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When Petipa Re-Choreographed . . .


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Do we know to what degree Petipa scuttled the previous choreography when he rechoreographed an existing ballet?  At times I have the feeling that the previous choreography has at least "colored" much of what Petipa's rechoreography/revision presents. 

Unless he always completely changed everything, obviously it would vary from ballet to ballet; but I'm interested in knowing what remains of the work of previous choreographers in Petipa's rechoreographies.  Perhaps at times Petipa simply fine-tuned what he regarded as occasional miscues in the original.  We may have more of St.-Léon or Perrot etc. than one might at first think.

(One is also almost tempted to enquire as to what remains of Petipa's choreography in today's production of Petipa's ballets; but that's a separate question!)

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Good question but a formidable task with something so ephemeral as dance. No equivalent exists of X-raying a painting to see what came before.

The new Nadine Meisner Petipa book, however, may provide some hints. From the LRB review, "The Bedroom of a Sorcerer" –

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In his memoir, Petipa’s score-settling pushes out details of the construction of his ballets. Meisner explains what Petipa took from Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Léon, his collaborators at the Imperial Ballet; how French and Italian techniques intermingled in the Russian context; how grand ballets differ from ballets-féeries; and how Petipa responded to demands for more or less patriotic content.

Meisner –

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It was also from Perrot that Petipa acquired the ability to manipulate large numbers of dancers …

This was beyond Saint-Léon, who in Khudekov’s words “did not know how to deal with big numbers of people [ … ] All his morceaux d’ensemble are lifeless and colorless."  On the other hand, Saint-Léon was a ballerina’s ideal maker of solos. "St Léon knew how to compose those correct, rhythmic movements which in ballet language are called classical dance-variations. Soloists used to say that it was always comfortable for them to dance variations composed by this ballet master." [Ekaterina Vazem?] (The musical logic and delicate stitching of the Saint-Léon variation is evident in the reconstructions by Ann Hutchinson Guest and Pierre Lacotte of the pas de  six from La Vivandière.)

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n07/simon-morrison/the-bedroom-of-a-sorcerer

I've always enjoyed looking at these Royal Ballet's reconstructions of simple pre-Petipa choreography and steps –

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFEuShFvJzBww3lVbFABGB0HbIxNQ2TiA

 

Edited by Quiggin
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Yes, in this slow time, the silver lining is perhaos more time to read.  Was it Perrot who sued Petipa (and won!) for intellectual property theft, or was it St. Leon?  I think Perrot?  Wishes she had the books in hand...

 

[edited to add]

 

it was Perrot.

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/arts/dance/looking-for-the-real-petipa-in-classical-ballets.html

Edited by Amy Reusch
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2 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

Yes, in this slow time, the silver lining is perhaos more time to read.  Was it Perrot who sued Petipa (and won!) for intellectual property theft, or was it St. Leon?  I think Perrot?  Wishes she had the books in hand...

p. 98: Perrot sued Petipa. Petipa used Perrot's "Cosmopolitana" from Gazelda, after being denied permission by Perrot. Perrot won at trial.

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59 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

Oh wow, he asked permission, was demied, and did it anyway!  Shows something of his personality!

If you go to Amazon and the hardcover edition, use their feature "look inside" and you can read p. 98. No way to copy-paste from that.

I would recommend this book very highly. Chock full of fascinating details. 

https://www.amazon.com/Marius-Petipa-Emperors-Ballet-Master-ebook/dp/B07QRWZXXF/

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The lawsuit shouldn't overshadow their fruitful relationship. Nadine Meisner says this –

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Over this long period [twelve years] Perrot’s example became an important formative influence on Petipa and a creative friendship was formed. Although this ended with a widely publicized court battle over copyright (about which more later), Petipa never lost his high esteem for Perrot.

Meisner will present Petipa's point of view, then gently correct it for the recond. What's impressive about the book is the number of footnotes in Russian cyrillic – so it appears she done lots of primary research rather than recycle others' takes on the subject. But I don't have the book at hand yet (which I eventually will), I'm working from a borrowed view via Google books.

Edited by Quiggin
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