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wondering

Identifying a ballet

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Hi:

I'm an outsider with little or no interest in ballet, but I have a question. I was at the hospital changing channels after my son was born, and I stopped on the "arts" channel, where there was a strange little ballet that I'm trying to identify. Being sleep-deprived, all I remember was it was a performance from Berlin in 2001, and the name of the ballet and the piece were in German. There was a group of women on a raised platform on the stage, kind of swaying back and forth. Then there was a male dancer, sort of running back and forth on the stage in front of the platform. This went on for a while, but the reason I watched was because I realized there was a pole in the middle of the platform, and on top of it was an "X" and there were 10-15 bodies hanging from the X, as if they had been executed. They were so high that you didn't realize they were there at first, but it was pretty disturbing and I was wondering about the story line and what the heck was going on. The guy kept moving from side to side on the stage, and he and the dancers were swaying back and forth. Then a man in military garb came in, and took off his robe and joined the women on the platform. At the end, the X started moving in a circle and the bodies -- dressed in charcoal-gray rags -- moved slowly in a circle. A very strange performance. What can I say, I'm a naturally curious person. Thanks in advance.

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Hi wondering. Thanks for your question. I'm sorry no one has answered -- I can't be helpful either, I'm afraid. You may have seen a contemporary or modern piece that isn't in a lot of companies' repertories, so if one wasn't in Berlin in 2001 one wouldn't have seen it. Yours is a very good description -- if we knew what the music was, that might help track it down.

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Thanks. I don't think it was contemporary. The music sounded like traditional classical orchestration, and the costumes looked maybe 18th century. But since I don't know anything about ballet, maybe I'm assuming they have to use electronic music and spacesuits for contemporary/modern dance :blink: (The composer's name was German also.)

Here's another wierd clue: I saw an interview with a famous ballet choreographer in the New Yorker magazine. I didn't read it, but in the photo, he was standing in his Sunday best, with burlap rags -- just like the ones in the mystery ballet -- hanging down and just touching his head.

The plot thickens...

but I guess the trail might grow cold here. Oh well. Don't ask me why I remember such wierd details about things I'm barely interested in. Thanks for your reply Alexandra.

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Wondering, I WISH I could help, esp because my mind works like that, too.

You might inquire at Ballet Internazional in Berlin. They've got a web-site and take emails. Maybe somebody would get back to you.

How's your son growing?

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This is a wild guess on my part, but the set description makes me wonder if it might be someone's version of Carmina Burana (the composer is Carl Orff and the music is choral) - Carmina Burana often has a huge "wheel of fortune" in the production with people (usually monks) on it.

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I had thought of "Carmina Burana" too, except he said the title was in German, and usually CB keeps its title, and that it's sung to a choral accompaniment. Was there singing? I'm intrigued now -- this one sounds strange enough that we should have heard about it!!

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This is the closest I could get from Googling, but doesn't fit all the requirements. There's also a Swedish opera from the 70's or earlier that has lots of spacesuits. I'll see if I can figure out the composer. Yes, it's Karl Birgir Blohmdahl, the opera is Aniara. I was impressed with it, but don't know if there is any dancing in it, because I only heard a recording, but anyway I don't think an opera was being described.

Gus Solomons jr

NEW YORK -- "Aurora I," opening one of Ballet Tech's programs at the Joyce (March 11- April 13), reminded me that Eliot Feld is a very inventive movement maker and that the obsessive way he composes that inventive movement into dances drives me crazy. It's no surprise that one of his preferred composers is Steve Reich, whose insistent pattern music gives him a perfect field for endless repetitions of movement motifs.

The dozen dancers in this 1985 work wear white sneakers and silvery space suits by Willa Kim, adorned at wrists and ankles with blurry bands of magenta or aqua. They slide down steeply raked platforms in myriad ways, sitting on their fannies, splitting their legs apart, diving upside down. The interlocking traffic patterns are stunning as dancers descend then climb back up the steep slope, progressing across the half-hexagon the platforms describe. Allen Lee Hughes uses low side light to cast long shadows: arctic twilight. But the pretty patterning persists for nearly half an hour without achieving a satisfying metaphor.

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Blast from the past - I think the opera is "Aniara" by Karl Blohmdahl. (Mom had a record of the music from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and an excerpt was included as an extra). I agree with you; it doesn't sound like Aurora, which was futuristic rather than dystopian.

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Hi:

I'm an outsider with little or no interest in ballet, but I have a question. I was at the hospital changing channels after my son was born, and I stopped on the "arts" channel, where there was a strange little ballet that I'm trying to identify. Being sleep-deprived, all I remember was it was a performance from Berlin in 2001, and the name of the ballet and the piece were in German. There was a group of women on a raised platform on the stage, kind of swaying back and forth. Then there was a male dancer, sort of running back and forth on the stage in front of the platform. This went on for a while, but the reason I watched was because I realized there was a pole in the middle of the platform, and on top of it was an "X" and there were 10-15 bodies hanging from the X, as if they had been executed.

I think that the ballet in question may have been by Roland Petit who has staged the evening-length "Dix, or Eros and Death". His ballet was based upon paintings by Otto Dix, a well-known artist of the Weimar Republic who completed a series of bleak etchings full of despair of World War I which Petit I believe used a metaphor for the impending Nazi regime which followed after Dix's period. The ballet was originally staged in Berlin's Deutsche Oper in 1993. Dix was a bitter witness to the horrors of trench warfare and later he often used religious images in his work and perhaps the imagery of the cross and the hanging bodies were Petit's allusion to this.

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I stopped on the "arts" channel, where there was a strange little ballet that I'm trying to identify.

Was this Classic Arts showcase, where they show revolving clips of ballets, operas, classical music, movies, recitals, etc.? If so, as far as I know, they only show clips from commercially released (or about to be released) DVD's or tapes.

For Roland Petit, the only things I'm finding on release DVD's are:

Notre Dame de Paris

Die Fledermaus

"Zizi Jeanmarie Performs Roland Petit," with Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort and The Gold Digger

Blue Angel

Carmen

Clavigo is available for pre-order on the German amazon site. I also found a reference to a re-working of Pique Dame on DVD, but I can't find it for sale.

However, if it was a different arts channel, like Bravo, they may have contracted to show a performance that was broadcast originally on TV in Europe or Russia, and that is not available commercially.

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I stopped on the "arts" channel, where there was a strange little ballet that I'm trying to identify.

Was this Classic Arts showcase, where they show revolving clips of ballets, operas, classical music, movies, recitals, etc.? If so, as far as I know, they only show clips from commercially released (or about to be released) DVD's or tapes.

I have also searched and cannot find a film of the ballet but I wonder if the whole ballet was shown on television. I don't know about German television at that time but recordings of ballets made just for televison have happened often in the UK and have so far never been commercially released. In the case of the DVD's of Petit's ballets that have been released they are of his most successful works after all his oeuvre must extend to more than 50 ballets at a guess.

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Wondering wrote:

... the reason I watched was because I realized there was a pole in the middle of the platform, and on top of it was an "X" and there were 10-15 bodies hanging from the X, as if they had been executed. They were so high that you didn't realize they were there at first, but it was pretty disturbing and I was wondering about the story line and what the heck was going on.

The imagery certainly seems reminiscent of Jacques Callot's famous engraving of the hanging tree during the late-16th to early-17th century French wars of religion. (One could argue that the world today is currently going through our own version of such wars.)

See: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Ja...eres_guerre.gif

Also: the famous photograph of the 1930 lynching of two black men, which is said to have been the inspiration for the Billie Holliday song, "Strange Fruit." There are several famous photographs of uncaring, sometimes even delighted, people milling about beneath the hanging bodies of lynch victims in the US South. (Ethnic atrocities are still very much with us in the world today.)

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Fruit

Good and timely topics for dance-theater. Perhaps rather distracting for a ballet, however.

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Wow. Thanks for all your replies. To answer some of the questions...

First of all, my son is growing like a weed, thanks for asking. He's doing great.

Now, I don't know what arts channel it was, but at the end of the peice there was some identifying information printed on the screen, like MTV used to do with their videos (maybe they still do, it's been a while). That's where I got the Berlin 2001 information, so it was not a complete ballet. Also, the title and composer seemed to be in German, but if I remembered, I wouldn't have to ask you nice people.

BTW, the spacesuit comment was a bad joke about how how I assumed it wasn't contemporary because of the period dress and the orchestration.

No, I don't think there was any singing, (but maybe there was--shoot!) but, if I remember correctly, the military character that came out at the end had a round helmet, sort of Conquistador-style, which I quess would make it earlier than the 18th century.

The guy running back and forth in front of the women on the platofrm had long blonde hair, if that helps, and a white shirt like a sailor would wear.

Also, the New Yorker magazine that was laying around is the Aug. 2, 2004 issue with a photo of Frederick Ashton: a "giant of 20th century ballet." The way those rags are hanging above him bears an eerie similarity to that ballet.

NOTE: one or more of these details could be WAY off.

Yes, the theme seems appropos for the times we're in. What struck me was how blissful the dancers seemed, not joyous, but smiling and...pleased.

Thanks again. I never thought I would play a game of "stump the ballet experts," and it's pretty interesting. If I was a betting man, I would go with Leonid's suggestion of Roland Petit. What I was watching was very much "Eros and Death." But then again, I'm out of my element, and Carmina Burana is a possibility, since I can't say for sure there was no singing.

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Hmm! Quite the mystery. The mystery ballet is probably not Ashton - my guess is the piece in the photo was "Dante Sonata" and that's not quite what you're describing, though there is a sort of crucifixion as the final tableau.

Now that we're putting all this effort into this, take your son to see some ballet when he's old enough! :)

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Re leonid's suggestion that this might be Roland Petit's ballet based on the images of Otto Dix: does the imagery in his Link ring a bell?

http://www.nationalgallery.com.au/Dix/index.cfm

(Scroll down to third picture for round helmets and gas masks which do give a sligihtly "spaceman" look.)

How about a score that might have consisted of music by Schonberg, Hindemith, Weill, Stravinsky ... ?

Specifically about the Petit worik -- Did this work have a life after its performance(s) at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 1993? It's surprising how elusive information about this piece is.

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The guy running around with long blond hair sounds Pina Bausch (or School of) to me -- though the Petit guess sure sounds good.

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I believe that I saw this a few different times on the Arts channel.

The design looked as if it were in a swamp or other muggy environment with the tree of dead turning and turnning. There was a corps of dancers who more or less hung out on a platform around the tree, and there were a couple of soloists who would, indeed, run back and forth alot. Everyone looked very dirty.

I found it to be quite beautiful, in a disturbing sort of way. It was very mesmerizing.

If it is what I'm thinking of, it was a scene from an opera...but I cannot remember what it was. I'll keep an eye out for it, it shows every couple of weeks or so.

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How about a score that might have consisted of music by Schonberg, Hindemith, Weill, Stravinsky ... ?

Specifically about the Petit worik -- Did this work have a life after its performance(s) at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 1993? It's surprising how elusive information about this piece is.

Well done Bart. The score for the Dix ballet was from various composers as follows: von Künneke, Schönberg, Hindemith, Weill, Strawinsky, Blake, Blacher, Berg, Zimmermann first performance

Berlin, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, 1993.

Only problem is we still have not discovered the film or firmly identified the ballet.

PS I have searched dozens of TV channels in Germany and rest of Europe for the

broadcast originally referred to with no luck.

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