Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Feathers!

Yes, after yesterday's discussion of feathers, we come to another avian discussion.

One of the pieces, I am looking at for next season is Carnival of the Animals. I think it will work well for our yearly collaboration with Culture Shock. Because of that I am sneak previewing one of the choreographic pieces.

The Swan

At our June 2nd fund raiser.

Now, swans and ballerinas go hand in hand, but I need to make a distinction here. Below is a lovely image of Anna Pavlova in the famous last moments of The Dying Swan.

I actually have a large version of this image in my walk in closet. I see it everyday as it hangs across from my authentic jackalope mounting I got in Wyoming.

There is a difference between...

The Swan
The Dying Swan
and Swan Lake

Swan Lake... is a huge 3 hour ballet by Tchaikovsky. It was premiered in 1877, but did not achieve popularity until it was re-staged by Lev Ivanov (the white swan acts) and Marius Petipa (the court acts) in 1895. It is all about a princess who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer and whose spell is broken by a handsome (if a bit too Hamlet like) prince. Well, they both die, but they sail off to a better place.

The Swan... is a short piece of music from Carnival of the Animals. A collection of tunes by Camille Saint-Saens. Each piece is descriptive of a different animal, randomly chosen. Along with the swan, we see a lion, an elephant, a tortoise and many other beasties. There is no story. Just small snapshots of critters.

The Dying Swan... is a choreographic miniature that was set to... the Swan, by choreographer Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova. Fokine was known for rebelling against "classical" dance. Although the dance is performed in a tutu, it is not a classical dance. It is more along the lines of a improvisation on pointe. The piece shows us a swan that has been shot by a hunter, in the last moments of its life.

Pavlova (above) was known for her delicacy and exquisite lines. She was a "spiritual" ethereal dancer who also had an element of decadence in her dancing. She excelled in pieces where she portrayed dragonflies, poppies, summer breezes. Because of the strength of her portrayal (and her tireless appearances around the world) the image of the ballerina as swan became a cultural icon. As an aside, I love how it looks as if they just ripped some wings off of some poor swan and tacked them on to Pavlova's tutu. There is something so wrong, yet so right about it.

Fokine (and Pavlova) a piece that became a "right of passage" for ballerinas to come. You aren't "really" a ballerina unless you have died on-stage swathed in feathers. So here we have three Russian ballerinas...

Galina Ulanova. Known for the fluidity of her movement, this photo doesn't quite add to the Ulanova mystique. But you DO get to see how gloriously curvaceous her feet were.

Maya Pliesetskaya. Gloriously gauche. This image actually makes her seem like more of a classicist than she was. Pliesetskaya was the big rule breaker at the time. Arms and legs flying everywhere in serpentine patterns.

and Natalia Makarova. Ultra sensitive and introspective. Rather than project out into the audience, she would pull them into her performances.

All putting their own stamp on the flock of interpretations of being a big white bird. Nobody does it quite the same. Nobody dies quite the same.

Now, I do have to mention that I am not setting The Dying Swan. In Carnival of the Animals, the swan doesn't die. Given that we are doing these shows primarily for families and kids, it seemed odd to come out with this tragic death of a swan. So our swan has become an allegory for the quest for spiritual enlightenment. At the end of her solo, she soars off into the heavens.

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