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What are the Classic Ballets of the Twentieth Century?

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We are nearly at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century and seasoned ballet goers in Britain, France, the USA  and perhaps elsewhere are concerned about the loss through neglect of major works created during the twentieth century which having all but disappeared from the active repertory as on the rare occasions they are staged they look more like  resurrections than revivals. Imagine you could save some of these ballets , which would you choose for preservation as part of a company's living repertory as its " twentieth century classics" ? Whose ballet's would you be prepared to describe as "twentieth century classics" and which of their works would you select for preservation through regular revival ?

 

I am interested to see whether there is any sort of consensus  as to what a company's twentieth century repertory selected to illustrate the best of that century's creations would look like. In order to discover what we each think a repertory which included the essential works of Ashton and Balanchine would look like I am imposing an arbitrary  limit of ten works apiece for the two men generally regarded as the greatest choreographer's of the twentieth century and five apiece for the lesser choreographic luminaries of the period. 

 

 

 

Edited by FLOSS
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BALANCHINE:

1) Apollo

2) Symphony in C

3) Serenade

4) Four Temperaments

5) Agon

6) Ballet Imperial

7) Symphony in Three Movements

😎 Midsummer's Night Dream

9) Nutcracker

10) Jewels

 

Ashton:

1) Fille mal gardee

2) The Dream

3) Symphonic Variations

4) Cinderella

5) Daphnis et Chloe

6) Scenes de Ballet

7) Sylvia

😎 Monotones I and II

9) Two Pigeons

10) A Month in the Country

 

Robbins:

1) Dances at a Gathering

2) Fancy Free

3) The Cage

4) The Four Seasons

5) The Concert

 

MacMillan:

1) Romeo and Juliet (his version)

2) Mayerling

3) Manon - even though it's not my favorite ballet

 

Cranko:

1) Onegin

2) Romeo and Juliet (his version)

 

Fokine:

1) Firebird

2) Les Sylphides

3) Scheherezade

4) Petrushka

5) Dying Swan

 

Twyla Tharp:

1) In the Upper Room

2) Deuce Coupe

3) Push Comes to Shove

 

Yuri Grigorovich:

- Sparctacus

 

Leonid Lavrovsky:

- Romeo and Juliet (his version)

 

These aren't necessarily my favorite works, just the works I don't see going out of repertory anytime soon.

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Good see Fokine being included, I think he gets overlooked two often.

 

May I suggest that Tudor should also be included, for all that his work is very rarely performed. So 

 

Lilac Garden

Shadow play

Dark Elegies 

 

I would also add Requiem and Song of the Earth to the Macmillan list

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Thanks so much for starting this thread, FLOSS. So interesting to see what is emerging. I hope that you are going to share your own thoughts?

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I don't think Ashton and Balanchine are the greatest choreographers of the C20th.  I believe this to be a very UK/US-centric view (though Balanchine was actually Russo-Georgian).

The works which I would absolutely hate to see lost are:

L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune (1912) – Nijinsky/Debussy – Paris

Petrouchka (1911) – Fokine/Stravinsky – Paris

Spartacus (1956) Yakobsen/Kachachurian – Kirov

Firebird (1910) Fokine/Stravinsky – Paris

Les Sylphides (1907) Fokine/Chopin – Mariinsky

The Bright Stream (1935) – Lopukhov/Shostakovich – Mikhailovsky - based purely on the rave reviews on this forum, as I have never seen it live!

Rite of Spring (1913) – Nijinsky/Stravinsky – Paris

Carmen (1949) – Petit/Bizet – Paris

Symphony in C (1947) – Balanchine/Bizet - Paris

Romeo and Juliet (1977) – Nureyev/Prokofiev - London

 

There are many other masterpieces of course.  I hope the best live on for ever for future dancers, audiences and musicians to relish.

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BALANCHINE:

Symphony in C

Concerto Barocco

Agon

Theme and Variations

Serenade

Mozartiana

Jewels

Apollo

The Four Temperaments

Ballet Imperial

 

ASHTON:

The Dream

La fille mal gardée

Cinderella

A Month in the Country

Les Patineurs

Symphonic Variations

Scènes de Ballet

La Valse

The Two Pigeons

Rhapsody

 

MacMILLAN: And here, I'm afraid I'm going to stamp my foot and refuse to play. I CANNOT keep only 5, so I have expanded it to 8. On my own head be it:

Romeo and Juliet

Mayerling

Manon

Requiem

Song of the Earth

Concerto

Gloria

The Rite of Spring

 

AND (I'm aware that my list includes a few that may not count as 'ballet', and I'm sure excludes others that should be there but that I haven't seen or seen often enough):

FOKINE - Les Sylphides, The Firebird

NIJINSKA - Les Noces

DE VALOIS - Checkmate

ROBBINS - Dances at a Gathering

TETLEY - Pierrot Lunaire

MORRIS - L'allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato

BINTLEY - 'Still Life' at the Penguin Café, Consort Lessons, Galanteries, Tombeaux

BAUSCH - The Rite of Spring

SHECHTER - Political Mother

KHAN - Giselle, Desh, Dust

McGREGOR - Woolf Works

PITE - Flight Pattern

TAYLOR - Airs

CORDER - Cinderella (ENB)

SCARLETT - Asphodel Meadows

 

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I would like to add the following:

 

Bejart - Kabuki, Bolero

Forsythe - In the middle somewhat elecated

Neumeier - Kameliendame

And very close to my heart, hopefully not lost already:

Tom Schilling's work for Komische Oper Ballet in Berlin, especially his "Romeo&Juliet". Sadly, the maestro refuses to this day to release his work for other companies. I wish him a long life (he is 91 years now), but I do wish to see his wonderful choreographed again.

Edited by Sabine0308
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Surely Bridem the Shechter, Khan, McGregor, Pite and Scarlett pieces are all of the 21st Century.  Classics???  Time will, of course, tell.  It always does.  There are definite additions to that list if it is to include this current century.  Could there be a list for the 21st Century and NO Ratmansky???  His Concerto DSCH; his Plato's Symposium; his Pictures at an Exhibition; his Namouna - so many works to choose from.  Still, that's out of context for this particular strand.

 

With Balanchine I would like to think that Square Dance, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Brahms Schoenberg Quartet might be added.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Interesting thread, broadly in agreement with most suggestions. Would like to add extra pleas for the Tudor ballets mentioned and Nijinska's Les Noces and Les Biches. Also Van Manen's works should not disappear, Four Schumann Pieces certainly worth keeping. 

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18 minutes ago, Bruce Wall said:

Surely Bridem the Shechter, Khan, McGregor, Pite and Scarlett pieces are all of the 21st Century.  Classics???  Time will, of course, tell.  It always does.  There are definite additions to that list if it is to include this current century.  Could there be a list for the 21st Century and NO Ratmansky???  His Concerto DSCH; his Plato's Symposium; his Pictures at an Exhibition; his Namouna - so many works to choose from.  Still, that's out of context for this particular strand.

 

With Balanchine I would like to think that Square Dance, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Brahms Schoenberg Quartet might be added.  

 

Oops - very true, Bruce! I'd forgotten how quickly time is going... Well at least that makes my list a little shorter! But yes, I think they may be classics of this century. (I haven't seen enough Ratmansky pieces to have included any - however erroneously - though I hope that will be rectified in due course.)

Edited by bridiem
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4 minutes ago, ninamargaret said:

Interesting thread, broadly in agreement with most suggestions. Would like to add extra pleas for the Tudor ballets mentioned and Nijinska's Les Noces and Les Biches. Also Van Manen's works should not disappear, Four Schumann Pieces certainly worth keeping. 

 

I was tempted to include Four Schumann Pieces, but I wondered if I was over-influenced by it being such a tremendous role for Anthony Dowell, who I idolised. I'd love to see it again to see how I feel about it now.

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Thanks @FLOSS for starting an interesting thread and others for contributing.

 

I am not enough of a ballet expert to comment myself, but I hope it’s ok to mention a book I bought recently - it’s ‘ballet: the definitive illustrated history’ by DK which mentions many of the works above and I found to be a good broad overview of ballet for someone who doesn’t know much. Just wanted to mention it in case some might enjoy reading it, though it may not be expert enough for some here as you may know it all already! 

 

Anyway sorry for a bit of an off topic post! I shall follow the thread with interest and hope to see RB (and other companies) showing these works in future! 

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Here goes....

Ashton: 

Symphonic Variations (it has to be this first; for me, it is THE best ballet, full stop).

Scenes de ballet

Cinderella 

Daphnis and Chloe (when will we see this again??)

La Fille mal gardee 

The Dream 

Monotones (both of them!)

Enigma Variations 

Rhapsody 

(then I’m torn between A Month in the Country, Les Rendezvous & Acts 1 &  parts of Act 3 of Sylvia).

Probably, Month then. 

 

Balanchine: 

Apollo

Serenade 

Symphony in C

Theme and Variations 

Agon

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Liebslieser Walzer

Jewels

Symphony in Three Movements 

Ballo Della Regina (possibly) or Ballet Imperial/ Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

 

Fokine:

The Firebird

Petrushka

Les Sylphides (?)

 

Robbins:

Dances at a Gathering 

The Goldberg Variations 

The Concert

In G Major 

Afternoon of a Faun (or Nijinsky, if possible).

 

MacMillan: 

Mayerling

Concerto

The Rite of Spring (maybe - I prefer the Pina Bausch version but that really isn’t ballet. But then what is ballet...?) 

Song of the Earth

Gloria 

Romeo and Juliet (I guess). 

 

Tudor: 

Dark Elergies 

 

Forsythe:

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (certainly a 20th Century classic for me!)

Quintett

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude 

 

Nijinska: 

Les Noces

Les Biches

(come on RB! These are really significant and need to be performed).

 

Cranko:

Onegin (not my thing but has earned its ‘classic’ status me thinks!)

I am sorry to say I haven’t seen any other Cranko

 

Petit: 

Carmen 

 

Neumeier:

The Lady of the Camillias 

Nijinsky

 

Bejart? Birgit Culberg Miss Julie? Hans van Manen?

 

Mark Morris, Pina Bausch & Mats Ek but they, for me, are fine examples of Modern/ Contemporary dance rather than ballet, usually 

Edited by Ianlond
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In addition

Bejart: Rite of Spring, Song of a Wayfarer, Serait-ce la Mort (Four Last Songs), Romeo and Juliet

Neumeier: Illusions like Swan Lake, 

Tudor, Dark Elegies: Lilac Garden

Robbins: opus ? The Dreamer, Faun

Mats Ek: Giselle

Jiri Kylian: Forgotten Land

Balanchine: 4 Temperaments

Dolin: Pas de Quatre

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Balanchine
Theme and Variations
Liebesleider waltzer
Apollo
Stravinsky Violin Concerto
Jewels
Agon
Serenade
4 Temperaments
Western Symphony
Concerto Barocco
(Though I would also really want to add Duo Concertant, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and Chaconne)

Robbins
Afternoon of a Faun
In the night
Dances at a Gathering
Opus 19 / The Dreamer
Other Dances

Macmillan
Romeo & Juliet
Concerto
Requiem
Manon
Song of the Earth

Lander
Etudes

Nijinska
Les Noces

Fokine
Les Sylphides
The firebird

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More modern works should be included, such as 

 

Kurt Joss The Green Table 

Pina Baush (in addition to Rite of Spring) Cafe Muller, Nelken, Kontakthof & more 

Anthony Tudor The Leaves are Fading

Jiri Kylian Petit Mort, Bella Figura 

William Forsythe Artifact Suite, Steptext

Roland Petit Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, L'Arlesienne

John Neumeier 3rd Symphony of Gustav Mahler (& more) 

Matthew Bourne Swan Lake (1995)

Angelin Preljocaj Le Parc

Uwe Scholz Beethoven 7th Symphony 

 

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I was going to suggest some of the works on Naomi M's list too. Surely Béjart should also include his version of Firebird and Bolero.

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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The Green Table, yes. 

Interesting that Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has been mentioned. Yes it’s danced to a score originally written for ballet but (assuming this is what Floss meant) is it a 20th Century ballet classic? Certainly, the style of movement - while influenced to a degree by ballet - isn’t the same. I could go on about this but won’t. 

It would however be interesting to think about which contemporary dance works should be saved for the repertoire (although not on this thread!) as there seems to be even less desire (?) to do this; when was a major work from the LCDT (London Contemporary Dance Theatre) era staged? As Naomi M mentioned, there are many works of mid and late century choreographers from around the world whose own companies are no longer active but possibly still deserve to be performed and do not fit into a ‘classical’ company’s repertoire. Sorry for taking this thread in an obtuse direction!

Edited by Ianlond
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9 hours ago, JNC said:

I am not enough of a ballet expert to comment myself, but I hope it’s ok to mention a book I bought recently - it’s ‘ballet: the definitive illustrated history’ by DK which mentions many of the works above and I found to be a good broad overview of ballet for someone who doesn’t know much. Just wanted to mention it in case some might enjoy reading it, though it may not be expert enough for some here as you may know it all already! 

 

Anyway sorry for a bit of an off topic post! I shall follow the thread with interest and hope to see RB (and other companies) showing these works in future! 

 

Actually I was working on supervising the Japanese translation of this book which will be published here in November. 

This book does name many 20th century works and the choice or works and choreographers are very interesting. (it is of course quite UK centered but nevertheless it does offer a comprehensive view) 

And it does also mention Bourne's Swan Lake as one of the modern classics. 

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I think almost the most interesting thing about these suggestions is the total absence of anything by Massine, who for 20 or 30 years of the 20th century was regarded as one of the greatest choreographers of his time - apart from anything else it shows how rash it would be to predict that any of today's most praised work will survive!

 

But perhaps some of his ballets should be kept alive somewhere - Le Tricorne, La Boutique Fantasque, Les Presages, even? - or maybe the Red Shoes will be all that keeps his name remembered.

 

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53 minutes ago, Jane S said:

I think almost the most interesting thing about these suggestions is the total absence of anything by Massine, who for 20 or 30 years of the 20th century was regarded as one of the greatest choreographers of his time - apart from anything else it shows how rash it would be to predict that any of today's most praised work will survive!

 

But perhaps some of his ballets should be kept alive somewhere - Le Tricorne, La Boutique Fantasque, Les Presages, even? - or maybe the Red Shoes will be all that keeps his name remembered.

 

 

Recently there was a broadcast here of Rome Opera Ballet's double bill of Massine works, Parade and Pulcinella, filmed in 2017 so fairly recent one. 

https://www.operaroma.it/en/shows/parade-pulcinella/

https://www.medici.tv/en/ballets/parade-pulcinella-grand-theatre-romain-de-pompei/

It was reconstructed by Massine's sone Lorca

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I also noticed the absence of Le Tricorne. Massine apart, isn’t de Falla music and Picasso designs enough to make something a great artistic work of the 20th century? I would also put in a word for Spectre de la Rose by Fokine. Yes, it is very short, but I would hate to see that lost. 

I could also make a case for Miracle in the Gorbals (Helpmann) - maybe a bit dated, but of historical importance with a score by Arthur Bliss. I found it impressive when BRB revived it a few years ago with Gillian Lynne’s help.

Finally, a couple of comic works which I think need preservation: Ashton’s Facade and Cranko’s Pineapple Poll.

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1 hour ago, Jane S said:

RE MASSINE '- or maybe the Red Shoes will be all that keeps his name remembered.'

 

 

If that WERE to be the case, it would be sad indeed - and I think blur so much key historical input in meaningful terms of 20th Century ballet.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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As I moved between countries a few times, the below list is hugely influenced by company’s repertoires at the time e.g., works that were last shown at the Royal Opera House before 2006, I will in all likelihood not have seen; the same principle applies to other locations. I am thus coming from a perspective of “works that are something special” rather than works that have already been lost/ are running the risk of being lost.

I am avoiding a discussion as to which choreographers are more important than others and am thus keeping all nominations to a maximum of 5 works per choreographer.

  • MacMillan – Romeo & Juliet, Mayerling, Concerto, Song of the Earth, Requiem, Gloria

  • Cranko – Romeo & Juliet, Onegin, Initials R.M.B.E., Brouillards, Concerto for Flute & Harp

  • Robbins – Dances at a Gathering, The Concert, Glass Pieces, En Sol

  • Ashton – Rhapsody, Monotones I/II

  • Balanchine – Jewels, Symphony in C, The Four Temperaments

  • Tetley – Sacre du Printemps, Voluntaries

  • Bintley – Carmina Burana, Still Life at the Penguin Café

  • Forsythe – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Herman Schmerman Duet

  • Bausch – Sacre du Printemps

  • Jooss – The Green Table

  • Scholz – Air!, The Creation

  • Petit – L’Arlesienne

  • Bejart – Bolero, Songs of a Wayfarer, 9th Symphony, Le Presbytere, Seven Greek Dances

  • Lander – Etudes

  • Kylian – Falling Angels, Sinfonietta

  • van Manen – Kammerballett

  • Childs – Four Elements

  • Bruce – Rooster

  • Neumeier - Nijinsky

As for those works that should be revived on a regular basis … many more.

 

 

Edited by Duck
typo
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As a huge fan of Bejart, I regret that probably so many of his works are not revivable - Notre Faust is one of the most exciting things I have ever seen, but I don't know what sort of records exist of it.  Ditto Moliere.

 

I was working my way down this thread, having come to it a bit late, also wondering why Massine was not mentioned, so I'm very glad to see that he has now appeared and agree with the ballets suggested - he was after all one of the first to make a 'symphonic' ballet.  I would put in a word for Lifar's Suite en Blanc too.

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9 hours ago, Naomi M said:

Actually I was working on supervising the Japanese translation of this book which will be published here in November. 

This book does name many 20th century works and the choice or works and choreographers are very interesting. (it is of course quite UK centered but nevertheless it does offer a comprehensive view) 

I can recommend this book too, both as a good source of ballet information (consultant Viviana Durante) and lovely pictures, and as a solid, sizeable hand support for operating one's PC !

Edited by Richard LH
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10 hours ago, Naomi M said:

And it does also mention Bourne's Swan Lake as one of the modern classics.

The book  refers to it as a bold reinterpretation of a cherished classical ballet, thrust into contemporary dance. Not really  the same as saying this production has itself become a classic ballet.

Edited by Richard LH

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Ashton:

La Fille Mal Gardee

The Dream

Symphonic Variations

Scenes de Ballet

Two Pigeons 

Facade

Les Patineurs

 

Balanchine: 

Symphony in 3 Movements

Symphony in C

Theme and Variations

Apollo

Agon

Four Temperaments

 

Bintley:

Tombeaux

Still Life at the Penguin Cafe

Hobson's Choice

Far from the Madding Crowd

Edward ll

 

Cranko:

Onegin

Taming of the Shrew

Pineapple Poll

 

MacMillan:

Mayerling

Manon

Concerto 

Gloria

Requiem

Song of the Earth

Solitaire

 

Grigorovich:

Spartacus

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