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Wanted: new story lines for a 21st Century Swan Lake

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I think that we've established the original premise for this thread, that, yes, there ARE storylines out there that could make a classical ballet. Whether they come from Ancient Greece, Oxford University, Yoknapatawpha County, or the planet Vulcan, (Anybody know how to get in touch with Majel Roddenberry to see what Gene had creative options on?), yes, there are stories out there.

I would LOVE to see a star trek ballet. Somehow I suspect I'm just about the only one though ;)

PS--whoever had the blade runner idea--I love it!

/dork

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I also saw a memorable, interesting use of staging (can't recall all the choreography) of Hunchback of Notre Dame at Boston Ballet. It wasn't as 'grand guignole' as Dracula, or flashy as Cleopatra (too long and boring that in the middle), and was rather sombre/sad ending of course.
Roland Petit did one which his company brought to the Met in the early 80s. Score was by a film composer, Maurice Jarres. I recall that it wasn't much as far as choreography went, but a vivid and dramatic staging of the story nonetheless. I enjoyed it, but have never felt the urge to see it a second time.

I'll go with Tristan and Isolde. One problem -- no party scene. :(

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Hasn't "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" already been done in a version by Petipa called "Esmeralda"?

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Sure, but once a story has been used once, that shouldn't stop people from using it again. If you've got a new score and a different point of view from the prior version, go right ahead. That's one of the things that Balanchine had in mind when he did his Don Quixote. The buzz at the time had been that he had wanted originally to do a Sleeping Beauty without Tchaikovsky, but Kirstein talked him out of it.

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I like the idea but I'm not sure there are enough women in Lord of the Rings to constitute a ballet...

I agree with 4mrdncr about the importance of melody. Apart from anything else, a full-evening ballet won't really be a box-office smash with difficult music - that's combining two 'scary' art forms! Would it be true to say that ballet is an art form which is now less respected by modern composers who wish to be taken seriously?

Re: a story, I have a feeling it's already been done, but how about Don Juan?

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Tristan and Isolde and Beren and Luthien get my votes for "story ballet" plots. I'm not sure if it's doable, but I would like to see a Beowulf as well.

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I often think the main ingredient missing is not the libretto, but the score. We're not going to make a narrative ballet durable enough to hand down to another generation without a great score.

OMG, Leigh, you just read my mind. That's why we lost so many Petipa's works...non transcendental music. That's why the Tchaikowsky trilogy doesn't has to show its dancing side to be enjoyable 150 %. :( (Actually, in the ballet programs in Havana the work get's catalogued under the composer's name instead of the choreographer, as in western tradition ) So, if we want a trascendental new ballet, first we need a brilliant new score...

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One of the qualities that make a long-lasting ballet is accessibility. Yes, you can have rather forgettable music as a score, but if it springboards great choreography, it'll stay. Remember, the Russian Don Quixote was not seen in the west until the late 60s, and now has become a staple in a lot of western repertoires. Pavlova had a version (by Ivan Clustine?) that she toured with, and Nureyev had staged a couple of versions before the Bolshoi brought out a fully-armed version, but they looked pretty wan after you saw the Real Thing. There was even chatter at the time, wondering where these old ballets survived. Even ballet people were clueless when it came to what was going on in Russia. I still have information gaps that these Ballet Talks finally filled in. I didn't know, for example, that "Pavillion d'Armide" survived as a school production at St. Petersburg, but that was an accessibility issue of a different sort - the Cold War.

And certainly, we can have classic tragedies as a central core, but the plots, when you sum them up, are mostly worth only a one-act. We need lots of dancing in our 21st-century classical ballet!

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We need lots of dancing in our 21st-century classical ballet!
Good point. Tastes -- and the pace of life itself -- change. With the gradual re-appearance of 19th century classics in the mid 20th century, long mime passages tended to be replaced with dance. Nureyev's editings and additiions are just one example.

The need for extended periods of different kinds of dancing is one reason I responded to the idea of Tristan with the complaint that there's "No party scene." The long-lasting ballets all (all?) have scenes in which there is dancing-as-dancing: parties, competitions, challenges by characters like Mirtha, etc.

Several posters have spoken of the need for melody in the scores. I would also put in a word for a variety of dance rhythms. Let's not forget, for example, the usefulness of 3/4 time. For boosting energy in a flowing and amiable way, you can't bet 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

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I know that recitative is not in style, but I want mime in my 21st century classic! Balanchine knew that you can't have relentless Wagner-like end-to-end intense dancing for hours at a time. He knew how to pace. There is mime in every one of his more-than-one-act ballet except "Liebeslieder Walzer." (Which people have found boring.) And in his abstract ballets, he knew when to pull back, for maximum effect. I don't want to be pounded.

As an aside, I brought two friends to "Giselle" last weekend. They were both worried they wouldn't understand the story. Having seen the matinee, I told them that without even reading the program, they wouldn't have problem, but I explained two things: the Mother's mime, just so they understood what a Wili was, and the gesture for "Let's dance!"

Two days later, my Dallas friend and I were watching the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets game. While the "travelling" call has almost become an endangered species, each time it was called, he would look at me and say,"Let's dance!" If a novice can catch onto the most ballet-specific piece of mime vocabulary, I don't think mime is that hard for someone with several "Nutcracker"s under his/her belt to get.

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There is mime in every one of his more-than-one-act ballet except "Liebeslieder Walzer." (Which people have found boring.)

Why do I feel picky today? Or is it picky to point out that there's no mime in Jewels, either? Then there is the mean, intolerant and hopelessly opinionated thought that keeps running through my head like a determined nutcracker mouse that there just may not be a place in heaven for those who find Liebeslieder Walzer boring. Sorry. I will now go back to my mousehole and be quiet.

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There used to be a mime dialogue in Jewels, in "Diamonds" between the ballerina and her cavalier, or is that gone too, along with the tosses in so many Balanchine ballets?

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Then there is the mean, intolerant and hopelessly opinionated thought that keeps running through my head like a determined nutcracker mouse that there just may not be a place in heaven for those who find Liebeslieder Walzer boring.

:yahoo: I love the passionate opinion of a fan. Silly Vanity Department: after years and years of loving Balanchine but not loving waltzing, I was a little proud of myself when I finally saw Liebeslieder (on screen), and wasn't bored. Peter Martins' "Schubertiade," now that was boring (and boring, and boring).

This has been a fascinating thread. Of course there have been any number of highly publicized and anticipated new operas with relatively contemporary subject matter recently: John Adams' and Peter Sellars' "Dr. Atomic," Andre Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire," and John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" come to mind, and then there are other works by Adams and by Phillip Glass. I would think that there are all sorts of 20th and 21st century stories that would appeal to people uninterested in the classics, if only someone would actually choreograph them, and choreograph them well. For myself, I'd rather see Greek myths.

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There used to be a mime dialogue in Jewels, in "Diamonds" between the ballerina and her cavalier, or is that gone too, along with the tosses in so many Balanchine ballets?

I think you may be thinking of Ballet Imperial, which did have a mime sequence that Balanchine later removed. But I've seen Jewels since its first season, and there was never a mime sequence in it, unless I dozed off each time at the precise moment it occured - mmm - probably not.

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No, it's definitely "Diamonds". I recall in its first season, there was a moment when Jacques "said" to Suzanne, "Let's go!" and she mimed demurral. The last time I saw it, which was the POB broadcast, it hadn't been erased, but rather grown into a port de bras exchange that didn't look like mime any more.

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No, it's definitely "Diamonds". I recall in its first season, there was a moment when Jacques "said" to Suzanne, "Let's go!" and she mimed demurral. The last time I saw it, which was the POB broadcast, it hadn't been erased, but rather grown into a port de bras exchange that didn't look like mime any more.

Thank you for the information. It brings up some interesting points, though I'm not sure this thread is the place for them. If you think a Mime and/or Dramatic Gesture in Balanchine thread would be a better place, I'd be delighted to go there and continue the discussion. It seems to me that dramatic gesture in Balanchine's non-narrative ballets is very frequent, from Apollo to Davidsbundlertanze through Liebeslieder down to Scotch Symphony, Serenade and Western Symphony and many ballets in between. But is this mime, in the classical sense, in the sense being discussed on this thread? I don't know, but it's well-worth going into.

As for Diamonds, I went back to my 1967 notebooks and checked my various windy scribblings on Jewels (I kept calling it "The Jewels" for some inscrutible reason). Unfortunately, they were no help on this point, but they did remind me of something of which I'm sure you, like most of us at that time, were painfully aware: that Farrell was becoming increasingly frazzled and sometimes just plain discombobulated. At one point I wrote "I wish Balanchine would just leave her alone for a while!" I bring this up, because the moment you note in Diamonds might have been Balanchine, but it might also have been a solicitous d'Amboise (and you remember how solicitous of Farrell he was) trying to get her over rough patches in performance. It's hard to say. There isn't such a moment in the filmed pas de deux with Farrell and Martins, but of course that is many years later.

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True enough. I was getting to the point then of being sick and tired of her. Sometimes there would be nights when of three or four ballets, she would be the ballerina in all but one. The occasional night it was "all Suzanne, all the time."

But we should be getting back to our main focus, setting it up for making The Great 21st-Century Full-Evening Classic Ballet, particularly with emphasis on the drama.

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But we should be getting back to our main focus, setting it up for making The Great 21st-Century Full-Evening Classic Ballet, particularly with emphasis on the drama.
Cleopatra worked nicely for Diaghilev, Fokine, and Ida Rubenstein in their 1909 Paris season. It was their biggest hit, despite being saddled with a score that stiched together the work of six composers.

The story is currently making the rounds in a "million-dollar production" choreographed by Ben Stevenson, the perpetrator of one of the Dracula ballets a few years ago). I believe it was originally coproduced by Houston, Boston, and Pittsburgh, but don't know its performance history.

The character is iconic (though much parodied) and the story, or at least the basic situation, is universally known. So why do I cringe inwardly at the thought that this ballet is on my Ballet Florida subscription series? :)

The music is crucial, as several posters have emphasized. I confess that John Lanchbery's use of Lizst for the Dracula score was pretty awful and actually irritating. Lanchbery turned out another cut-paste-and-reorchestrate jobs for Cleopatra, recycling Rimskky-Korsakov.

What do you think about Cleopatra or some other woman from history as a subject? Elizabeth I (possibly to Donizetti's or Britten's music)? Joan of Arc? Lucrezia Borgia? Margaret Thatcher?

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Several people have suggested the Tristan and Isolde story, but I think that it does have some elements, like the love potion, of the mother-in-law in ballet variety. How about a less set version of the same story in an earlier form - the story of Diarmuid, Grainne and Finn McCool, which has already been turned into an Irish dance drama by Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, so it's doable. It's a terrific drama, with enough room in the legends for effective manipulation of the scenario. It has possibilities for grand love duets, big solos, jealous trios (Finn is a far stronger character than King Mark), warriors and courtiers choruses, and even some classical supernatural bits (the Butler-Dunne version took advantage of this).

I have no clue what music could be used, but an original score using Irish music as a source might give it extra interest. We could use some exciting new ballet music. It's a drama that could be classical and modern at the same time, as well as both familiar and new, and hopefully unhacknied. In fact, Irish mythology and legend is a huge unexplored area which strikes me as a wonderful source for dance dramas.

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Thank you so much for that suggestion, popularlibrary. I Googled the piece -- Dancing on Dangerous Ground -- and came up with the following rave New York Times review from 2000

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...750C0A9669C8B63

The dvd of this work, available from Amazon, definitely seems worth looking at.

The best Celtic legends do have a kind of universality of appeal. And they are amenable both to musisc and movement that express slow meloncholy, spritely dancing, and violent rage in the course of a relatively short period of time. Just what we're looking for. Would this be compatible with pointe shoes, at least for part of the evening?

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The best Celtic legends do have a kind of universality of appeal. And they are amenable both to musisc and movement that express slow meloncholy, spritely dancing, and violent rage in the course of a relatively short period of time. Just what we're looking for. Would this be compatible with pointe shoes, at least for part of the evening?

Sure, why not? There's enough otherwordly in Celtic myth to make it acceptable, I think. Anyway, if they can put Pharoah's daughter on pointe, why not the mercurial Grainne?

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I think Cranko's Antigone was created on the beautiful Svetlana Beriosova. She recited Russian text as she danced....

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I think Cranko's Antigone was created on the beautiful Svetlana Beriosova. She recited Russian text as she danced....

Wasn't it in Ashton's Persephone that she recited Gide in french?

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Urgh, could very well be - I just have a vague memory of a picture in a book. I'm confusing my myths! (And languages....oh dear....) :flowers:

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