Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Prince variations in the 1890 Sleeping Beauty, 1892 Nutcracker & 1895 Swan Lake

Recommended Posts

I've published an essay on Pavel Gerdt and the prince variations in the 1890 Sleeping Beauty, 1892 Nutcracker, and 1895 Swan Lake in the latest volume of the online Italian journal Danza e Ricerca. The link will take you to a webpage where you can access an English-language PDF of the essay.

Abstract: By the time Tchaikovsky's trio of ballets — Sleeping Beauty (1890), The Nutcracker (1892), and Swan Lake (1895 redaction) — came to be performed in St. Petersburg, first dancer Pavel Gerdt had given up performing danced solos. Gerdt was nevertheless cast as the male lead in these ballets, and his solos were assigned to other dancers, including female soloists, senior girl students of the Theatre School, and a young man who represented a generation that would define a new era of male dancing in ballet. Source material, including choreographic notations made in the Stepanov system, allows for detailed descriptions of these dances. The result of this approach to compensating for Gerdt’s advancing age and physical limitations was a bifurcated collection of premier danseur roles in some of the most enduring works of the era.

Link to comment

Fascinating. I wonder what cues the audience would have that the two dancers were representing the same character, as when Gorskij was filling in for Gerdt in the Black Swan pas de deux. What were the costume similarities/differences? Was the effect like that of a translation of a speech? (And already in Swan Lake there is the cross-character of Odile/Odette, one dancer for two rather than two for one.)

Things become even more complicated in the 1900 revival of La Bayadère:


Perhaps  surprisingly  to  us,  Legat  was  on  stage  with  Gerdt  (who  performed  his own share of partnering with both women) in a sort of role sharing, which allowed each ballerina  to  simultaneously  be  supported  by  her  own  cavalier.  That  the  audience  tolerated  this  forced  suspension  of  dramatic  continuity  seems  attributable  to  Gerdt’s  ongoing  popularity  with  the ballet-goers  of  St.  Petersburg  and  confirms  the  strength  of  his  seniority  within  the  ranks  of  the  company.

In contemporary avant garde dance, drama or film (Sacha Guitry's Napolean), role-splitting might might used as a Brechtian alienating effect – or a kind of dramatic "depth." Perhaps the passing of the role in the front of the audience and the respect for seniority gave the ballet an extra depth and something of a backstory.

Edited by Quiggin
Link to comment
12 hours ago, cargill said:

Thanks, so interesting and wonderful pictures.  Čajkovskij’ was a transliteration I had never seen, though, and it did puzzle me at first!

The journal uses a particular transliteration system that results in these unusual spellings.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...