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Thread: What Ballets Besides "Swan Lake" Would Make a Good Competitive Skating Program?

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    What Ballets Besides "Swan Lake" Would Make a Good Competitive Skating Program?

    In the Le Cafe folder, we've been trying to think up thread topics to fill in the time between now and Euros and Worlds. This is one of them.

    My choices for ballets that would make good competitive skating programs and why--talking mainly singles and pairs, though some would suit ice dance as well are the following:

    "La Bayadere": Robin Wagner used this for Sarah's LP last season and because there was so much focus on what Sarah was going to do--stay eligible, go to school, etc.--the choreography kind of got lost in the shuffle, I thought. But aside from "cover the boobs" arm position, I thought the music worked very well for skating and that Wagner created a very successful LP.

    "In the Upper Room": This is a modern ballet by Twyla Tharp to a score by Phillip Glass. Glass composed the music accodring to Tharp's specifications and as such I don't think the actual score would be available for use by a figure skater because of copyright laws. However, Glass has composed a number of film scores--"The Thin Blue Line," "The Hours," and the current "The Fog of War"--which skaters could use. I think one could use "In the Upper Room" as inspiration (It literally blew me back into me seat) and as a way of combining speed and fluidity. There's no story, just an exploration of the concept of death, rebirth, and transcendance. I think for a skater such as Plushenko, Sasha Cohen, Klimkin, Yoshie Onda, Miki Ondo or Joubert, or pair teams such as Shen and Zhao, it would be a real standout in a sea of traditional classical music, sort of the way Joubert's SP to Pink Floyd and Plush's "St. Petersburg 300" worked.

    "Suite Saint Saens": Seeing the Joffrey Ballet do this work by Gerald Arpino in the Altman film "The Company" reminded me of how thrilling it was to see this piece back in the late '70s. It is almost the definition of bravura dancing. Dance critic Deborah Jowitt describeed the effect "Like dancers shot out of cannons." Saint Sains has written some stunning violin concertos that have not been explored. Again, "Suite Saint Saens" would serve mainly as inspiration. Like "In the Upper Room" it is an abstract storyless ballet, but it's not without theme.

    "Coppelia": Like "Swan Lake" this ballet has a lot of beautiful music where the skater would not have to be the doll Coppelia, but it could inspire a lot of insteresting movement.

    "The Red Shoes Ballet": In the movie "The Red Shoes" a ballet is created about a woman who puts ona pair of red dancing shoes. She cannot stop dancing and eventually dances herself to death. Again I think a skater could use the major themes of the ballet without trying to be the character. The music is also gorgeous.

    The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" ballet from "The King and I": Without doing all the specifics, I've always wanted to see a skater use this music and this piece and inspiration. It even has a section with ice

    The ballet dream sequence from "Oklahoma!" [EDIT: Just realized Berthes Ghost had this in another post. Sorry Berthe, didn't mean to steal]: Could be great as a pairs program, but a singles lady could do a version of Laurie as well. I think there's a lot that could be done with the music without getting too much into the characters.

    The ballet sequence from "Carousel": Pretty much for the same reasons as above.

    "Le Sylphide," "Serenade": These ballets are similar in that they are the epitome of the white tulle, lyrical sylph ballet. On the right skater--say Yukina Ota--a program using the music from either one could be gorgeous.

    "Jewels": This is one of George Balanchine's most popular ballets and consists of couples dancing as rubies, emeralds,, and diamonds. If a skater or pair team chose one "jewel" I think it would make a beautiful program.

    "The Nutcracker": Ilia Kulik did a program to "Waltz of the Flowers," which most people would never think of for a male skater. I just interpreted the music--no flowers in his hair, lol--and I thought it was stunning. There is a lot of music in "The Nutrcracker" which might not be the greatest music for music sake, but for dance or skating, I think I could be very effective. The "Arabian" dance from Act III could make a great SP, and "Snow" from Act II could work for pairs or singles, male or female. Pairs have used the pas de deux from Act III, but I think there is a lot in "The Nutcracker" that would be interesting.


    Here's a question: Why do you think skaters keep skating to the same music from the same ballets over and over--"Carmen" and "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and "Swan Lake." I know a lot people want to use something that's been successful, but the warhorses usually end up just being compared to the previous 50 tims other skaters have used them. Remember how stunning Angela was when she first used "Giselle"? I'd like to see more of that.
    Rgirl
    Last edited by Rgirl; 01-31-2004 at 09:01 PM.

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    I agree about "Coppelia" -- there's some great music there and I'm surprised it hasn't been used more often. There are also some great selections from "Gaite Parisienne" that never get used. I'd also like to see someone use music from "Sylvia".

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    JohnnyCoop,
    "Gaite Parisienne" is a great idea! I used to dance around in my petticoats to that in my livingroom when my parents weren't around, lol. I think this would be great for Jenny.

    "Sylvia" is also inspired. Very few ballet companies even use it, and Pollen's music is so gorgeous. Who do you think should skate it?
    Rgirl

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    there are many many pieces of ballet music that would be suited for figure skating as there are for all kinkds of music. One doesn't have to rely on ballet music. What is a good general type of music for skaters is one that makes the skater flow over the ice. In ballet music, I would suggest the cut of the music. there is beautiful music in Tschaikowsky ballets but one must cut them properly to the advantage of the skater. Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Ridchard Rodges, Cole Porter all have some ballet music in their musicals just as Stavrinsky, Profoviev, Delibe, Ravel, Saint Saens, de Failla, etc., etc.,

    Much depends on the cut of the music for skating purposes. If it can be danced, it can be skated but with care.

    Sasha's Swan Lake makes a good cut, imo. It has much bravura music which is her style, yet it has some beautiful adagio which she can handle. For me, this is an example of good ballet music put to good use.

    Joe

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    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    Well, as Emily LaTella said in the previous thread:

    "My current favorite is 'The Prodigal Son'.

    Not a ballet per se, but 'Oklahoma' would make a great pairs routine "out of my dreams and into your arms..."

    'Billy the Kid" would be cool too."
    Here's a question: Why do you think skaters keep skating to the same music from the same ballets over and over--"Carmen" and "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and "Swan Lake."
    Honesty, I think it's because skaters live in a vacumn. I experienced it with Architecture and I'm sure you found something similar with Dance. A small group of people living almost every waking second in a little studio/ice rink. It's not like anyone has the time or inclination to go out in the world and expose themselves to other things. It's a canabalistic environment. At college I shocked everyone by doing the impossible: I read

    Add to this all of the idol worship: "When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to be Kat Witt. I thought she was gorgeous."etc...

    OT, but just a mini rant about "Carmen" to get it off my chest: If I have to hear on more little girl say she identifies with Carmen because they have similar personalities I'm gonna retch!

    I did see Kat say this in an interview recently and initailly I was like "Hello! She fooled around with other women's husbands, she got into cat fights at work, she maniputaled and fooled a guy (and the law) in order to escape responsibility/liability, she treated him like dog doo, rejected the love of a good man, took up with a more flash guy out of either boredom or shallowness or both,etc..." Then I thought for a second and said, "Oh, maybe Kat IS just like Carmen after all."

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    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    You guys should check out this site: http://www.skatemusiclist.com/classical_a_l.html it lists a lot of things, like who skater to "Gaite Parisienne" for example.
    warhorses usually end up just being compared to the previous 50 tims other skaters have used them. Remember how stunning Angela was when she first used "Giselle"? I'd like to see more of that.
    I think that "Giselle" is heading down the 'warhorse' path. I have yet to see Angela's :( but I liked Nicole's LP form 97, and the Stieglers Lp from back when they still had promiss was very pleasant. Katia's pro singles debut was nice too, but I'm sorry to say that I was too distracted by the blue skirt with tidy-whity panties peaking thru during jumps and spins. Talk about Humbert Humbert. A little too Henry Darger for me.

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    Keeper of Michelle's Nose berthes ghost's Avatar
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    OT, but I love having my student read this article:http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstrac...AB0994DB404482

    Perhaps Kristi, for example, could have performed to one of the ballets mentioned.

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    Originally posted by Rgirl
    JohnnyCoop,
    "Gaite Parisienne" is a great idea! I used to dance around in my petticoats to that in my livingroom when my parents weren't around, lol. I think this would be great for Jenny.

    "Sylvia" is also inspired. Very few ballet companies even use it, and Pollen's music is so gorgeous. Who do you think should skate it?
    Rgirl
    ITA agree about Jenny!! I think this would be perfect for her! I like her ballet-oriented programs anyway, but the last couple she's done just haven't really been able to capture some of the best aspects of her personality and style, IMO.

    Who should skate to Sylvia? Hmmmmmmm..... I'll have to listen to it again and get back to you on it. The music is actually by Delibes -- unless you're referring to a different Sylvia than the one I'm thinking of.

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    "In the Upper Room": This is a modern ballet by Twyla Tharp to a score by Phillip Glass. Glass composed the music accodring to Tharp's specifications and as such I don't think the actual score would be available for use by a figure skater because of copyright laws. However, Glass has composed a number of film scores--"The Thin Blue Line," "The Hours," and the current "The Fog of War"--which skaters could use. I think one could use "In the Upper Room" as inspiration (It literally blew me back into me seat) and as a way of combining speed and fluidity. There's no story, just an exploration of the concept of death, rebirth, and transcendance. I think for a skater such as Plushenko, Sasha Cohen, Klimkin, Yoshie Onda, Miki Ondo or Joubert, or pair teams such as Shen and Zhao, it would be a real standout in a sea of traditional classical music, sort of the way Joubert's SP to Pink Floyd and Plush's "St. Petersburg 300" worked.
    Philip Glass did a great score to "Kundun" as well. He's great.

    Nicole's already done LP's to Giselle and Gaite Parisienne (and I suppose the Nutcracker as well), so I think she's already on your wavelength.

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    Re "Sylvia" -- for some reason, I'm thinking Ann Patrice McDonough. Of course, she might have to straighten out that attitude problem first.... :/

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    ADDENDUM:

    There is a ballet called "Gayeneh" by Khatchuturian that has a fantastic section called "Dawn/Ayeshe's Dance" which would make a terrific free dance for just the right couple. No-one comes readily to mind, however. Possibly Anissina/Peizerat, tho it's hard to picture them doing it the way I have it in mind with all that hair of theirs getting in the way!!

    The "Gypsy Dance" from "Henry VIII" by Saint-Saens would make an excellent short program in pairs (and it's just the right length at 2:10!!). Surprisingly, I can see Scott & Dulebohn doing this.

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    JonnyCoop,
    Idiot Rgirl strikes again. George Pollen is the biographer of Léo Delibes. D'oh!

    You've got great ideas, JC. I'm not familiar with "Gayeneh" by Khatchuturian, but if it would work for Anissina and Peizerat, it's got to be interesting. What about the Russian ice dancers Navka and Kostamarov? They kind of remind me of A/P.


    Berthes Ghost,
    Thanks for the links. As I scrolled down the A-L page, I saw that most pieces had been used from 2 to 5 skaters. One drawback is when the same skater or team uses the piece repeatedly, they count it as separate uses. For example, "Dark Eyes" lists 11 uses, but 10 of them are by Berezhnaya and Sikharluridze--and one by the famous Michael Chack. Also, from what I saw, the list only records music used by skaters from 1980 to 1999. Still, it's a great indicator of which pieces get used the most.

    When I asked the question on the other thread, I ended it with, "Carmen" and "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and "Swan Lake." Just for the heck of it, I made a list of the music with the most uses. I didn't count the ones where a piece was used multiple times by just one or two teams or skaters. Here's what I came up with:

    Carmen 50
    Swan Lake 41 (counting partial uses)
    Malaguena 33
    Nessun Dorma 20 (counting Nancy Kerrigan who used Vanessa Mae's "Fantasy on Nessun Dorma")
    Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini (Rachmaninoff) 18
    Samson & Delilah (Saint-Saens) 18
    Romeo & Juliet (Tchaikovsky) 17 (counting partial uses)
    Don Quixote 15
    Romeo & Juliet (Prokofiev) 15
    Madame Butterfly 14
    Spartacus (Khatchaturian) 14
    Sleeping Beauty 12
    Toccata and Fugue in D Minor 12
    Moonlight Sonata 11 (counting partial uses)
    Rhaphsody in Blue 10
    Ave Maria (Schubert) 9
    Masquerade Waltz 8
    Meditation from Thais 4 (I put this in because although I know this piece was used A LOT from the '40s through the '70s, it seems to have fallen out of favor in the last 20 years.)

    I guess my guess at "Carmen" and "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and "Swan Lake" was a good guess, LOL!

    It's not that I don't think these warhorses can still be used--I loved Arakawa's techno "Swan Lake" SP--and I agree with Joe that Tarasova used some interesting cuts for Sasha that for the most part stayed away from the "famous theme." I also agree that Sasha has done a nice job with it--technical problems aside--but in the last two years Sasha has skated to the top three warhorses I certainly hope Robin Wagner changes that. I think Sasha could be much more interesting as a skater if she used more unique and interesting music.

    Re the second link from the NEW YORK TIMES, since it costs $2.95, could you give us an idea of what's in the article? You can tell from the first paragraph that they're talking about a pregnant skater, I'm just curious as to which ballets she did.

    Speaking of which, about a decade before I joined the company I danced with, RDT, one of its former members became pregnant and was about 7-8 months pregnant when RDT made its NY debut. Rather than replace her, one of the other company members choreographed a duet specifically for a woman at her stage of preganancy and one of the male dancers. She also danced in a couple of the other pieces, fully pregnant in her leotards and tights.

    Also, ITA that the repetitive use of certain pieces of music is because skaters live in an insular world, plus the whole thing of idol worship and my point of wanting to use music that has "proven" its success.

    Yes, I did find the "small world" problem in dance, even though I was in modern dance, which is supposed to promote the unique ideas of the individual. Not so much anymore. In some segments of the modern world, choreographers still continue to explore all kinds of music and sound, including no sound, for their choreography. One of my favorite dancer/choreographers, Douglas Dunn, once recorded the sound of a sprinkler as the "score" for a dance. Another time he used a classic Hawaiin hula, with Dunn, at age 50 with the cutest tiny little belly (he's very thin) in authentic grass skirt. My kind of guy

    But in my company, which was typical of what most modern dance companies became after 1980, what we called "whitebread middle class modern dance," there was so much need for funding to stay afloat that the not-very-creative directors tried to appeal to what they thought audiences wanted. When I first started with RDT in 1976, we did a piece based on Brecht's "Mother Courage and her Children," for which the score was a sound collage using some of the themes from Mahler's Symphony No. 1, both the orchestral parts and a whistled version. We did the Dunn piece with the sprinkler score; a piece to Vivaldi (had to have a pretty one, lol); and a piece to a score by Steve Reich. After that, the directorship changed and became even more conservative and frankly, kitschy. All of a sudden we're doing pieces to Pachelbel's "Canon" and other such "challenging" music. Don't get me wrong, I was just as happy to dance to Bach as I was to a harp solo by Lalo Schifrin, but the goal of the directors became to do works that were as middle-of-the-road as possible and that would never, ever possibly offend anybody. We did a few interesting works, but you're absolutely right about being in a vacuum.

    Once one of the directors saw me reading DH Lawrence's "The Rainbow." She said, in all seriousness, "You sure read mondo intellectual books." DH Lawrence? "Mondo" intellectual? Still, even with what I read and having a broader educational background than most dancers, when I had to quit dancing because of an injury, I discovered very quickly how small and isolated my world had been. Cannibalistic is a very good word.

    With skating, add to the problem that most of the elite skaters are tutored for a lot of their education, meaning they miss out on all the social information as well as the possibility of getting a unique teacher who can serve as an artistic mentor. When you're only exposed to a limited amount of music and movement, and you're in your mid-teens to early 20s, I think most people tend to gravitate toward the popular stuff. The reason it's popular is that such music is composed in a way that's easy to listen to and that gives instant gratification. I'm not saying that's bad or that skaters should do programs to Webern (although I think sections of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto could work), but one thing I especially liked about most of Lori Nichols' programs for Michelle is that she found music that was both good for skating and interesting. Also, at least in the first few years, she found a way to work with Michelle so she could emotionally relate to music that most people that age and with her background might find difficult.

    Maybe the COP can be tweaked so that points are deducted for using any of the top 10 on the above list, lol. But somehow I think we'll still be seeing programs using the warhorses as much as always. Sigh.
    Rgirl
    Last edited by Rgirl; 02-01-2004 at 06:59 PM.

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    Resident Kristi Fan purplecat's Avatar
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    I'm not too familiar with all of the ballet music you posted, but I loved Kristi and Rudy's LP to Coppelia and I loved Brian Boitano's pro program to Carousel!

    Question about Red Shoes...Is this the music that Meno and Sand used for an SP in 1994 and Roca and Sur for part of one of their free dances-95 maybe? I'm not sure.

    I think the reasons why skaters reuse pieces like Carmen, Swan Lake, etc. so often are because:

    a)It's very skateable music.
    b)It's very good music.
    c)It's familiar music which could help an audience get into your program.
    d)It's safer than using some unknown music where you take a risk that the judges and audience won't get it.

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    I agree with Joe that it's not necessary to use ballet music for skating. Though, I think some parts of the Jewels can work for skating.

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    Rgirl:

    You have made some wonderful suggestions here; I love the music from "The Hours" by Phillip Glass and would love to see someone skate to it.

    Romeo and Juliet has been used as well.

    Your question:

    Why do you think skaters keep skating to the same music from the same ballets over and over--"Carmen" and "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and "Swan Lake."

    It probably has to do with the choreorgrapher or even the coach. This music is very familiar to everyone and easy to skate to. Not all skaters are suited to skating to ballet music as well. Angela N. had ballet training; one can see how she uses her arms as a ballet dancer does. Oksana B. also knows how to use her arms in a balletic program. I actually prefer her "Swan Lake" interpretation to Sashas. To me Sasha just skates to the music, Oksana interprets the music.

    Nice topic.

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