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Balanchine - Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux


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I thought I’d re-purpose the Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux compilation that I posted in the Misty Copeland thread for an opening entry in a new compare / contrast thread.

If you aren’t familiar with the ballet, or even if you are, it might be helpful to visit the ballet's page on the NYCB website to read the program notes and watch Tiler Peck’s lovely little introductory video.

I think I’ve gotten my YouTube cue point issue sorted out. The samples below should all start where the variation under question begins. If they don’t, it usually begins around the 5:00 - 6:00 minute mark on tapes of the complete ballet.

I’ve arranged things thusly:

1) Ballerinas who danced the role for Balanchine. These are our touchstones.

Violette Verdy, the role’s orginator

Bonus feature! Here's a clip of Verdy coaching Tiler Peck in the variation. (Thanks to cantdance for the link)

(Note: This clip has been extracted from a video of a 2010 New York City Center Studio 5 event hosted by Damien Woetzel in which he and Violette Verdy coached Joaquin De Luz, Tiler Peck, and Daniel Ulbricht in Donizetti Variations and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. They also coached Jared Angle and Jenifer Ringer in Liebeslieder Walzer. Here's where the whole Tschai Pas coaching session begins. Unfortunately, the video ends before they've wrapped up coaching the coda.)

Melissa Hayden (The out-of-sync music track appears to have been fixed.)

Patricia McBride

The Verdy and Hayden videos aren't of very good quality, but I think we can still see enough of what they do to make watching them worthwhile.

2) The only current NYCB dancer I can find a complete sample for: Ana Sophia Scheller. Note, however, that this is not an NYCB performance.

Update! I found a complete version with Ashley Bouder. And more Bouder.

Another: Footage of Teresa Reichlen in rehearsal.

Not a current NYCB ballerina, but post Verdy, Hayden, and McBride: Darci Kistler.

3) ABT ballerinas: Misty Copeland, Irina Dvorovenko, & Paloma Herrera

4) POB ballerinas: Aurélie Dupont, Dorothée Gilbert, & Laetitia Pujol

plus, Mathilde Froustey (Thanks for finding the clip, yudi!)

plus, Élisabeth Platel (Thank you, Mme. Hermine)

5) Royal Ballet ballerinas: Darcey Bussell, Alina Cojocaru, and Marianela Núñez

Bonus footage! Bussel rehearsing the variation. First she marks it, then she dances it full out.

6) Bolshoi and / or Mariinsky ballerinas: Evgenia Obraztsova, Alina Somova, and Svetlana Zakharova

If anyone finds any other examples, please share!

Caveats! It’s simply unfair to judge any ballerina or her interpretation of a particular role based on the evidence of one video. It could have been a bad night. The conductor could have been inept. The video could have been speeded up or slowed down. The music could be out of sync with the image. Etc., etc., and etc. So, while I think we can use the videos to make some observations about how the role was danced while Balanchine was alive and how it is danced on the world’s stages today, I don’t think it’s possible (or even very interesting) to use them as evidence that a particular dancer is either lousy in general, lousy at Balanchine, or, alternatively, has hands-down-definitively won ballet.

If I get a chance, I’ll post my own thoughts further down in the thread.

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Two recent performance at NYCB were the best I've ever seen over many years of ballet going and watching many, many youtube videos. Tiler Peck & Ashley Bouder were the women. The technique and musical phrasing made me gasp and smile. The thing is I had seen Bouder the year before, and it was great, but then she brought it to a whole new level. This was brought to mind by Kathleen O'Connell's caveats. Video has limitations. On the other hand it allow us to see things we would never be able to see otherwise.

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...

Caveats! It’s simply unfair to judge any ballerina or her interpretation of a particular role based on the evidence of one video. ...

...while I think we can use the videos to make some observations about how the role was danced while Balanchine was alive and how it is danced on the world’s stages today, I don’t think it’s possible (or even very interesting) to use them as evidence that a particular dancer is either lousy in general, lousy at Balanchine, or, alternatively, has hands-down-definitively won ballet.

...

I couldn't agree more with that part. [Emphasis added.] The most interesting dancers I see are the ones who hear their music differently each time. So it's never the same twice with them, and so any one performance couldn't be "representative" evidence or basis for judgement. I think Mr. B. himself, while technically demanding, wanted to see interesting dancers, and I think this is part of that.

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...

Caveats! It’s simply unfair to judge any ballerina or her interpretation of a particular role based on the evidence of one video. ...

...while I think we can use the videos to make some observations about how the role was danced while Balanchine was alive and how it is danced on the world’s stages today, I don’t think it’s possible (or even very interesting) to use them as evidence that a particular dancer is either lousy in general, lousy at Balanchine, or, alternatively, has hands-down-definitively won ballet.

...

I couldn't agree more with that part. [Emphasis added.] The most interesting dancers I see are the ones who hear their music differently each time. So it's never the same twice with them, and so any one performance couldn't be "representative" evidence or basis for judgement. I think Mr. B. himself, while technically demanding, wanted to see interesting dancers, and I think this is part of that.

It's all so interesting. Sometimes I watch and believe a dancer had made a choice. Other times I believe a dancer is doing it a certain way because of a technical limitation. I've never even examined how I make those distinction.

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Thanks for putting all together and leading the discussions. I have watched and learned so much that the music of Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux would keep on sounding in my head, when I went jogging. yahoo.gif

I have found another two YouTube clips of Tchai pdd: Mathilde Froustey and Laëtitia Pujol.

There are worse things to have in your "mind's ear" when your're jogging!

Thanks for finding the Froustey clip. I've added it to my original post as an addendum to the POB section. The Pujol clip was already on my list, but I'd taken it from a page that was mostly in Russian, so I replaced my link with yours so more folks could review the comments and whatnot if they had a mind to.

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Just an update: I gave the Hayden clip a closer look and noticed that the soundtrack is wildly out of sync with the image. The music appears to be something like 8 counts behind the dancing. Keep that in mind when you watch!

If you're up to the technical complications, you may even be able to fix it, for yourself, at least:

A few years ago we discussed this problem in connection with one of the "Choreography by Balanchine" DVD's on the Nonesuch label and how to deal with it by playing the disc in a computer where the free video player VLC is installed, and in post #31 there I tried to give a few steps for using the version of VLC available at the time. (The Equalizer corrections there apply to the Nonesuch DVD.)

You don't even need to save the YouTube video to your computer first, but you do have to tweak and restart VLC for the tweaking to take effect, and then it will play the YouTube video in sync, directly off the Internet.

Remember that to get VLC back to normal, you need to "un-tweak" the "Audio desynchronization compensation" setting and restart it again. At least, that seems to be true for v. 2.1.5, the latest one for Mac OS X.

(Logically, the next step would be for somebody to figure out how to upload the "fixed" version to YouTube.)

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So, here’s one of the significant differences that I noted between the Verdy / Hayden / McBride versions and the majority of the more recent ones: how much of the music the ballerina fills up with her traveling arabesques.

The music for the variation has the following basic form

Intro
A1
A2
A1
A2 with transitional material
B1
B2
B1
B2 with transitional material
A1
A2 & coda

Verdy, Hayden, and McBride all start their traveling arabesque sequence when the B2 transitional material begins and continue to travel backwards across the stage all the way through the reprise of A1 (the opening theme), hit a pose in relevé just as the phrase ends, and begin the closing turning sequence just at the beginning of the A2 reprise. (Hayden omits the relevé.)

Scheller, Copeland, Herrera, Bussell, and Núñez all attempt this, with varying degrees of success. “Success” equals doing it the way Verdy does it: i.e., transitioning out of the traveling arabesque sequence into relevé at exactly the moment the A1 reprise ends and launching into the turns when A2 begins. Some of these ballerinas stop traveling a moment or two too soon; some of them travel a moment or two too long—and the éclat of transitioning from one thing into another in time with the music is muffled.

All of the other ballerinas (Dvorovenko, Dupont, Gilbert, Pujol, Froustey, Platel, Cojocaru, Obraztsova, Somova, and Zakharova) wrap up their traveling arabesques around the time the A1 reprise begins and then dash across the stage to be in position to start their turns when A2 begins. I’m not a huge fan of traveling arabesques, but I like the “two hops and a dash” version even less because it wastes the musically important reprise of A1 opening theme on what is essentially transitional and preparatory material. I don’t know if this version is Trust-sanctioned, but I’m not a fan. Frankly, I’d rather see ballerinas try to nail the Verdy version, even if they aren’t 100% successful, but your mileage may vary.

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it is! when i counted the variation i counted the music !

Elizabeth Platel (circa 50 seconds) and Manuel Legris -

Thanks so much for this -- I've always loved Platel.. I found myself trying to look around the curtain when they went upstage left!

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