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Staging A Ballet

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This may be yet another dumb question, but here goes.

The ABT does a series of performances of the same ballet, but change the cast of dancers... perhaps principals, soloists and the corps.

Is is the same ballet, the same sets and costumes and the same choreography, but each performance will have its own personality... I suppose because of the dancers... how they look and dance.

Are the differences in appearance "played up" or played down? Are they meant to be almost identical? Is each performance meant to emphasize the differences that the performers can bring to their roles? Is each cast rehearsed separately or are the rehearsals done "ensemble" with each dancer receiving the same "direction"?

Of course, since ballet dancers at the very minimum will each look different, height, body type, face, skill and so on even with everything else equalized each cast would appear different.

What ARE the variables from performance to performance of the same ballet done by the same company in a series of performances?

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The question you pose, DefJef, is an intriguing one. [More so than the interesting but unfocused 'elitism' question].

I suggest the answer to the question has to be seen in two parts:

the 'infrastructure' provided by the dancing of the corps de ballet strives for precision and replicability of results between succeeding performances of a work in any one company.

The contribution of the soloists in a work strives to present individual 'takes'; interpretations that, in my opinion, respect and adhere to the spirit and intentions of the choreography, while providing leeway for musical perceptiveness, matters of emphasis, and generally the individual artistry of the solo or lead dancer.

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This also brings to mind the "interpretation" of the music, not by the dancer or choreographer but by the conductor. I know from listening to classic music and opera that the same music can sound quite different depending on the orchestra and the conductor more so I suspect.

So in terms of tempo and so forth how is this all worked out? Do they ever chnage the tempo for example for different principals? Not being a musician I haven't the slighest clue how this works, but watching the dancers move it seems that they are so completely in synchronicity with the music that the timing and so forth seems more precise than a Swiss watch movement. Amazing isn't it?

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At New York City Ballet, I observed the tempi being set with the conductor and a pianist at dress rehearsal, and I don't think they vary widely from one principal to another, although of course the conductor and dancer will work together "in the moment" to adjust the timing for small issues and make every little flourish exact.

As far as casting and rehearsals, the casts are usually rehearsed separately, although one may have understudies or members of different casts attending a rehearsal to learn their parts better. As chiapuris said, the corps is often coached to look uniform, whereas principal dancers and soloists are allowed more individuality, which is what makes seeing different casts in the same ballet so much fun.

(And DefJef, I don't think you've asked a single dumb question yet. :dunno: )

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Since coming to this board I have so many questions, but I am asking them "slowly" so I can receive lots of comments and mull them over and absorb them. I really appreciate the generosity and patience of those who are "experts" with neophytes such as myself. Thanks again for the replies and comments.

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