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Subject: "Re-choreographing Petipa" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #792
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Helen

01-07-00, 03:14 PM (GMT)
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"Re-choreographing Petipa"
 
   Could someone explain to me why Derek Deane, or anyone else for that matter, thinks he can "re-choreograph" The Sleeping Beauty? Is it still The Sleeping Beauty? Most of the audience at the Albert Hall would think it was - this wasn't advertised as something truly experimental like Bourne's Swan Lake. I didn't see the Derek Deane version myself, but Kathrine Sorley Walker in this month's Dancing Times says it was rather like seeing a re-written Shakespeare play. This alteration of substance doesn't happen in any other art form, and it puzzles me. You don't have Britten's version of Rosenkavalier, or Alan Bennett's re-writing of Hamlet, do you? (I may have missed something!)

I understand that ballet is a more fluid art form because,at least in its early days, it was difficult to record it accurately, so it's difficult to have an authentic version of the older ballets; but it still seems strange to alter what we know of Petipa just for the hell of it, or to suit a particular venue. In the future, will Balanchine, Ashton or MacMillan be re-choreographed?

If the stable element of ballet isn't the choreography, what is it? The plot? No, look at the Kirov's "happy ending" Swan Lake. The music, then? More so, but even that gets rearranged.

Why is ballet the only art that can be infinitely altered?


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Re-choreographing Petipa Anneliese 01-07-00 1
     RE: Re-choreographing Petipa eugene merrett 01-07-00 2
  RE: Re-choreographing Petipa jonathan 02-07-00 3
     RE: Re-choreographing Petipa Helen 02-07-00 4
         RE: Re-choreographing Petipa eugene merrett 02-07-00 5
             RE: Re-choreographing Petipa jonathan 02-07-00 7
         RE: Re-choreographing Petipa jonathan 02-07-00 6
             RE: Re-choreographing Petipa Helen 03-07-00 8
                 RE: Re-choreographing Petipa Anneliese 03-07-00 9
  RE: Re-choreographing Petipa Robert 05-07-00 10
     RE: Re-choreographing Petipa goodtoes 16-07-00 11

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Anneliese

01-07-00, 08:38 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #0
 
   >Why is ballet the only art
>that can be infinitely altered?
>
Hmm. I don't know. Perhaps the analogy is in the conversion of a novel into a film or TV series? Or different painters' representations of the same subject? Or different composers' settings of the same words or story? (Britten/Purcell/Mendelssohn for a midsummer night's dream ?)

Or maybe it's just less obvious in ballet unless you're dancing to a very expert audience indeed and they do it because they can get away with it!


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eugene merrett

01-07-00, 10:52 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #1
 
   In defence of Deane, it is essential that there is some rechoreograhing of the ENB SB because it is in the round. To insure that all sides of the round get a good view of the dancing the choreography needs to be adapted. Otherwise a substantial percentage of patrons would only get to see the backs of the dancers!

But I generally welcome improvements done to Petipa by modern choreographers. It gives more variety. Also dancers have more power and athletism and there are more steps that be made. So why not take some advantage of it. I certainly welcome the fish dives in western version of Sleeping Beauty then the more staid steps in earlier Kirov versions. Moreover too much of 19th century ballet is so dated by being too long and too processional. In the authentic Kirov SB much of the dancing is just posing (proabably even more so in the original performacnes! That was enough for most people in 19th Europe. Now we want them to dance and we care less about poisng. And in our fast moving society a 4 hour Sleeping Beauty is not practical.

The challenge is to get the right balance between more up to date steps but ensuring the basic integrity of Petipa art is not obscured.

I would also argue that many other art works changed over the years. Chopin and Beethoven "piano" sonatas were never made to be played on modern Steinways which sound very different from instruments in even Chopin time. Another example I give is that in the 1960 a standard recording of Beethoven 9th Symphony 1st movement lasted approx 18-20 minutes. Modern "authentic" recordings bring it in at less then 12 minutes and on completely different instruments. If that does not represent change then nothing does!


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jonathan

02-07-00, 01:41 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #0
 
   This alteration of
>substance doesn't happen in any
>other art form, and it
>puzzles me. You don't have
>Britten's version of Rosenkavalier, or
>Alan Bennett's re-writing of Hamlet,
>do you? (I may have
>missed something!)

I think you have. Soirées Musicales is set to Britten's reworking of Rossini tunes. Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is a reworking of Purcell. Liszt rearranged Schubert, Bach rearranged popular tunes into chorales, Rachmaninov did variations on a theme of Corelli (and Paganini), Tchaikovsky emulated the 18th century generally in the Roccoco variations, Nutcracker is full of reworkings of folk tunes, John Lanchbery re-orchestrated a number of classics, such as Bayadere, Busoni rearranged Bach (as did Rachmaninov), and Schnittke frequently takes Bach and reworks it. ENB's White Nights (Kim Brandstrup) had a fragmented/reworked score of Mussorgsky by Gerard McBurnie.

Petipa himself reworked solos depending on the dancers he had in front of him, and Tchaikovsky was very aware of the mechanics of the theatre - scene changes etc. On the scale of Sleeping Beauty at the Albert Hall, there is every reason to change a piece according to the venue, and I have no doubt that many predecessors would have done the same thing.
>
>Why is ballet the only art
>that can be infinitely altered?

You are assuming that this is a problem. I see it as the crowing glory of that sort of ballet that it can be altered. It is real in time and space, and has living, moving human beings as its instruments, therefore the possibilities for variation are enormous.

But more than this, it is a question of prevailing taste. In music nowadays, it is fashionable (stop and note the word fashionable) to try and be authentic by playing on period instruments etc. This was not the case 20/30 years ago, and may not be 10 years from now. Derek Deane can do what he does at the moment because it is in tune with current tastes. I have no doubt that if in 20 years time, the fashion was to recreate Bournonville ballets in period costume, period instruments and have yards of ale for sale in the interval, he'd do that too. Why on earth not?


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Helen

02-07-00, 09:44 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #3
 
   I hadn't thought of Annaliese's analogy of film or TV adaptations of books - it's a good one, as titles are usually kept the same, but substantial alterations are often made to dialogue, and even to the plot. Think of all the children now growing up who think that Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland or The Jungle Book are works by Disney.

Jonathan - I certainly may have missed something, but I haven't missed any of those pieces. I know them all quite well and had thought of mentioning them in my original posting, but came to the conclusion that variations on a piece of someone else's music are not the same as a complete re-working. To me, they are more the equivalent of the "after Petipa" choreography which I gather Deane uses in the Rose Adagio and the Grand Pas de Deux. Equally, Petipa's own re-working of his solos is quite different from another choreographer's complete re-choreographing of them - they are still Petipa.

In answer to Eugene's and Jonathan's points about fashions in the performance of music, I would agree that styles come and go, as fashions in the performance of ballet do. But it is the manner of performance that changes, not the actual notes. I've sung in dozens of performances of Beethoven 9, at different speeds, but the notes are always the same, and I see the written notes as being perhaps the equivalent of the choreographed steps. I've also done "authentic" and "inauthentic" Bach - again, the notes don't vary, except for minor editorial differences. The differences are in tempo, attack etc. Style, not substance.

Finally, I'm not really assuming that the constant changes in ballet are a problem - they can be interesting sometimes. I just wonder why they are so much more frequent in ballet than in other arts.


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eugene merrett

02-07-00, 10:44 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #4
 
   Helen, the dramatic speeding up of Beethoven's 9 symphony fundamentally changes the music from a an Olympian, statement of Victorian grandeur to a more intimate statement of personsal anguish and then personal triumph.

The change is in my view far greater then the re-working of Petipa's works!


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jonathan

02-07-00, 10:54 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #5
 
   >Helen, the dramatic speeding up of
>Beethoven's 9 symphony fundamentally changes
>the music from a an
>Olympian, statement of Victorian
>grandeur to a more intimate
>statement of personsal anguish and
>then personal triumph.
>
>The change is in my view
>far greater then the re-working
>of Petipa's works!

Spooky. I just said much the same thing in my reply to Helen. At least we agree on some things, Eugene!


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jonathan

02-07-00, 10:52 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #4
 
   >Equally, Petipa's own re-working of
>his solos is quite different
>from another choreographer's complete re-choreographing
>of them - they are
>still Petipa.

True. I still think that if a choreographer is happy to adapt/change a solo depending on the dancer, then that adaptability is in a sense part of the solo itself; perhaps an analogy would be the early concerto cadenzas.

>Butit is the manner of
>performance that changes, not the
>actual notes...Style, not substance.
>

I would challenge the view that "actual notes" constitutes the musical work. There is a music behind the notes which must be played too, and if that is not done, to me, you might as well alter the notes as well. In other words, I would argue that the style is part of the substance.

>Finally, I'm not really assuming that
>the constant changes in ballet
>are a problem - they
>can be interesting sometimes. I
>just wonder why they are
>so much more frequent in
>ballet than in other arts.

I think it's because of the question of ownership - there are so many people, techniques, disciplines etc. involved in a ballet (and before anyone says "what about opera", the fact is, you can give a concert performance of an opera, but you can't give a concert performance of a ballet) that only time will tell what element of a piece, by hypothetical substitution, constitutes the sine qua non of that work.

Sleeping Beauty is a good example - what do we call it? "Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty". Millions of people have heard the score, perhaps only thousands seen the ballet.
Conversely, I suspect that many people don't know or care who composed the music for Bayadere or Paquita, but they know who choreographed it.

I posted a link to this before, but it's worth doing again. Julie van Camp's dissertation on the identity of works of art in dance (http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/diss4.html#text6) and her article on copyright in dance works (http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/copyrigh.html) make fascinating and informative reading on this subject.



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Helen

03-07-00, 08:44 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #6
 
   Jonathan - not much time at the moment to think this through, but I couldn't agree with you more that "actual notes" don't really constitute the music. I have often said of great musicians that what they play/sing is far beyond what is on the page. But I still would argue that notes/steps are equivalent. A great singer's interpretation is a long way beyond the notes. A great dancer's interpretation is a long way beyond the steps. But the notes/steps are still there, and still the same! We are talking about interpretation. I certainly see what you mean, though.

I'm going to miss my train if I go on!


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Anneliese

03-07-00, 11:27 AM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #8
 
   Am inclined to agree up to a point with everyone here! A first?
I must check out those links...


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Robert

05-07-00, 02:21 AM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #0
 
   There are lots of examples of painters repainting the work of others. Francis Bacon's paintings of the Screaming Pope are a good example. People may be interested to Know that some of Van Gogh's paintings were taken from engravings in The Graphic and The Illustrated London News, he also painted copies of Dore pictures. If Derek Deane or anyone else wants to mess about with Petipa's choreography I cannot see much harm, nobody really knows what the original was like anyway. None of us could really know what was invented in the recent production of Jeaux but the experiment was interesting. I suspect this is just another attempt to get at poor old Derek Dean again.


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goodtoes

16-07-00, 12:30 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Re-choreographing Petipa"
In response to message #10
 
   If you are going to cut, paste and rechoreograph a recognised masterpiece such as Sleeping Beauty you really need to be a confident and competent choreographer like Balanchine i.e when he restaged Swan Lake. I am afraid ENB does not yet have the choreographic talent and substance to be able to do this yet. I understand the need for change and to bring new audiences in, however will they come back after seeing a mediocre production that lends very little to the original? I argue that they will not be completely satisfied, however it has to be said that the new audience will not be very educated in how the ballet should be.

I have read allot about this production and the way the ENB press team have been pushing the ballet is by leading the prospective audience to believe that they are seeing a new reworked revolutionised Sleeping Beauty which I am afraid is not what you saw in the arena. It was a production that worked but came nowhere near the greatness of any of PETIPAS Sleeping Beauties, and it did NOTHING to revolutionise or bring out a different aspect in the ballet.

One can understand the success and the reason of choosing Swan Lake as a ballet in the round but Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty. I think people should stop taking the mickey out of NBT for there new production of Jackle and Hyde and think of the next ballet that he could redicously put in the round.

When will ENB's repetoire have the substance and the quality that it used to have i.e like the ballets from choreographers such as Ashton and Bruce. The ballet audiences new and old are getting a little bit tired of ENB gimmicks, let ENB be shown for its real talents i.e. a strong director with a company of young talented dancers. There is a huge gap in ENB's repetoire and the audience and the dancers are hungry to get there hands on it.


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