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Choreographer – Elizabeth Wistrich

VIEWS: 68 PAGES: 8

									The Teacher’s Guide

FIREBIRD & EIGHT STRAVINSKY PIECES

CITY BALLET of San Diego
Steven Wistrich, Artistic Director Elizabeth Wistrich, Resident Choreographer Jo Anne Emery, Managing Director The Dancers
Robin Cantrell, Abel Carrejo, Timothy Coleman, Richard Comstock, Mira Cook, Alexey Kulpin, Kimberly Palmer, Eric Roberts, Janica Smith, Sara Titen Apprentices Nadia Ali, Melissa Bartusch, Tara Formanck, Sarah Gross, Emily Kirn, Gabriella Mullady, Marissa Mullen, Marissa Notario, Kaori Otsucka, Alexis Rea, Megan Scott, Gina Ghiotani, Kimberly Soutls, Shannon Yee, Heidi Zolker

PO Box 99072 ~ San Diego, CA 92169 ~ 858-174-6058 www.cityballet.org

A History of Ballet The earliest precursors to ballets were lavish entertainments given in the courts of Renaissance Italy. These spectacles, which united painting, poetry, music, and dancing, took place at banquets and balls. A dance performance given in 1489 was performed between the courses of a banquet, and the dancers based their performance on the social dances of the day. The Italian court ballets were further developed at the court of Catherine de Medici, queen of France. The court ballet reached its peak during the reign (1643-1715) of Louis XIV, whose title the Sun King was derived from a role he danced in a ballet. In 1661 Louis XIV established the Academie Royale de Danse, a professional organization for dancing masters. At first all the dancers were men, and men in masks danced women's roles. The first female dancers to perform professionally in a theatre production appeared (1681) in a ballet called Le Triomphe de l'Amour (The Triumph of Love). Many of the ballets presented at Louis’ court were created by French choreographer Pierre Beauchamp, who is said to have defined the five positions of the feet. Since the French had such an early and profound influence on ballet, the steps are all named in French so one can go anywhere in the world and take a ballet class without speaking the local language! Eighteenth-century dancers were encumbered by masks, wigs or large headdresses, and heeled shoes. Women wore panniers, hoopskirts draped at the sides for fullness. Men often wore the tonnelet, a knee-length hoopskirt. The French dancer Marie Camargo, however, shortened her skirts and adopted heelless slippers to display her sparkling jumps and beats. Her rival, Marie Sall‚ also broke with custom when she discarded her corset and put on Greek robes to dance in her own ballet, Pygmalion (1734). Frenchman Jean Georges Noverre influenced many choreographers to use movement that was natural and easily understood and emphasized that all the elements of a ballet should work in harmony to express the ballet's theme. His pupils included the Frenchman Jean Dauberval, whose ballet La fille mal gardee (The Ill-Guarded Girl) 1789, is still performed today! The ballet La Sylphide, first performed in Paris in 1832, introduced the period of the romantic ballet. Marie Taglioni danced the part of the Sylphide, a supernatural creature who is loved and inadvertently destroyed by a mortal man. The choreography was the first to use toe dancing to emphasize Taglioni’s otherworldly lightness and insubstantiality. La Sylphide inspired many changes in the ballets of the time-in theme, style, technique, and costume. Its successor, Giselle (1841), also contrasted the human and supernatural worlds, and in its second act the ghostly spirits called wilis wear the white tutu popularized in La Sylphide. Women dominated the romantic ballet. Although good male dancers such as the Frenchmen Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Leon were performing, they were eclipsed by ballerinas such as Taglioni, Fanny Elssler, Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Cerrito. Taglioni and Elssler danced in Russia, and Perrot and SaintLeon created ballets there. Elssler also danced in the United States, which produced two ballerinas of its own: Augusta Maywood and Mary Ann Lee, both from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Russia also preserved the integrity of the ballet during the late 19th century. A Frenchman, Marius Petipa, became the chief choreographer of the Imperial Russian Ballet. He perfected the full-length, evening-long story ballet that combined set dances with mimed scenes. His bestknown works are The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan Lake and the Nutcracker (cochoreographed with the Russian Lev Ivanov), both set to commissioned scores by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.

Impresario Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes opened in Paris in 1909 and won immediate success. The male dancers, among them the Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, were particularly admired. The company presented a broad range of works, including compactly knit one-act ballets with colorful themes from Russian or Asian folklore: The Firebird (1910), Scheherazade (1910), and Petrushka (1911). The Ballets Russes became synonymous with novelty and excitement, a reputation it maintained throughout its 20 years of existence. Although the most famous members of the company were Russian (among them the designers Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois, and the composer Igor Stravinsky), Diaghilev commissioned many Western European artists and composers, such as Pablo Picasso and Maurice Ravel, to collaborate on the ballets. Diaghilev's choreographers, Michael Fokine, Polish choreographer Branislava Nijinska, Nijinsky, Russian-born Leonide Massine, Russian-born American George Balanchine, and the Russian-born French dancer and choreographer Serge Lifar, experimented with new themes and styles of movement. The offshoots of the Ballets Russes revitalized ballet all over the world. The Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who danced in its early seasons, formed her own company and toured internationally. Fokine worked with many companies, including the future American Ballet Theatre. Massine contributed to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a company formed after Diaghilev's death. Two former members of the Ballets Russes, the Polish-born Dame Marie Rambert and the British dancer Dame Ninette de Valois, became the founders of British ballet. Rambert's students included choreographers Sir Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, and John Cranko. De Valois founded the company that became Britain's Royal Ballet. Balanchine was invited to work in the United States by Lincoln Kirstein; together they created the New York City Ballet. Serge Lifar worked at the Paris Opera and dominated French ballet for many years. In the 1920s and 1930s, modern dance began to be developed in the United States and Germany. The American dancers Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey, the German dancer Mary Wigman, and others broke away from traditional ballet to create their own expressive movement styles and to choreograph dances that were more closely related to actual human life. Ballets also reflected this move toward realism. In 1932 the German choreographer Kurt Jooss created The Green Table, an antiwar ballet. Antony Tudor developed the psychological ballet, which revealed the inner being of the characters. Modern dance also eventually extended the movement vocabulary of ballet, particularly in the use of the torso and in movements done lying or sitting on the floor. Popular dance forms also enriched the ballet. In 1944 the American choreographer Jerome Robbins created Fancy Free, a ballet based on the jazz-dance style that had developed in musical comedy. The idea of pure dance also grew in popularity. In the 1930s Massine invented the symphonic ballet, which aimed to express the musical content of symphonies by the German composers Ludwig Van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. Balanchine also began to create plotless ballets in which the primary motivation was movement to music. His ballet Jewels (1967) is considered the first evening-length ballet of this type. Two great American ballet companies were founded in New York City in the 1940s, American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet. The latter drew many of its dancers from the School of American Ballet established by Balanchine and Kirstein in 1934. Since the mid-20th century, ballet companies have been founded in many cities throughout the United States and in Canada, among them: the National Ballet of Canada, in Toronto (1951); Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, in Montreal (1952); the Pennsylvania Ballet, in Philadelphia (1963); and the Houston Ballet (1963) and City Ballet in San Diego in 1992.

FIREBIRD
A dramatic ballet in three acts, originally choreographed by Michel Fokine, Firebird was first presented by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes at the Theatre National de l’Opera in Paris on June 25, 1910. The Firebird was danced by Tamara Karsavina, Michel Fokine was Prince Ivan, and Enrico Cecchetti was Kashchei. The Firebird comes from a Russian legend or folk tale and is very magical. The performance presented by City Ballet of San Diego is a condensed version especially for young audiences choreographed Elizabeth Wistrich, resident choreographer. The story of the ballet deals with two types of magical beings: the glittering Firebird who plays the part of the good fairy, and an ogre, Kashchei, the embodiment of evil. When human beings enter the garden of Kashchei, maidens are held captive and men are turned into stone. Kashchei himself is immortal – only so long as his soul, which is preserved in the form of an egg, remains intact. The plot shows how a young prince, Ivan, wanders into Kashchei’s magic garden in pursuit of the Firebird, whom he finds fluttering about. He captures it. To be released, the Firebird gives him a magical feather. Ivan then meets a group of seven maidens and falls in love with one of them, only to find out that she and the other six maidens are princesses under the spell of Kashchei. As he follows them, he is captured by Kashchei’s guardian monsters and is about to suffer the usual penalty of being turned into stone, when he remembers the magic feather. He waves it; and at his summons the Firebird reappears and reveals to him the secret of Kashchei’s immortality. Ivan breaks open the vital egg, and the ogre immediately expires. His enchantments dissolve, all the captives are freed, and Ivan and his Tsarina are betrothed.

EIGHT STRAVINSKY PIECES/DANCES
These lovely suites come from Stravinsky’s Eight Piano Duets originally written from his children, Theodore and Mika. Each of the short pieces contains easy melodies, simple keys and a great deal of humor. The pieces were written after Stravinsky’s world travels, for example, the Espanola was written after his trip to Spain and the Napolitana after his visit to Naples. Between 1917 and 1925, the eight piano duets were orchestrated for a small group of musician. Resident Choreographer Elizabeth Wistrich has retained the humor and created short dances to show the variety and virtuosity of the dancers. Each piece is different in tempo or rhythm but they all have a comic element. They are “Napolitana”, “Polka”, “Andante”, “Galop”, “Marche”, “Espanola”, “Balalaika”, and “Valse”. “Napolitana” and “Espanola” represent Italian and Spanish rhythms. “Balalaika” is a mandolin-like instrument from Russia. “Andante”, “Polka”, “Galop”, “Marche”, and “Valse” are associated with rhythm and tempo. “Andante” is a moderate tempo, at a

walking pace. A galop is a fast 2/4 tempo; a marche also a 2/4 but repetitive; a polka is a Bohemian folk tempo in ¾; and a valse is a waltz in 3/4 tempo, the most popular of the ballroom dances.

Choreographer – Elizabeth Wistrich
Elizabeth Rowe-Wistrich, the Co-Director of City Ballet School, is a nationally respected teacher and choreographer. She was trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music and first danced professionally as a member of the Boston Ballet Company. She has performed with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and the world renowned Stuttgart Ballet. Elizabeth has toured throughout Western Europe, Australia, and Japan, has taken part in a command performance at England’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC. She has served as choreographer and company teacher for both the Arizona Ballet Theatre and American Festival Ballet Company. Her ballets have been performed throughout the United States. In the summers of 1991, 1994, 1995, 1998 Elizabeth was the featured teacher and choreographer for the National Ballet Forum of Chicago. She is the principle choreographer of City Ballet, creating a vigorous repertoire of dances for the company. Elizabeth has been awarded the San Diego Dance Alliance’s Tommy Award for “Best Choreography” for Aubade 1999 an Enigma in 2000.

Igor Stravinsky: Russian (1882 - 1971)
Igor Stravinsky was born in Lomonosov, a town 10 kilometers to the west of St. Petersburg on June 17, 1882. The immediate presence of music in the Stravinsky household fueled young Igor's early love for music. His musical training began at home listening to his father rehearse his roles with opera companies in Kiev and St. Petersburg. At the age of nine, he began piano lessons. However, despite these lessons and frequent trips to the Maryinsky for opera and ballet, his mother and father would not approve a musical career for their son. Instead, they placed him in St. Petersburg University where he studied criminal law and legal philosophy. He graduated in 1905. During his time in St. Petersburg, his growing love for composition lead him to seek out the great composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov who agreed to take him on as a student. In Russia, Tchaikovsky formed a firm foundation for ballet music with Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. It was these works that convinced Stravinsky, a great admirer of Tchaikovsky, that ballet music was a worthwhile pursuit. During the early part of his career, he composed several ballets that enjoyed great visibility, if not

the greatest success, through his collaboration with Serge Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes. In 1910 Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to write the music for a ballet. With a libretto based on a Russian folktale, a fiery rhythmic intensity and complex orchestration, The Firebird was on the cutting edge of European art. The music was said to be so unfamiliar that Diaghilev's leading ballerina, Anna Pavlova, refused to dance it. For her, the aggression in Stravinsky's music was a far cry from the danceable melodies she heard in Tchaikovsky. She was replaced with Tamara Karsavina who danced the role of the firebird for the Paris premiere. The ballet's choreographer, Michel Fokine, partnered her. Stravinsky continued his collaboration with Diaghilev adding his ballets Petrushka (1911) and Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) to the repertoire. Both ballets built on his already established Russian themes taken from history and folklore and through them, Stravinsky continued to cultivate his personal musical style. Stravinsky's style in these ballets is described as aggressive, percussive, and sometimes mechanical. With each piece he was moving away from the Romanticism of his predecessors. Sacre, in particular, caused quite a stir at its premiere in Paris. In 1926, Stravinsky met yet another one of Diaghilev's young protégés. George Balanchine had left Russia and was touring Europe with a small group of Russian dancers when Diaghilev invited them all to join his company. In 1928, Balanchine set what would become one of his masterpieces to Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète. It was the end of Stravinsky's time with The Ballets Russes (the company folded when Diaghilev died the following year), but the beginning of a collaboration that would continue beyond Stravinsky's death in 1971 as Balanchine continued to put dance to his compositions until the last, Persephone, in 1982. Ultimately, what the partnership between Stravinsky and Balanchine gave audiences what an enhanced experience of each artist's work. Stravinsky applauded the choreography for bringing out physical nuances in the music, and the music served as a constant inspiration for Balanchine. Balanchine went as far as to express to one interviewer that his relationship with Stravinsky mirrored the collaboration between Petipa and Tchaikovsky in the nineteenth century. Despite so many new possibilities, Stravinsky insisted that true freedom was in selfimposed restraint. Maneuvering through these barriers is what drove his musical inventions, not divine inspiration or the need for emotional expression. "Music," he said, "by its very nature, is essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc…. Expression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its existence." Much like Balanchine, Stravinsky concentrated on "execution" over "interpretation" so that technique and structure spoke volumes without a necessary emotional accompaniment.

California Standards
Connections, Relations and Applications – Connecting and applying what is learned at the performance to other art forms or subject areas. Create a drawing of your favorite moment in the performance. Make a diorama of the stage set for “Firebird”. Make a design for a different costume for one of the dancers. Make a sculpture of a dancer. Write a letter to the dancers describing what was most interesting about the performance. Write a review. Make up your own Fairy tale or legend. Discuss what fairy tales and legends do for the culture of a nation. What do legends reflect about peoples’ needs and dreams? Choose and read other Russian legends and ones from other countries. Find out if they have similarities or if the are very different. Do legends have any bearing on the history or politics of a nation? Discuss the differences musically in Firebird and Eight Stravinsky Pieces. What do you notice about the rhythm and tempo from one piece to the next? Does the tempo have an emotional influence? Describe the difference between “Andante” and “Marche”, “Polka” and “Valse”. Listen to Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz” and compare it to Stravinsky’s “Valse”. Some of the music in these ballets is counted in 2/4, ¾, 4/4 time. Listen to other pieces of music in these tempos and discern the differences in speed, feeling or mood. Stravinsky also wrote work in varied tempi, so that choreographers and dancers have to count constantly to stay with/in the music. It isn’t even the same number of counts per measure! i.e. 123,12345,1234567,123,1234, 123456789, 123, 123, 123….. There’s a ballet joke that says “Why do dancers make bad mathematicians? Answer: Because they can only count to eight! Which is not true! They count to eight a whole lot and then there’s Stravinsky!

Theater Etiquette The following are suggestions for proper and courteous behavior in the theater. Note that the audience has a role to play. Audiences in general, will receive better performances if they are involved in the story and are supporting the performers, not distracting them.  Enter the theater in an orderly fashion. Ushers will seat you.  Do not eat or drink in the theater. No food or drinks are permitted in the theater.  Turn off your cell phone.  When the lights are dimmed all talking stops. There is absolutely no talking during the performance.  Audience members may show their appreciation of an artist’s performance by applause.  Whistling is unacceptable.  No flash photography is allowed.  No recording of any kind is permitted.  Feet stay on the ground, never on the seat in front.  Use restrooms before the performance, at intermission or at the end of the performance.  At the end of a performance the audience will show its appreciation by applauding. If the performance has been especially good, an appreciative audience will stand.


								
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