LES NOCES AND BALLET WEST
March 28, 2023
Following a tradition of offering illuminating peeks into dance, theater and music productions, Guggenheim Works and Process presented an overview of Ballet West's restaging of Les Noces by Bronislava Nijinska.
An epic ballet created in 1923 for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Les Noces (The Wedding) includes a complex score by Nijinsky, sets and costumes by Natalia Goncharova, a 40 member chorus, four soloists, four grand pianos, percussion and 30 dancers.
A mix of video, conversation and demonstrations by the 6 company members enlivened the evening's introduction to a ballet treasure and remarkable female choreographer.
Contextualizing the ballet, the esteemed panel included Lynn Garafola, historian and Nijinska scholar (author of La Nijinska: Choreographer of the Modern), Adam Sklute, Artistic Director of Ballet West, and Moderator Linda Murray, Curator Dance Division NYPL.
A richly knotted piece of choreography to the intricate Nijinsky score, Sklute discussed the challenges faced by the dancers. For one thing, it was difficult to count the music and the choreographic style demanded the legs be both turned in and turned out while on pointe.
Garafola, who just completed a comprehensive biography of Bronislava Nijinska offered insights into the choreography's intent. The way the mother expressed pain and guidance from God; the braiding of steps mimicking the long hair braids connecting the women of the village to the bride.
Based on an arranged wedding between a young man and woman, the affair involves the whole village. Again, Garafola noted that many of the steps were pulled from Nijinska's wealthy backlog of folk dance steps. These influences are apparent throughout the ballet: When the men crouch down and kick out their legs duck-walk style or careen in bent leg air turns. It's truly nonstop action and demands extraordinary stamina.
While a member of the Joffrey Ballet, Sklute performed Les Noces because Robert Joffrey had a love of historic ballets. Clearly, Sklute absorbed this desire to honor the classics. And the audience at the Guggenheim was pleased to visit this historical landmark.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis