Coppelia

2. Mazurka from Coppelia

3. Flute Dance from La Fille mal Gardee

4. The Scene where the swans are "floating" across the water (doing pose temps leves in a pattern like the entrance of the shades) from Swan Lake

5. The Dance of the Swans from Act IV of Swan Lake

6. Scene Dansante from Prologue of Sleeping Beauty

7. The Whole of Serenade

8. The Nymph Scene from Act II of Sleeping Beauty

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In addition to all the wonderful things everyone else has mentioned, I’ve always loved Balanchine’s Le Tombeau du Couperin, which is of course all corps all the time (and best viewed from at least the first ring or higher, I suspect – I’m not sure it would have much effect at all from close up in the orchestra). I also particularly enjoy the corps in the Divertissement from Midsummer Night's Dream. (An acquaintance once characterized it as "way civilized" -- what would he make of Divertimento No. 15, I wonder!)

And I’ll second Glass Pieces – I especially love the effect of the line of women moving across the back of the stage in silhouette with that step-step-dip move or whatever it is. It’s principally a theatrical effect, though (rather than a pure dance effect in the way the corps work is in Concerto Barocco or Serenade, say) and probably not the kind of thing one could or should use a lot, but it certainly works in that ballet. And yes, the umbrellas in The Concert are unbelievably lovely. Come to think of it, I like a lot of Robbins’ ensemble effects – e.g., in Antique Epigraphs or Opus 19/The Dreamer.

Favorite inanimate objects: the big pushbrooms in Wheeldon's Variations Serieuses, bearing the lovely Kathleen Tracy in triumph ...

I also adore the fabulously joyful Snowflakes in Morris’ Hard Nut, especially when they toss those big handfuls of glitter! It’s impossible to watch them and not be utterly, goofily happy.

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One of my favorites is the final waltz in Vienna Waltzes after the lights come on and there are all of those spinning white gowns with the reflcection in the back mirrored curtain. The pricipals are also dancing so I am not sure if this really counts.

I would also include Robbins the Cage. All those female insects just puts shivers down my spine.

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