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silvy

Ballets with marine-related plots?

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I was asked to think of ballets with marine-related plots, and to offer a lecture on this, which is to be addressed to Navy officers in my country.

So far, the only ballets that come to mind are Union Jack and Le Corsaire. "Ondine" maybe, but I was not so sure, since I understand she is not a "sea" sprite, but someone who comes out of a "fountain".

Then I thought of "Pharaoh¬°s Daughter", but, again, Aspiccia throws herself into the Nile, which is a river and not a sea.

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Thanks a lot

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I saw Joffrey II do 'the Little Mermaid' a couple of decades ago. It was lovely.

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Definitely "Pineapple Poll", although they never make it out of Portsmouth Harbour. And how about the "Naiad and the Fisherman" pas de deux (That's actually Perrot's Ondine)? Then there's Napoli which happens on and IN the Bay of Naples. And while we're on Bournonville, Far from Denmark recounts a costume party on an ocean liner, where the passengers dance the different countries they've visited. Ashton's Ondine is a good choice. I had a friend who used to get actually seasick watching the shipboard passage.

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In fact, Ondine is a water sprite and much of the second takes place on and under the ocean. Posideon is a character in the ballet. I would also suggest Napoli, the hero is a fisherman and the second act takes place under water in the Blue Grotto.

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John Neumeier choreographed a version of The Little Mermaid for the Royal Danish Ballet. The Hamburg Ballet will perform it in July.

Also, North Carolina Dance Theatre will premiere a version of The Little Mermaid next spring.

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I think, as Mel mentioned, that Bournonville's Far From Denmark would be ideal - the main plot is about how one of the ship's lieutenants falls for a local girl in Argentina, where his ship is stationed (I think it's a frigate, Mel, rather than a cruise ship) although he's engaged to someone back home.

Most of the other ballets I can think of about the sea deal with people drowning in it (Ashton's Lament of the Waves, Cranko's Sea Change), which your audience might find a bit depressing! - though of course if you can extend your brief to be about sailors rather than the sea, there's always Fancy Free.

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If only we could change the setting of Swan Lake... Swan Beach?

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As you are talking to Naval officers, they may actually be more interested and possibly even intrigued by a comparative look at naval officers and sailors (Fancy Free, Pineapple Poll and Far From Denmark) than talking about the sea in ballet in general.

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Come to think of it, Jane, you're right. I may be confounding Far From Denmark with something else, maybe even a Sousa comic opera. I seem to recall seeing an albumen print photograph of Bournonville himself in a character part from the ballet, beaver top hat, frock coat, waistcoat and gaitered trousers. Maybe he was playing a local civilian or a supercargo for the Navy or some such.

Sailors and their officers have always been considered "real characters" in the entertainment field. Consider all the movies we've seen (even set in peacetime) about sailors and their adventures. Madame Butterfly isn't the only telling of the faithless Navy officer who deserts his foreign bride. Ashton did a straight-from-the-source "Madame Chrysanthème", while Stanton Welch bypassed Pierre Loti entirely and did a "Butterfly" from Puccini.

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Union Jack? But I guess that one is rather nationalistic.

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I think Bournonville's The King's Volunteers on Amager has a naval theme. Slightly off topic but with sailors - David Nixon's production of Madame Butterfly. David Bintley's Nutcracker Sweeties has a sailor in the Chinese Dance.

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Thanks for all your replies!

Thank you for the photo of Pearl Argyle, Gina - that was a beautiful woman!!

Union Jack is already included - and it is not nationalistic at all, as the Navy here seems to see the English Navy as a model (their uniforms are based on the English ones, and at the Naval Museum, where I shall give the lecture, there is a cannon that belonged to H.M.S. Agamenon, which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar under Admiral Nelson - there is also a cannon that belonged to German vessel "Admiral Graf Spee", which is quite astounding, but this is :) ).

About the King's Volunteers of Amager, where can I find the plot? Or does someone know it?

Thank you

Silvy

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The King's Volunteers in the 1860s was a regiment of militia formed on the legionary concept, in other words, they had a battalion of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and a section (two guns) of artillery. The regiment was a rather society-tony thing to belong to. Quite a few of the members were rather well-to-do. To the best of my knowledge, they didn't have their own ships or marines, but practically everything else (their members would buy it). They were sort of like the National Guard, but didn't train very often. A field training on Amager (an island) took on a county fair atmosphere, with lots of people going out to watch the exercises, and some going with booths and merchandise to sell to both the crowd and the guardsmen. It was a great opportunity familiar to the Copenhagen crowd as a great excuse for a show, as entertainers often went out over the bridge to Amager to do a sort of Danish USO Show for the occasion. Bournonville himself, I believe, had been a member of the Volunteers for a short time. The situation had comedy potential, too, like Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy or Olsen and Johnson. This was sort of "Jens and Nils Join the Army!"

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This site has the stories of many Bournonville ballets and some nice photos as well.
Thanks, scherzo!

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There's also Le Poisson Dore' (The Golden Fish) with music by Minkus and choreographed by Saint-Leon. It derives from Pushkin's 1835 poem The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish.

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