The Story Of Two Very Different Ballets
This year at the Autumn Intensive, I am very excited to be working with you on two very different ballets:
1) Paquita, one of the most celebrated 19th-century examples of classicism, energetic and extrovert, and
2) Serenade, a mid-20th-century neoclassical ballet, melancholic and reflective
During my research, google-educating myself, I learned that Paquita was originally a ballet in two acts, choreographed by Joseph Mazilier to music by Edouard Deldevez, for the Paris Operà, with its premiere in 1846. One year later, Marius Petipa staged this ballet in St. Petersburg. It was his first work in Russia.
However, the popular version we know today is the Grand Pas Classique that Petipa’s added in 1881 to music by Ludwig Minkus. The numerous female variations were included even later for a gala performance:
“The Paquita Grand Pas Classique was featured in the farewell gala of Enrico Cecchetti in 1902, where all of the leading ballerinas of the Mariinsky Theatre participated by performing their favourite solos from various ballets. Thus, the tradition of including an entire suite of solos for various ballerinas began, a tradition which is still in place today.” Wikipedia
State Ballet School Berlin, 1990
There can be up to 13 female solos plus the pas de trois in Paquita performances. This offers a great opportunity for ballet companies to showcase their versatility and strength and can sometimes require a lot of stamina from the less enthusiastic audience members.
I remember how much fun we had in ballet school performing this dynamic piece with its Spanish flair and particular epaulements. It stood in stark contrast to the lengthy rehearsals of Les Sylphides, a piece which I also loved once I got promoted to dancing the pas de deux.
We rehearsed Paquita with one of our most respected teachers. Whilst she was meticulous about precision she also projected her great passion for this piece onto us.
Serenade was (also) the first ballet George Balanchine created in America for the School of American Ballet, whose students premiered it in 1934. The number of dancers corresponds with the number of students:
"The first class had 17 girls, hence a beginning using 17. The next class had nine students, so another segment was made for nine. When a few men joined the class, Balanchine added parts for men.” (Dance Magazine, 2011, Secrets of Serenade)
Here is another interesting fact:
“Originating it as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet.” (The George Balanchine Trust, Serenade)
Serenade's official premiere, performed by the American Ballet, was in 1935.
In contrast to the upbeat tunes of Minkus' composition for Paquita, Tchaikovsky's beautiful, melancholic 'Serenade for Strings in C' will move us to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. I am looking forward to exploring it together.