Dancing in a new direction

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  January 14, 2010

We hear how Fokine walked out in protest over Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun, how Diaghilev fired Nijinsky after Nijinsky got married and had to go to Russia to retrieve Fokine, how Diaghilev hired Massine to replace Nijinsky as dancer and then fired him when he fell for Vera Savina, how Diaghilev's London production of The Sleeping Princess (the first Sleeping Beauty to be seen outside Russia) ran for more than three months (think of that now!) and was still a financial disaster, how Markova attached rubber tips to her shoes so she wouldn't slip on the shiny floor of Balanchine's La Chatte, how Diaghilev made Prokofiev rewrite the ending of Prodigal four times. De Valois recalls that there were more men than women in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, that it wasn't all about the ballerinas. It's too bad the BBC has never made this film commercially available.\

LE CHANT DU ROSSIGNOL (1920): Or Matisse to do your costumes.
The Pops
The Pops' salute to the Ballets Russes promised music by Russian composers "who composed for Diaghilev or who followed in their footsteps" — as if there weren't more than enough composers (Stravinsky, Ravel, Satie, Falla, Poulenc, Milhaud, Prokofiev) who did write for Diaghilev, never mind all the composers whose music he used (Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Debussy, etc.). In the event, we got a strange assortment: the Chinese March from Stravinsky's Le chant du rossignol, the Polka from Shostakovich's Golden Age, the March from Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges, the Saber Dance from Khachaturian's Gayne, and the Waltz from Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 2. Diaghilev himself was introduced as "one of the most inspirational and causatory" artists of the 20th century — will someone get Keith Lockhart a new scriptwriter?

The evening began with a bit of reverse karaoke: the audience saw the "Danse infernale" from Stravinsky's Firebird performed on a giant screen in the Andris Liepa reconstruction featuring Nina Ananiashvili (the entire ballet is available on the Decca Return of the Firebird DVD) while it heard the Pops playing live and synching — on the whole well — to the performance. Then four women — Adrina DeVitre, Carrie Kerstein, Sara Knight, and Janine Ronayne — from Rebecca Rice Dance, joined by Bradley Schlagheck from the corps of Boston Ballet, came out and did mostly solos and duets to the five pieces of music on a raised floor in front of the stage. None of this was very prepossessing, though I didn't have the best view from my table.

Lockhart ended the 30-minute segment with a rousing performance of the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's opera Prince Igor; the Fokine choreography for this was such a big hit for Diaghilev, I wished we could have seen it danced. That was the end of the salute; the second half of the program was a "Tribute to Oscar and Tony" with Broadway star Ashley Brown.

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Related: 2009: The year in dance, Documentary Man, Reality riffs, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Nina Ananiashvili, Pablo Picasso, Lynn Garafola,  More more >
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