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For years, I have been going to see the San Francisco Ballet with a friend who loves the ballet and has season tickets. Last week we saw that company's Swan Lake, and the week before, a documentary film called Ballets Russes. I make no claim to any expertise or special knowledge of ballet, but since when has the Coffeeblogger refrained from commenting on any artistic topic?
Swan Lake is a more than an ordinary ballet, which the San Francisco Ballet has been performing since 1940. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Russian who composed the score, and the great choreographers and dancers who created the performances, were mythmakers par excellence. The story is of a prince, ordered to marry by his parents, who meets, by the lake, and falls in love with the White Swan, a young woman who has been changed from human to bird by an evil magician. The magician tries to marry off his own daughter, the Black Swan, to the prince by disguising her as his true love. The prince and the White Swan evade his plan, but only by leaping into the lake, ending their lives.
The film Ballets Russes concerns a ballet company (the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo) which not only dominated the 20th Century ballet scene in Europe and the Americas but reportedly made ballet fans of countless North and South Americans. Like the two swans in Swan Lake, there were actually two rival Ballets Russes companies who toured the world. Given the economics of the ballet world, anyone who can create a company and take it on tour is a magician. In the film there were multiple magicians: three impresarios, one Russian, one French, and one American, three choreographers (four if you count Balanchine), and many dancers who are now legendary. The original Ballets Russes made its reputation on the talent of teenage stars (one was actually 12), known as the Baby Ballerinas. In the film these ballerinas, now old women, are interviewed and provide much of the narration. The story, though a true one, is every bit as incredible as that of the Prince and the Swans in Swan Lake.| Technorati Tags: Ballet Swan Lake Swan Dance
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