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Potential storylines for Ballets


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#1 saritachan

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 01:01 PM

Hello everyone,

I am a new member and having read all your professional and well researched discussions, I am utterly in awe and have felt a little bit scared in giving comments, let alone starting topics.

But I have finally plucked up my courage and here it is, my first, hopefully not stupid question to you all.

I have recently read about Johan Kobborg, Royal Ballet that he loves ballets with stories and that he feels that newly created ballets nowadays are all quite short and plotless. So I thought about possible ballet storylines that can be created on dancers!

In China, the budding ballet companies are not at all short of stories, from gods to passionate folktales. For example, the White Snake and they even are taking storylines from traditional Chinese operas!

So are Western or ancient plots running out? Or are story ballets just not the trend anymore? What are the criteria for ballets with a storyline? Drama, passion? Pride and Prejudice, or any other English Classics written in the Victorian times would be unsuitable since the English society was best at containing and reserving their emotions!

I would be grateful if you all can give some suggestions!

Thank you!

#2 sandik

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 09:47 AM

What an interesting question. I'll have to mull this over.

I will say, though, off the top of my head, that keeping Balanchine's comment about mothers-in-law in mind, Pride and Prejudice would be a challenge!

#3 Hans

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 11:00 AM

A Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter ballet would probably make a mint. :huh:

#4 drb

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 11:49 AM

A Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter ballet would probably make a mint. :huh:

And talk about building a new audience!
Problems: copyright, royalties.

#5 bart

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 12:41 PM

The spate of forgettable-to-dreadful Draculas should be a warning to those who hope that good adventure stories (with LOTS OF PLOT) translate into a riveting evening at the ballet. :huh:

Pride and Prejudice, when you look into it, has an emotionally resonant central situation (the varieties of love, and how we try to find our way through them), the interaction of social norms and individual preferences, and very vivid characters. Someone like Anthony Tudor might have turned this into something. "Pride," "prejudice", ambivalence, social snobbery, silliness, risk-taking and risk-avoidance seem to be central themes of the novel. All can be expressed with choreography.

Three couples: Elizabeth and Darcy at the center, with Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Lizzie's mother and father (Mr. and Mrs. Bennett), at the side. Lydia (giddy) , Lady Catherine de Burgh (haughty). and Mr. Collins (oily) might be good for brief solos. It could all more or less take place at the country ball. I dont' know anything about English 19th century music, so I can't suggest a composer or score.

In terms of marketing, there might be more Janeites ready to spring for ballet tickets than you think.

#6 Joseph

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 01:40 PM

I want to do a Great Expectations...

#7 kfw

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 05:44 PM

In China, the budding ballet companies are not at all short of stories, from gods to passionate folktales. For example, the White Snake and they even are taking storylines from traditional Chinese operas!

So are Western or ancient plots running out? Or are story ballets just not the trend anymore?

What a great topic, saritachan.

Some of James Kudelka's comments in this Sunday's NY Times story on ABT's performance of his "Cinderella" seem pertinent. Will retellings of classic ballet stories that amount almost to rewritings catch on? Prokofiev saw Cinderella as a real, then still contemporary person, " feeling, experiencing and moving among us." Kudelka feels the need make her contemporary again. Back when PBS broadcast ABT's "La Corsaire," I remember Alexandra noting that dancers in the accompanying interviews felt the need to nudge, nudge, wink, wink laugh at the story, as if they were embarassed by it. (Pardon the paraphrase, Alexandra). It was as if they weren't able to "suspend disbelief" and fully give themselves to a silly, patriarchal, and racially unelightened story. In this age of postmodern suspicion of narratives, I wonder if some choreogaphers might be likewise disinclined to choreograph new ones.

#8 sandik

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 11:26 PM

Pride and Prejudice, when you look into it, has an emotionally resonant central situation (the varieties of love, and how we try to find our way through them), the interaction of social norms and individual preferences, and very vivid characters. Someone like Anthony Tudor might have turned this into something. "Pride," "prejudice", ambivalence, social snobbery, silliness, risk-taking and risk-avoidance seem to be central themes of the novel. All can be expressed with choreography.

Three couples: Elizabeth and Darcy at the center, with Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Lizzie's mother and father (Mr. and Mrs. Bennett), at the side. Lydia (giddy) , Lady Catherine de Burgh (haughty). and Mr. Collins (oily) might be good for brief solos. It could all more or less take place at the country ball. I dont' know anything about English 19th century music, so I can't suggest a composer or score.

In terms of marketing, there might be more Janeites ready to spring for ballet tickets than you think.


Hadn't thought of Tudor, but yes, these characters would be very familiar territory for him.

And there are legions of Janites who are willing to purchase many, many things!

#9 sandik

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 11:28 PM

I want to do a Great Expectations...


Tangentially, there is a recent murder mystery set in and around a dance company that is embroiled in creating a ballet version of G.E. The bits and pieces of a scenario were quite believable. Cannot remember the author at the moment.

#10 saritachan

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 01:22 AM

This is exciting! Thank you for all the replies. I still have doubts about the Pride and Prejudice plausibility though... Jane Austen fans always put great emphasis on the wit of Lizzy and the dialogue, so much hidden meaning; plus, how do you contrast the huge emotion inside and the cold formal English manners outside? It would be fantastic if it worked out though.

#11 saritachan

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 01:24 AM

What an interesting question. I'll have to mull this over.

I will say, though, off the top of my head, that keeping Balanchine's comment about mothers-in-law in mind, Pride and Prejudice would be a challenge!


May i ask what was Balanchine's comment??? "intrigued"

#12 richard53dog

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 07:28 AM

May i ask what was Balanchine's comment??? "intrigued"



This may not be an exact quote but something to the effect that "there are no mother-in-laws in ballet"


This is not strictly true, but I think Balanchine's point was you could easily get hopelessly wrapped up in the details of a complicated plot. The comprehensive plot synopsis of the major events should be short, just a page or two.(This last is my own)

Richard

#13 Helene

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 07:38 AM

Critic Jack Anderson wrote in this July 1991 "Critic's Notebook"

Some weeks ago, I mentioned that Mr. Balanchine, who abhors fiendishly snarled plots, has been variously quoted as saying that there were ''no mothers-in-law'' and ''no sisters-in-law'' in ballet. I then thought of a few ballets in which mothers-in-law are quite successfully depicted, but speculated that to show sisters-in-law would be difficult, if not impossible.


He then publishes three potential sister-in-law storylines that a reader, Joe D'Onofrio sent him, all of which seem quite plausible.

Mothers-in-law are not necessarily impossible; in Sleeping Beauty, the King and Queen have become Desire/Florimund's parents-in-law, and grandparents, like in The Nutcracker are by definition someone's in laws. The basis of the Balanchine quote was that it is difficult and confusing to describe peripheral family relationships in a story ballet or extremely complicated relationships.

Pride and Prejudice would need a lot of paring. I think there are several tricky plot lines to get across: exactly what Mrs. Bennett says to make Mr. Darcy send Mr. Bingley away, how Mr. Darcy explains what he knows about Mr. Collins because of his sister (could be a tableau, or may it's unnecessary in the first place), and the conversation between Lady de Bourgh and Elizabeth (how to show that it is Mr. Darcy she is forbidding Elizabeth to marry). Miss Bingley could be portrayed easily like the Countess who's after Desire in Sleeping Beauty.

#14 bart

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 07:55 AM

Pride and Prejudice would need a lot of paring. I think there are several tricky plot lines to get across

I think this is the point where the "mother-in-law" comment comes in. A ballet can express the nature and intensity of many kinds of relationship -- though not all. Motherhood is, to an extent, universal. Mother-in-laws come in a great variety and can easily be confused with a number of other "older woman" types.

Lilac Garden demonstrates the use of dance to convey feelings and relationships in a very simple plot line that can be easily grasped by most people.

I really do think it would be possible, by "reducing" the main characters to types in a way similar to Lilac Garden, to express the essential courtship issues at the heart of P&P. Obviously, much, much, much would have to be left out. And the ballet would have to be a bit longer than Lilac Garden. You couldn't do this with Great Expectations, or with Dickens in general I should think. But Austen deals with "universals" that -- despite changes in times and manner -- are still very much with us.

How about more elaborate story ballets like the MacMillan Manon, Mayerling, or Anastasia? A certain amount of background knowledge is assumed, or conveyed in the program notes to those who care to look. But you don't have to read a biography of Empress Elizabeth or Rudolf to understand the nature and development of their concerns, desires, fears, excesses. However, to get the most out these ballets, it WOULD help to have an idea of how an imperial court might be organized, along with the kind of people who might live there (for Mayerling) or the outlines of Ancien Regime class and gender politics (for Manon), or to have seen the movie of Anastasia. But I don't know how necessary this would be.

Sleeping Beauty brings with it the familiarity of fairy tales from many cultures. I can't imagine anyone having difficulty with it or not responding to its charms. The plot lines of Swan Lake, on the other hand, might seem very obscure to someone who hadn't been given some kind of summary before their first visit, or who was not very good at translating mime.

#15 saritachan

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 08:20 AM

anymore suggestions? this post is not restricted to only pride and prejudice... I am not from the West so perhaps I am not aware of more folklores or ancient myths... Brainstorm people!


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