Term Paper: Balanchine to Petipa George

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[. . .] His themes would be very simple and easy to comprehend, and these he would combine well with the modern music of his time, and each of his ballet performances would be unique and known for their innovation and originality and simplicity of theme, as well as for their exclusiveness and their exquisite nature. Balanchine often called himself a 'craftsman', and preferred not to call himself a 'creator' of anything at all, and this was because he believed that he was crafting the already existing dance form into a beautiful performance. He believed in the visual impact that a ballet performance would have on the audience, and he therefore concentrated most of his efforts on this aspect of the performance and not on the plot at all.

Therefore, he stated, the audience must also be trained to see the performance through the 'eye' and not through any other sense. As a matter of fact, he said, it is the illusion created by the dancers on stage that would have the desired impact, and if for some reason the illusion has not been created in a satisfactory manner, then it can also be said that the ballet has 'failed' even if the media praises it. (George Balanchine, 1904 to 1983: www.nycballet.com) For example, Balanchine's 'Apollo' was quoted to be at times, auto erotic, because of the gestures that Apollo performs on the stage, but this is the charm and the mystique and the magic of Balanchine's work, where such gestures convey the feeling of the character, and in the case of Apollo, the gesture of Apollo's right arm swinging in lazy circles when he is strumming the lute tells the audience that Apollo is a wild and half human youth, who will eventually acquire 'nobility through his art'. (Scholl, 79)

Marius Petipa was born in the year 1822 in Marseilles, to a dance and choreographer and a teacher father named Jean Antoine Petipa. Although both Marius and Lucien Petipa, two brothers, were brought up to love the art form of dancing, and Lucien concentrated on dance for his entire career, Marius Petipa, despite having begun his training in the dance from at the tender age of seven, did not in fact really take to it as fully and completely as his brother had done before him; frankly, he did not much care for dance. However, he started performing on stage when he was still a young child, and he first starred in his father's production, 'La Dansomanie' in 1831. By the year 1838, Marius Petipa had become the principal dancer in Nantes, where the family had shifted due to the ongoing Belgian Revolution at that time. Marius Petipa subsequently was to star in quite a few performances being choreographed by his father, like for example, Giselle, La Fille mal Gardee and La Peri, among others. (Marius Petipa, Choreographer)

It was at this time, in Bordeaux that Marius Petipa started to choreograph his own productions, and some of these initial works were La Jolie Bordelaise, La Vendange, L'Intrigue amoureuse and Le Langage des fleurs. He was then engaged in the King's Theater in Madrid, where he remained for numerous years, studying the art form of Spanish dance with great interest. The Spanish influence on his choreography is very much in evidence in Marius Petipa's works like Carmen et son Torero, La Perle de Seville, L'Aventure d'une fille de Madrid, La Fleur de Grenade, and Depart pour la course des taureaux. In 1847, Petipa moved to St. Petersburg, where he was offered a contract of one year as a contract dancer. Soon he produced Paquita, which was deemed to be one of the biggest hits ever produced at that time in St. Petersburg. One of the very first ballets that Marius Petipa choreographed in Russia was the 'Swiss Milkmaid' in 1849. (Marius Petipa, Choreographer)

When the ballet Giselle happened to be revived in the year 1850, Petipa made some changes as he desired in certain scenes, like for example, the Willis scenes, and this became known in later years as the Grand Pas Des Willis, in the year 1884. In the same year Petipa became the dance instructor in the Imperial School, and at the same time, Marius Petipa continued to dance, as well as to restage ballets from the so called French repertoire, to his own satisfaction. There is some doubt about the very first original work that was produced by this great dancer, and the doubt is whether it was The Star of Granada or A Marriage during Regency. In Russia, Petipa enjoyed his first taste of success when he happened to choreograph the Pharaoh's Daughter, and over the next thirty years, he managed to produce more than fifty new ballets, as well as revive and restage more than seventeen older ballets, as well as arrange for the dancing in more than thirty five operas during his time. His productions such as Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake and Raymonda are some of the best of his works, and are renowned even today for their beauty and exquisiteness. (Marius Petipa: (b. Marseiles 1818. d. Russia 1910))

In fact, it is often stated that it was these very works by Marius Petipa that served as the foundations for the future Schools of Russian Ballet. Marius Petipa is considered even today as being one of the greatest choreographers of all time. He would in fact do extensive research on the subject matter of all the plays that he would stage, and this would in fact help him to make careful and detailed descriptions of each and every scene that was being staged. He would also work in very close coordination with his composer as well as with his designer, and it was this attentiveness to details and a close watch and supervision on every single detail involved in the production of a ballet performance that was responsible for him becoming a much acclaimed and famous figure during his own lifetime. This was also perhaps the main reason that Russian Ballet happened to be elevated to international fame, and which laid the cornerstone or the foundation for the future twentieth century ballet of Russia. (Marius Petipa: (b. Marseiles 1818. d. Russia 1910))

It must be remembered that around fifty years ago, the word 'choreography' would not have found to have evoked the same amount of response that it does of today. But it must also be taken into consideration that it was during the last fifty years that ballet has actually come of age and progressed a lot and has become well-known. Ballet has now become respected as a dance and art form all throughout the world and it is no longer restricted nowadays or confined to just a few members belonging to the profession. It is now used by everyone who wishes to use it to express themselves. (Brinson; Church; Praagh; Knopf, 217) An important matter which is to be understood is regarding the times when the two choreographers and dancers Balanchine and Marius Petipa lived. It was in extremely turbulent and troublesome times that they worked and this is to be quite obviously reflected and expressed in their works which were being performed at that time. (Pitou, 143)

However, this period is also known all over the world as being the most fabulous in ballet history, and Marius Petipa was one individual who would manage to actually play a large role in shaping the future of ballet on his own. How he managed to achieve this is by creating in Imperial Russia a body of work which was so very good that it would be able to challenge every great dancer from anywhere in the world to imitate it, even if unsuccessfully. Everywhere in Europe and in other parts of the world as well, the time during the second half of the nineteenth century saw a decline in ballet, but in Russia, because of the patronage of the Czars, it was very different. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Imperial Ballet Companies that existed in St. Petersburg and in Moscow at that time, where constant encouragement was offered to the choreographers and to the ballet dancers through the support and the patronage of the czars. Even before the time of the French Petipa, there had been a constant flow of talent from the outside world into Russia, for ballet and other dance forms, and for many decades, the prestige of French ballet masters had been established very securely in Russia. (Dancing Times into Dance, Ballet in Russia, part II)

It is often stated that it was Petipa's classicism that managed to integrate the very purity of the traditional French Schools with a real Italian virtuosity. (Marius Petipa: www.abt.org) In the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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