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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pas de Quatre


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This has also been posted on Ballet Talk....Hello, all....I have been asked to help set Pas de Quatre for a school. I vaguely remember learning one of the variations years ago, but was never told who or what it was. I know the names of everybody, but I want to know what each was known for, i.e., why certain arms for one and not the other, etc. Also, things like why does Taglioni have a necklace and bracelet and not the others. The internet has not yielded much info regarding things like this....and for reference, all I have is the Classic Kirov tape, the one with Komleva, etc. (BTW-who is who on the tape? I know I should know this, but alas, I do not), and I have the Nina Ananiashvilli version with herself, Terekhova, Kistler and Gad. Even looking at the two I notice major differences- if anyone can explain the whats and the whys, it would be very much appreciated!!! I want my students not to learn just steps, but the history behind what they are doing as well. Thank you so very much!!!!

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DD did a research paper on Marie Taglioni several years ago. I read one or two of her reference books and learned alot. I particularly found the story about the four divas brought together in one program--each expecting to be THE diva--quite interesting and amusing. The man who pulled it off was quite clever and very silver-tongued. As I recall, the solos were devised so each showed their own specialness and didn't require the dancers to share the stage all that much. I believe Taglioni was several years older than the other three and as such, she was ceded THE diva spot---after it was suggested to the others that since Marie was older . . . . :thumbsup:


My point, really, is that there are several good books at the library that could give you a nice overview of the history surrounding this piece.

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The snake-oil salesman/diplomat who pulled it off was Benjamin Lumley, the director-producer at Her Majesty's Theatre, where the work premiered. There are two lithographs showing the ballet, one by Chalon, and one...not. The Chalon is the one we all know with Taglioni rear and center, but the other shows Taglioni down front and Cerrito in the central position. There are also two relief cuts (aka woodcuts) from the Illustrated London News showing two moments with all four ballerinas dancing. The cuts aren't very detailed, though. Check Cyril Beaumont out for his account of the whole thing. Also Ivor Guest would be a good source.

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For a birthday present I was given a framed print of the "Pas de Quatre". I think it must be an original page from a newspaper as you can actually see the newsprint faintly on the other side. Without destroying the backing I can't find out which paper it was. The print itself has the name SMYTH just below the dancers. Taglioni is in the centre with the others round her. She is not wearing any jewelry thought. It is difficult to decide who is who of the others. To accompany this the friend gave me a photo copy of some pages of a book - but I don't have a title of the book. The chapter heading is "New Ideas in Ballet". In the section about the Pas de Quatre is says that it was Queen Victoria herself who suggested the divertissment to Lumley. This might account for why the rival ballerinas agreed to appear together.

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Her Majesty DID apparently express an idle thought that "it might be nice to see all the best ballerinas in the world dancing together in the same ballet", or some such, but this was not a Command Performance in the usual way. Courtiers got to Lumley, who said he could deliver, and that's the connection. According to one biographer, Bulwer-Lytton, the Queen, while a child, had taken ballet classes from Taglioni herself. The year after the original run of the divertissement, it was repeated, but Lucile Grahn wasn't available to dance it, so her part was taken by Carolina Rosati.

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The photographs can be misleading. I don't think they are actually photographs, but a precursor. The dancers (as others) were rather vain and would often have the photos re-touched----hence the really odd look of the tiny, tiny feet on the end of larger legs. They, apparentlly, liked that look! So, it is possible that, in addition to re-touching the shape/size of their feet (and would look to me like their hands), they could add pearls and jewelry.


It is a very interesting time to read about.

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All of those pictures except the one of the Gautier family are lithographs or relief cuts. That means that they were hand-drawn by an artist, in the former case, on a piece of stone with a writing instrument somewhat like a crayon, which is called a "lithographer's pencil". In the latter example, relief cut, the lines were chiseled into a block of fine-grained wood, like box, and used as a printing plate. As hand productions, they might or might not reflect reality. Anybody remember Hans Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves? Henry VIII thought she looked so good, he married her in absentia, and when she arrived in England, and he saw her in the flesh, apparently lots and LOTS of flesh, he declared her a "great Flanders mare"! He gave her a divorce right away!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does any one know what is the name of the dvd with Pas de Quatre with Nina Ananiashvilli, Terekhova, Kistler and Gad? There is a Nina Ananiashvilli at Amazon but I cannot get details if it includes Pas de Quatre.Thank you.

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I believe the video you are searching for is titled "Nina Ananiashvili & International Stars, Vol. 2"

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