Tag Archives: tchaikovsky

May I take your order?

15 Dec

In honor of MusicMonday (which is technically when I started this entry), I thought I’d do a little detective work with the infamous Black Swan coda.  It has a really messy history, with three different versions at your disposal.  First, you’ve got the original coda from 1877 which was the finale to the Pas de Six.  The original coda is the one Anna Sobeshchanskaya didn’t like and had Léon Minkus write her one, which irked Tchaikovsky, who then wrote one for her, which has now become the coda in the Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.  Tchaikovsky’s second coda may or may not have been influenced/adapted from that of Minkus, and as far as I know, this coda is actually never used for Swan Lake anymore.  To make matters more fun, the coda that is most used today is from Swan Lake, but was originally from Act I, intended as a Pas de Deux for Two Merry Makers, and then adapted/re-worked/(butchered?) by Ricardo Drigo into the Grand Pas de Deux familiar to most.  It’s a hot mess, and if I ever meet Tchaikovsky in the after life a question relating to the Black Swan pas de deux madness would probably be the first thing I asked him.  Which do you like, Pete?

A lot of ballet companies will mix and match as well, which can probably confuse a lot of people.  A Grand Pas de Deux is generally comprised of four parts, the grand adage, the male variation, the female variation and the coda.  Or if you prefer, the entrée, soup, salad, and dessert.  So I’ve devised a Swan Lake menu for your perusal:

This took way too long to make.

The Pas de Six – Andante con moto, Pas de Six – Moderato are never used (although Kenneth MacMillan reworked the Pas de Six music into a production of Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet, but probably not as a pas de deux ETA: This info came from Wikipedia…credibility?  Mmm…could be questionable.), while the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Allegro and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Coda are never used for Black Swan (to the best of my knowledge), despite being highly recommended by the chef.  Most choreographers go with the starred, “most popular dishes” as used originally by Petipa/Ivanov, while others have been a little more adventurous:

Bourmeister (La Scala)

  1. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Moderato – Andante
  2. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux – Allegro moderato
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Pas de Six: Coda

Grigorovich (Bolshoi)

  1. Tempo di Valse and Andante
  2. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux – Allegro moderato
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Coda: Molto Allegro Vivace

Nureyev (Vienna State Opera)

  1. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Moderato – Andante
  2. Allegro
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Pas de Six: Coda

As you can see, anyone who doesn’t go with the standard picks whatever the heck they want apparently.  I’m sure they all had their legitimate reasons for their selections (and I don’t question them, mostly because I don’t really care), but unless you know ahead of time, it can be a kind of confusing to go see Swan Lake and expect one thing but then scratch your head when you realize the music is unfamiliar.

I only got interested in this whole mess because I myself got confused when I realized that there were two different codas that are commonly used, neither of them being the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda, and was thinking which coda appealed to me the most.  Predictably, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux is still my favorite of the three, even if I ignore Balanchine’s choreography.  Musically, I think it’s the most exciting, although I was curious as to what a Swan Lake Pas de Deux would look like to it.  As I mentioned earlier I don’t think it has ever been used in a Black Swan pas de deux, and it made me wonder if the 32 fouettés was a part of the choreography as well.  It’s possible that the same place Balanchine put the fouettés in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (although he didn’t choreograph 32) is the same place where 32 fouettés could have gone because it’s long enough, but what makes that seem unlikely to me is the fact that in the other codas, the fouettés come pretty early on, while the possible break in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux which is thirty seconds longer than the other two, is towards the end.  Regardless, my questions ended up being irrelevant because 32 fouettés didn’t enter Swan Lake until the 1895 revival by Petipa/Ivanov, which is post-Sobeshchanskaya, who used the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux version in 1877 (the original Swan Lake, by Julius Reisinger was not a success).  Well, at least I learned something.

Turns out the most popularly known Black Swan coda is my least favorite, as I like the Pas de Six coda much better.  But, to each his/her own, so here are the three codas, so you can decide for yourself.  Although I did say the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux Coda was never used as a Black Swan coda, Nureyev did use it in Act I of his production of Swan Lake, so it has found a way back in (even though the Royal Ballet doesn’t perform this staging anymore.  I believe they’ve since gone to the Petipa/Ivanov).

Marianea Nuñez/Thiago Soares, standard Black Swan coda (beginning at 2:35)

Fonteyn/Nureyev, Pas de Six coda

Nureyev (Act I), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda

To make matters better, I’ve also uploaded all three codas onto SendSpace, in mp3 format for your listening pleasure.

Standard Black Swan Coda

Pas de Six Coda

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux  Coda

And because good things always come in threes, there is also free sheet music in PDF format available in a solo piano arrangement (full score is available as well, but that helps very few in the population) so now you can make a request to your accompanist to play your favorite coda for class.  The “popular” coda is on pp.61-64, Pas de Six coda on pp.178-180, and the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda on pp.248-252.

Swan Lake for Solo Piano (PDF file)

Bon appétit!

PS.  This entry was a pain in the ass to write.

Danse Homage and the Kristina Isabelle Dance Company, Oct. 16-17

16 Oct

For the first time in months I attended a live dance show (PRAISE BE TO BILLY ELLIOT!), Danse Homage, as presented by the Kristina Isabelle Dance Company (and others).  First I have to say that it felt so good just to be seeing dance on the stage again.  It was a choice between this show and BalletMet’s production of Swan Lake, but I was kind of weirded out when I heard BalletMet had cast two different dancers as Odette and Odile.  Also, when I reserve things from the library I get e-mails that tell me when they’re ready to be picked up, and lo and behold, I got an e-mail yesterday that said a Swan Lake I had reserved was in.  I took it as a sign that I should experience something new and different, because for the most part, Swan Lake is Swan Lake.  Not to mention Columbus is driving me crazy and I spend my days formulating some kind of a plan to get out of here and be anywhere but here, so with that as the theme of life for the time being, I made my choice.  The only mistake of the evening I really made was wearing my skinny jeans, which happen to strangle my fat thighs and restrict my legs from bending too much.

Anyway, the department of dance chair specifically requested that we tweet, call, text, whatever and spread the word about the show, so here’s my leetle contribution.  Kristina Isabelle is a local artist, with a small modern company.  I believe she grew up in the area, is obviously still here (although she earned her BFA from Juilliard) and thus quite invested into the Columbus dance community.  And let me tell you, the Columbus dance community needs her.  Personally, I think it’s kind of dilapidated here (keep in mind I’m getting increasingly bitter, crotchety and anxious to get out by the day), and the survival of dance in Columbus hinges on the Ohio State’s dance department.  Even our major ballet company, BalletMet, is combining with the Cincinnati Ballet to put on Swan Lake.  We just don’t have a lot of resources here, and it kills me.  The arts shouldn’t have to try so hard to survive, which is why this town drives me oh so crazy, because if the arts struggle to survive, I struggle to survive.  Quite simply, without thriving arts, there be no me.  Don’t get me wrong, Columbus has a great art scene…but it’s not enough and I’m wasting away.  Anyway, it’s up to fantastic leadership from a few individuals to ensure that the arts don’t develop a geographic bias.  The work that she’s putting into Columbus is a swim upriver, but she’s doing something great.

The show featured a fair variety of pieces, of course all under the branch of modern movement, although one was on stilts which was rather unusual.  The first piece was more “dancey” in the sense that it was superhuman and unearthly.  The colors of the costumes were reminiscent of celestial bodies in the universe, and the movement was sensuous with lots of undulations and intimate lifts, but without being skanky.  Then there was a solo…kind of prototypical modern: square spotlights, really aggressive, thrown movements, and technologified mixed sounds for the soundtrack.  Basically the kind of stuff that weirds me out with its intensity, but that’s my nature.  The namesake of the company performed the solo, and she is perhaps one of the fittest women in the world, but when people get in my face, I tend to withdraw.  But that’s me.  Third piece was a male solo on stilts, which scare the crap out of me because I always envision a grape or an olive rolling in front of someone on stilts and then they take a nasty fall.  I don’t know why I can’t get that image out of my head, but stilts freak me out.  Innovative, and I was taking it very literally and getting this injured and angry heron vibe, as if it were caged and definitely mad about it, but had I read the program, I would have known that it was based on Saint Sebastian.  I’m an idiot.  Moving on, the fourth piece featured young dancers from Columbus Dance Theater (but choreographed by Isabelle, again showing her involvement), and watching them made me feel like I was forty years old.  So young.  I think it was a great opportunity for those kids to experience modern dance so early in their dance careers.  Unfortunately I believe Saturday’s show will feature a different piece instead of this one, with everything else remaining the same.  So if anyone in Columbus is interested in seeing the show, Saturday will not have this.

Now the third piece, to Tchaikovsky!  Be still my beating heart!  It was interesting, because there’s moments in the piece where the dancers were scratching themselves furiously, and scratching is one of those things where if you watch it enough, your brain kind of creates an imaginary itch and all of a sudden you find yourself needing to alleviate yourself.  The costumes were pedestrian clothes, the movement more organic and human in nature, which is interesting when juxtaposed to the structure and lyricism of a Tchaikovsky string quartet.  An different take on the emotion of frustration and after the show I was told that parts of it were…“improvised.”  Heed my warning…one should take care to avoid mentioning “the I word” around me, because it strikes fear in the deepest part of my soul.  There are many things I fear in life, and “the I word” is most defos one of them.  I’m like a deer in the headlights, and I freeze in complete terror.  But this is also a large part of the reason why I respect people who are comfortable with it.  Anyway, the night ended with a piece that was…I hate to say, on the long side, but there was an unusual interactive feature where someone in the audience got to choose several pieces of music and the order in which they would be performed.  That’s kind of cool.  However, personally, I prefer continuity in a dance, and the last piece was very disjointed (a perfectly fine artistic choice) and I lose focus.  You’d think the attention span of a squirrel would help in this instance, but it actually makes it worse.  There were a lot of different styles, personalities, solos, group dances…it was a lot like channel surfing, but when I channel surf, I don’t get anything out of it, because all I concern myself with is wherever I stop.

So if you’re in Columbus, please check out their second show on Saturday, October 17th, 8pm at Sullivant Theater.  Be sure to check out the Kristina Isabelle Dance Company’s website as well, if you’d like to know more about their company, her background, etc.  It’s really important that we support local artists, because as I always say, pyramids are built from the bottom up.  No matter which dance artists you think are the best in the world, there is a myriad of bricks on the bottom, many of them unseen, doing hard work to hold them up there, and they need recognition too!