Talisman Pas De Deux…

Talisman? It seems that this is the year that everyone and their mom is competing and or working on the variation from The Talisman. But, the reality is, and I hate to be the one to pop the bubble, no one is doing the variation the variation from the Talisman. Originally the Talisman 1889, and was presented as a 4 act ballet. Thank goodness that it didn’t survive. In 1895 Petipa revived the the Talisman as a 3 act ballet and had two male principal roles, one of which was created by Enrico Cecchetti. Then in 1909 it was revived by Legat, who asked Drigo to add new orchestrations to the original score, and the role that was once Cecchetti’s was danced by Nijinsky.

Anyways, this goes back to what I was saying in the beginning, Talisman Pas De Deux has nothing to do with the Talisman. in 1955, Pyotr Gusev constructed together a  pas de deux. The musical score to the pas de deux is broken up into the following:

  • Entrée- the Valse des spirits from the Prologue of The Talisman
  • Adage- an adagio from the final act of the Talisman
  • Male Variation – Variation of Ta-Hor from Act 2 of the Pas d’action from the Pharaoh’s Daughter (And if you ask me… the Pharaoh’s daughter’s variation is much harder than the jazzerina tricks used today… but that’s neither here nor there)
  • Female Variation – the Pizzicato of the Black Pearls from the Pearl
  • Coda – a waltz coda from the first act of The Talisman

Then more recently, Kremlin Ballet condensed the The Talisman with Talisman Pas De Deux to create Vasily Madvedev’s The Talisman Grand Pas D’ensemble.

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(http://www.jackdevant.com/iana-salenko-ivan-vasiliev-and-troupe-of-kremlin-ballet-in-the-talisman/)

Okay, so what is this post really about? Okay, truthfully it is about the costuming and the choreography.

Talisman_-Vayou_-Vaslav_Nijinsky_-1909
Cropped photographic postcard of the danseur Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) costumed as the God Vayou in the dancer/choreographer/teacher Nikolai Legat’s (1869-1937) revival of the choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910) and the composer Riccardo Drigo’s (1846-1930) ballet Le Talisman.

But wait… The male variation’s costume actually comes from the Legat staging from the Principal’s Character is titled Hurricane… And then some how we have taken Indian Maharajah and turned it into some sexy little greek number… And then instead of doing his actualy variation, we are going to borrow the Pharoah’s daughter (another “ethnic” ballet) and still white wash it?

Originally the costuming for the female in The Talisman was harem pants and then for the pas de fleurs: a tutu; which transferred from shorter romantic to platter. Some still use this idea for the costuming.

BUUUUT….

So somehow, we decided to strip the Talisman of all it’s Indian culture and just turn it into a “less ethnic” ballet and make it Greek or Roman?

Buuuuuut…. So, the choreography/music we see today is actually from Petipa/Drigo’s the Pearl and because that’s the case, the variation should be performed in an oyster shell? White Perle is done in a white tutu, black pearls are not done in black tutus…

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Just some food for thought…

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You Know it’s Nutcracker Season when…

Between the holiday Starbucks cup fiasco and preparing for Black Friday sales, the ballet world is faced with our dreaded but magical annual tradition of The Nutcracker. Every year around this time, whether it be at Starbucks, the bank or even at some retail store, I am standing around and then it comes on the speakers. That dreadful tune that ushers in the holiday season. While the majority of the world associates it with that one song from that one commercial, ballet dancers around the world hear it and immediately identify the composer, the act, the choreography and the costumes. Yes, it is the Nutcracker. Recently, I was standing in line with my pas de deux partner, and the music for Snow Pas came on. While it is one of the most beautiful pieces composes for the Nutcracker, we immediately looked at each other with fear in our eyes. Yes, fear. We had just started rehearsals with new choreography knowing that the show goes up in three weeks. We both haven’t been on stage for more than four years, and we immediately decided to order skinny lattes knowing we are about to be in white tights. So, in the tradition of Nutcracker, and in a Ballet Education’s five things…

Nutcracker Season

You Know It’s Nutcracker When…
1. You hear Nutcracker music outside of ballet and want to kill yourself.
2. 1/3 of your company is injured, or battling tendonitis but still powering through ridiculously long rehearsals that you don’t want to be in.
3. You know every part of Nutcracker, but still are forced to rehearse, clean and tech it all. In fact, you have probably danced every part of Nutcracker at some point of your life.
4. This time of the year everyone is all about the holiday cheer and festivities, but you are the most tired you have ever been. You want to crawl into a ball and die. You still have to rehearse everything else outside of Nutcracker for the upcoming season’s bills, so your mind is on overload. It is just yucky.
5. You are a boy, and its Nut season and all you want to do is be Kyra Nichols as Dewdrop. Yes, you want to be Balanchine’s infamous Dewdrop and dance the most beautiful entrances, have the most swayed back ever, and dance to the loveliest of music.

Here are some of last year’s Nutcracker Posts:
THE BEAST THAT IS THE NUTCRACKER

5 AWFUL REALITIES OF NUTCRACKER

THE NUTTINESS OF NUTCRACKER

Let the boy dance

His face was pressed against in the glass,
Fingers spread wide, tapping to the muffled sound of the music.
His mind was racing back and forth between reality, and fantasy.
Finally, the door opened and the teacher asked, “Do you want to come in?”
Looking for his mom’s approval, she nodded.
He rushed in.
And that was that.

I always wondered why my mom didn’t put me into dance earlier? From age 3-7 I would religiously watch the Baryshnikov/Kirkland Nutcracker every day, a copy that my grandma gave me. When PBS aired PNB’s Nutcracker, my Grandma recorded it, via VHS and gave it to me as well. I was addicted. I hadn’t even started dance classes yet. There are pictures of me religiously watching it. After preschool, lunch and reading, my mom would try to make me take a nap with her as I would normally get into trouble somewhere in the early afternoon. When these naps came about I would purposefully would toss and turn, and this would lead my mom to let me go to the living room and watch the Nutcracker. Somewhere between Snow and Prologue she would come out, and insist I turn it off and do something educational. I would beg, because the real dancing hadn’t started yet and the clowns hadn’t even danced. Little did I know, that one of those clowns would become a coach later on. Then in PNB’s Nutcracker, I would become obsessed with flowers and snow. Then my life happened, the Nutcracker was going to be in theaters, the NYCB version with Darci Kistler. And that is when I knew that is how I wanted to dance… The problem was, I hadn’t even started dancing yet… My sister and cousins were all in dance… But I wasn’t. Despite the fact that I had to go watch my sisters take class all the time… I hadn’t been enrolled.

My grandma giving me the Nutcracker.
My grandma giving me the Nutcracker.
Me super turned in watching the Nutcracker ... in suspenders, stripes and shoes...
Me super turned in watching the Nutcracker … in suspenders, stripes and cute shoes…

Finally, when it came to be… I wasn’t allowed to do ballet. I did boys class which included jazz and tap.
Then, finally, I knew I wanted to do ballet and I finally got my wish.  It was so late. So late. After an excellent elementary school, I went to a performing arts middle school with the condition that I keep a GPA over 3.5, stayed in the GATE program, and did other extra curricular activities. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting the training I needed. Then Center Stage came out, and I knew that I wanted that life. With the condition that I kept up all my responsibilities, I was able to quite the dance program at the middle school and go to a pre professional school. Then high school came about, and I knew I had to dance more. So, I doubled up on classes, by my freshman year of high school, I enrolled at a junior college so I could accumulate more credits.  By the age of fifteen I had finished high school, differed from colleges to make my parents happy, but I did this so I could focus on ballet.

Then while at this pre professional school, a former principal from National Ballet of Canada told me I would never be a dancer. So, it shattered my world, and I was like, “Fuck. I gave up Uni for this…”
While at the junior college, I found out they offered ballet classes late at night. And I thought, this is perfect! I can double up on my ballet training. I juggled the two back and forth and by January, I had auditions. As rejection letters and acceptance letters came, I was really confused. I had done everything right… I did everything my parents asked me, and everything my teachers asked me but I didn’t get in anywhere that I really wanted. This being SAB.

audition photo
audition photo

Then, while under the advisement of the junior college professor, she told me to consider going to a university and majoring in dance. I knew this isn’t want I wanted, but what if the world didn’t have a ballet plan for me? I was taking class at a college here in soCal and as I finished adagio at center I was walking to the side when a man tapped his finger on the glass and told me to come over. I kind of shook my head, but then the music in class stopped and the professor told me I should go out there and talk to him. I didn’t know who he was. He basically asked me a couple questions and asked if I wanted to come to his school for the summer. I had no clue who he was… It was Alonzo King of LINES Ballet. This was before LINES was everywhere. Deadlines were coming up and my parents told me I had to make decisions… So, while eating my favorite chinese food reading about all these programs, I opened my fortune cookie and it said: You will dance to a different beat.

Fortune cookies are the best.
Fortune cookies are the best.

Being the crazy that I am, I was like THIS IS A SIGN. So, I went to LINES. And as beautiful as it was, and as glorious as it was… I knew that this isn’t how I wanted to dance. I didn’t care about what muscles moved what, I didn’t care about finesse and I didn’t care about how a plié made me feel. I knew I wanted to have long lines, and deep fourths. I wanted over crossed everything and I wanted to move fast… Every modern teacher said I was too Balanchine. Every ballet teacher said I didn’t have the body for ballet. It was really discouraging. Despite all of my kicking and dragging on at LINES I had met beautiful dancers who I still catch up with to this day. I came home discouraged, but my Grandma showed me this article about SoCal girls doing it up big. It was referring to Ashley Ellis and Misty Copeland, just coming off their spotlight awards, coca cola scholars and acceptances to ABT Studio company… So, I moved in with my grandma to train at their studio… The caliber of training was amazeballs… It was intense training… But, it was SOOOOOOO classical. Anything remotely unclassical was frowned upon, and the Balanchine was driven out. Then I went to CPYB, thinking okay, if all of the principals of NYCB have gone here… I must go, and they had a University in the same city, so I could keep going on with my education. The training was beyond exceptional, but this time… life handed me a different set of cards… I never thought I would experience racism in a ballet classroom, I never thought I would be the only asian male for miles, I never thought a lot of things would ever happen to me… and they did.  I grew up in Southern California, my parents are white, and my brothers and sisters are all from different countries. Growing up my best friend was half french half black, and my other best friend was half German half mexican. Racism was the furthest thing from my mind… So, when comments by teachers were made about me being oriental, or that I had to open my eyes bigger… I was like wtf. This was the first time race became utterly important, but it also crushed me. So, despite CPYB’s advice, I decided to go audition for companies and got in. I begged the school the company was associated with to let me come early and just be in the school so I could get out of CPYB. Dance ended but brought teaching… Teaching brought back hope for ballet for me. Watching students leave this summer to join companies, go to SAB, and other summer programs, go off to university to dance on scholarship… Makes me feel like I can really do this… which basically caused this retrospective…

Ten years later, here I am sitting down filling out company contracts, school curriculum and emailing theaters. Crazy. Right? Starting a ballet company where poverty is seen in 30 miles every direction, the average high school drop out rate is over 30%, and the only major theatre is for comedians. Insane right? No, because now I know how important it is to let someone dance. And as I start this crazy journey of starting a company I am loving it. Mostly because the dancers I have hired are beautiful people with beautiful stories and that makes them beautiful to watch.
Kelly is tall. Like really tall. And after having a pre pro scholarship at PNB, and dancing at numerous companies around the US- she was never really pushed into roles because she was so tall. Now, inspired to dance again after having kids, she is beyond gorgeous and has this ferocious tenacity, ridiculous dedication and now that she is pushing for herself she taking on roles with fire and having experienced everything she has gone through as a mom, as a tall dancer, and as a teacher she brings something extra to her dancing. Then there is Carlos, who was a student of mine, coming from the same area. Training him to get scholarship at the Rock School then continuing his education at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he is back. After fighting his family to let him dance, he comes back gorgeous, strong and long. Jaquie was told she was never going to dance. The studio owner would tell her to her face that she would never dance. Then I came to her studio as a teacher. After pushing and stretching, and challenging her, she got into summer programs and attended. She then got a scholarship to go to University. She is going to commute back and forth to dance. Amanda did everything right in ballet. Went year round at the Rock School, spent every summer at SAB, but ballet life got to her, and she decided to become an RN. Now at a top ranked hospital in the US, she decided she missed dancing, and wanted to start again. These are just short abbreviated versions of their stories, but their stories are also just beginning. It is really that spectacular.
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