Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882–1971) was an original and ingenious musical personality of the 20th century. He had travelled quite a versatile composer's life path with many stylistic stops: from Russian Impressionism and simplified atonality to Neoclassicism. His ballets The Firebird and Petrushka, with which he attracted the worldwide attention, derived from the Russian - French symbiosis of the colourful and rhythmically concise Impressionism. The Rite of Spring became a ballet of revolutionary musical ideas; The Soldier's Tale reached the world of jazz through its chamber chords, whereas Pulcinella reflected itself in the 18th century's music magnification. And last but not least, the oratorio opera in two acts Oedipus Rex discovered its musical world as a masterpiece, treated in the neoclassical manner. Stravinsky was not only successful as a composer but also had enviable piano and conducing careers, which allowed him to often premiere his own works as a conductor.
Children from the edge of reality
About his music, to which a new choreography will be conceived, Stravinsky wrote: “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which all of my late work became possible... No, nobody understood me then; I was even accused of ‘imitating’, mocked for my new and 'free' music and criticised for deserting into 'modernism' and alienating myself from my 'true Russian heritage'.”
The choreographer Kristina Aleksova found this piece's starting point in the Stravinsky’s music, and its main framework in a story about the travelling actors or Pulcinellas. These metaphors for a journey through life are faithful to their wishes and dreams, dictating their personalities and their own ways. The brave individuals experience life in all its length and width, as their constant searching and yielding to seemingly random situations leads them - at the end of the day - to the absurdity of living, in which there is, however, still plenty of room for children's naivety and humorous perception of the world. According to the choreographer, the nature of a child’s soul is the only lever that triggers a journey into the unknown. The choreography wanders between the human beauty and irony of everyday life, which always takes or rather, guides us in the right direction, if only we allow the bright mind to prevail over the rules and instructions.
Apollo provided a great turning point in George Balanchine’s artistic life. In this work the artist established precision and purity of his choreographic style, which he discovered in the images of Greek architecture. He thus reached the timeless dimension, announcing his greatest masterpieces, created mostly to the music by Stravinsky, for the New York City Ballet. Through choreographing to this great composer’s music Balanchine became aware of new dimensions of choreographic composition, reflecting in the new methodology and aesthetics that marked his later works. Thus the master was offered an opportunity to modernise the classical pas de deux, and significantly contribute to the development of the neoclassical ballet style.
Balanchine’s Apollo was not exactly a ballet that met the expectations of the majority of its spectators. After its premiere one of the French reviewers even wrote that “what he had seen had nothing to do with Apollo. The other one noted that the ballet should have been - instead of Apollo, Leader of the Muses - entitled Apollo’s Games with the Muses. “The atmosphere of intense physicality associates to the athletes before the race. Every variation is a reminiscent of training for the final ascent to Olympus and the finale that resembles the competition of chariots, brings back a memory of the profiles of noble Romans on the ancient coins. Furthermore, everything is performed as an extended declaration of Russian Ballet.” Nevertheless, in 1947, Glenway Wescott announced Apollo in the following manner: “We will see the Olympic games, modified into the modern ballet. Among all Balanchine’s ballets Apollo, Leader of the Muses is historically most important, most compact and most influential.”
Svadebka (The Wedding)
Svadebka is a Russian word for “wedding”. In Stravinsky’s version it is the ritual of a marriage, once traditionally arranged in advance by the families of the newlyweds. Characteristic for the Stravinsky’s score structure is a harsh austerity, illustrating the life of the narrow in-growing community with its rigid ties of customs.
Kylián, known for his abstract, surrealist dance, particularly emphasising the beauty of movement, focused - unlike the original narrative approach to preparations for a traditional wedding ceremony - on the insecure feelings that pervade the young couple in time before their marriage as well as on the events that are also complemented by their friends and relatives. Thus in his interpretation the choreographer does not literally follow the composer’s score, but rather supplements it, occasionally using some minor quotations from the original performance.
The dance, led by music, depicts different »stages« of the ritual, during which the bride and groom, who are still strangers to each other, feel like victims. Through the increasingly wilder ritual, passion bursts out, gradually closing the gap between the man and woman. When fear and doubt are dispelled, the newlyweds turn their backs to the past and set for a journey towards a new life.