The creation of a ballet usually happens in one of three ways. The first way of creating a ballet is the relationship of choreographer and composer working together to birth a new work, The Four Temperaments. The second way is the ability to create steps or a vocabulary first and then the composer is inspired, this gave us ballets like The Sleeping Beauty. The final way is probably the most common way, the Symphonic Ballet. Taking music we already know, that is already done and creating a ballet to it. This is probably the most common way we see dance now. The term the Symphonic Ballet was originally used to describe the Massine Ballets during the 1930s but would later go on as a concept of using the symphony to create ballets. In the same decade, Balanchine would premiere Serenade to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. This would later filter into modern, jazz, and today’s competitive world of dance. Hear a song, create a dance.
While Massine was considered a rebel for using the symphony, and how some of the ballets might have defiled the music, it was at this moment, where ballet started to adapt to popular culture; Something that Massine, Balanchine, Lichine and Ashton were very good at. Granted, these choreographers were lucky to be in periods that needed change and needed adaptations, but now in the year of 2021…. We need change now more than ever for the art we love so much. The reality is, that ballet is dying. It is the only fine art (performing and visual) that can not stand alone.
But that is what makes ballet special. The combination and collaboration of music, costume, dancers, choreographer, director, lighting designer, and more that creates something larger than life. While a lot of balletomanes and directors in ballet hold their noses up at people like me, and they say that I am too radical, that they don’t want ballet to change, that they want to keep the current ballet donors happy, they don’t want to alienate an economic class that has supported ballet through the decades… these are the same people that also worship those who brought change when ballet needed to change the most.
So, we should take note of the symphonic ballet about breaking the rules of the classical arts, and look at the world of pop culture.
(Photo from Massine’s Symphony Fantastique)