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Oldest full length ballet

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"Amor and the Ballet Master's Whims", or something like that, I believe.

It is a piece by Galeotti, dating from the 1780s, and has been continuously performed since that date by the Royal Ballet in Denmark.

That is what makes the difference: we no longer have the steps, unfortunately, of La Fille Mal Gardée. Although the current production at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen may not be IDENTICAL in all respects to Galeotti's, it probably comes pretty close, as it has never been out of repertoire.

It is a pretty thing, and well worth seeing. The production now on the boards has been staged by Flemming Ryberg, one of the last artists who actually knows something about the period.

Another piece which gives you a precise idea of what was danced 180 years ago, is Bournonville's "Le Conservatoire". It is his recollection of the class he took with Gaetano Vestris, Professor at the Paris Opera School in 1820. The steps, 90% of which are no longer danced today, because they are so goddam tricky, are of mind-boggling virtuosity. It is unbelievably beautiful, and, IMO, the quintessence of the classical ballet.

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However, "The Whims of Cupid and the Ballet Master" and "Konservatoriet" are one-act ballets, the latter being only one act of a longer work that is not performed in the full-length (i.e. evening-long) version anymore.

I'd have to go with "La Sylphide" as the oldest full-length ballet which survives today.

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Thanks Katharine. I was just watching La Fille Mal Gardee and was wondering about that one.

It is really surprising to hear that some of these steps you are talking about are no longer done today. Sounds like the dancers from those old times were quite skilled. Thanks for taking the time to give me the background on it.

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Yes, mind-boggling virtuosity. The men's variations, notably the so-called "Dark Variation", at the end of Le Conservatoire, are considered to be something very near the limit of what the human mind can order the little ol' bod to do.

What we call virtuosity today, is jumping high and loud, and picking up the leg.

What Gaetano Vestris called virtuosity, is of quite a different order. If you can beg, borrow or steal the set of six films broadcast in 1967, made by the Royal Ballet at Copenhagen, that contain significant extracts from the Bournonville Schools, you will get an idea of what "mind-boggling" virtuosity is.

There are copies of those films circulating here and there on cassette. If you put out a search call for them, you may be lucky !

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ronny, actually "La Fille mal Gardée" was created in 1789, only three years after Galeotti's "The Whims of Cupid", and much earlier than "La Sylphide". But it has been modified many times, and so very little remains of the original steps, and of the original music (it was a pot-pourri of popular French airs, Herold composed a new music in 1828 and Hertel another one in 1864...). The only thing that hasn't changed much is the score!

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