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The specifics of the choreographic interpretation of the main characters in the ballet "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021) in the context of modern plastic trends.

Khokhlova Dar'ya

ORCID: 0000-0003-0426-7469

PhD in Art History

Principal Dancer of the Bolshoi Theatre

125009, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Teatral'naya Ploshchad', 1

daria.khokhl@yandex.ru
Other publications by this author
 

 

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8744.2023.1.38325

EDN:

HXNUPC

Received:

25-06-2022


Published:

05-03-2023


Abstract: In this article, an attempt is made to comprehend the features of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters (Zephyr and Flora) by choreographer A.S. Belyakov in the play "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021). This ballet is a modern appeal to the theme of the preromantic ballet Sh. Didlo (early XIX century). Such a plan cannot but be relevant, as well as the study of its creative results, first carried out in this article. Based on the methods of ballet studies analysis approved by Russian historians and ballet theorists (Dobrovolskaya, Krasovskaya, Slonimsky, Surits), the author applied comparative historical, ideological, artistic and analytical methods, as well as the method of included observation (based on personal experience working on the part of Flora). The main research tools were analytical description and semantic analysis of the variation of Zephyr and the duet of Zephyr and Flora. With their help, we managed to draw the following conclusions. The choreographic vocabulary of the fragments is distinguished by an organic combination of classical positions and pas with the author's movements (pictorial, ornamental poses; somewhat broken positions of the arms and body; originally modified technical elements). The dramaturgy of the modern reading of the plot of the pre-romantic ballet is developed by the choreographer by plastic (not pantomime) means in key dance fragments. Thus, the choreographic embodiment of the images of Zephyr and Flora demonstrates an organic synthesis of the ideological idea and the general aesthetics of pre-romantic ballet with the unconventionality and innovation of the modern author's plastic solution.


Keywords:

Zephyr, Flora, Ballet, Artemy Belyakov, Choreographic embodiment, Frederick Venua, Pre - Romanticism, Variation, Duet, Charles Didelot

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The premiere of the one-act anacreotic ballet with singing "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" to a libretto by L.M. Rozov choreographed by A.S. Belyakov took place on October 10, 2021 in Moscow, in the building of the Pashkov House. The score of the play is a compilation of works by A. Venua, O.A. Kozlovsky, P. Metastasio, D.B. Martini. It is noteworthy that the first Moscow production of "Zephyr and Flora" (transfer by A.P. Glushkovsky of the production of Sh. Didlo) to the music of K. Kavos and A. Venyua, took place at the Theater on Mokhovaya, located in the northern wing of the Moscow possessions of the Pashkovs, on October 9, 1817 [4, p.297].

This performance of the XIX century belonged to the ballet d'action, the distinctive feature of which was the predominance of the plot over the choreographic component. In the ballets of this direction, which prepared the statement of the aesthetics of the Romantic era, there was a clear division between pantomime (in which, in fact, the plot developed) and dance numbers, but plastic as a whole was subordinated to the plot development. At the same time, taking into account the possibilities of the dance technique of that time, the ballet Sh. Didlo (and the choreographer carried out a number of his productions in different versions on several European stages) showed a clear desire to improve it: it was in the play "Zephyr and Flora" that the ballerina first rose to the tips of her toes, taking a "position on her toes" (as ballet historian Yu.A. Bakhrushin claims), and in male dance virtuoso technical elements began to stand out [3, p. 66; 4, p. 26].

The period of pre-romanticism, which prepared a cardinal shift in the history of ballet art, was studied in the works of such eminent scientists as Yu.A. Bakhrushin, G.N. Dobrovolskaya, Yu.I. Slonimsky, A. P. Grutsynova [3, 6-9, 18, 19]. In the play "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021), the directors made a modern attempt to recreate such a meaning-forming theme for the development of ballet art two centuries later. Such a plan cannot but be relevant, as well as the study of its creative results, carried out for the first time in this article. Its purpose is to comprehend the features and specifics of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters (Zephyr and Flora) by choreographer A.S. Belyakov (being the current premiere of the Bolshoi Ballet, the choreographer has been actively staging since 2015, having performed a number of productions on the Historical and New stages of the Bolshoi Theater; on the stages of the Yekaterinburg State Opera and Ballet Theater, Chelyabinsk State opera and ballet theater, etc.).

Deciding on the implementation of the modern version of the play "Zephyr and Flora or Metamorphoses", the directors set themselves the task of preserving the ideological idea and the general aesthetics of the ballet of the XIX century.. This concept is expressed in the scenography and costumes stylized for the era of ballet preromanticism (artist - A. Pikalova), as well as in the synthetic composition of the performance, combining ballet and opera scenes. Their shift is not turned into a divertissement. The metamorphoses of ballet and opera characters (and in the play the roles of Zephyr and Flora are performed by both dancers and singers, forming two pairs of main characters) are united by a single dramatic development, the direction of which is designed to establish associative connections in the viewer's perception, using synesthesia as an artistic technique. The central choreographic numbers of the main characters are set to music by F. Venua, it was these musical fragments that were used by Sh. Didelot at the production of the play in London (Covent Garden) in 1812.. These include a variation of Marshmallows and a duet of Marshmallows and Flora. A detailed semantic analysis of these fragments of the performance will help to comprehend the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters.

Consider a variation of Marshmallows. The dance fragment consists of three parts, the division of which corresponds to a change in the musical tempo: con brio (lively, excited) in the first part and poco sostenuto (a little more restrained) in the second. The third movement is marked by a return to the original tempo. The lightness and conciseness of melodic images, as well as the image of Zephyr, the god of the west wind (in ancient Greek mythology), do not imply the creation of forceful, overly expressive choreography; at the same time, bravado is clearly heard in the nature of the music, implying the technicality of choreographic vocabulary.

The movement of the Marshmallow performer starts from the upper left corner of the stage. From the very first combination, built diagonally, the choreographer saturates every musical beat with pas, and, despite the active tempo, practically avoids pauses. Starting the variation with tour attitude en dedans, the dancer moves diagonally with wide lunges in arabesque, complementing them with an unusual pictorial position of the arms, in which one of them is bent and pressed to the chest or stretched forward with the wrist bent, and the other is laid behind the back. The subsequent movement along the proscenium is saturated with turns on the buttress: this is soutenu en tournant; a jump resembling jet? entrelac? en tournant; fouett? to the arabesque position with a wide spiral movement of outstretched arms. The combination ends with a pictorial pose in which the dancer freezes on half-fingers in a wide lunge. The next bundle is distinguished by the appearance of footnotes (entrechat-trois the dancer performs with his back to the auditorium), as well as non-trivial lunges backwards (the working leg remains on the battement tendu forward) with a sharp turn of the shoulders to the crossed body position (the dancer's hands are fixed in the III position).The piece ends with cabrioles en arri?re, complemented by a circular movement of the hands, and a non-standard, reverse version of fouett? with the hands in the III position. After that, the dancer freezes in the right part of the stage, twisting the body at the waist and putting one hand behind the head (this pose, like the previous movement, the choreographer makes leitmotif for his hero).

The second part of the Marshmallow variation, despite a calmer tempo, does not differ in the sparsity of pas, but their character changes noticeably. There are rotations, more cantilevered and smooth movements, a buttress is not used here. After leaving the pose of the finale of the previous part and performing d?velopp?s fouett?, the Marshmallow performer proceeds to the next bundle. In it, the alternate movement of rounded arms, an ornament resembling a spiral, ends with a throw of the leg, and then the dancer goes into the tour de force. Having drawn a small monogram on the floor (using the non-inverted leg position), the dancer freezes again in the pose of the end of the first part. This is followed by a combination of rotations in which the classic pirouettes en dedans with hands in the III position alternate with a helical sub-rotation on the pli?. The bundle ends with a multi-turn pirouette en dehors from the IV position. In the following combination, a laconic-shaped pose stands out: the performer of the Marshmallow rises on half-fingers (the position of the legs is non-inverted) with his arms widely apart. From this position, he performs a pirouette en dedans with an offset balance and an inclined body (arms are still widely spread apart), pushing first with one leg, then with the other. Using the rotation tempo, the dancer goes into a jump, completing it with a smooth pas failli. Then the first half of the described bundle is repeated in a different angle with his back to the auditorium, after which the dancer moves to the upper left corner of the stage. In this part, the variations of the dancer's movement create the effect of flying in a fall, as if a "light-winged" deity is gradually descending from behind the clouds. Probably, the development of the plot of the play assumes just such an allegory, since at the end of the part, the performer of Flora appears from behind the scenes and watches the further dance of the Marshmallow.

The beginning of the third part becomes both a musical and a choreographic reprise. However, after the exact repetition of the first combination diagonally, choreographic variations already appear in the next bundle: this is an ?chapp? to the II position with a sharp change in the position of the hands and a turn of the body; gargouillade en tournant and a five-fold repetition of the reverse version of fouett? (with the hands in the III position), supplemented by moving from one part of the stage to another. The final choreographic maxim of Zephyr's solo is a technical combination of jumps performed in a circle. It combines envelopp? de vol? en tournant (a specific author's use of the classic pas), jet? en tournant, embo?t? en tournant. The dancer performs the final double assembl? en tournant in the center of the stage, freezing after landing in a leitmotif pose with his hand behind his head.

Zephyr's solo is designed to reflect the naturalness, flight and transparent imagery of the music. Choreographically, this is solved with the help of an organic combination of classical positions with figurative, somewhat broken positions of the arms and body. Also, the choreographic vocabulary is characterized by the saturation of fine technique, rotations, unconventional variations of classical dance movements and jumps, originally modified by the choreographer.

The duet of Zephyr and Flora is the longest choreographic number of the performance being analyzed. Its tempo is designated as andantino grazioso; the musical dynamics vary from pianissimo to fortissimo, which suggests a choreographic reflection in the amplitude of the dancers' movements.

In the first part of the duet, Zephyr tries to overtake Flora, who is running away from him. Here the slowness of the violin theme contrasts with the active tempo of the movements. The heroine appears from the upper right wing, the dancer follows her. In the first pas (glissade effac?), the ballerina rounds her hands so that the Marshmallow performer does not have time to touch them. In the next bundle, he still takes his partner by the hand (the ballerina imitates the desire to escape by changing the position of the hips in the IV position on pointe shoes). The dancers' hands in the further combination seem to draw invisible vignettes (during a small renvers? of the ballerina and a tour in the attitude of the dancer) Flora continues to avoid touching Marshmallows. But, having stopped for a second in a pose with her hand behind her back (standing on one leg, the ballerina, shifting her body weight, bends her knee with the second in a nonrotating position), the heroine still finds herself caught off guard - now Marshmallow will not let her go. This is how the development of duet dance begins. The choreographer uses strokes with the partner's axis offset (her hands are behind her head), graphic turns and bends of the ballerina's body in poses with a balance shift. At the same time, in all elements, the partner touches only the hands of the dancer.

The next part, marked by a change of musical theme, is the performance of solo combinations by the dancers on different parts of the stage. The order of their movements is similar, but they are not performed in parallel or synchronously this technique shows that agreement between the characters has not yet been reached. During the parterre pas (lunges, arabesque piqu?, renvers?), the movements of the performers' hands are ornamental and resemble a complicated monogram (the hands describe circles from the elbow or hand; they are laid behind the head). Having met a partner at the center of the stage, the performer of the Marshmallow supports her waist for the first time in a duet, increasing the amplitude of the ballerina's movements (piqu?s in arabesque and effac? positions), and helping to perform a rotation (tour attitude terbushon). In the next bundle, the complication of the duet technique continues, now manifesting itself in the supports. Here they are performed at a dynamic pace with no preparation or additional binding movements. This is an energetic transfer and rotation of the ballerina, resting her shin on the partner's thigh, jet? with a change of direction of movement, support on the partner's shoulder with a strong deflection of the ballerina in the effac? position and followed by a grand rond de jambe to the crossed position of her legs.

In the next part of the duet, the characters are again separated for solo movements, but now (unlike the second part) the combinations are performed by them in unison. Obviously, this is a choreographic reflection of the harmony finally emerging between Zephyr and Flora. This bundle of abruptness and clarity of the pas corresponds to the musical staccato of this part (pas failli, pass?, glissades en face, grand jet?, jet? entrelac?). The choreographer varies the present thematic monotony of the music by syncopating or shifting the accents of the movements. The combination ends with the Italian version of the ballerina's changement de pieds, performed with the help of a partner. In the movement of the hands of the performer Flora, a plastic leitmotif appears the third position with the hands dropped. Then the characters reconnect for a pair dance, a fragment of which (with turns and support, in which the ballerina bends over and lies on the partner's knee) ends with a kiss.

This moment of the duet is a turning point in terms of the plot and choreographic development of the main characters' relationships. The second half of the fragment becomes an example of a romantic duet. So, the sounding musical reprise of the first theme is choreographically solved from a different position. Frozen in a kiss, the performers of Marshmallow and Flora slowly and synchronously open their hands, slightly bringing them back (a position identical to that found in the Marshmallow variation). Maintaining this position, the dancers cross the stage (the ballerina rises on pointe shoes); the bundle ends with two jet? en tournant dancers, lifted by the partner. The final combination of this part is performed by the heroes without a single separation of hands, even if the Marshmallow performer holds the ballerina by the waist with the other hand. In each pas (grand rond de jambe, cabriole, arabesque pli?, glissade ? la second and effac?), the performer of Flora leans on the partner's hand. There is also a leitmotif position of the heroine (III position with dropped brushes), now performed simultaneously with the dancer's hand.

The final part of the duet, the musical tempo of which is noticeably accelerated (piu mosso) is also staged with almost no separation of the partners' hands. Based on the variation and gradual complication of one combination (a ballerina by the hand with a partner performs pas failli in IV arabesque, soutenu, pas tomb?e in crois?, soutenu), the part contains a number of technical elements. These are paired rotations (pirouettes en dehors temps relev?, double soutenu), and jumps (jet?, grand pas de chat), and upper support on the partner's outstretched arms. In addition, the author's movements stand out here: the inventive interlacing of the dancers' hands; the repeated lunge of the ballerina effac? followed by a turn of the hips on the pli?; the final support, during which the legs of the ballerina, who tilted the body forward, perform double rond en l'air; the final pose, where the dancer is tilted with a strong shift of balance. Such a final plastic chord, in which the performers hold on to one hand, fixing the second in a rounded position, very figuratively reflects the idyllic harmony that reigned between Zephyr and Flora by the end of the duet.

The analysis of the duet of Zephyr and Flora showed that the asymmetry of plastic and acoustic means of expression is noticeable in this fragment: choreographic bundles become an additional voice in the musical score. This choreographic solution can be called a kind of artistic device, as well as a wide range of expressive plastic emblems-symbols (interlacing of the dancers' hands, resembling a monogram; the leitmotif position of the ballerina's hands; quoting poses from the dancer's solo), organically framing technical dance bundles. In addition, the choreographer clearly differentiates the parts of the duet into those performed in a duet or not in a duet; synchronously or not synchronously; with the separation of the partners' hands or without, thereby building the choreographic logic of the development of the characters' relationships.

So, the main tools in understanding the features of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters in the ballet "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021) were the analytical description and semantic analysis of the variation of Marshmallows and the duet of Zephyr and Flora. With their help, we managed to draw the following conclusions. The choreographic vocabulary of the fragments is distinguished by an organic combination of classical positions and pas with the author's movements (pictorial, ornamental poses; somewhat broken positions of the arms and body; originally modified technical elements). The dramaturgy of the modern reading of the plot of the pre-romantic ballet is developed by the choreographer by plastic (not pantomime) means in key dance fragments. Thus, the choreographic embodiment of the images of Zephyr and Flora demonstrates an organic synthesis of the ideological idea and the general aesthetics of pre-romantic ballet with the unconventionality and innovation of the modern author's plastic solution.

References
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The article "The specifics of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters in the ballet "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021) in the context of modern plastic trends" is devoted to the study of this ballet. As the author himself notes, "its purpose is to comprehend the features and specifics of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters (Zephyr and Flora) by choreographer A.S. Belyakov ...". In our opinion, the author managed to adequately achieve the assigned goal. The author also rightly notes that "in the play "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021), the directors made a modern attempt to recreate such a meaningful theme for the development of ballet art two centuries later. Such an idea cannot but be relevant, as well as the study of its creative results ...". We should add that at present, the scientific community is extremely interested in everything related to contemporary art, as a result of which the article has special relevance and obvious practical benefits. Undoubtedly, the article also has an indisputable scientific novelty. The research methodology is quite diverse and includes comparative historical, analytical, descriptive, etc. methods. According to the content, we have a scientific article in front of us, testifying to the excellent knowledge of the history of ballet creation, the excellent analytical abilities of the author and the ability to draw deep conclusions. It is written in a lively and vivid language that can accurately convey the scenic fabric of the ballet. The article has a logical and clear structure: it immerses the reader in the history of the creation of the ballet, gives a general idea of it and the most detailed about the specifics of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters. The ability to carefully analyze and colorfully describe them is one of the great advantages of this excellent research. Here are some examples. "Consider a variation of Marshmallows. The dance fragment consists of three parts, the division of which corresponds to a change in the musical tempo: con brio (lively, excited) in the first part and poco sostenuto (a little more restrained) the second one. The third movement is marked by a return to the original tempo. The lightness and conciseness of the melodic images, as well as the overall image of Zephyr, the god of the west wind (in ancient Greek mythology), do not imply the creation of forceful, overly expressive choreography; at the same time, bravado is clearly heard in the nature of the music, implying the technicality of choreographic vocabulary." As you can see, the researcher also perfectly analyzes the musical features of the work. Or: "The second part of the Marshmallow variation, despite the calmer tempo, does not differ in the sparsity of the pas, but their character changes noticeably. Rotations appear, more cantilevered and smooth movements, a buttress is not used here. After leaving the pose of the finale of the previous part and performing d?velopp?s fouett?, the performer of the Marshmallow moves on to the next bunch. In it, the alternate movement of rounded arms, an ornament resembling a spiral, ends with a throw of the leg, and then the dancer goes into the tour de force. Having drawn a small monogram on the floor (using the non-inverted leg position), the dancer freezes again in the pose of the end of the first movement. This is followed by a combination of rotations in which the classic pirouettes en dedans with hands in the III position alternate with a helical sub-rotation on the pli?. The bundle ends with a multi-turn pirouette en dehors from the IV position. " It is especially valuable that the researcher does not just describe, but subtly analyzes what is happening on stage: "In the next part of the duet, the characters are again separated for solo movements, but now (unlike the second part) the combinations are performed by them in unison. Obviously, this is a choreographic reflection of the harmony finally emerging between Zephyr and Flora. This combination of abruptness and clarity of the pas corresponds to the musical staccato of this part (pas failli, pass?, glissades en face, grand jet?, jet? entrelac?). The choreographer varies the present thematic monotony of the music by syncopating or shifting the accents of the movements. The combination ends with the Italian version of the ballerina's changement de pieds, performed with the help of a partner. In the movement of the hands of the performer Flora, a plastic leitmotif appears the III position with discarded hands. Next, the characters reconnect for a pair dance, a fragment of which (with turns and support, in which the ballerina bends over and lies on her partner's knee) ends with a kiss." As already noted, the article is characterized by an excellent ability to draw accurate conclusions: "The analysis of the duo of Zephyr and Flora showed that in this fragment the asymmetry of plastic and acoustic means of expression is noticeable: choreographic bundles become an additional voice in the musical score. This choreographic solution can be called a kind of artistic device, as well as a wide range of expressive plastic emblems-symbols (interlacing of the dancers' hands, resembling a monogram; the leitmotif position of the ballerina's hands; quoting poses from the dancer's solo), organically framing technical dance bundles. In addition, the choreographer clearly distinguishes the parts of the duet into those performed in a duet or not in a duet; synchronously or not synchronously; with or without separation of the partners' hands, thereby building the choreographic logic of the development of the characters' relationships. So, the main tools in understanding the features of the choreographic embodiment of the images of the main characters in the ballet "Zephyr and Flora, or Metamorphoses" (2021) were the analytical description and semantic analysis of the variation of Marshmallows and the duet of Zephyr and Flora. With their help, we managed to draw the following conclusions. The choreographic vocabulary of the fragments is distinguished by an organic combination of classical positions and pas with author's movements (pictorial, ornamental poses; somewhat broken positions of the arms and body; originally modified technical elements). The dramaturgy of the modern interpretation of the plot of the pre-romantic ballet is developed by the choreographer using plastic (not pantomime) means in key dance fragments. Thus, the choreographic embodiment of the images of Zephyr and Flora demonstrates an organic synthesis of the ideological idea and the general aesthetics of pre-romantic ballet with the non-standard and innovative nature of the modern author's plastic solution." The bibliography of the article is very extensive, includes a wide range of sources on the research topic, including a number of foreign ones, and is designed according to GOST standards. The appeal to opponents is widely present and executed at a highly professional level. The article can bring obvious benefits and arouse the keen interest of both the professional readership associated with the theory, history and practice of ballet, and a wide range of readers interested in contemporary art.