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The Three Solo Shades (Traditional vs Notation)

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Here is a comparative viewing of the Three Solo Shades from the Kingdom of the Shades scene of the third act of La Bayadère – the traditional variations performed by Elizaveta Cheprasova, Yana Selina and Daria Vasnetsova and the notated variations performed by Leta Biasucci, Angelica Generosa and Carli Samuelson.

For those of you who saw Sergei Vikharev’s 2001 reconstruction of La Bayadère, you’ll probably notice that the notated variations were not the ones performed in that reconstruction. This is because Vikharev did not stage 100% reconstructions of La Bayadère or The Sleeping Beauty – he retained many of the Soviet changes in both productions, especially in La Bayadère. The Kingdom of Shades scene he used was the Soviet version, not Petipa’s version.

Apparently, the main reason Vikharev retained many of the Soviet changes in both reconstructions was because the Mariinsky dancers and coaches were all very reluctant to part with the Soviet choreography, so the ballerinas announced “all the same, we’re going to dance what we’re used to!” In the end, poor Vikharev retained many of the Soviet changes because he very likely would’ve got nothing, but grief if he hadn’t; the Kingdom of the Shades scene is a prime example of where the notated choreography was not restored. I feel so sorry for him – to do all that hard work and then have people just throw it back in your face like that; it’s so awful.

Anyway, the performances of the notated variations for the Three Shades is from one of Doug Fullington’s brilliant lectures held in New York, in which he reconstructed scenes and dance passages from Le Corsaire, Le Roi Candaule and La Bayadère. And thank you so much Doug; what wonderful work you did here! smile.png

One very important fact that must be remembered about the Sergeyev Collection is that contrary to popular belief, most of the versions of Petipa’s ballets that are notated are not his “original versions”, at least not fully. This is for two reasons:

  1. Not all of the ballets in the Sergeyev Collection were notated when they were first staged because the Stepanov notation method did not come into existence until the 1890s. However, some dance passages were notated with the original cast members, but not all.
  2. Petipa often made changes to his ballets after the first performances and revived many of them, some more than once.

In regards to Petipa reviving ballets, La Bayadère is one such ballet – it was created and premièred in 1877 and then years later, Petipa revived it in 1900 for the benefit performances of Mathilde Kschessinskaya and Pavel Gerdt, who danced the roles of Nikiya and Solor. Petipa’s 1900 revival is the version of La Bayadère that is notated, not his original 1877 version.

Petipa’s main priority as a choreographer was to showcase his dancers and when he made changes to his ballets, it was usually when a new dancer was succeeding another dancer in a certain role. Although he didn’t always make changes for new dancers – apparently, the choreography for Raymonda underwent very little to no change after Pierina Legnani (the creator of the title role) left Russia and was succeeded in the role by Olga Preobrajenska.

When Petipa did make changes for a succeeding dancer, it was usually the role’s variations that were changed and the variations could be changed in two ways: either Petipa would revise the choreography so it best suited the dancer’s talent and abilities or the dancer would interpolate a variation from another ballet, as dancers had that power back then.

For example, the Variation of Solor in the Grand Pas d’action of Act 4 (Act 2 in modern productions) was originally the Variation of Prince Djalma, one of the new supplementary pieces of music that Minkus composed for Petipa’s 1874 revival of Marie Taglioni and Jacques Offenbach’s two-act ballet of 1860, Le Papillon. It was Nikolai Legat who interpolated this variation into the fourth act of La Bayadère as the new variation for Solor in Petipa’s 1900 revival. Legat danced as an additional cavalier for the 56 year old Pavel Gerdt in the 1900 revival and in many other ballets in which the aging Gerdt played the lead male role until Legat and his brother Sergei succeeded him in many of these roles. Ironically, the music for the Golden Idol’s variation is also one of the supplemental pieces that Minkus composed for Le Papillon, but that’s a Soviet addition.

The Three Shades

The notated variations for the Three Shades are not the ones that would’ve been danced in the original 1877 version, but rather those of the ballerinas who danced them in the 1900 revival and those ballerinas were Varvara Rykhliakova, Agrippina Vaganova and Anna Pavlova. It certainly is interesting how the variations have either changed or remained quite similar over the years.

1. Varvara Rykhliakova - her variation has more or less changed by 50% over the years; it is the second most changed of the three variations.

2. Agrippina Vaganova – her variation is the one that has changed far less over the years. Birdsall once pointed out – and I agree with him – that this must’ve been one of Vaganova’s favourite variations, so therefore, she didn’t change it very much. Interestingly, Petipa didn’t like Vaganova as a dancer; every time he mentions her performances in his diaries, he always calls them “awful” or “dreadful”. Apparently, Vaganova was not born with a natural talent and she was very self-critical, but even so, the St Petersburg balletomanes and critics called her the “Queen of Variations”. As Doug pointed out in this lecture, her variation indicates that she must’ve been quite a jumper.

3. Anna Pavlova – her variation is the one that has changed the most over time, with the most obvious difference being that her variation was originally much faster than it is today. Pavlova was one of Petipa’s favourite ballerinas and interestingly, it was the role of Nikiya that shot her to fame. Petipa gave her the role in 1902, much to the dismay of Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who was not the type who liked to be upstaged in what she considered to be “her” roles. Nevertheless, she agreed to coach Pavlova in the role, primarily because she was unable to dance since she was pregnant at the time. Kschessinskaya considered Pavlova to be technically weak because of her frail image and small ankles and was certain that the young dancer would fail as Nikiya, but she was proven very wrong. Pavlova gave Petipa everything he had wanted in Nikiya and her frail physical look proved to work for the role, especially in the Kingdom of the Shades scene. The audience fell in love with the ethereal Pavlova and thus, a star was born. Nikiya was the last role that Pavlova danced with the Imperial Ballet in 1914.

La_Bayadere._The_Kingdom_of_the_Shades%2

So that is something we have to remember when we think of the notation – when it is used, I would say it is “genuine Petipa choreography” that is being reconstructed rather than “original Petipa choreography”, except in some cases, but we will probably never know for sure how many of his dance passages remained exactly the same from when he first staged them to the time they came to be notated.

However, at the same time, we also need to be careful with how we use notation scores as there are some dance passages in the notation that raise questions on authorship. There is also a myth that Nicholas Sergeyev made changes to Petipa’s choreography when his assistants notated it, but that was a myth that the Soviets started and I wouldn’t believe everything they say… they spread myths about a few people from the Imperial Ballet, including Marie Petipa.

None of this means that the notation is unreliable; it just means we always need to be careful when we use it, just like we have to be careful with every historical source that we use.

Enjoy! smile.png

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Amy, thanks so much. Do you by chance know the names of the dancers? I love the little up-turned hand gestures in the Fullington reconstructions, just a little touch of character. Mary

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Ratmansky also kept the fish dives, which were not in the original, for the new "Sleeping Beauty."

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Ratmansky also kept the fish dives, which were not in the original, for the new "Sleeping Beauty."

Yes that's right, I saw a photo of one of the fish dives. It was Diaghilev who added those to the pas de deux in his London 1921 Sleeping Princess production; I wonder why Ratmansky retained them...

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Amy, thanks so much. Do you by chance know the names of the dancers? I love the little up-turned hand gestures in the Fullington reconstructions, just a little touch of character. Mary

You're very welcome Mary! :)

I think Balanchine's dancers do those hand gestures and there's a clip of Maya Plisetskaya using them in the dream scene of Don Quixote. According to Vaganova, the up-turned hand gestures come from the French school.

As for the dancers' names, I don't know who all the ballerinas are, but I think the second Mariinsky ballerina is Yana Selina. The second and third PNB ballerinas are Angelica Generosa and Carli Samuelson, but I'm not sure what the first girl is called; it's Leah something...

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Just one point about the Vikharev reconstruction in which I saw several casts; to the very best of my recollection Daria Pavlenko did perform the notated version of the Nikiya variation. The others, and as Amy says the Shades, were all in the familiar Soviet staging as I remember.

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From an article by Marina Harss in the June 2015 Dance Magazine,

But despite his love for the original Petipa, Ratmansky has included some latter-day flourishes: a few lifts not seen in the original Beauty, as well as the famous fish dives in the wedding pas de deux. "They're an iconic moment, like the balances in the Rose Adagio, and people would miss them," he says. Likewise, the costumes and sets, by Richard Hudson, are inspired not by the 1890 Mariinsky production but by the lavish 1921 Leon Bakst designs for the Ballets Russes.

He took a different approach with "Paquita."

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Just one point about the Vikharev reconstruction in which I saw several casts; to the very best of my recollection Daria Pavlenko did perform the notated version of the Nikiya variation. The others, and as Amy says the Shades, were all in the familiar Soviet staging as I remember.

Yes I think he did restore the variations in the first and second acts, are you referring to Nikiya's dance with the veena?

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From an article by Marina Harss in the June 2015 Dance Magazine,

He took a different approach with "Paquita."

Ah thank you Helene; personally, I wouldn't miss the fish dives, but anyway... and what different approach did he take with Paquita?

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Ratmansky also kept the fish dives, which were not in the original, for the new "Sleeping Beauty."

In a publicly facing post on Facebook, this is what Ratmansky wrote about the fish dives:

According to Anton Dolin, the diagonal of fish dives in act III pas de deux of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was invented by Pierre Vladimiroff, the only prince Desire of 1921 London production. That explains why fish dives were never performed in Russia, but is a standard in the West. Spessivtseva was the first one to execute it, followed by Egorova, Lopokova and Nemtchinova. But this innovation was not accepted by Vera Trefilova, another 1921 Aurora, who considered it too acrobatic. She didn’t want to depart from the original Petipa’s choreography.The Sergeev notation shows 2 pirouettes en dedans taken from attitude devant finishing into the pose a la seconde, repeated 3 times. Sarah Lane & Herman Cornejo, who debut in the roles on May 30th, are going to do this original step, while the other casts will retain Vladimiroff’s fish dives as an homage to Ballets Russes production.

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In a publicly facing post on Facebook, this is what Ratmansky wrote about the fish dives:

Ah thank you! :)

Yes I had heard that Ratmansky was letting the dancers decide what to do in certain places.

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We learned in a Q&A after "Don Quixote" that Ratmansky asked Carrie Imler to do the big pas de chat in her variation, because she could.

In "Paquita" Ratmansky did not deviate from the notation. He added about five minutes of his own where there was no notation.

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We learned in a Q&A after "Don Quixote" that Ratmansky asked Carrie Imler to do the big pas de chat in her variation, because she could.

In "Paquita" Ratmansky did not deviate from the notation. He added about five minutes of his own where there was no notation.

What a brilliant clip; she's fantastic, that dancer! smile.png

Oh that makes perfect sense; there's no other way to fill in all the blank spaces except with editorial choreography.

After Paquita, I'll be going to Milan in October to see La Scala perform in Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty, so it'll be interesting to see how the Italians do with the 19th century style and reconstructed choreography. But I really hope I will NOT be stuck with Zahkarova as Aurora! Knowing how much of a diva she is, I don't trust her to dance in the 19th century style that Ratmansky has staged Sleeping Beauty in. If you ask me, she's more likely to do all her usual gymnastic extensions and her own style than to follow Ratmansky's direction! Although, she's also likely to drop out of the production just like Osipova did... and I really hope she does!

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Hi, folks. A few observations, in no particular order: 1) I'm always nervous about having any reconstruction work (particularly mine) labeled as authentic or definitive. With any dance revived using Stepanov notation, there will be any number of decisions made by the stager depending on the amount of information provided by the notation and any number of additional sources that might inform the work. 2) None of Nikia's solo variations are notated in Stepanov notation, including her Shades variation (which I reconstructed from several prose sources and also film) or her first Shades pas de deux. All that is notated for Nikia in the entire ballet is her second Shades pas de deux, the Shades coda, and the last act pas d'action entree and coda. 3) The Stepanov system was published in 1892 and further codified by Gorsky in 1899. Some ballets were indeed notated with original cast performances, including parts of Swan Lake with Legnani. 4) With regard to hand positions in Stepanov notation, wrists are very often notated as flexed 45 degrees and sometimes both turned *in* and flexed.

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Hi, folks. A few observations, in no particular order: 1) I'm always nervous about having any reconstruction work (particularly mine) labeled as authentic or definitive. With any dance revived using Stepanov notation, there will be any number of decisions made by the stager depending on the amount of information provided by the notation and any number of additional sources that might inform the work. 2) None of Nikia's solo variations are notated in Stepanov notation, including her Shades variation (which I reconstructed from several prose sources and also film) or her first Shades pas de deux. All that is notated for Nikia in the entire ballet is her second Shades pas de deux, the Shades coda, and the last act pas d'action entree and coda. 3) The Stepanov system was published in 1892 and further codified by Gorsky in 1899. Some ballets were indeed notated with original cast performances, including parts of Swan Lake with Legnani. 4) With regard to hand positions in Stepanov notation, wrists are very often notated as flexed 45 degrees and sometimes both turned *in* and flexed.

Thank you Doug; I'll be perfectly honest, you do great work and you're one of the very few people who can read Stepanov notation, so whatever decisions the stagers of the Stepanov notated choreography make, at least you have given us the chance to see what is actually in the notation and that's more than valuable. I think it can be hard to decide what is "authentic" or "original", but at least thanks to your work, we can get some sort of insight.

You've also alerted me to things I didn't know before - I had no idea that nearly all of Nikiya's variations are not notated and I had also forgotten that there are some passages notated more than once such as Aurora's Act 1 variation and the Act 2 Grand Pas d'action from The Sleeping Beauty and the two variations notated for Medora for Le Jardin Anime in Le Corsaire - the one that has been labelled as the original variation for Adele Grantzow and the traditional variation made famous by Pierina Legnani. And yes, what I said about the Stepanov notation method is very badly written, which I have now edited.

I'm very proud of everything I've learned so far, but I still have a lot to learn; I just hope I'm making good progress. Thank you Doug. :)

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Amy, I'm referring to Nikya's variation in the Shades scene. The other ballerinas chose to do the standard Soviet version.

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Amy, I'm referring to Nikya's variation in the Shades scene. The other ballerinas chose to do the standard Soviet version.

As Doug has explained, that variation is notated; none of her variations are and Doug reconstructed her Shade variation from prose and film sources. But you're right, the Mariinsky ballerinas danced the so-called "Scarf duet" between Solor and Nikiya; the number is supposed to be a solo for Nikiya with the veil.

Ekaterina Vazem (the first Nikiya) mentions it in her memoirs:

"I had a great success, in the variation, accompanied by Auer's violin solo, with the veil which flies upwards at the end." - Ekaterina Vazem

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But Amy, the solo may not always have been a duet during the Soviet era. See this 1940 film of Dudinskaya at 3:22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6DlDdu_7xw. Here, she dances part of the variation as a solo sans scarf and sans partner. My belief is that the scarf was held for the first part of the variation and would have been let go of (at which point it apparently flew up into the fly space) around 3:55 in this video. This is corroborated by Vazem, Karsavina, Lopukhov, and also Herida May in England, who was taught the solo by Nikolai Sergeev.

My advice: Don't assume anything and avoid presumptive statements.

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But Amy, the solo may not always have been a duet during the Soviet era. See this 1940 film of Dudinskaya at 3:22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6DlDdu_7xw. Here, she dances part of the variation as a solo sans scarf and sans partner. My belief is that the scarf was held for the first part of the variation and would have been let go of (at which point it apparently flew up into the fly space) around 3:55 in this video. This is corroborated by Vazem, Karsavina, Lopukhov, and also Herida May in England, who was taught the solo by Nikolai Sergeev.

My advice: Don't assume anything and avoid presumptive statements.

Ah yes, sorry, thanks Doug - I should've said the "so-called Scarf Duet", which I've now corrected.

I understand that Dudinskaya had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Petipa's choreography, something that she learned from Agrippina Vaganova. She would even resurrect forgotten variations of the great ballerinas of the Imperial Ballet and would perform them in place of the traditional variations; I understand that the alternative variation for Dulcinea that is still used today by certain Mariinsky ballerinas in the Mariinsky production of Don Quixote is one such variation - it's a variation created by Petipa and Drigo for Pierina Legnani for her performance as the Tsar Maiden in Petipa's revival of The Little Humpbacked Horse. This variation was also one of Legnani's variations that was infamously usurped by Mathilde Kschessinskaya.

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I actually view the "scarf duet" as a solo.....the male really doesn't dance. I guess he assists with the scarf so on the surface we want to think, "Ah, a duet," but he really doesn't dance, and Nikiya and he have already danced their duet earlier before the 3 shades, so I tend to view it as Nikiya's solo even though the male comes out with her and assists with the scarf. He disappears halfway through and she finishes the solo without him. Btw, as a fun tidbit: Tereshkina does some fabulous pirouettes during this variation whenever she dances Nikiya. These are the series of upstage pirouettes right after the male leaves the stage. Last summer Radjepmyrat Abdyev was in the coaches' box next to the box I was in, and he bravo-ed loudly....she is well known for this.....often doing 4 turns....

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I actually view the "scarf duet" as a solo.....the male really doesn't dance. I guess he assists with the scarf so on the surface we want to think, "Ah, a duet," but he really doesn't dance, and Nikiya and he have already danced their duet earlier before the 3 shades, so I tend to view it as Nikiya's solo even though the male comes out with her and assists with the scarf. He disappears halfway through and she finishes the solo without him.

Yeah that's a very good point actually, although Solor does dance in Nureyev's version of this variation before he runs off stage with the scarf.

Even though this variation's not notated, there certainly isn't any other explanation as to how the scarf would fly away at the end other than one end being attached to a wire in the rafters above the stage. It really makes me wonder why no one uses that effect today because surely modern audiences would like it...

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One of the prettiest endings is the Makarova's version where at the very end after the temple collapses Nikiya comes out followed by Solor and she has the scarf and he is holding it behind her as she ascends stairs (representing Heaven, I assume). To me that is a lovely ending to the ballet, and it feels like the scarf has a good reason to exist earlier (they are literally bound together both figuratively and literally at the end).

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One of the prettiest endings is the Makarova's version where at the very end after the temple collapses Nikiya comes out followed by Solor and she has the scarf and he is holding it behind her as she ascends stairs (representing Heaven, I assume). To me that is a lovely ending to the ballet, and it feels like the scarf has a good reason to exist earlier (they are literally bound together both figuratively and literally at the end).

Yeah that is a nice touch, although I always wish they were standing or kneeling side-by-side rather than a few steps apart lol.

I like how in Doug's lecture, Solor was kneeling at Nikiya's feet while she was holding the scarf above them both, which corresponds to what's written in the 1877 libretto; it's all nice lol.

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You're very welcome Mary! smile.png

I think Balanchine's dancers do those hand gestures and there's a clip of Maya Plisetskaya using them in the dream scene of Don Quixote. According to Vaganova, the up-turned hand gestures come from the French school.

As for the dancers' names, I don't know who all the ballerinas are, but I think the second Mariinsky ballerina is Yana Selina. The second and third PNB ballerinas are Angelica Generosa and Carli Samuelson, but I'm not sure what the first girl is called; it's Leah something...

Yes, second Mariinsky ballerina is Yana Selina and the third one is Daria Vasnetsova. First one looks like Elizaveta Cheprasova.

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