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Russian Nights Question

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i suppose we'll only know for certain if a seattle reader/post-er chimes in here.

to be sure the russian's consider the pas de six (for la esmeralda, gringoire and four tambourine playing women) to be 'pure petipa' and 'diana and acteon' by vaganova's hand.

the problem w/ attributing the music to current soviet/russian stagings is that the version that lived into the 20th century from the 19th c. 'original' had choreographic reworkings by gorski and musical reworkings by asafiev, etc.

until all those russian/soviet records are opened and made available to western scholars, even if only to those who read russian, we may remain in the dark making assumptions all over the place,


there is a sense of the ways in which ESMERALDA got restaged in soviet times in elizabeth souritz's invaluable 'soviet choreographers of the 1920s.'

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according to Lynn Garafola's annotated chronology in THE DIARIES OF MARIUS PETIPA (SDHS Vol. iii, no. 1) petipa's 'definitive' revison of perrot's ballet, which was originially given in london in1844, and then in st. petersburg in 1848, dates from 1886, when he restaged it at the maryinsky for v. zucchi, and included for her a new 'pas de six' (to drigo).

so while there may be 'ESMERALDA' Pas de Deux around attributed to Perrot, these at best would seem to come down to us via the revised petipa production.

in any case it seems no longer on the international circuit, the way the pas de six and the 'diana and acteon' dances are.

w/the exception of ben stevenson's pastiche of this pas de deux, most recently given in the states by ABT, there haven't been any presentations of the pas de deux performed lately.

if mem. serves in the 70s ABT (and others) were doing this pas more frequently, and those stagings may well have had 'after perrot' credits.

p.s. here are the credits for a version by john gilpin and included in the video called 'the romantic era'

Esmeralda.Pas de deux (Choreographic work : Gilpin after Perrot)

Chor: John Gilpin after Jules Perrot; mus: Cesare Pugni. Perf: Mexico, Guanajuato, Teatro Juarez, Cervantes International Festival, May 16-18, 1980; Eva Evdokimova & Peter Schaufuss.

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Has anyone seen this program? Comments would be welcome :P

There was an interesting review in the Seattle press -- Ari posted it on Links yesterday -- that seeing Paquita and Theme and Variations together on the same program made one aware of the differences between them. I would agree with that -- while at first glance, one might think "Oh, a night of all THAT kind of ballet!" often when you place things that seem similar right next to each other, the differences leap out at you.

Anyone care to comment?

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Happy to oblige! This is a marvelous program -- so much so that I will be returning to see two other casts later this week. I think that the juxtaposition of "Paquita" and "Theme" was a brilliant programming choice. Mr. Campbell is correct in describing it as "didactic without appearing so."

The Saturday, February 1 performance featured one young principal (Carrie Imler) paired with a young soloist (Casey Herd) in "Paquita." Ms. Imler, CPYB and PNB trained, is a turner and has rock-solid balance. I counted (yes -- I count!) 34 fouettes (including doubles as ending flourishes) with no hint of traveling. Mr. Herd is a jumper and executed his solos well. I am sure that he will grow as a partner. There were some cast shifts among the soloists due to an injury that occurred on opening night, with some resulting unevenness in quality which should also smooth out during the second week of the run.

Louise Nadeau and Jeffrey Stanton were well matched in the "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux." Ms. Nadeau has grown is stature as an artist as she has matured. Her performance appeared to be weightless, effortless and possessed of a very French effervescence -- perhaps as a nod to Violette Verdy. Mr. Stanton is known as one of PNB's most attentive and intuitive partners and did not disappoint.

The novelty of the evening was the opportunity to see the "Esmeralda Pas de Deux," set by Kaori Nakamura and Olivier Wevers. Alas, although scheduled, they did not perform last Saturday. (I hope to be able to see them on at least one of the performances this week.) Noelani Pantastico and Astrit Zejnati gave a pleasant and competent performance.

The glory of the evening, however, was Patricia Barker, partnered by Stanko Milov, in "Theme and Variations." As often as she has performed this role, it is altogether to her credit that Ms. Barker finds new avenues of exploration and continues to refine additional nuances. On this occasion, it was the new freedom in her control of port de bras and epaulement which impressed me the most. I speculate that these qualities are at least partially the result of increased exposure to roles in "Paquita," and, especially, "Sleeping Beauty," the latter of which she has described as the most difficult work she has ever done, and which she will perform later this spring.

The ensemble was in its element -- everyone radiated an aura of "this is what we live to do" confidence and assuredness.

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You might have had that impression because there was a gala presented to celebrate her 20th anniversary with the company (1981-2001). However, she is performing at the height of her powers -- retirement would be altogether premature. Next season's programming has been planned to honor Mr. Balanchine and is balanced heavily in favor of Ms. Barker's best repertoire. It is also the opening of our new performance hall, with galas and special programming -- I am reasonably sure that she plans to be there. She has always been and continues to be one of the hardest working, most committed members of the company.

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I also attended the Feb. 1 evening performance and agree with much of what has been said already. "Russian Nights" is an excellent program and it also has offered some unusual casting (presumably due to injuries), with several soloists and corps members being given some big opportunites. I went back last night, mainly to catch Noelani Pantastico's debut (?) in "Theme and Variations" and I was amazed (although not surprised) to see her give such a confident and complete performance with so little experience in the part. Corps member Mara Vinson was also very good in her shot at the ballerina role in "Paquita." She does not have the astonishing technique of Imler, but she has an old fashioned, romantic sort of presence that worked well in this ballet. It's too bad that both women were only given one chance at their parts. Who knows when we'll ever get to see them in these and/or other big roles?

The two pas de deux on the program were slightly less successful choices. I enjoyed the Nadeau/Stanton "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" more than Barker/Bold. I think in general this piece works better with smaller ballerinas. I also don't think that the Barker/Bold pairing really seems to benefit either the dancers or the audience; they are at such different skill levels. He obviously tries hard, but I don't think he has shown much improvement in Balanchine or classical roles. He seems much more at ease in the harder-edged contemporary pieces (e.g. Martins, Forsythe) in the repertory. At any rate, as a stage couple they seemed to have no rapport, which marred the ballet as a whole for me (though individually Barker was excellent). I enjoyed both couples I saw in "Esmeralda" equally, and while it was fun to get a chance to see this kind of a thing, I don't think I could have sat through it for a third time so soon.

All in all, two really enjoyable experiences, although it was a bit dismaying to see so many empty seats for what one would have thought should have been an easy-to-sell program (and despite PNB offering a very generous discount on tickets, for a change).

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Thank you, Helice! It's wonderful to see posts about this program. PNB is one of our most important companies and there isn't enough about them on this board. We've found in the past that all you need are 2 or 3 people posting, and then another 3 come out of hiding and join in :D So I very much hope we'll be reading more of you in the future.

It does sound like an intriguing program, and a very good chance to see lots of dancers. I'm also surprised that it didn't sell -- has this been a problem in Seattle generally the past two years? Are there theories -- recession, or lack of interest in the arts, etc? PNB is a stable company -- not a lot of dancer turnover, no high profile problems. It should be smooth sailing!

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Actually, there has been a fair amount of dancer turnover in the past two seasons, with several principals and soloists either retiring or leaving. Also, PNB announced last month that it was cutting performances of the remaining "mixed bill" programs this season, making some program changes, and furloughing administrative staff. The following article from the Seattle P-I has more information:


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Thanks for that -- I don't think the turnover is out of the ordinary, though. I meant what's happened with companies (not PNB) where the directorship has changed, and dancers -- either a few real favorites, or a huge percentage of the company, 50% or more -- are suddenly cut. That can sometimes push audiences away.

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I would tend to believe that the segment of the audience that can tell one dancer from another is the one that is going to keep on coming to shows anyway. I also suspect that attendance has dropped because of a combination of factors: the horrible local economy; dull programming choices; confusion about or dissatisfaction with the Mercer Arts Arena as a venue for dance.

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Thanks. I found your last point especially interesting -- for those of us who aren't familiar with the center, what are the problems? The article you linked to above also referred to it as "less attractive," though there doesn't seem to be an alternative, since the Opera House is being renovated.

The Kennedy Center here is in the same situation -- the Opera House is closed for a year, and they're putting programs/concerts in other theaters. It's not exactly the same situation, of course, because it's a theater missing one of its own houses, not a company floating around without a home. But ballet fans aren't happy -- the schedule is cut back, no real appearance by the Kirov this season (just an appearance at a gala), ABT in the Concert Hal, not an ideal venue for dance, etc.

In the hopes of keeping subscriptions up, the Center programmed a two-week "international festival," probably in the hopes that people would want to see the stars so badly that they'd keep their subscriptions.

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The Mercer Arts Arena has been converted temporarily from an old, smallish sports arena that was next to the opera house while the new hall is being constructed. While it respresents something of an incredible transformation for anyone who saw the old arena, it is still a problematic venue for dance. It is really wide, so there is a lot of dead space around the proscenium, making it hard to focus on the stage. The perspective from the center sections is definitely better than the side sections. There are also entire sections on the sides with badly obstructed views of the stage (they usually don't sell many seats in those). The acoustics have been praised, which, for the ballet, means that the orchestra still sounds fine, but I've also been a bit more conscious of hearing dancers' feet pounding the stage since the move.

For those to whom such things matter a great deal, I imagine the new facility lacks the requisite "opera house" ambience. I'm not particularly bothered by the lack of opulence, but I often feel disoriented because there is no real expansive lobby area to mill about in before the performance or during the intermissions. Something of the social experience is lost. People tend to go outside at the breaks if the weather is decent.

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