Next Week, Swan Lake
Reflections on Dance and Dances
Publication Year: 1982
Published by: Wesleyan University Press
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List of Illustrations
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1. The Problems of Swan Lake
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So you are going to see Swan Lake, the great and long-admired classic. I hope you enjoy it. But what, precisely, are you going to see? Swan Lake, first produced in Moscow in 1877 with choreography by Julius Wenzel Reisinger and music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was dropped from the repertory of the Bolshoi Theatre after five years of apparently mediocre productions...
2. Actions and Passions, Airs and Graces
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Anthropologist Adrienne Kaeppler has defined dance as "a cultural form that results from creative processes which manipulate human bodies in time and space." She continues with a warning: "Every society has its own way of thinking about its cultural forms and what is aesthetically relevant for one society will not necessarily be aesthetically relevant for another." To illustrate she cites three cultural forms of Japan: mikagura, performed in Shinto shrines, buyo, performed in Kabuki drama, and bon, performed to honor the dead...
3. The Girdle of Venus
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The story comes from the Iliad, but I will use the Roman names, since they are more frequently associated with this particular episode. It begins with the predicament of Juno. She and Jove are having marital problems, but she has a favor to ask of him; the situation, she feels, requires more than tact on her part, and she appeals to Venus for help. Venus, possessor of "all the suavities and charms of love," takes from under her breast a brocaded girdle. "From this come her enchantments: allurement of the eyes, hunger of longing."...
4. The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing!
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Virtuosity, epitomizing the dancer's mastery of the ordinary impediments to human movement, is a palpitation of the heart for the fan and a pain in the neck for the theorist. "Wow!" screams the aficionado as the dancer leaps (after performing a far more difficult feat of balance quite unnoticed by the audience). "But my dear," intones the purist, "there was no dramatic motivation for that display. Simply playing to the gallery."...
5. What does the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" Mean?
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This was the question I once asked in the course of an article, and a learned gentleman wrote to tell me that indeed he thought it did mean something, so I wrote back to ask him what did he think it meant. That was several years ago, and I'm still waiting for his answer....
6. Verbs of Motion
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Perhaps the Russians dance so well because their language is so responsive to nuances of movement. From childhood they are made aware of, become sensitive to, the most subtle distinctions of motion, because their verbs are capable of extraordinary precision. With a bit of a prefix or the change of a vowel, a single word may mean: to set out, to go by, to approach, to get as far as, to arrive, to enter, to come upon, to drop in on, to make the rounds, to cross,...
7. Lebedinoe Ozero by Any Other Name
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Whether it is called Lebedinoe Ozero or Lac des Cygnes or Svanesï¿½en or Lago dei Cigni or Schwanensee or Swan Lake, it is with us and seems likely to stay around for some time to come. It is here but it is never the same; no two performances are ever exactly alike and some practically challenge our powers of recognition. Yet we seem to have this idea of a work by which we measure any particular performance...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1982