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Balanchine’s Choreography to Tchaikovsky

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Quite by accident I came across this dissertation...

Analyzing Music and Dance:
Balanchine’s Choreography to Tchaikovsky and the Choreomusical Score

--Kara Yoo Leaman
2016

[Can be downloaded as a PDF]
https://search.proquest.com/openview/ed1147a7bc01a93ae32c8fd776d02741/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

From the abstract:
"This dissertation analyzes two works that Balanchine set to music by Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky: Tschaikovsk}’ Pas de Deux (1960), set to an interpolation in Swan Lake (1877), and Theme and
Variations (1947), set to the fourth movement of the Third Orchestral Suite (1884). The analyses combine perspectives from traditional music analysis, dance transcription, and
digital video annotation. The methodology takes advantage of Balanchine’s strong musical literacy to examine, first, the musical scores, as he did, and then his
choreographies in relation to the scores. The analyses connect elements of his choreography directly to their probable sources in the music, and they show that
Balanchine was guided by discernible priorities in setting dance to music: that dance and music reflect a partnership rather than dominance by one party; that dancers move with
unreserved energy, reflected in steps that cross musical boundaries or anticipate musical ideas; and that dance establish a strong relationship with its music before it is free to
conflict with it. Balanchine's choreomusical style encompasses many different types of relationships between music and dance, and he achieved what may be described as
musical artistry by a variety of choreographic techniques. The analyses in this study offer a detailed view of important aspects of Balanchine’s multifaceted choreomusical style."

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7 hours ago, pherank said:

Quite by accident I came across this dissertation...

Analyzing Music and Dance:
Balanchine’s Choreography to Tchaikovsky and the Choreomusical Score

--Kara Yoo Leaman
2016

[Can be downloaded as a PDF]
https://search.proquest.com/openview/ed1147a7bc01a93ae32c8fd776d02741/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

Very interesting. She is now on the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory: https://www.oberlin.edu/kara-leaman

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Posted (edited)
On 6/7/2020 at 4:21 AM, California said:

Very interesting. She is now on the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory: https://www.oberlin.edu/kara-leaman

It is by no means an easy dissertation to read, but I'm finding lots of thought provoking bits in the analysis. The Elizabeth Kattner-Ulrich dissertation from a few years back (The Early Life and Works of George Balanchine) was more enjoyable reading, but this one attempts some really difficult analysis. Here are a couple of quotes:

    'A contemporary dance critic called Tschai Pas “a kind of pastiche of a typical
Bolshoi concert-program offering.”34 Jacques D ’Amboise recalls Balanchine calling his
own ballet a circus and “not our company.” Verdy confirms that the ballet “was
[Balanchine’s] little homage to all the Russian dancers also doing those things” at the
time. But, she goes on to say, it was additionally about Imperial Russia (“the Russian
situation”), because “Tchaikovsky, you know, always” evoked memories of that world
for Balanchine.36 With Tchaikovsky’s newly-rediscovered score, Balanchine pays
homage to both the Soviet dancers and the master of the Imperial Ballet, Marius Petipa.
Allusions to Petipa pervade Tschai Pas but are at the same time difficult to isolate,
because the styles o f both Balanchine and Chabukiani emanate from the foundations that
Petipa set in the Imperial Ballet. In contrast, Balanchine’s allusions to the Soviet style are
easier to discern, because they are often inconsistent with his usual aesthetic. One
example is his wholesale adoption in Variation 1 of a modular choreographic form that is
rooted in the musical form.'


     'Known in the repertory as a display piece for virtuosic classical technique, Tschai
Pas is not generally regarded as eccentric. However, the relationship of choreography to
music in Variation 2 is peculiar among classical variations. Instead of following the
music’s form and phrase rhythm, Balanchine responds to and develops musical ideas
through dance, creating choreomusical structures like the five-level complex hemiola,
grouping and displacement dissonances, and a choreographic phrase overlap that preimitates
a musical one. To create dialogue between dance and music, Balanchine opens
the piece with a concentration of cross-modal mappings, which establish agreements, or a
common language, before the conflicts emerge. In an article attributed to him, the
choreographer states, “Not a single fragment of any choreographic score should ever be
replaceable by any other fragment; each piece must be unique in itself, the ‘inevitable’
movement.” The level of coherence that Balanchine aspired to recalls ninteenth- and
twentieth-century ideals for musical compositions and invites the study of his ballets as
musical works.'

Edited by pherank

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