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Burlaka & Medvedev's Waltzes of the Snowflakes and Flowers


Amy

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Here we have the Waltz of the Snowflakes from Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev's production of The Nutcracker for the Berlin State Ballet.

One very important thing for everyone to note about Burlaka and Medvedev is that they do NOT stage reconstructions. What they actually do is they use the notation and Petipa or Ivanov's original ideas as a foundation, but they do restore the original scenery and costumes, like they've done here.

So this version of The Nutcracker is actually a revival, not a reconstruction because the notated choreography has not been reconstructed, or at least not fully.

In this version of the Waltz of the Snowflakes, Burlaka and Medvedev have certainly used the notation as a foundation because they have restored many of Ivanov's original floor patterns, including the "whirlwind" pattern in the blizzard section and the tableau vivant grouping with the dancers in 3 rows at the end. In terms of the choreography, however, it doesn't match the description given by Roland John Wiley, at least not fully.

For example, the notations states that the very beginning and the very end of the waltz are not danced - the snowflakes don't enter until bar 37 and they remain in the tableau vivant group until the curtain falls. The notation states that the dancers enter at bar 37 in five groups of six, each six divided into units of three.

Also, according to the programme of the 1892 production, the Waltz of the Snowflakes was originally danced by over 50 dancers! In all fairness, having this waltz danced by a massive corps de ballet would certainly make it all the more effective.

And here is what the ballet critic, Skalkovsky wrote about the Waltz of the Snowflakes in the original 1892 production:

"The downy pompoms on the white dresses, on the headwear in the form of rays of stars, and on the accessories in the form of clusters of wands swaying in the dancers' hands, very successfully and picturesquely represented the movements of snowflakes, while the initial grouping [of dancers] produced a fine impression of the artistic allegory of a snowdrift."

And here is Burlaka and Medvedev's staging of the Waltz of the Flowers.

Again, just like with the Waltz of the Snowflakes, they have used the notation and Ivanov's original ideas as a foundation; this is certainly NOT the waltz that is notated in the Sergeyev Collection.

One original idea by Ivanov that they have restored is the use of a golden vase with golden flowers - this was certainly used in Ivanov's original 1892 waltz, but there is no reference to it in the notation, so the likelihood is that the golden vase must have been removed from the Waltz of the Flowers by the time The Nutcracker came to be notated. However, the use of garlands is referred to in the notation.

Another difference from what it is in the notation is the number of dancers. As you can see, Burlaka and Medvedev use 3 soloists and 24 corps de ballet members and the latter amount is the same number of corps de ballet members that was used in the original. Ivanov's original Waltz of the Flowers was danced by 8 soloists and 24 corps de ballet members, but when the ballet was notated, the number of dancers in the Waltz of the Flowers had been reduced to 6 soloists and 16 corps de ballet members.

The original 8 soloists of the Waltz of the Flowers included some of the Imperial Ballet's most celebrated ballerinas, including Anna Johansson, Claudia Kulichevskaya, Olga Preobrajenska and Varvara Rhykhlyakova.

It's also very obvious where else Burlaka and Medvedev have made changes - the most obvious being that by the snowy forest scene, Clara and the Nutcracker-Prince are danced by adults. In the 1892 production, they were danced by children throughout the whole ballet - the first Clara was the 12 year old Stanislava Belinskaya and the first Nutcracker-Prince was the 17 year old Sergei Legat. Also, they have expanded the role of Drosselmeyer, who was actually not as dominating a character in the original production as he is in most productions today.

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Some fascinating video clips -- many thanks!

A semantic note -- we've all been following along with the variety of reconstructions and revisions that have been produced recently. I appreciate your desire to make it clear that this Nut does not include reconstructed notation. It's a very important distinction, but I would hesitate to call it a revival. In a revival, you are bringing back a complete (or nearly complete) work -- choreography and other performance elements as well as sets, costumes, etc. In this case, the artists are reconstructing the scenic elements, but creating a revision of the choreography, using elements from the notated record. It's a fascinating way to go about it (we generally think choreography first when it comes to using the past), but it's actually close to the process that Hodson and Archer used in their work on Sacre -- originally, they had much more primary source information about the sets and costumes than they did about the choreography. It wasn't until someone finally located Marie Rambert's notes from the original staging that Hodson was able to double-check the accuracy of her painstakingly accumulated performance information.

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Some fascinating video clips -- many thanks!

A semantic note -- we've all been following along with the variety of reconstructions and revisions that have been produced recently. I appreciate your desire to make it clear that this Nut does not include reconstructed notation. It's a very important distinction, but I would hesitate to call it a revival. In a revival, you are bringing back a complete (or nearly complete) work -- choreography and other performance elements as well as sets, costumes, etc. In this case, the artists are reconstructing the scenic elements, but creating a revision of the choreography, using elements from the notated record. It's a fascinating way to go about it (we generally think choreography first when it comes to using the past), but it's actually close to the process that Hodson and Archer used in their work on Sacre -- originally, they had much more primary source information about the sets and costumes than they did about the choreography. It wasn't until someone finally located Marie Rambert's notes from the original staging that Hodson was able to double-check the accuracy of her painstakingly accumulated performance information.

Yes thank you, I suppose it can be a bit tricky to come up with a definite term for how Burlaka and Medvedev re-stage the classics.

Burlaka and Alexei Ratmansky's production of Le Corsaire is a partial revival/reconstruction because it does have some notated choreography, but I'm not sure exactly how much.

The biggest example of reconstructed notated choreography in their Le Corsaire production is the Le Petit Corsaire variation from Act 1, scene 2, which Petipa choreographed for his first wife, Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa, who danced Medora when Petipa revived Le Corsaire for the first time in 1863. The only difference between the Le Petit Corsaire variation in Burlaka and Ratmansky's production from Petipa's original revival is the phrase that Medora shouts out at the end of the variation - in Burlaka and Ratmansky's production, the ballerina calls out in Russian and in Petipa's original revival, Mme. Petipa called out in French.

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The restored Nutcracker costumes are more modest and have a longer length than those pancake high hemline tutus that are very much in vogue in Russia and many Western productions. When I look at very old photos (1890's to 1900's) of Petipa ballets, they all had longer length tutus. So are those of current ABT reconstructed Beauty. So when and where did pancake tutus become prominent?

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The restored Nutcracker costumes are more modest and have a longer length than those pancake high hemline tutus that are very much in vogue in Russia and many Western productions. When I look at very old photos (1890's to 1900's) of Petipa ballets, they all had longer length tutus. So are those of current ABT reconstructed Beauty. So when and where did pancake tutus become prominent?

It was Balanchine who started the tradition of the "pancake tutu".

To be honest, I prefer the 19th century tutus better because I think the shape is really nice. It was the Italians who started the knee-length tutu; the great Viriginia Zucchi was the one to bring the knee-length tutu to Russia, which didn't sit well with Petipa at first, but he eventually accepted it. She deliberately shortened her skirt for her performance in The Pharaoh's Daughter because she felt it was too long to dance in and thus, the tradition of the shorter tutu was born in Russia.

It was all to do with the society at the time - it wasn't exactly deemed appropriate for the women to show too much of their legs, even though in Paris, men were going to the ballet for voyeuristic reasons...

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Looking at photographs from the 1934 Vic-Wells production of Swan Lake, I'd say that Markova's tutu, while fluffy, was quite horizontal.

It may sound heretical, but I have little use for the pancake tutu. It's a silly piece of clothing that no longer bears any resemblance to the garment from which it originated. (Ditto for neckties, which no longer serve any useful purpose.) That's why I very much like longer, floppier tutus that actually look like skirts. They can be the heavier tutus that appear in many "reconstructions," or the gauzier variety that Karinska designed for the corps in 'Diamonds.' I suppose the super-flat tutus from The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude underscore the basic silliness of the classical tutu, so I appreciate the send up.

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