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Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress

Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress

Tim Scholl
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress
    Book Description:

    In 1999 the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet and Theater in St. Petersburg re-created its 1890 production ofSleeping Beauty. The revival showed the classic work in its original sets and costumes and restored pantomime and choreography that had been eliminated over the past century. Nevertheless, the work proved unexpectedly controversial, with many Russian dance professionals and historians denouncing it. In order to understand how a historically informed performance could be ridiculed by those responsible for writing the history of Russian and Soviet ballet, Tim Scholl discusses the tradition, ideology, and popular legend that have shaped the development of Sleeping Beauty. In the process he provides a history of Russian and Soviet ballet during the twentieth century.A fascinating slice of cultural history, the book will appeal not only to dance historians but also to those interested in the arts and cultural policies of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12882-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. A Note on the Text
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Genre Trouble
    (pp. 1-29)

    Like many stage works now regarded as classic,Sleeping Beautyreceived a decidedly mixed reception at its premiere in 1890. Sharp differences in critical opinion revealed new faults developing in the terra firma of Russian ballet. Ironically, given thatSleeping Beautycame to be regarded as the quintessence of late nineteenth-century Russian ballet, a number of the ballet’s first critics were certain thatSleeping Beautymarked the decline of the art form. And these general condemnations had little to do with the choreography, which was mostly appreciated when noticed at all. Instead, writers noted that the ballet’s music, visuals, and...

  6. Chapter 2 Legends of Sleeping Beauty (What Becomes a Legend Most?)
    (pp. 30-63)

    One criticism ofSleeping Beautyremained as relevant in 1999 as in 1890: the charge that the ballet has no action. In 1890 Khudekov complained, “they dance, fall asleep, and dance again” (Peterburgskaya gazeta,5 January 1890). The dance writers of Khudekov’s era displayed a marked preference for swashbuckling tearjerkers, though a few ofBeauty’sfirst critics defended the fantastic plot: “Why chase the tale from the realm of choreography, even if there was no drama in the most recent one? A fairy tale can also have its meaning, sometimes even a highly instructive one” (Novoe vremya,22 January 1890)....

  7. Chapter 3 Achieving Symphonism (The Soviet Ballet in Theory)
    (pp. 64-100)

    If the 1890Sleeping Beautymarked the creative apogee of nineteenth-century Russian ballet, the system that brought that ballet to the stage was fast approaching obsolescence by the turn of the century. Even before two revolutions questioned the validity of “Imperial” Theaters, progressive dance-makers, dance writers, and dance-goers had begun to refer to the Petipa ballet as the “old” ballet. For a time, the “new” ballet was little more than a set of aspirations for the art form, but a recognizably different body of new works soon took shape; notably, the Duncan-influenced works of Michel Fokine and the Stanislavsky-influenced works...

  8. Chapter 4 Red Auroras (The Soviet Ballet in Practice)
    (pp. 101-130)

    In the first three tumultuous years to follow the decisive October 1917 Revolution,Sleeping Beautyremained the most frequently performed full-length ballet in the repertory of the former Maryinsky Theater at a time when revolution and civil war made conditions in the theaters miserable.¹ During the 1919–20 season, for example, fuel shortages left the former Imperial Theaters unheated; dancers performed in sweaters, and ballerinas caught pneumonia. Power outages prevented daytime rehearsals. George Balanchine, then a student in the theater school, dined on the stray cats he caught in the street (Frame 163, Buckle 13).² Even if activists for a...

  9. Chapter 5 Bringing Beauty Back
    (pp. 131-172)

    If the 1890 productionSleeping Beautywas meant to awake, like Aurora, from a long sleep in 1999, the revival seemed more like Giselle emerging from the grave to some: the production returned to haunt members of a St. Petersburg ballet public that loved to reminiscence about 1890 but actually preferred that the past remain there. Like all reconstructions, the 1890 /1999 production ofSleeping Beautyoccupied a strange half-life: it was neither a truly radical nor a genuinely conservative gesture. Yet the ghosts that accompanied the production to the stage demonstrated that the 1890Sleeping Beautyhad neither disappeared...

  10. Appendix: Reviews of the 1890 Production
    (pp. 173-218)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 219-232)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 233-240)
  13. Index
    (pp. 241-242)