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down-scaling Apollo


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I’ve been reading Alexandra’s new book and I’m intrigued by something in the chapter on Apollo. Kronstam remembers that when Balanchine taught the ballet he asked for larger, stage-filling dancing of the sort that Jacques D’Amboise would soon do in the role, but that the choreographer later scaled the movement down for Barishnikov. Kronstam says that Peter Martins and Barbara Horgan would “scream” if they came to Copenhagen and saw it danced in the old way.

This puzzles me for a number of reasons. We know that in general Balanchine wanted bigger movements, not smaller ones, especially, if I’m not mistaken, on the large State Theater stage. And Barishnikov, technical whiz that he was, could really cover some ground. So that’s a little strange right there, or maybe I’m not understanding something. In any case, why would Martins want it danced smaller? Balanchine coached him in it before he coached Barishnikov, and Martins, who *is* tall, continued to dance it after Barishnikov left NYCB – certainly the choreographer didn’t go back to Martins and have rescale his performance? In fact, although it appears he wasn’t speaking specifically about size, Alexandra quotes Martins as saying Balanchine never did “tamper” with it.

For those who haven’t bought the book, Martins’ and Kronstam’s recollections clash on another point as well -- but I shan’t reveal what it is!

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I was also intrigued that Kronstam thought Balanchine was "remembering Fokine and Fokina" when he worked with Baryshnikov. He (HK) said he was thinking of photographs of F and F, and their plastique, that reminded him of the newer version of Apollo.

Ken, the comment about not being able to keep the Copenhagen version wasn't related to dancing it big or small, but to specific differences in the choreography that were in the Danish version, that were changed in 1993, during the rehearsals discussed in the book.

The Apollo differences would make an interesting article. Several people agreed with Martins and said that Balanchine never changed it -- except, fo course he did, taking out the birth scene, changing costumes and scenery, etc. -- yet several other people gave specific instances of changes.

I think the question of big and small -- scale and dynamics, not necessary bodies -- is part of the choreography freezing problem. In American terms, there is a D'Amboise version, a Villella version, and a Martins version, and all looked quite different, even if the steps were changed. (The other difference Ken refers to is more complicated, and it's whether Apollo is a demicaractere or noble role -- and I think the answer to that is that that did change.

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I seem to remember from Martins' book that, after his first performance of the ballet as a last minute sub for an injured d'Amboise, which was in 1966, or '67, I think? Balanchine rehearsed him in it and told him, in essence, "You're doing it wrong," and changed virtually everything Martins was doing.

It's off topic, but Martins' account of Balanchine searching the length and breadth of Europe for a suitable Apollo is such a striking contrast to current practice. Today, the ballet would be Ballet No. Three on Program Seven and everybody and his brother would have a crack at it, probably. Of course, the company was on tour at the time, but still.

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The story to which dirac refers is examined in my book, as well as several different accounts of whether "Apollo" was changed or not. :)

I agree with dirac about Apollo now being done by everyone, everywhere now, and that once it was much more closely held, as it were, but I don't think Balanchine really searched the length and breadth of Europe before finding Martins. Balanchine had Taras contact Kronstam, who had had several invitations to join NYCB, "to see if I was still in shape," as Kronstam put it. He was, but wasn't available to go to Edinburgh. Vera Volkova suggested Martins to Taras.

But the principle dirac mentioned is very true, and not only for "Apollo." How many Giselles were there in 1940 and how many this year, this season? (And no, it's not because there were only 6 people capable of doing the role in 1940 and 600 today. There were probably 100 men who could have danced the steps in "Apollo" in 1965, but they didn't get to do it.)

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There was one man already in the company - Edward Villella - but Balanchine wanted to showcase Suzanne Farrell as Terpsichore on tour. The two tried out the pas de deux, but she was too tall for him to partner comfortably, so Balanchine looked elsewhere.

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