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Different SugarPlums of Different Eras - same choreography?


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On various threads people have spoken about how speeds of dances have altered (usually slowed down) over the years.

 

In a recent article about NYCB’s Nutcracker Alastair Macaulay included links to Danilova and Markova dancing Sugarplum.  He also gives a quote from Margot Fonteyn’s autobiography about Frederick Ashton talking about watching both dancers rehearsing this role.

 

The Danilova clip is from the Jacob’s Pillow Archive.

 

 

The Markova clip is on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBknFnVu7Hw

 

 

 

Here is also a clip of Yoshida in the RB’s production from Youtube:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K65lcuHQn-E

 

 

And here is a BRB rehearsal clip

 

 

Would anyone like to give some thoughts on these 4 performances?

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What an interesting exercise Janet. I found the relative slowness of the ladies from BRB something of an eye opener. I had not appreciated how much the performances have slowed down. These things are so gradual you don't notice it.

 

Markova takes the palm for me. I am always grateful for any film of her performances as they are always illuminating.

Edited by Two Pigeons
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For me it is definitely the Markova clip that is the best. It gives the lie to the assertion that the early 20th century dancers had less technique than today. The two slower more recent clips seem almost more like a classroom exercise in comparison.  I was also interested to see that both the Danilova and Markova versions have the second relevé to pointe during the passé to arabesque.  It comes after the relevé with battus sur le cou de pied at the end of the first little courus.  At some time in the past this was simplified to a swivel en fondu for the early Royal Ballet productions and was never restored.

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Watching those clips, I was a huge fan of Yoshida, and it made me long to see her dance the variation at the same speed as Markova.  I am sure she would have danced it wonderfully.  

 

I've never really liked the SPF solo in recent years, because I have always thought it felt slightly ponderous.  Now I know why.   

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If you want to know who to blame for the technical hurdles in the SPF's solos in the traditional choreography in act 2 of the Nutcracker then you can blame Antonietta Dell'Era's formidable technique and Lev Ivanov for being too compliant in supplying choreography which displayed it.

 

Although the first night was one of those occasions when opera lovers were dissatisfied by the inclusion of a new ballet in the programme and ballet goers by the inclusion of a new opera which opened the evening the balletomanes had other grounds for complaint. There were many who were unhappy because the grand pas de deux did not begin until 11.30pm and some who objected to the bravura Italian technique which it contained.Italian technical innovations were thought by some to be ruining ballet which up until then had displayed the elegant, noble simplicity of the French school.

 

Dell'Era was one of a series of Italian dancers to make their way to Russia towards the end of the nineteenth century armed with new style ballet shoes and the latest technical developments from Milan. The stronger boxes and shanks of Italian shoes made the development in ponte work possible.I think most ballet goers know about Brianzi's balances and Legnani whose multiple fouettes found their way into virtually everything she danced in Russia until the found their natural home in Swan Lake,Dell'Era is less well known. She was another Milanese trained technician,described as having a good jump,considerable aplomb,the ability to perform three unsupported turns and to rise on pointe from kneeling to upright. In some ways she seems to have had a wider range of enhanced technical skills than her compatriots. No wonder her technique was described, by some, as almost arrogant.

 

As she danced Aurora in Russia just two years after its premiere it would be fascinating to know how much of the role of Aurora as danced today by the Royal Ballet is choreography created for her rather than Brianzi.It might explain some of Auror's choreography in act 1 and elements of the grand pas de deux.

 

I had always understood that the five nineteenth century ballets which de Valois acquired for her new company were primarily intended to ensure that the company achieved and maintained technical skills sufficient to ensure that it could dance anything.In other words it was the very technical challenge that their choreography presents which is the reason for acquiring and maintaining them in the repertory.

 

When Markova dances the gargouillades they look like a piece of very light decoration which adds variety to the planes through which her legs are travelling in a variation which she makes look effortless and elegant.Yoshida also makes light of the steps but they appear to be more deliberately displayed than Markova's.Yoshida makes fewer shapes in the air and appears more square on to the audience.It seems to me to be less modulated with less variety than Markov's version I found Danilova more forceful in her performance it was as if she was making points.I could see no evidence of the gargouillades.

 

It is wonderful to think that choreography which caused strong reactions well over a century ago, and is now part of a classic choreographic text still produces adverse responses today.I am sure that the nineteenth century critics of the malign effect of Italian bravura technique on ballet questioned the place of such steps in ballet in similar terms then.

Edited by FLOSS
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I saw an Insight evening some years ago which featured the Mirlitons variation.  In the RB version, Clara dances the contentious gargouillades and the soloist that night was having some difficulty with them.  The coach (Chris Saunders, I think) advised her to think of them as a "shake your knickers off" movement which seemed to help.  I still think of them as rather ugly but presumably more than just the SPF had to dance them originally.  Or is the RB's version very far removed from the Ivanov original?

 

Linda

 

Just realised that my last 2 posts are about underwear but I promise I'm not a fetishist!

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I saw an Insight evening some years ago which featured the Mirlitons variation.  In the RB version, Clara dances the contentious gargouillades and the soloist that night was having some difficulty with them.  The coach (Chris Saunders, I think) advised her to think of them as a "shake your knickers off" movement which seemed to help.  I still think of them as rather ugly but presumably more than just the SPF had to dance them originally.  Or is the RB's version very far removed from the Ivanov original?

 

Linda

 

Just realised that my last 2 posts are about underwear but I promise I'm not a fetishist!

I remember the "shaking your knickers off" comment but my memory is saying it was Lesley Collier!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzsdzdUFzoY

 

Here is Osipova in the second act of Giselle showing the ronds de jambe en l'air in a different step.  This is how the ronds in the Gargouillade should look.  Definitely not just a "shake".  Hopefully this was just a comment to amuse the audience at the coaching sessions.  In all the versions of Sugar Plum that Osipova dances on Youtube she does the Russian version which has different choreography,

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Amelia, is that choreography for the gpdd standard in Russian companies.  I am sure I have seen something similar donkeys years ago.

 

A large part of this choreography by Vassily Vainonen could be seen, Janet, for the first time in 1934.

This performance in Novosibirsk is Zelensky’s presentation of Vainonen’s production. Probably, it is the longest surviving production of "The Nutcracker", first staged by him at Kirov (1934) and then at Bolshoi (1938).   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Vainonen

It always was and remains popular with Russian ballet companies and schools and the audiences too.

Edited by Amelia
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'Explaining' how to execute steps can be one of the causes of the dryness and technicality of dancers nowadays.  In the old days the gorgeous Russian teachers used to utilize the most wonderful images to make steps and enchainements come alive, even in class, rather then the endless physical explanations of which muscle/tendon groups and other parts of the body should engage...

Most often these images were poetic, sometimes funny (although not of the nature of 'shake your knickers' - only for the reason that this would eliminate any RONDS de jambes, of which the step is made...).

Ronds de jambe en l'air for instance could be described as 'make mayonnaise with your feet'. 

Vera Volkova was renowned for the images she used - for instance ' imagine baby lungs in your arms'

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