Seriously, wtf. In the world of ballet, there are tons of ballets that have been forgotten: the Pharaoh’s Daughter, Harlequinade, Les Saisons, and Le Daible Amoureux/Satanella (most noted for the Carnival de Venice Pas de deux). Regarldess, ballets become irrelevant, and forgotten about, maybe snippets and excerpts survive. Then there is Raymonda… Raymonda is the gigantic beast of a ballet. Longer than the full length Sleeping Beauty, the full length Raymonda consists of 3 acts and 4 scenes, and apotheosis. No wonder why it died, who could sit through all of that? Not to mention, that it kills the ballerina… She has four/five variations, depending on the production. No only does she have an absurd task of carrying an entire ballet, but her plethora of variations are some of the most difficult variations ever.
In Act 1, she has two variations. The first is the pizzicato variation which is light, charming but still rather difficult with all of the hops on pointe. Then in the same act she is challenged with the vision variation involving a long piece of fabric.
Then in Act 2 she has the pas d’action variation she has to conquer the “big” variation. This is the adagio variation that many girls use for competition because of the control a ballerina has to have. Seriously… if you don’t know what I am talking about go watch it via youtube. She then has another variation in the later scene of the act that has a bunch of dazzling turns, and a punch of entrechatquatres on pointe… Yeah, if that wasn’t enough…
Then in Act 3 she has her clapping variation, which kind of requires the ballerina to have good feet. The variation mainly consists of bourres and some feisty passes, but I mean after all of that dancing what else can you do on pointe… Yeah it is kind of insane.
The variations are difficult enough, but there is quite a bit of dancing for the other leads as well. Raymonda is like this huge hodge podge of everything in classical ballet. Most people really only the pas de dix, or the Balanchine version that uses the same music for a corps and one couple. And thank god, there is are so many character dances. I have never seen it full length but own two different DVD versions, and every time I try to sit down and watch it all the way through… I fall asleep.
So, what is so special about Raymonda, and why do young girls still do the variations on the international competition stage? Well, I am glad you asked… Well, you didn’t… But I think what makes these variations special is that they are a part of a bigger picture. As Swan Lake challenges the ballerina to be dynamic in two ways, Raymonda challenges the ballerina in five ways. Additionally, each variation is quite challenging, not because there are 5, but because each variation is exceptionally long compared to most variations. In the 3rd act variation, Raymonda now has a sense of maturity, authority and because the majority of the variation is bourres the ballerina has to be enchanting. In the big variation of act 2, the ballerina has to posses a weightless quality that is effortless and charming. Not to mention we all want to see leg up!
Also, in the supporting role of Henriette, 3 masterful variations are presented as well. In act one a long difficult and delicate variation is presented. In act 2, a sultry and provocative variation is delivered. And finally, in the third a playful spritely variation is executed.