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Balanchine's Don Quixote: Worth a Revival?


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4 hours ago, canbelto said:

Well I've read the novel twice, cover to cover, and it really is an undanceable novel, if that makes sense. There's just so many stretches of the novel that are Don Q and Sancho traveling through Spain, meeting people and talking, sharing ideas and gradually almost fusing into one person. It's a great achievement of literature but I've always thought that great novels make poor dances.

I feel this way about the Peony Pavilion (a famous Chinese opera, which is a supreme & beloved achievement as a work of literature & as excerpts in traditional Chinese opera), which the National Ballet of China made into a ballet. As highly stylized as Chinese opera is, it's still not ballet (and I've been horrified by what parts of the ballet I've seen, insofar as "telling the story") - it is a glorious piece of literature that is "undanceable." 

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Balanchine's Don Q could be revived. Not only is there a full-length b&w movie of the opening cast, which was shown at the Kennedy Center 4-5 years ago, but Farrell staged it for her company in the mid-'00s. It was a co-production with the NB of Canada. I saw a performance starring the wonderful Sonia Rodriguez in the Farrell role. I believe that the work is worth reviving for the historical interest, if anything. The most negative element is the dullish music. Neither did I care for the nasty depiction of mental torturing of a senior.

Today's average paying public is so used to the title of a "Don Q" ballet to mean rollicking fun; this is definitely not that Don Q. For balletomanes and sophisticates, in general, Balanchine's Don Q would be a compelling piece of theater, if the casting is right.

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14 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

This whole affair of El Don/Balanchine vs Dulcinea/Farrell onstage sounds bizarre to me.

Why "bizarre"? There's a reason the documentary made of her is called Elusive Muse - I actually think that captures Balanchine's presentation of Dulcinea in Don Q to a 't,' from what I've seen/read of the ballet. I can appreciate the fact that Balanchine's Don Q wasn't the bravura-fest that most versions of the ballet are (even if I think its potential of being revived handily are slim to none). 

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13 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Because of the obvious.

FWIW, my thought was the same as @l'histoire's — i.e. "the obvious" wasn't obvious to me, particularly given the basic gists of the Don Q / Dulcinea relationship and the Balanchine / Farrell relationship — and given Balanchine's lifelong interest in playing out onstage, even in "plotless" ballets, ideas about relationships between man and woman, artist and creator, that had both aesthetic and biographical resonance.

(That story about Balanchine casting himself as the allegorical personification of Polio attacking the young Tanny in some long-lost one-off benefit piece he created when she was like 15? Now that's bizarre.)

Edited by nanushka
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On 10/30/2018 at 1:17 PM, nanushka said:

FWIW, my thought was the same as @l'histoire's — i.e. "the obvious" wasn't obvious to me, particularly given the basic gists of the Don Q / Dulcinea relationship and the Balanchine / Farrell relationship.

I can just imagine the inner circle of dancers who knew the whole of the drama between the two seeing such a thing onstage, and I'm sure many of those who have seen the original video, and by now know the details of the platonic affair, have drawn conclusions and parallelisms. I know I would 

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I agree with cubanmiamiboy, it was "obvious" to anybody who had the slightest knowledge of the company and Balanchine's devotion to his Muses. If during the Romantic period ballet placed Womanhood at its centre, then in Twentieth Century it was Balanchine who continued this worshipful attitude to feminity expressed through movement and gesture.

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1 hour ago, Laurent said:

I agree with cubanmiamiboy, it was "obvious" to anybody who had the slightest knowledge of the company and Balanchine's devotion to his Muses. If during the Romantic period ballet placed Womanhood at its centre, then in Twentieth Century it was Balanchine who continued this worshipful attitude to feminity expressed through movement and gesture.

Right—that's what's "obvious." What I don't see is what makes that "bizarre." That was the claim @l'histoire and I were responding to.

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2 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

That elderly abuse onstage business that others have referred to...? Isn't that bizarre...?

Ah, perhaps, if that's what you were referring to. But you wrote:

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This whole affair of El Don/Balanchine vs Dulcinea/Farrell onstage sounds bizarre to me.

Is the "mental torturing of a senior" that @manhattangal referred to in the ballet an abuse performed by the character of Dulcinea herself? I didn't realize that was the case; that's why I didn't find your referent to be obvious.

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In the way that La Dame aux camélias is bizarre? Dumas fils didn't recreate his relationship with Marie Duplessis completely acurately, and I'm sure that Balanchine didn't either in Don Quixote, but it's not uncommon for artists to create semi-autobiographical works.

Dante is said to have met Beatrice Portinari only twice, but she looms large over his works. Balanchine knew Farrell well and worked with her a great deal, which already makes their relationship and artistic collaboration at lot less unusual.

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On 11/8/2018 at 4:58 AM, volcanohunter said:

In the way that La Dame aux camélias is bizarre? 

No...not in a XIX Century way. More like in the way that the gossiping 60's NYC dance world-(and probably many others sitting in the audience at the time)- knew of how bizarre the Balanchine/Farrell afair was.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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On 11/8/2018 at 8:55 AM, cubanmiamiboy said:

No...not in a XIX Century way. More like in the way that the gossiping 60's NYC dance world-(and probably many others sitting in the audience at the time)- knew of how bizarre the Balanchine/Farrell afair was.

Realize I'm several weeks late, but no, I still don't understand what Balanchine's obsession with Farrell with was "bizarre." Bizarre in what way? Balanchine had fallen in love with young ballerinas before, that was nothing new; he'd done a lot of choreography for them, too. Farrell wasn't the first. I'd just like to know why the Farrell/Balanchine affair was "bizarre," when his others - with LeClerq, Tallchief, etc - weren't.

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8 hours ago, l'histoire said:

Realize I'm several weeks late, but no, I still don't understand what Balanchine's obsession with Farrell with was "bizarre." Bizarre in what way? Balanchine had fallen in love with young ballerinas before, that was nothing new; he'd done a lot of choreography for them, too. Farrell wasn't the first. I'd just like to know why the Farrell/Balanchine affair was "bizarre," when his others - with LeClerq, Tallchief, etc - weren't.

For the record...I think all of those relationships were "bizarre".  He didn't love them in the way we understand love.  The master-muse relationship in various art fields has always been a bit bizarre.

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On 11/29/2018 at 11:17 PM, l'histoire said:

Realize I'm several weeks late, but no, I still don't understand what Balanchine's obsession with Farrell with was "bizarre." Bizarre in what way? Balanchine had fallen in love with young ballerinas before, that was nothing new; he'd done a lot of choreography for them, too. Farrell wasn't the first. I'd just like to know why the Farrell/Balanchine affair was "bizarre," when his others - with LeClerq, Tallchief, etc - weren't

I've seen the clips of the vision scene. Watching Balanchine bare himself up there for everyone to see and judge him as a confused, weak, trembling old guy dying of love for a young, unnatainable Suzanne Farrell seems almost like a self flagellation. Extremely bizarre. Or at least in my book.

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