martes, abril 06, 2010

Ballet renovation, a hopeful proposal

            Three weeks ago I gave my enormous wish list for opera renovation. Now I´m tackling the ballet repertoire, to my mind much more hackneyed in recent decades in our city and crying out for deep delving into the international treasure of ballets. There´s so much that is valuable and unknown here!
            I am taking into consideration not only the Colón Ballet but also that of the La Plata Argentino, for both have enough people to handle the big pieces and  a considerable trajectory, even if there has been too much routine.  The group of the Teatro San Martín can be adequate for some smaller ballets with modern techniques.  I will give priority not only to the choreographies but especially to the quality of the music, so often  put into a distant second plane by the directors of ballet groups. And I will privilege music specifically written to be danced, for nowadays any music seems fair game for choreographers and I don´t agree.
            There is a basic difficulty: the lack of a universally understood and sufficiently clear notation of dance steps has made it very problematic to revive old ballets. Those that have come down to us have relied heavily on oral transmission from teacher to disciple, but in every case we see them in revisions that try to be as faithful as possible to the original, approximations with some degrees of inexactitude. After 1930 films acquired sound, but unfortunately very few testimonies remain of the great ballets of succeeding decades, probably because of the cost and the belief that they wouldn´t be commercially viable. It is only when we enter the era of videos and later of DVDs that we finally have reasonable facsimiles of new ballets as they are created.
            Baroque ballet has been acceptably revived in Europe on the basis of iconography and treatises, and about two decades ago a specialized company visited us, Ris et Danceries; one member, Ana Yepes, taught the technique to some Argentine dancers at the Colón Institute, but this wasn´t followed up, and if we would like to see a Rameau opéra-ballet in authentic form, we would have to import the dancers.
            In 1761 Gluck composed "Don Juan", considered the first real ballet in the modern sense; its original choreography is lost but it is certainly worth a revival with very pure Neoclassic steps (here we saw Erich Walter´s version three decades ago; the matter is whether there are people who can revive it, or those by Milloss, Massine, Neumeier). Mozart´s "Les Petits Riens" (1778) might be offered in Milloss´ version (Noverre was a famous choreographer but his creations haven´t come down to us). Beethoven´s "The Creatures of Prometheus" (1801) is a long and beautiful ballet;  we don´t have Salvatore Viganò´s important original but again Milloss comes to the rescue.
            I only mention "La fille mal gardée" with Hérold´s music because it is the oldest (1832) ballet still in the repertoire, albeit in revised versions. Buenos Aires has also seen "La Sylphide" and umpteen times "Giselle" (1841). By then techniques have changed, dancing on points and dressing with tutus; we are in the Romantic era. Here Pierre Lacotte has revived "La fille du Danube", and some of Bournonville´s ballets imagined for the Copenhagen court have been done; it would be nice to see "Napoli" (1842). I would find it interesting to have stylistic new choreographies for "La Source" (Delibes and Minkus) or "Le papillon" (Offenbach). "Coppélia" is well-known here, but more than sixty years have passed since we saw the other Delibes masterpiece, "Sylvia" (1876); Frederick Ashton did an admirable choreography in 1952; I believe Neumeier also did it. Lalo´s "Namouna" has lovely music, it has been seen here as Lifar´s "Suite en blanc". "Raymonda" (1898) by Glazunov  was only seen here when the Bolshoi Ballet visited us decades ago, it should be back in Petipa/Ivanov´s version.
            The Twentieth Century has been very rich in splendid ballets, but many are forgotten.  Diaghilev´s troupe renovated choreography and inspired wonderful music. And such essential figures as Balanchine or Margaret Graham brought whole new aesthetics. "The Seasons" (Glazunov). "La Péri" (Dukas/Ashton). "Jeux" (Debussy/Taras or Milloss). "La tragédie de Salomé" (Schmitt/Romanov). "Joseph´s Legend" (R. Strauss/Tudor). "The Women of Good Humour" (D.Scarlatti-Tommasini/Massine). "Parade"(Satie/Massine). "La Boutique Fantasque" (Rossini-Respighi/Massine). "Le chant du rossignol" (Stravinsky/Balanchine). "Chout" (Prokofiev/Milloss). "La création du monde" (Milhaud/MacMillan). "Les biches" (Poulenc/Nijinska)."Salade" (Milhaud/Massine). "Le train bleu" (Milhaud/Nijinska). "La giara" (Casella/Nijinska). "Pas d´acier" (Prokofiev/Massine). "Checkmate" (Bliss/De Valois). "Nobilissima visione" (Hindemith/Massine). "Danses Concertantes" (Stravinsky/Balanchine or Blaska). "Appalachian spring" (Copland/Graham). "Les forains" (Sauguet/Petit). "Facsimile" (Bernstein/Robbins). "Ritratto di Don Chisciotte" (Petrassi/Milloss). "Les Mirages" (Sauguet/Lifar). "Marsyas" (Dallapiccola/Milloss). "The Age of Anxiety" (Bernstein/Robbins). "Miss Julie" (Rangström/Cullberg). "Phèdre" (Auric/Lifar). "Piège de lumière" (Damase/Taras). "Le loup" (Dutilleux/Petit). "The stone flower" (Prokofiev/Grigorovich). "The Prince of the Pagodas" (Britten/Cranko). "Agon" (Stravinsky/Balanchine). "The River" (Ellington/Ailey). "Anna Karenina" (Shchedrin/Plisetskaya and others). "Dybbuk Variations" (Bernstein/Robbins). "Pli selon pli" (Boulez/Béjart). "Ivan the Terrible" (Prokofiev/Grigorovich). "Fall River Legend" (Gould/De Mille). "Fancy Free" (Bernstein/Robbins). "Undine" (Henze/Neumeier). "Abraxas" and "John of Zarissa" (Egk/T.Gsovsky). "Pineapple Poll" (Sullivan-Mackerras/Cranko), "The Lady and the Fool" (Verdi-Mackerras/Cranko).
 Works I like musically, choreographies to be searched: "Sebastian" (Menotti),  "Icarus" (Slonimsky), "Billy the Kid" and "Rodeo" (Copland), "Job" (Vaughan Williams), "Hamlet" (Blacher), "Emperor Jones" (Villa-Lobos), "The Wooden Prince" (Bartók), "The Age of Gold" (Shostakovich), "La hija de Cólquide" (Chávez), "Panambí" (Ginastera). As you see, plenty to choose from.

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