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Dark Elegies


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#1 glebb

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 07:33 PM

I don't know much more about this work of art except that I am quite moved by it.
If anyone has any thoughts to share I would appreciate reading them.

#2 zerbinetta

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 02:25 AM

Antony Tudor choreographed "Dark Elegies" in the late 1930s, I believe. He used Gustav Mahler's 5-song cycle, "Kindertotenlieder" which translates to "songs on the deaths of children".

Mahler used 5 of the many poems on the subject written by Ruckert, who had lost his son, Ernst. Mahler, who had recently had a serious health situation, had lost many siblings in his youth, including his favorite brother, also named Ernst.

The ballet concerns a group of parents mourning their children & ends in the sad resolution "they rest, they rest, as in their mother's home, as in their mother's home". The repeats are Mahler's not Ruckert's.

Hope this helps.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 03:13 AM

Tudor had wanted to create a ballet like "Les Sylphides", with general emotion and style, but no clear plot. He ended up with "Dark Elegies", which he premiered with Ballet Rambert in 1937. He may have been still working out emotions he felt from the Great War (World War I), which were rekindled by the then-ongoing Spanish Civil War. Claims that it was inspired by the aerial bombing of Guernica are over-reaching, however. The ballet opened two months before the bombing. Not only Tudor himself was in the original cast, but the fourth song was danced by American Lucia Chase. It has been especially powerful over the years to audiences experiencing feelings of loss, as in World War II generally, but particularly in relation to the eradication of the town of Lidice. Later audiences have been struck by its appropriateness in the national and world mourning which followed the landslide of the coal tip at Aberfan, Wales, and even the My Lai massacre and the Beslan school siege.

#4 atm711

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 04:52 AM

A strange coincidence...this ballet has been on my mind this week. In looking over the upcoming spring season of BT at the Met, I can't help thinking that they should cut down on all the PDD to fill up a program and bring back some of their gems, particularly this ballet and "Tally-Ho". Maybe something is afoot---we did get "3 Virgins and a Devil" last year. I saw "Dark Elegies" years ago with Kaye, Tudor and Laing and I can still bring up the emotions I felt then upon seeing it.

#5 Lynette H

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 05:27 AM

Dark Elegies is still in the rep of Rambert Dance Company, and they will be performing it at Sadler's Wells in May. I understand their version has some differences from ABT's version.

#6 sandik

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 10:19 AM

I love this ballet -- I think it is such a wonderful example of the way that ballet technique can illuminated character and convey emotion. The sequence in the fourth song where the soloist releves in second position and then torques to fourth makes me choke up every time.

Pacific Northwest Ballet has this in its repertory, but hasn't performed it (or Lilac Garden for that matter) for several years.

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 05:32 PM

Glebb, I also find this ballet very moving, more than I can really account for.

The songs themselves are heart-breaking, and don't "need" the ballet. It might be worth it for you to look for one of the great recordings of them by the English singer Kathleen Ferrier, whose interpretation has not been surpassed. She was a sniger who could make Schwarzkopf and von karajan break down and cry.


I haven't seen "Dark Elegies much, but two of the best performances have been by the Oakland Ballet and by the Jose Limon Dance Company, both of whom broght great weight and power to the performances. The Limon women did NOT wear pointe shoes, but their feet were like daggers in the glissades, their jumps were magnificently shaped, and all their work on releve was so strong, their feet were so beautiful, I was convinced this was a valid way to dance hte ballet.

It seems obvious that Tudor was making some kind of homage to Central European modern dance -- the costumes, the dancers' lines, the simplicity, economy, the formations, the use of ritual, the idealization of the earthy common people and their dance, all seem to owe a lot -- well maybe to Les Noces (if he ever saw it, of which I'm not sure -- Ashton did, he worked with Nijinska in Rubenstein's company, but i don't know that Tudor did) to Rambert' s
background in German modern dance. It looks Wigman-esque to me.

It's a great ballet.

#8 glebb

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 05:44 PM

Thanks all for your thoughts. The choreography is indeed spectacularly unique.
This is the first time in a long while that I have had ballet music on my mind instead of Wicked, Avenue Q or Pacific Overtures.

#9 carbro

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 06:17 PM

I haven't seen "Dark Elegies much, but two of the best performances have been by the Oakland Ballet and by the Jose Limon Dance Company, both of whom broght great weight and power to the performances. The Limon women did NOT wear pointe shoes, but their feet were like daggers in the glissades, their jumps were magnificently shaped, and all their work on releve was so strong, their feet were so beautiful, I was convinced this was a valid way to dance hte ballet.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Are you saying then, Paul, that the women in the Oakland Ballet wore pointe shoes??? ABT danced it in soft slippers. It was broadcast -- a cast including Martine van Hamel and Johan Renvall. It may be available on video. Lemme go check. . .

. . . Variety & Virtuosity is the title of the vhs/dvd. :clapping: Click the Amazon link above for further details.

#10 glebb

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 06:22 PM

3 women are on pointe. The rest are in ballet slippers.

#11 Cliff

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 09:22 PM

The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago will be performing Dark Elegies, along with Square Dance and N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz this march. I look forward to seeing Dark Elegies because Lilac Garden and Leaves are Fading made a strong impression.

#12 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 10:36 PM

The ABTvideo is very very fine -- and van Hamel and Renvall gave great performances.

Thanks, Glebb, for clearing that up abut the pointe shoes.....

SF Ballet danced it around the same time that Oakland was doing it, and they did not dance it as wel -- they didn't creat e the same sense of community, of people isolated in thieir grief but still profoundly in touch as a community. Oakland's were almost like a school of fish, the group mind was \s ostrong.

BUT at SFB, there was a dancer who REALLY had it -- Grace Maduell, who later went to Birmingham Royal with her husband David Justin and I hear later retired, was SO eloquent in hte piece.She did hte great jumping dance, I think it was van Hamel's role. Maduell was a very distinctive dancer; I missed her the other night in "Company B," where she was the first to dance "There will never be another you" ten years ago. Her back was very expresive.

#13 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2005 - 12:28 AM

I saw the ballet in the late 80's at ABT; I liked Kathleen Moore's performance in particular. The score for the ballet, Die Kindertotenlieder, is one of my favorite song cycles.

#14 sandik

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Posted 12 February 2005 - 02:26 PM

It  seems obvious that Tudor was making some kind of homage to Central European modern dance -- the costumes, the dancers' lines, the simplicity, economy, the formations, the use of ritual, the idealization of the earthy common people and their dance, all seem to owe a lot -- well maybe to Les Noces (if he ever saw it, of which I'm not sure -- Ashton did, he worked with Nijinska in Rubenstein's company, but  i don't know that Tudor did) to Rambert' s
background in German modern dance. It looks Wigman-esque to me.

It's a great ballet.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I cannot remember where I heard this, but I've been told that Tudor saw the Jooss company before he left England, and that the work made a strong impression on him, which might account for your seeing that influence here.

#15 Amy Reusch

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Posted 12 February 2005 - 08:03 PM

haven't seen "Dark Elegies much, but two of the best performances have been by the Oakland Ballet and by the Jose Limon Dance Company, both of whom broght great weight and power to the performances. The Limon women did NOT wear pointe shoes, but their feet were like daggers in the glissades, their jumps were magnificently shaped, and all their work on releve was so strong, their feet were so beautiful, I was convinced this was a valid way to dance hte ballet.


I didn't realize there was a case of ballet to modern crossover! (other than of ballet dancers sometimes guesting with modern companies). Weren't Limon & Tudor both on the staff of Julliard? Is that how this happened? (Or am I mixed up again and Limon never taught there?) When was it in Limon repertory?


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