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This ballet popped into my head because of Ari's and Mel's posts on the comic ballets thread. I've read descriptions of this ballet, but they tend to be rather general -- "catastrophe" "disaster" and so on. (I've also seen photographs of doubtful costumes.) If you saw it, please provide some gory details for our delectation, or mine anyway. If you didn't think it was so bad, please pipe up as well.

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Probably not that bad, it was just placed in-between two great ballets: "Stars and Stripes" and "Union Jack".

I can often leave the theatre and dance passages from a good ballet the next day, after seeing it once.

I never had the desire to dance any passages from "Tricolore".

Images of Colleen Neary come to mind. But the picture that is seared in my memory is the image of Nina Fedorova (closest thing to the mythological siren), as Madamoiselle Marrianne (a non-dancing role), entering the stage with the Tricolore, draped in a short Grecian robe with bare feet and legs, swan neck and long blonde hair.

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Glebb is not kidding. He often would come to company class and dance the entire performance he saw the night before, complete with corps, soloist and principal choreography. This was more impressive as he did this having only seen the ballet once. Repeated viewing brought commentary on the differences on dancers, musicality and technique. Glebb is gifted!!!

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Yup, mb, he's been doing that ever since he was a little kid. :D

My memory of both "Union Jack" and "Tricolore" is not happy. I'm one of those people who were obnoxed in "Union Jack" by the use of music firmly associated with the British Army in the Royal Navy section, among other things. And "Tricolore" was quite a mess (Watch out - here comes the Garde Republicaine -- CHARGE!) , what with the production being turned over to Bonnefoux before its premiere. I think I was somewhat mollified when it opened by the realization that the Old Man was very ill, and had been for some time, hence the mistakes a healthy and aware Balanchine would never have made in musical choices and choreography.

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Could someone explain a bit more how "Tricolore" was (how many dancers, which music, etc.)?

My copy of "Repertory in Review" isn't with me...

But probably "Emeralds" or "La Source" are a better homage to France that such a ballet (was there really something about the Garde Républicaine? Argh, I've always found their uniforms quite ugly...)

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"Tricolore" was a full-company work on the scale of "Stars and Stripes" and "Union Jack" with music by Georges Auric. Like the others, there was a military section, with Zouaves and Regulars, and were those Foreign Legionnaires? And yes, the Garde was in there. The only thing that redeemed that part in my eyes was the realization that their cuirasses and helmets were fabricated in my hometown!

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As a graduation present, from college or grad school (I can't remember which) I was taken to the premiere of Tricolore. (It was given a few times as part of the "Entente Cordiale" evening -- Union Jack, Tricolore and Stars and Stripes. Tricolore didn't benefit by the framings!)

I was disappointed that it wasn't by Balanchine, due to his illness at the time. I had hopes, however, which were quickly dashed, and the ballet became perhaps a classic example of too many cooks spoiling the bouilliabase. I wish I could remember more -- I suppose I could take down my boxes of programs and look for Tricolore, but then I'd spend a few hours going down memory lane.... So forgive me if I remember anything incorrectly.

Some (all?) of the sections had cute names beginning with "Pas." I remember Robbins' contribution was "Pas Degas," with, I think, jockeys and ballerinas? Thinking Peter Martins might be the young up-and-coming choreographer (this was shortly after he did Calcium Light Night), I was interested in his contribution, based on folk-dances, the very cutely named "Pas de Basque." (Not eponymous, as I don't think they actually did any. None of the names were as cute as Edward Gorey's wonderful "Pas Devant les Domestiques.") Some steps were derived (or so the notes said) from Basque traditional dancing; certainly it was bouncy and colorful, if not particularly inspiring.

I think I was either asleep or covering my eyes by the time the finale heaved itself to life.

Tricolore would certainly belong on any list of NYCB turkeys.

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Tricolore was meant to be the third part in a trilogy of "national" ballets, with the others being Stars and Stripes (1957) and Union Jack (1976). It isn't mentioned in Repertory in Review, Estelle, because it was done in 1978, two years after RIR stops. It was Balanchine's idea, and he was supposed to have made the ballet, but he suffered a heart attack and couldn't do it. He turned over the work to three choreographers, each of whom made a different section. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Peter Martins, and I forget who the third was — someone here can undoubtedly remember.

Balanchine devised the libretto, and the choreographers had to stick to it. That was half of the problem, since Balanchine's notions were so nutty that only he could have made something of it. The others just weren't on his wavelength. The other half of the problem was the absolutely ghastly music by Georges Auric. It was gassily vaporous and had no dance impulse at all. I used to joke that seeing the score was what caused Mr. B's heart attack. But seriously, I doubt even he could have made anything of it.

My mind has drawn a merciful veil over most of the choreography. I do remember how miserable the dancers all looked; you could tell what they thought of the piece. I also remember Nina Fedorova, embarrassed and miserable, being hoisted into the air as Glebb describes. Later in the run, Stephanie Saland took over that part and managed it with grace and dignity, for which she deserved an award.

I realize this means that I actually saw it twice. But I was younger and stronger then. :)

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Here's what the NYCB website has to say about it:


Photo Uncredited

Music: (1978) by Georges Auric, Commissioned by New York City Ballet

Choreography by Peter Martins, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux And Jerome Robbins

Premiere: May 18, 1978, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater

Original cast: Colleen Neary, Adam Luders, Merrill Ashley, Sean Lavery, Karin von Aroldingen

Ballet conceived and supervised by George Balanchine


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Arlene Croce on Tricolore:

"Overcast skies, dankness, gloom. A spiritless tribute to the French nation, Tricolore is a ballet to forget as quickly as possible. The New York City Ballet, which introduced it this season out of some misbegotten loyalty to the virtue of finishing what you've started -- in this case, a trilogy of nationalist extravaganzas which already included Stars and Stripes and Union Jack -- seems to forget it in performances. The dancers look as if they hated it quite as much as the audience does; their dour little faces and dutiful movements tell us that they won't help the least bit, even with a turkey that they know will fold. ....

The ballet, a failure in every department, turns out to have no partisans -- none. "

I saw it once and all I remember from the ballet was the women's costumes (lots of peasant-style dresses with schmatas) were awful.

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