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Ballets: The Flames of Paris

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I have never seen the full performance and what I have seen are 1 or 2 clips of variations. I have allways wanted to see it cause it looks amazing from the clips I have seen.


Why is this such a rare piece?

Who originally choreographed it?

Is it like the balanchine pieces, in that only a selected few can teach it?



Thanks a ton,



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Flames of Paris was a ballet choreographed in 1932 by Vasily Vainonen to music arranged by Boris Asafiev out of materials originally composed by rococo-era composers and French folk themes. The ballet was premiered at the old Maryinsky Theater, and it was a popular favorite for awhile, as well as politically correct (ballets featuring aristocrats getting beheaded were so right for Stalin's Russia).


It is just this second feature that has been the whole ballet's downfall. It was a favorite of Sergei Kirov's, who was a political rival of Stalin's, and who somehow ended up dead one day. Things he liked did not prosper. Secondly, it suffered from being insufficiently Russian in theme and characters, and that didn't go over big in Soviet Russia. Thirdly, it suffered from relentless historical anti-Semitism. Its composer, Asafiev, was Jewish. Lastly, it is a "cutting edge" ballet from 1932 and it is now 2005. Time has moved on, and nothing is old-hat as period topical material.


The pas de deux itself, separate from the whole ballet, has served for years as a showpiece for Bolshoi and Kirov dancers, and they have preserved it without the political baggage it came freighted with. They do, however, admit that it's old-fashioned.

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So the big reason it isn't performed is because it is "old fashioned"??


Cause I was trying to work out why it was choreographed in 1932 but the whole ballet wasn't performed again till 1972 when David (I think thats his name) and Anna-Marie Holms set it on ABT

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Now, I was on active duty in the Air Force during 1972, but I don't remember any full restaging of that ballet by the Holmeses then. The whole thing is 3 acts and just over four hours long. That's another strike against it. The pas de deux is about the only thing easily excerpted from the rest of the ballet. And that has been a "highlights" favorite for years on programs of that nature, no matter what happened to the rest of the ballet.

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1972 was the first time since the premier that the pas de deux was performed.


Well that would explain why it is never performed. 4 hours is a long ballet.


Thanks for answering my questions.

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1972 was the first time since the premier that the pas de deux was performed. 


Outside of a Russian company, that is. I remember seeing it done by the Bolshoi (pas de deux only) at the old Metropolitan Opera House in the 1962 tour. And my mistake, the dang thing is FOUR acts long, in seven scenes. I think I've still got the program around here somewhere! (Probably in my basement)

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I've seen part of it on public television, more than just the pas de deux with variations, which had been taught at my old studio. It has action scenes that are difficult to pull off impressively in a theatrical production, now that we're used to movies—the storming of the Bastille was more ridiculous than sublime. I had the feeling the ballet as a whole was mothballed deservedly. I kept expecting to see Madame Lafarge with her knitting. :shrug:

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No, no, must not have Madame LaFarge. Have to pay capitalist royalties to Dickens! :shrug:


That's what I meant about "old-fashioned". It was sort of the twirl-the-moustache nya-ha-haaa villain-still-pursued 'er mellerdrammer that went out with talking movies. Only set in the French Revolution. The Maly used to keep a version of it until, I think, the Khrushchev period, when agitprop really went out of fashion.

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It's really important to remember these great "highlights" of the ballet world that have had their supporting structure otherwise forgotten. I always wondered why in the "Flower Festival in Genzano" pas de deux, I had one arm at my shoulder and the other holding my partner's hand. Seems that this was another of those mellerdrammer ballets and the pas de deux couple has walked out into the country just to be together (and get away from the villain), and he has a little straw hat and a bolero jacket, which at the top of the pas de deux he has slung artistically over his shoulder. He lays both of them down, and the pas de deux ensues. The same goes for Kitri's entrance in Act I of Don Quixote. I never knew why one of the linking steps was different from the link to the previous cross of grands jetés. When I saw the original scene design for that act, there is a table down left, so Kitri had to modify her vocabulary in order to miss that piece of set dressing. Details, details!

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We found an old tape of FLames of Paris at the library. It is very funny to watch the whole ballet. I kept expecting to see Snidely Whiplash coming out onto the stage. It is very easy to see it as a Soviet propaganda piece--the whole down with the aristocrats, up with the people theme overshadows the dancing.

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  • 4 months later...

Sorry to resurrect this old thread, but my DD has taken an interest in learning this variation and would like a video of it (mainly the female variation-- think YAGP solo) and I would like to get it for her as a gift, but could anyone tell me if it's available and who dances it on DVD? Thanks!

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There's a video called Stars of the Russian Ballet (Ulanova and Plisetskaya) that says it has Flames of Paris. I found the description on an obscure site. The VHS is also available at Amazon under "new and used" category but I didn't find a description of the contents like the other site.

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For the past two New Year's Eves, there has been a special presentation of Die Fleidermous on PBS (I'm sure I really butchered that spelling) and in this particular presentation Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel danced the pas de deux from "Flames of Paris." I'd be willing to bet that the dvd or video of that production would be available through PBS (I'm thinking KCET.org or something).

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Thank you so much, cheetah and pj! Everyone on this board is so helpful and knowledgeable. I will try to find those for her; I just hope they have the female solo that she wants!

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