gliding serenely over SWAN LAKE
International Ballet Company at Teatro El Salinero, Arrecife
Friday 2nd December 2022
reported on by Norman Warwick
We learned, from the on-line site dance facts, in advance of seeing this performance of Swan Lake, that Balletto is Italian diminutive of the ballot, meaning “to dance, to jump about.” Its vocabulary is based on French terminology.
Ballet developed under the aristocratic influence as a formalized form of dance. A formal dance technique is combined with costumes, scenery, and music, as other forms of artistic elements. Ballet integrated dance, music, stage design and poetry to make a dramatic storyline. At first its roll was a virtually component of the opera.
ts origins date back to 15th and 16th centuries and started as entertainment form for aristocrats. Ballet began in the Italian Renaissance courts and spread from Italy to France by Catherine de’ Medici. Later it developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. King Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Musique from which the Paris Opera Ballet developed as the first professional ballet company. In Russia, the ballet started its modern era.
Ballet depended on aristocratic money which had an influence on the music, literature and the ideas and development of ballet. In time ballet became less dependent on royal courts.
In a time there were founded the most popular ballet stages like Royal Danish Ballet, Imperial Ballet of the Russian Empire, The Royal Ballet in London, the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Australian Ballet, The New York City Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada etc.
In Renaissance time in Italy ballet was the type of entertainment on aristocratic weddings. Court dancers and musicians collaborated to entertain aristocrats on celebrations. One of the first ballet dancing masters was Domenico da Piacenza. The first ballet was Ballet de Polonaise (left) performed in 1573. Traditional shoes were not yet used, and the costumes were formal gowns.
In Renaissance time in France ballet was more formalized by Pierre Beauchamp. He codified five positions of the feet and arms. Famous ballet dancer and choreographer Jean-Baptiste Lully often cast the King Louis XIV in his ballets. Lully collaborated with Moliére, the French playwright, and the comédie-ballet was created. Lully also created the tragédie en musique genre.
Ballet spread throughout the Europe in Germany, Spain, Poland and Portugal in courts. In Poland King Wladyslaw IV Vasa promoted this dance. Ballet dancers organized into professional ballet troupes and performed for aristocrats as they toured through the Europe.
In the 18th century in France ballet d’action developed. The movements of the dancers were designed to express the story telling and characters. That is how ballet became an essential part of the opera dramatisation. It was included in operas as interludes called divertissements. A big role in this development played French dancer and balletmaster Jean-Georges Noverre and composer Christoph Gluck. Dance, music and scenery were brought together to support the plot. Three formal techniques developed: sérieux, demi-caractère, and comique.
Venice was also a centre of dance. Dancers travelled there for cultural exchange. In Hungary professional ballet troupes performed throughout the country.
In the 19th century, female ballet dancers were more popular. Ballerinas played male roles in the story. Viena became an important center for teaching ballet. Ballet moved away from the just aristocratic audience. Some famous ballerinas experimented with a new formal element of a ballet called pointe technique. In that way, ballerina got the ideal stage figure. Boxed toe ballet shoes (right) were developed and stayed as formal part of ballet code.
In romantic movement ballet choreography became free, light, airy, and ballerinas appeared as fragile beings who could be lifted effortlessly creating the feeling of floating in the air.
At one point folklore became a part of ballet dancing, so folk-style dancing developed.
National ballets were established like National Opera of Ukraine, Hungarian National Ballet, National Theatre Ballet of Prague and Vienna State Ballet.
Russian ballet is thought as traditional ballet and had great importance in the history of ballet. Colonialism had an influence on stories with oriental, Asian and African elements. It also developed in Denmark.
A stiff short skirt worn as a costume, called tutu, became the formal element of ballet. Tutu skirt is supported by crinoline to enable the acrobatic legwork.
In the 20th century, Russian ballet was brought back to Paris because of the exile after the Revolution. In Russia, there was a stagnation on ballet scene. The ideological pressure made socialist pieces. However, there were stunning virtuosity, technical perfection, and strength.
Fokine went to the USA. He was not satisfied with just athletic display and prettiness of ballet. He demanded from ballerinas’ expression and research of the history of the story, and use of authentic period costume.
In America ballet was adapted to new media, like television and movies. The theme was rather dramatized than a plot. There was more freethinking than a traditional narrative. Traditional tutu was changed by bias cut to give dancer more freedom of movement.
Neoclassical ballet developed a style between classical and contemporary ballet. Ballet returned to a more simplistic style, against overly dramatized style. The large sets and props were removed allowing the dancers to become the main artistic medium.
Contemporary ballet mixed elements of classical ballet and modern dance. It is not strictly traditional. It has use of pointe technique, as well as floor work and turn-in of the legs. A great influence on this genre had Mikhail Baryshnikov, director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980.
Today, Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake remain sure-fire hits for ballet companies around the world. It’s remarkable, then, that when Swan Lake was premiered in 1877, the reception it garnered was lukewarm at best.
Tchaikovsky (shown left in statuesque tribute) created the magical ballet, Swan Lake, telling the story of the doomed love of Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette. Prince Siegfried goes out hunting one night and chases a group of swans – one of them transforms into a young woman, Odette, who explains that she and her companions were turned into swans by the evil Baron Von Rothbart.
The spell can only be broken if someone who has never loved before swears an oath of undying love and promises to marry her. The Prince declares his love to Odette and promises to be loyal forever.
At a grand reception at the palace, the Prince must choose a bride – but he can think only of Odette. Suddenly a fanfare announces the arrival of two guests – it is Odette! The prince dances with her and asks for her hand in marriage.
But it’s not Odette – the mystery woman is the daughter of the evil von Rothbart, Odile. Odette has witnessed the whole scene. Too late, Siegfried realises his mistake.
Siegfried follows Odette to the lake and begs her forgiveness. She says she forgives him but nothing can change the fact he broke his vow. They decide to die together. The lovers throw themselves into the lake.
The dancers who performed in the ballet’s premiere declared Tchaikovsky’s music to be simply too difficult to dance to. Music of such richness and depth was not, they thought, the kind that should accompany their balletic moves.
Today, the ballet is adored by young and old: from the graceful Waltz in Act I to the playful Dance of the Cygnets, this is wonderfully innocent music.
Tchaikovsky evidently enjoyed composing the music for Swan Lake, writing far more material than would ever be required. Indeed, the version most commonly encountered today is, in fact, an edited one, created after Tchaikovsky’s death and considerably shorter than the original, full-length work. It’s now the world’s most frequently performed ballet.
The name of International Ballet Company drew the first full house we have seen since covid lockdowns to the El Salinero Theatre in Arrecife, so although we had our tickets in advance we were still in danger of not being able to get in. We had driven through a real down pour from Playa Blanca to Tias, but even though tickets stated that no entry would be permitted once the ballet began at 8.00 pm it was now still only six pm we had time to call in at our favourite Tias restaurant,, Arrayata un Millo.
¨Copa de vino blanco seco y una jarra and two plates of broken eggs,´ my wife Dee smiled at the waiter in her scrambled Spanish. Literally as he returned with our order the Christmas lights on the main drag switched and we were able to see the length of the main high street from our table by the door. The dining area was busy with local families creating a quiet buzz,……and let me tell you. two fried eggs with rolls of Iberico ham laid on a bed of chips is a meal to die for, especially when done so well by the ladies in the kitchen of a restaurant full of art works laid in strange perspectives.
Quiet background music added to the ambience and a biennmasabe with ice cream was the perfectly complementary dessert.
We came to regret enjoying our meal for so long, however, because as we later arrived in Arrecife we realised the gods of, new shopping complexes and hordes of Christmas shoppers, a home football match for the town team, and a sell-out audience at the theatre had conspired to bring traffic to a very, verry, verrry slow crawl. Neverthelss, I managed to park with my wheels just over a white line that was a border between legality and a parking fine enabling us to sink into our comfy theatre seats with only a couple of minutes to spare.
I can offer no expert insight into the performance other than to say that the spectacular dance of over two hours kept the whole audience engaged all the time. The beautiful, colourful and sometimes quite complex costumes constantly caught the eye, the recorded music of course was gently glorious and, from time to time, tense and threatening. The sets and the curtains, especially for the scene of the big social ball at which the confrontation ensues, were incredible creating a fascinatingly detailed image of the great halls of ballroom.
None of this overwhelmed any of the cast. Every part was perfectly played and at this close proximity I was more aware than ever that while our eyes are drawn to the principal dancers on stage at any time, surrounding them deliver perfect, slight movements: the jester, the master of ceremonies and the family members and friends keeping their eye on the young ones on the dance floor, all added superbly timed gestures that reminded us of the linear narrative being delivered.
The ´fight´ scene was danced with furious energy but was no less graceful for that and the female members added delicacy and daintiness.
The star-crossed lovers were perfectly played, with the male protagonist displaying a steely determination not to give up on looking for the girl stolen from him. He won her back and so it all ended happily ever after.
the dancing had been both lithe and languid and athletic and agile and robust and refined.
There had been bursts audience of appreciation throughout with crioes of bravo and sustained applause.
We drove home chatting animatedly about what he had seen; the dancing, the dresses and the devilment of the black swan, and also talked about that use of black and white as definitions of good and evil. In the course of the 21st century we have all been awakened to how such representation can be misleading in general and hurtful to some mebers of our increasingly multicultural societies.
All that, though, is a subject for more intelligent people than I to resolve.
The International Ballet, though, had delivered of excellence that I´m sure that the ballet-buffs in the audience would have admired but even for we, who usually listen to the Beatles and The Byrds And The Beach Boys humming, this was a wonderful, unforgettable evening.
Next week Gary Heywood-Everett joins regular presenter, Steve Bewick, in a Hot Biscuits review of Adam Fairhall‘s Manchester Co-op Band. Also in the show is music from Esther Bennett singing of her B’ham. Steve Gadd, Eddie Gomez and Ronnie Cuber with the WDR big band `finding their way home`. Siobhan Soraghan plays in a small band set up, Michele Osten deliver and a new number and Pat Metheny offers a Carly Simon number. It all finishes with Eastern Eye from Unfurl‘s new CD Sleeping Giants. If this sounds interesting, be sure to share with friends and join me 24/07