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Fee Dragee's gargouillades.


cubanmiamiboy

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I notice the tendency of many ballerinas to substitute the harder gargouillades on the original Fee Dragee's solo for simple pas de chat. 

Dame Alicia Markova seemed to be VERY specific about not cheating. Her gargouillades are very visible and sharp. 

Many ballerinas sometimes choose to substitute the whole sequence altogether for an entire different set of steps, which I find appalling-( quite like the fouettes issue on SL). I wonder if some of you might remember this step in the choreography, although I know NY's ceased to have it for some decades now, and even more after Balanchine introduced his own for City Ballet. 

This was always a point of technical discussion for balletomannes in Havana. Maybe in UK too, as the Royal still performs it.

Here is Paloma Herrera omitting the whole sequence.

 

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Hmm well some versions do not have the gargouillades in the choreography (Balanchine for instance). And I have seen some ballerinas do them but so poorly that I wish there had been a substituted step. 

For instance Lauren Cuthbertson's attempt at the gargouillades is so sluggish and off the music that I wish she had gone for pas de chat.

 

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Thanks for the video, cambelto. The slowing down of the music for the variation here from the sharp, sparkling take on Markova's is so obvious. It really gets on my nerves the modern taste for lethargic tempi.

The gargouillades were, apparently, an issue ever since the introduction of the pas in the West by N. Sergueev for Markova at the Vic Wells. She talks extensively about all her hard work with the regisseur from scratch-( he couldn't demonstrate, and he spoke almost no English).  They worked almost consecutively staging the "big four": Giselle, SB, SL and Nutcracker, and straight from the notations.

Balanchine's is an entire, different, mid century new take on the choreography. He barely uses a couple of steps from the Petipa/Ivanov original.

And yes...the gargouillades are ESSENTIAL to dance this pas, as they are to do T&V. If a ballerina can't do them, she then doesn't conquer the pas. Leslie Collier do the wonderfully on the RB video.

Here's Dame Markova on the issue.

 

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6 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

And yes...the gargouillades are ESSENTIAL to dance this pas, as they are to do T&V. If a ballerina can't do them, she then doesn't conquer the pas.

I had thought the original choreography for Theme and Variations did not have the gargouillades--and that they (or at least some) were added for Gelsey Kirkland when Balanchine brought the ballet back in the context of Tchaikovsky Suite Number 3. At least Croce says this in her review of the ballet when ABT revived it with Kirkland.  I did a search and discovered the Millepied era POB program notes for T&V include this passage from Croce albeit translated into French.

Generally, I have always read that Balanchine from time to time modified choreography--not necessarily to make it easier or harder per se but more to make it more suited to a particular ballerina. But in any case, the gargouillades are associated with the version Kirkland did. So making them a "test case" for Theme and Variations" seems odd to me.

For great gargouillades I recommend videos of Patricia Wilde. You can find her Square Dance on youtube.

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19 hours ago, Drew said:

I had thought the original choreography for Theme and Variations did not have the gargouillades--and that they (or at least some) were added for Gelsey Kirkland 

You are totally right, Drew. I always knew the ballet in its original 1947 form, sans gargouillades...with just the quick pas de chat. But hey...once the choreographer puts them there, they were there to stay.

The Sugarplum variation seems to have had them included since it's conception, according to Markova's account on Sergueev and his notations.  I must say I find this pas as one of the most lovingly and classically crafted among the whole known Petipa repertoire.

Gargouillades shown at 1:27. Bejart production.

6:58. No gargouillades. Only pas de chat. Lorna Feijoo for Alexandra Fedorova's staging for Alonso's company, 1947 

 

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3 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

You are totally right, Drew. I always knew the ballet in its original 1947 form, sans gargouillades...with just the quick pas de chat. But hey...once the choreographer puts them there, they were there to stay.

Interesting that  Balanchine did not feel that way. Though there is a difference changing things once the choreographer is no longer around to determine the change...in this case we know something about the different versions and what he okayed....(I assume the Balanchine Trust has policies on this as well.)

For myself I would have said speed was more essential to the ballerina role of Theme and Variations than whether or not one danced the Kirkland version. I also personally find the brilliantly done pas de chats not only look fantastic but are in line with the ballet’s allusions to Sleeping Beauty. I would be more uneasy with my own view of the matter if Balanchine hadn’t set it and permitted it, as this IS a very tightly constructed and compact  work where individual steps can make a difference,  but he did.

I am however in agreement with a more general version of your point—which is that gargouillades are almost a lost art and that that is a shame. Very few ballerinas seem able to execute them well. (Usually they do a little rond de jamb in the air with the first leg, but the second leg just swings along with hardly a wriggle let alone any sort of articulate circle.)  And when done well they can seem a wonderfully intricate and even witty flash of movement. I love seeing them in (what I assume are) Ivanov based versions of the choreography for the Sugar Plum fairy. 

If a major, living choreographer like Ratmansky (who seems to love intricate steps and pushing dancers) would demand gargouillades in one of his ballets, that might light a fire under dancers and their teachers to master them.

 

Edited by Drew
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I don't feel a loss with Balanchine tailoring choreography for his dancers – adding steps they do well, dropping them later, like changing the frame of an painting. Gargouillades must be physically impossible to do for certain dancers, but you wouldn't want to lose those dancers because they might do other things so convincingly.

Violette Verdy's gargouillade in a sequence of steps from Tchaikovsky pdd below via John Clifford's (very Bruce Webery) Instagram site. And below that a step Balanchine put in Symphony in C for Clifford. The since abandoned white spats really help highlight the choreographic details.

Clifford also has some clips of coaching sessions with members of the Hungarian National Ballet working through T&V.

 

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Edited by Quiggin
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