Monday, September 27, 2010

Lunedi Lunacy

I was working on my ballet translations this weekend and came across a perfect Lunedi Lunacy and was all set to post it then realized it would be funnier if the source was there for comparison.

In 1905 Mikail Folkine choreographed a small piece for Anna Pavlova which was to become her trademark: The Dying Swan. It has been passed down as a show piece for generations of ballerinas, each one adding her own layer to the original. It is still considered to be one of the major test pieces before any dancer can be truly considered a Prima ballerina assoluta.

Back in 1959 the incredible impresario Sol Hurok brought the Bolshoi Ballet to North America. It was the first major cultural crack in the Iron Curtain. They came to Toronto which in those days didn't have a major theatre so performances took place in Maple Leaf Gardens - the home hockey rink of the Toronto Team. The Gardens was the site of many cultural events at the time - the Metropolitan Opera played there every spring, the Royal Ballet danced there and I saw Maria Callas in concert there. A stage was erected at one end of the arena, baffling hung and seating installed on the rink surface. I could never afford the seats on the floor so my vantage point was always from high up in the Grey section where binoculars were a must. That spring of 1959 I trained them on the dancers from Moscow for two performances and saw (?) the great Galina Ulanova as Giselle one evening and the incomparable Maya Plisetskaya in Swan Lake the next afternoon. I saw Plisetskaya on only one other occasion several years later when Toronto finally had a theatre and the Bolshoi brought a mixed programme to the stage. She was dancing that signature piece and there was no question that she was a Prima Ballerina Assoluta!

Another dance company that also dropped in - well more like crashed in - for the occasional visit was the Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo - the Trocs. This group of drag dancers has been taking the piss out of classical dance for years. And as anyone knows you can't properly take the piss out of something unless you are a master of it - and these guys are all fine classically trained dancers.

Each of their Primi Ballerini has performed their own unique version of the Fokine-Pavlova classic. My first experience was seeing the remarkable Ida Nevasayneva swan to her death to great acclaim. Here one of their more recent dancers, Maya Thickenthighya, has put her own spin on the demise of the Cygnus ballerinus. And believe it or not I've seen curtain calls exactly like that - but they were serious!

While searching for information on the Dying Swan I came across this article in the Independent. Dame Nanette de Valois had spent her early years as a dancer with Pavlova and it appears notated her performances. It follows the passing on of a dance from one generation of dancer to another.

27 settembre - San Vincenzo de'Paoli

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David said...

Very timely to see the consummate Plisetskaya - she was four along from me to hear hubby's atrocious Fifth Piano Concerto on Saturday. So while he was surrounded, I managed to press the flesh. Still beautiful in a very elaborately made-up way - the bone structure, I guess.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I remember the Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo -- they were staggeringly popular in Canada and seemed to do annual tours here (at least in my memory!)

Anonymous said...

A bit of trivia: de Valois lived in Barnes (SW London) not far from my cousin. Think it was later in her life.

Didn't she have a very British name but changed it because foreign names were more valued at the time?


Elizabeth said...

Love the Trocs!

Elizabeth said...

PS - Here's another updating of a classic! Doesn't quite have the polish of the Trocs but it's still pretty good!