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Favorite comic ballets -- the short list

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I'm stealing this idea from Grace who proposed it on another thread. :) I don't think we've had a thread about comic ballets -- at least, not in awhile.

There aren't many. Can we find 1 dozen? Two?

There's a story that one night, when Bournonville was leaving the theater after the premiere of one of his more ambitious, mythological ballets, the night watchman told him, "They want a good laugh, Guv'nor." And so, at least with Bournonville, it's his comic ballets that have lasted -- "Far from Denmark," "Kermesse in Bruges," and "The King's Volunteers on Amager." "Kermesse" is one of the few ballets at which I've ever laughed out loud. KVonA (usually called "Lifeguards;" the Danish word is Livjaerne, literally [the King's] Life Guards") isn't slapstick, more a gentle, domestic comedy.

What comedy ballets have you seen? Which are your favorites?

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La Fille, of course, in all its manifestations, though I have only seen the Ashton. Don Quixote, lots of early Ashton like Facade and Wedding Bouquet. Fancy Free, I suppose would be considered a comedy--I laugh anyway! 3 virgins and a devil by de Mille. Devil's Holiday (though it has been lost.) Certainly there are ballets with comedy in them, like the versions of Midsummer. Parts of Napoli are certainly funny, and it has a happy ending so I think it would be considered a comedy. Petipa's one-act Halte de Cavalrie is a comedy I think, and it was revived by the Maly within living memory. And of course Eifman, which makes me laugh myself silly.

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The Concert comes immediately to my mind, as does Fancy Free. Robbins had a real gift for comedy in dance; it's a pity that he seems to have lost his sense of humor after that. And Balanchine's Harlequinade. And, of course, Coppelia, in all versions.

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I'm having a senior moment, but Wheeldon's backstage farce, Variations....

I suppose Nutcracker would fall under comic, at least Balanchine's, with Fritz and Mother Ginger hamming it up.

Union Jack also has some light comedy to it.

As does Balanchine's Midsummer's

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One of my favorite lighter ballets - more playful than laugh out loud - was Jerome Robbins Interplay. The music was blues-jazzy but a lot of the choreography was based on kids' games, including leap frog and wheelbarrow. It was fun to watch, and the dancers seemed to enjoy dancing it. Joffry had it for a while as did ABT MANY years ago.

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Ah, yes, one cannot talk of comic ballets without including Gala Performance. My personal favorite.

Might as well throw in Sandpaper Ballet. It's funny the first couple times, anyway.;)

While watching the Classic Arts Showcase, I caught a clip of Go For Barocco, performed by the lovely and talented Trocks. Mr. B would be proud.:)

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i'd like to see a whole season of comic ballets...isn't it interesting that one's IMMEDIATE response must surely be: "that'll never happen." i wonder why...

anyway, i am surprised by how many we have come up with. there are many names here i am completely unfamniliar with - mostly works by american choreographers.

but there are also many which i would not describe as comic ballets, even though there might be the occasional or incidental laugh in them...coppelia, nutcracker, and certainly grad ball are several that spring to mind immediately. even fille, which has so many marvellous comic moments, and is clearly intended to delight all the way through, is not what i would have described as a 'comic ballet' in it's raison d'etre, or, ... 'deeper meaning' might be what i am referring to... (please let's not speculate too much about the inner workings of the choreographer's brains, or refer to their statements, published or otherwise...really i am asking about the ballet's effect, rather than its intent...oops - that could be dicey! ;) )

i think maybe the distinction i am making, is that the main purpose of, say, midsummer night's dream or nutcracker is not to get people to laugh (as, for example, the concert's 'main purpose' IS - if i can be so bold and foolish as to make such a statement).

OK OK, maybe you COULD say that about coppelia - in it's time - but not now, surely?

the only work i would have in MY list, which no-one else seems to have mentioned, is elite syncopations - whose intent must surely be to amuse, at least. and i'm not sure if, up above, someone mentioned ashton's wedding bouquet? i've never seen that, but i assume it's comic?

if i may presume to slightly re-direct the topic (?): out of all of these above - and any others that come to mind - which are really 'intended' (ALLOW yourself to make assumptions, please!) to amuse, pretty much all the way through...and DO work (for you)... - as distinct from those which just have comic moments?

i would start such a list with

the concert



p.S. later thought: i'd have to concede that lots of these ARE 'comic ballets'. i guess what *I* am really asking is slightly different to what alexandra asked:-

which ballets make you laugh pretty much all the way through - or at least summon true amusement/delight?

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Interesteing distinction -- I wasn't wild about "Elite Syncopations," but I'd agree it was intended to amuse.

I'd also make a distinction between "comic ballet" and "comedy" Midsummer, Fille, Coppelia and others are "comedies" in that classical sense of the term -- and not intended as laugh machines. Whereas "The Concert" -- or "Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet" which is out and out slapstick (Peter Anastos's jibe at Dances at a Gathering and its many sons and daughters) -- are made for laughs.

The Joffrey did "A Wedding Bouquet" a lot in the 1980, and it definitely was funny.

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La Croquese de Diamants and Deuil en 24 heures by Petit are very funny and comic.So is Bejart's Le Concours,one of the few ballets that I find genuinely funny.Cinderella by Ashton also has it's comic moments,especially the two Ugly Sisters.Pineapple Poll is also funny,although I have always found the humor in it to escape me.Much more entertaining is Bournonnville's Far from Denmark.

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The Envelope by David Parsons is very, very, funny indeed.

What about the ballets of Massine? He seems almost forgotten now. I used to love Mamzelle Angot and the last time it was revived (about 20 years ago) some wag at the RB had the bright idea of casting two dancers as Mamzelle A. and the aristocrat who in real life were also fighting for the affections of the same man. A prime example of life imitating art.

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I remember Cakewalk -- another one that should be brought back, IMO.

I wonder if Gala Performance could be done today? To really "get it" you have to see stylistic differences -- both as a viewer and as a dancer -- because the ballet is about distorting those differences. (It pits a French, Russian and Italian ballerina against each other, in all their respective glory.)

We have quite a long list -- remember this the next time you read a review that says, "Comic ballets are as rare as hens' teeth."....

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