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Potential storylines for Ballets

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Glen Tetlely did a very charming Alice (I believe that was even the title) for National Ballet of Canada in the 1980s. I remember a friend calling it "the best new thing since Mozartiana." Kimberly Glasco danced Alice, if I recall correctly.

Any choreographer attempting to "tell a story" would have to know how to get to the bare essence of the story. It's easy to do with, say, a Romeo & Juliet. The emotions are so primal and uncomplicated, as are rhe actions which flow from them. Not a lot of thought going on that needs to be expressed.

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Thank you, Hans, for the exact quote.

papeetepatrick, as carbro mentioned, National Ballet of Canada performed Glen Tetley's ballet Alice to a score by David del Tredici. It wasn't exactly Carroll book, but a ballet about the historical young and old Alice, Alice's husband, and Lewis Carroll. I loved it when NBoC brought it to NYC in 1986. Kimberly Glasco did indeed dance the young Alice, with Karen Kain as Alice Hargraeves, and Rex Harrington as Lewis Carroll. The figures from Alice in Wonderland do appear in the ballet as well.

The Prague Chamber Ballet performed Alice in Wonderland: A Dance Fantasy based on Carroll's book with music by Victor Kalabis; the video won a Parent's Choice Award. (Although one reviewer on amazon.com called it "surreal.") I haven't been able to find a choreographer, though, through Google.

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I do not have as extensive a knowledge of ballet repertoires as all of you. But I have a further suggestion for just a simpler, full length ballet, not just focused on themes of relationships and human emotions.

Has anyone done Beauty and the Beast before?

A village.

A family mother, father and 3 daughters.

A pretty girl but who does not fit in with the crowd.

A self obsessed suitor for the Beauty.

Scene where father asks what the daughters want when he returns from business.

Castle scene.

etc etc etc... final celebrations?

There are, as all these famous stories.. many versions of Beauty and the Beast. Disney version? Will have nice teacups and forks and brooms dancing, but I am not particularly into those. (Although I had lots of fun watching ENB's Nutcracker with designs by Gerald Scarfe.

Speaking of Alice and Wonderland, ENB also has a version.

Re: cartoons by Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Haoul's Castle, Tonari no Totoro etc) They actually have a very nice music score. Slightly pop music though. But perhaps ballet cannot show the dramatic exagerations of proportions and portray the characters fully?

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I'm almost positive somebody, somewhere has done Beauty and the Beast, but I can't for the life of me remember which company or choreographer it was. I'm wanting to say it was a company in Asia, maybe Singapore? Or else it was one of the smaller regional companies in the US.

Does anyone have any more information about a Beauty and the Beast ballet?

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Google turns up many:

Birmingham Royal Ballet (ch. David Bintley, music by Glenn Buhr; animal masks designed by Jim Hensen's workshop; )- -- this was performd in Hong Kong, which may be what you were recalling, BalleNut;

Joffrey II (here's a recent NY Times review:


also Ballet Met, Ballet Memphis, Atlanta Ballet, and many others.

Jean Cocteau's film version remains so visually strong in my memory that I almost feel that it, too, was danced.

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Decades ago at San Francisco Ballet, Lew Christensen choreographed beauty and the Beast (i think it was even televised). Havne't seen it, but many thought it very good

There's FANTASTIC material for ballets in the traditional dance-dramas of India and Indonesia. I saw last year a version of "the Abduction of Sita" -- a crucial episode in from the Ramayana epic -- done by classical artists from that region, in which Rama was danced in the Kathak style, the demon Ravenna in the Kathakali style, and Sita by a fabulous Balinese dancer who danced her role in the Balinese style.

The story is common to all these cultures, all of which have great clasical dance forms, and hte story of the abduction of Sita is a very important ballet in each culture -- and it is a fantastic, intriguing, haunting, heart-breaking story, with a great role for a ballerina, a principal dancer, his brother, a love-lorn demonness, her brother, the monkey king Hanuman (FABULOUS role), a deer, an eagle (who dies heroically in mid-air trying to rescue Sita from Ravenna, who's borne her away in his chariot) ...... and lots of wonderful mime.

To make a ballet out of it, the only great obstacle would be getting a suitably wonderful score written to support it. Then Christopher Wheeldon could have a field day.

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One of John Cranko's earliest ballets was a "Beauty and the Beast" for Sadler's Wells, set to Ravel .

And about Miyazaki's selection of scoring, I find J-pop to be of a remarkably high standard for the popular music genre, and I think that it could work by itself, if a choreographer wanted it.

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I think 'Picnic' would be a good American ballet. The central dance is already there and easy to see it move into ballet. And the Duning music is ever-rapturous, and could be arranged into a suite very nicely. I'd love to see Ms. Ringer and Mr. Woetzel Madge and Hal, but they've already proved they can transcend noisome costumes--that same Jean Louis pink dress needs to be suggested, I'd hope, so they wouldn't need to work so hard to save something. Just moving it into ballet is modernization enough. I just wouldn't want to see Madge in another one of those metallic reds. It should definitely make you think of Novak and Holden as well as the characters they played.

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One thing I noticed about the "stories" in ballet and opera.. at least the ones I have seen... is that are so "contrived" and almost cartoon like. The damsel in distress.. the lover betrayed and so on.. and the dying young beauty... whatever. you get the point.

But the emotional range is large if the nuance is lacking no? I was wondering if more nuance in the storyline were not possible? Or maybe it is not desirable?

A case in point is Le Corsaire which comes to mind because it is the last ballet I saw. The storyline is so silly no? Or take Rigoletto... again a "goofy story". Am I being too harsh i wanting more nuance and sophitication inthe storylines? Would this detract from the performance... the dance and opera? What about less literal ballets more thematic with no storyline? Can't do that in opera though.. it's all words and built on a story.

What say you?

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Also, about Proust's In Search of Lost Time (a.k.a. Remembrance of Things Past).
I believe that the Proust has already been done. Not terribly well, but done.

On the 'Potential Story Lines for Ballets' thread, Mel mentioned that Petit had done a ballet of Proust, but did not mention Marcel and Albertine specifically, after Bart and I had been toying with various possibilities for ballets out of Proust characters and situations. This is probably because the Marcel/Albertine is not the whole Petit piece, but I don't know. (I checked again since writing the above, and it is an extract. I'd be interested to know what the rest of the ballet is like.)

In any case, it's on the 'Natasha' tape with Makarova as Albertine and Denys Ganio as Marcel. I had originally thought this was a possible subject, but am glad it has already been tried, although with not terribly successful results, in my opinion. The reasons are twofold: It seems unlikely, but Makarova is entirely convincing as Albertine while Ganio is not as Marcel, but only because he is too virile and energetic--you don't get any sense of the sickly Marcel. However, he looks fabulous in this and two other pieces with Makarova (especially Petit's 'Carmen,' which is quintessentially Parisian. The second reason is worse: Saint-Saens is all wrong for anything Proustian. He's a good ultra-extroverted composer, good for fetes, circuses, crowds, even Odette and Swann going out in Paris to be seen dressed properly, but I can't think that he had much concern with subtlety. His idea of subtlety is perhaps like the subtlety of spun sugar. His best works, as the delicious 2nd movement from the G Minor Piano Concerto, which is a perfect confection, are super-charming but not dramatic. In that same work, you have a first movement which is full of 19th century melodramatic bombast and is appealing in a somewhat fatuous way. You can even imagine something done for Baptiste and Garance more easily than for Marcel and Albertine, who produce one of the most introverted parts of the whole novel.

Anyway, that answers that about that episode of 'Recherches', and I do think once is enough for it. The tape is wonderful, though, with Ms. Makarova's wonderful natural humour all over the place; I imagine most here have watched it. I don't know much about her personally, but I perversely hope she threw some big diva scenes backstage. Why, she can even pull off yellow hair, so I hope she was sometimes difficult to get along with. I did read she said Nureyev dropped her once, which is funny whether true or not.

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I haven't seen Petit's ballet "Proust ou les intermittences du coeur", but it will enter the POB's repertory in march 2007. I wonder if Mathieu Ganio, principal dancer and the son of Denys Ganio (and Dominique Khalfouni, former POB principal before she left for Marseille) will perform in it...

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papeetepatrick writes:

I did read she said Nureyev dropped her once, which is funny whether true or not.

The most plausible reconstruction of that episode I’ve come across was the account given in Otis Stuart’s biography of Nureyev, a highly enjoyable read. Evidently Nureyev did not drop, push, kick, or otherwise interfere with Makarova. It was during a performance of “Swan Lake” and Nureyev was becoming increasingly frustrated by his partner’s habit of not keeping with the music. Makarova took a balance at a point where Nureyev did not regard it as absolutely necessary, and rather than gallantly rushing over to lend support he just stayed where he was and she went splat.

I think 'Picnic' would be a good American ballet. The central dance is already there and easy to see it move into ballet. And the Duning music is ever-rapturous, and could be arranged into a suite very nicely.

A definite possibility – as long as they don’t bring back Inge’s original ending, which had Madge being run out of town as a slut, I think. I agree with Joshua Logan on that one.

DefJef writes:

One thing I noticed about the "stories" in ballet and opera.. at least the ones I have seen... is that are so "contrived" and almost cartoon like. The damsel in distress.. the lover betrayed and so on.. and the dying young beauty... whatever. you get the point.

Ballet dancers tend to be young, and the depiction of young people in love – innocent young love, love fulfilled, love thwarted –is highly danceable. But there are many, many ballets and operas that take different approaches. The ‘cartoonishness’ you mention – the relative simplicity of storyline, the often primal expression of emotion – comes in because of the need to create situations where it is plausible for people to be dancing (and in opera, singing to the limits of human capacity). But within those ostensibly simple stories there is plenty of room for nuances of expression.

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Le Corsaire is silly, which is half the fun! :)

True, but I admit I was bothered recurring gag on the initial broadcast of ABT's Corsaire in PBS awhile back. You had Kevin McKenzie and the dancers in interviews trying to explain the plot and failing and giving the general impression that the ballet viewers were about to see was an incomprehensible mess. Okay, it's not Hamlet, but the plot is perfectly clear, and that introduction annoyed me. I don't have the DVD yet but I hope they left that part off.

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Two more Beauty and the Beasts: Cape Town City Ballet (can't remember when) and Northern Ballet Theatre (2005).

Saritachan, Northern Ballet Theatre seems to be quite of your opinion - currently they are doing a Three Musketeers ballet. In the past, they have performed Peter Pan, Wuthering heights, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, A Streetcar Named Desire and a host of other ballets with "real storylines".

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Papeetepatrick, thanks so much for uncovering the Proust/Petit ballet -- and Estelle, for giving it a name.

[...] I admit I was bothered recurring gag on the initial broadcast of ABT's Corsaire in PBS awhile back. You had Kevin McKenzie and the dancers in interviews trying to explain the plot and failing and giving the general impression that the ballet viewers were about to see was an incomprehensible mess.
Yes! That was infinitely more puerile and cartoonish than the story line they were putting down.

I'm no fan of the Corsaire story, but although the plot may be described as "cartoonish," the use and elaboration of ballet language definitely is not.

Sometimes selecting a story that is simple and even obvious can liberate the choreographer and give him or her opportunities that would not be possible in a more complex story.

Okay, it's not Hamlet, but the plot is perfectly clear [...]

Imagine an ABT ad with the following slogan: "CORSAIRE -- IT AIN'T HAMLET". While some would take that as a put-down and stay away, lovers of ballet might breath a sigh of relief.

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Here's a huge list of my favorite fairy tales I read to my kids. A few of which have already been made into ballets.

Papa Gatto http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/031677073...glance&n=283155

This one I have thought about a lot for a ballet. It is basically an Italian Cinderella. Many cultures have a Cinderella story.

I saw a movie of an Appalacian Cinderella story titled "Ashpet"

Mufaro’s beautiful Daughter’s http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/068804045...glance&n=283155

An African Cinderella

Flower-Fairies http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/072324839...=books&v=glance

Amherst Ballet in Massachusettes did a ballet production baised on this book. Complete with matching costumes.

The Little Match Girl http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/014230188...glance&n=283155

This one was done in Conneticutt see the link below.



Seven Chinese Brothers http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/059042057...=books&v=glance

This would be a men's ballet. I love this story of how the brother's worked together.

older Brother Younger Brother http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/014055334...=books&v=glance

Where the Wild Things Are has already been done http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004WJM...v=glance&n=5174

Legend of the Blue bonnet http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/069811359...=books&v=glance

I just read this Native American tale when I was substitute teaching. Lots of emotion.

Tatterhood http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/031657334...glance&n=283155

My daughter danced around the house with a wooden spoon for years after we got this book.

Stone soup http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/068987836...glance&n=283155

The Rough Face Girl http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/069811626...=books&v=glance

A Native American Cinderella

The People could fly http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/037582405...=books&v=glance

Reading Rainbow did a episode depicting this African American story.

The talking eggs http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080370619...=books&v=glance

A Cajun Cinderella

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Wow! -- thanks for that research, vicariious. And for pointing out some of the ballets that have already been sete on this literature. :dunno: Maybe publishers of children's literature should consider developing "ballet treatments" -- complete with designs, etc. -- for their more suitable works.

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Sir Kenneth could get away with Mayerling. It's been years since the Hapsburgs have sued anybody for defamation over things like that.

I just watched 'Mayerling,' and the 2nd act tavern/semi-brothel scene is very enjoyable with Darcey Bussell. Well, this is a most peculiar piece, I'll say, but Irek Mukhademov was magnificent. I also recently watched him with the Bolshoi in 'Raymonda.' He definitely knows how to zip up a piece, and I'd like to know more about him, if he's still dancing. Bolshoi recording is from 1987, RB of 'Mayerling' from 1994.

ILiszt's 'Mephisto Waltz' could be a great story ballet, since it's already built in.

And, in fact, Lanchberry orchestrated it for part of the tavern/brothel scene. Musically, the piano pieces are all orchestrated for a fast and vapid Muzak sound. There are also some Transcendental Etudes in the 3rd Act, including one for the final scene with Mary and Rudolph--this is truly hard to take, and most of the orchestrations are musically horrible: the 'Mephisto Waltz' full of cuts, but mainly it sounds as if an old LP had been sped up to 45 but the pitches somehow staying the same; however, it works well enough as a 'Dance at the Inn,' whereas the Transcendental Etude for Viviana Durante and Irek just sounds like silent-movie music for Valentino and Vilma Banky. Mukhademov, to my mind, seems to be able to make even the silliest things work. Any other fans of his out there?

Well, real earthly royalty does not always work so well en pointe as does Elisabeth McGorian as the Queen in 'Sleeping Beauty' (that is a beautiful face), for example, or Prince Siegfried, etc., not known as an actual potentate-to-be.

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