I don’t mean to harp on ballet, but it is rare these days that I get to see something in advance of New York. Last night I had a chance to watch a preview of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Balanchine’s Petipa lecture demonstration, which will be presented as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process series this weekend. The program, which examines the influence of Marius Petipa and the Imperial Ballet tradition on the work of George Balanchine, pairs choreography by Petipa and his associates with that of the 20th century master. Much of the Petipa choreography has been reconstructed using the Stepanov notation documents from the Nikolai Sergeev dance notations and music scores for ballets at the Harvard Theatre Collection. So yay for performing arts archives and archivists! There’s even a shout out (OK, a credit) for the HTC in the program! Harvard’s online finding aid includes some digital images of material from the Sergeev collection, such as the above page, which illustrates part of the Paquita coda.
The program, while a little heavy on the male variations (several of the Balanchine ballets, not too surprisingly, drew on the former NYCB rep of current PNB director, Peter Boal) was well-paced and compelling. Especially interesting was the reconstructed “Kingdom of the Shades” pas de deux from La Bayadère which featured a lift described in the notation that proved to be impossible to reconstruct in an aesthetically pleasing fashion; a compromise lift was substituted. Also instructive was the consecutive presentation of three different variations performed to the same music, the first by Petipa for a ballerina in the original production of Raymonda (1898), another version for a female soloist from Balanchine’s 1946 production of the ballet for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (restaged by the stalwart Frederic Franklin, who is expected to be in attendance at the New York event), and the more familiar male variation still performed in Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations (1961). And it is always nice to get to see something from the too-infrequently-performed Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée (in this case, the demanding male solo Balanchine created for Helgi Tomasson for the 1972 Stravinsky Festival season).
The Friday program at the Guggenheim is sold out, but there are still tickets available for Saturday (you could see NYBT on Friday instead and make a full weekend of it).
Maybe one of these days someone will post about American Ballet Theatre’s 70th anniversary festivities.