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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballets: Swan Lake

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Art often reflects politics, I think, either promoting it or fighting it. Also bear in mind that the Communists didn't care much about art, so "ruining one of the world's greatest ballets" was probably the last thing on their minds....look at what happened to ballet in China.


It's not only Swan Lake with different endings, though; La Bayadere, one of my favourite ballets, I've seen have at least three different endings: The Russians apparently stop after the Kingdom of the Shades, foregoing the wedding scene entirely; in the Royal Ballet's version, after the temple is destroyed, you see Nikiya leading Solar "on"; and in the Bavarian State Ballet's version, which portrays a much more sympathetic character in Gamzatti, you see Gamzatti, Solar, and Nikiya, presumably in some kind of heaven, at the end. No Nutcracker is completely the same, either. It lends flavour and context to the company, region, or time, I think.

Erik Bruhn's version of Swan Lake sounds kinda odd, though, what would posses him to do that?? :huh:

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bear in mind that the Communists didn't care much about art


That's not an historically accurate statement. The leadership of Soviet Russia, for example, cared a lot about art. Or think of Cuba! And it's not an accurate statement in the light of state funding of art, which was far more highly funded in the USSR and eastern Europe than western Europe, and very much more than in the USA.


It might be that views about what art to value may be different coming from socialist or Marxist political systems than ideas coming from a liberal or neo-liberal political systems.


You only have to look at the work produced in the 1920s in Russia in the visual arts, in ballet and dance, in music, in theatre, to see that they cared a lot about art.


Furthermore, it was a standard practice throughout the whole of the 19th century theatre, for example, to change the endings of tragedies -- producers messed around with the endings of Shakespearean tragedies: Romeo and Juliet was changed to bring the young lovers together, for example.


Yes, art and politics are related, but this happens in neo-liberal, liberal, constitutional monarchies, and socialist political systems. Let's not demonise just "Communists" in an historically inaccurate way.

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Victoria Leigh

Thank you, Redbookish. That is valuable and helpful information.

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Thanks, Ms Leigh. My day job involves research into theatre of the 19th century, and recently I've been working on ballet and the way it became such a dominant & fashionable European art form, and how it related to the politics & ideologies of the times. As several people have noted on this thread, there are always variations of choreography. I find tracing those really fascinating (my main research has been on Giselle).


I'm so lucky that my day job and my personal interests come together in all this!

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Thank you for correcting me, Redbookish! That was fascinating!


I think I perhaps arrived at that conclusion from all the dancers and choreographers who defected or left stating no artistic freedom?

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