What Happened to Our Ballets?
Black Swan pas de deux was supposed to be a pas de quatre? At Pacific Northwest Ballet’s recent Works and Process presentation, dance historian Doug Fullington revealed how some of ballet’s most iconic pas de deux have morphed since the 19th century. He explained that choreography labeled “After Petipa” can mean that it is once or even twice (“based on a ‘based on’ ”) removed from Petipa’s original choreography, or just done in the Petipa style.
The Blue Bird Pas de Deux from
The Sleeping Beauty
● It was originally supposed to be a pas de quatre featuring the Blue Bird, Princess Florine, Cinderella and Prince Charming.
● Enrico Cecchetti, the first to dance the role of Blue Bird, might have contributed to the choreography.
● In today’s version, the music slows to accommodate the bigger jumps and more turns that dancers now perform.
● The notated version contains side lifts, which were popular in that era.
The Wedding Pas de Deux from
The Sleeping Beauty
● The notated version shows more pantomime and no fish dive, which is believed to have been added by Diaghilev in 1921.
● The Gold and Sapphire fairies were supposed to dance after the adagio, but the notations are too convoluted to make out the exact choreography.
The Black Swan Pas de Deux from
● The music had to undergo major “surgery,” as it was initially written for Act I.
● The original choreography was a “pas de quatre demi d’action” featuring Odile, Prince Siegfried, Von Rothbart (who is called “Evil genie” in the notation) and a mysterious “Cavalier” character. The pas d’action aspect suggests that it was intended to be a narrative with pantomime rather than a technically challenging scene.
● Odile was not very swan-like at first. In 1895, she was just an enchantress in a colorful costume. Dancers started to wear black and be referred to as the Black Swan only in the 1940s.
● Odile’s signature 32 fouettes were notated in 1895 and were believed to be first performed by Pierina Legnani, an Italian ballerina who introduced the step in Cinderella (although fouettes didn’t remain in that ballet).