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Multiple production disorder?

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Svetlana Zakharova had been invited to La Scala in previous seasons for Swan Lake and Giselle, which gained her quite an Italian following. Returning for La Bayadère the Bolshoi star brought, beside her formidable technique, the experience and fully-fledged understanding from having danced Nikiya in no less than seven different productions, including Makarova’s which she performed with American Ballet Theater and Hamburg Ballet.

After dancing in seven different productions of La Bayadere, how does she avoid confusion? Especially when a part was cut. Has Zakharova or any other dancer inadvertently performed parts from a different production?

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I think if you're as big a star as she is, the companies you guest with allow you quite a bit of latitude. She probably always does the pas de deux and her solo work the same way, and only needs to rehearse the blocking and mime scenes with the company. Of course, I also detect a hint of sarcasm in that review...

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Of course, I also detect a hint of sarcasm in that review...

I'm not so sure about that. In a recent issue of Dance International magazine Marc Haegeman used a similar turn of phrase to describe the many productions of Swan Lake that Zakharova has appeared in.

Like Cliff, I have wondered about this, although I'm also curious about how dancers keep entirely different versions of a given ballet straight. For example, has Vladimir Malakhov ever confused the Cranko and MacMillan versions of Romeo & Juliet? Presumably it shouldn't happen if a dancer has had sufficient rehearsal time.

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The Haegemann review seems remarkably positive about Zakharova and respectful and sympathetic about the La Scala production.

As to Cliff's original question, I've often thought about how frequent guest artists handle this, especially when entering an established production with its own performance history. While watching ballets being set, rehearsals of ballets returning to the rep after years, etc., I've always been astonished at how quickly dancers pick up movement, blocking, etc., even when given instructions and signals that seemed to me to be quite brief, sketchy, and even cryptic.

I'm looking forward to hearing what some of our more experienced Ballet Talkers have to say about it.

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It seems more a question for Ballet Talk for Dancers, doesn't it? Maybe on the Cross Talk forum?

It would not be out of place on BalletTalk for Dancers. If BT4D-ers want to open the discussion there, fine, but I'd really like to see this thread grow.

I suppose that a sensitive dancer would recognize in a good choreographer -- someone with solid craft who has his own voice, his own sense of musicality -- enough distinctive quality so that s/he would not get confused between different R & J's, for example -- where the steps themselves are different.

With the classics, ABT has allowed guest Nikiyas to do their own basket dances (if it differs from ABT's version), for example. Lucia Chase used to let Nureyev do Swan Lake's Act I pas de trois, even though first-cast Benno usually took the the leftovers of that role for the night. If I recall correctly, Nureyev also tweaked the Act II pas. This confuses me, because isn't guesting supposed to be an opportunity for the artist to broaden her/his experience and understanding of familiar roles? Or is it just a chance to strut your stuff before a new bunch of people and make some extra cash?

Some of the classics are more fussed with than others. I have seen variations in Giselle's Peasant pdd, for example (the Royal does a pd6 by Ashton), but for the principals, the choreography is pretty standard. If it's a matter of changing the order of a set piece, I think some dancers could accomodate quickly, while others might agonize over how to make it dramatically coherent, and how they'd have to reconceptualize the whole ballet to make it valid for them.

Maybe it's like actors who learn a Shakespeare role one way, but perform it later from a different edition of the text?

Or keeping straight whether you're singing

This old man, he played one,

He played knick-knack on my thumb . . .


I love you, you love me

We're a happy family . . .

:blush: I apologize profusely for that example.

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I think performing different versions of the classics when guesting presents far less problems to dancers than one would imagine, as in such a situation the dancers surroundings serve as a constant reminder that they are not "at home". The stage, the sets, the costumes, the orchestra, the partner - all this will keep them aware of it and help fix the newly-rehearsed version of the ballet in their minds. They would probably have more difficulties if their home-company suddenly decided to alter aspects of their production, as they are more likely to reflexively revert to what their bodies are used to dancing in their accustomed surroundings.

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Dancers have described losing their way and having been talked through a role they've learned at the last minute or talked back into the correct steps. I would think that more than one dancer has been talked through, gestured through, and nudged through a specific version by a partner who is more familiar with the production.

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Some of these problems probably get sorted out during rehearsal, albeit with some difficulty. In a BBC profile of Darcey Bussell, she was working on the Swan Lake PDDs with Igor Zelensky. Bussell said Zelesnky was having a hard time adjusting to the Royal Ballet's version vs. the Kirov's.

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