Spring Waters Pas de Deux
Seeing Dance History Live
In looking through my wall of ballet and performances dvd’s, to support the pointe and dance history courses I am teaching and coaching, I find I am transported back in history to my early youth, when Sol Hurok began to bring European and Russian ballet companies to the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
Being a child in that school, spending my spare time between rehearsals and later in the day, between entrances, standing sideways in the first wing, watching with eyes and heart as big as space… now memories come flooding in again. I can feel my face smile as I turn from one ballet to the next.
I am reminded tonight of when the Bolshoi Ballet finally came n 1959 — Spartacus, Swan Lake, Spring Waters pas, Plisetslaya, Ulanova..such a different way of moving. They were used to much larger spaces than we have in New York. Even in the 4th floor studio the opera company used for full stage size rehearsals, they could cross the diagonal in one preparation and soaring leap…and we all know there is always more than one in a man’s variation .
So many impressions that remind me of how magical dancers are—-an entrance, the first look, seeing their bodies standing like normal humans, the music begins and suddenly they transform into characters both magical and tragic.
Asaf Messerer choreographed the Spring Waters pas in the 1950’s..there is some interesting footage on youtube..of a performance in 1956..so full of joy, like his teaching. And then as dancers became more flexible, more able to sustain harder physical techniques, and the pointe shoes became more custom made for each type of foot, body and role, the choreography changed into the wild excess and spectacular lifts we later see in 1986. That is what we aspired to—that lift at the end where she is literally sitting in the palm of his hand, his arm stretched upward above his head and her front knee bent to passe, back leg in arabesque and he is running across the stage and into the wings as if he had launched her. Running into the light…. running, flying… I love grand ballet.