Last week, I received a question about the Vaganova Ballet Academy’s graduation performance. Specifically, about the additional variations which were included in Act III of “Paquita”.
I couldn’t give a reason for the inclusion of these particular variations. A few days later, Francesca (@macframa) sent me a message and shared all the research she’s done on the subject. I wanted to share Francesca’s findings on this blog, as I’m sure there are peeps out there who’ll find this information fascinating.
Thank you for all your hard work Francesca!
“Paquita” debuted in 1846 at the Operà de Paris with a libretto of Joseph Mazilier and music by Deldevez. It was later presented in Saint Petersburg in 1847, and again in 1881, with music by Ludwig Minkus and some adjustments and additions in the third act by Marius Petipa:
- a Prelude;
- the Children’s Mazurka;
- the Entrée for eight dancers of the corps de ballet and Paquita;
- a Grand Adage of Paquita and Lucien with the corps;
- a “Ballabile” for fourteen dancers (two groups of four ballerinas of the corps and two groups of three soloists);
- only one variation for Paquita;
- and finally the coda with the corps, soloists and children.
Later on, in 1896 Petipa staged a renewed and extended version of the third act of this ballet on the 100th anniversary of the death of Catherine II the Great. In this representation in the role of Paquita there was… Mathilde Kschessinskaya! (It’s very fitting that now Eleonora Sevenard is dancing the same role on her graduation performances, and not a coincidence I guess!). Anyway, alongside Mathilde Kschessinskaya a lot of ballerinas wanted to take part in the event, so Petipa added more soloist variations for them and he choose them from other ballets to better accentuate the soloists’ talent. From this moment, it became usual to stage the extended version of the third act of the ballet as a divertissement, called “Grand Pas Classique” or “Grand Pas from Paquita”, and the prima and the soloist could choose their favourite variation to perform. In this way, over the years a group of 13/14 variations that were constantly repeated came to be consolidated.
In 2008, Yuri Burlaka reconstructed the third act thanks to the Stepanov Notation of the original choreographies by Petipa, and he reconstructed eleven of these variations. (Fun fact for real ballet history addicted: this notation, among other notations of various ballets, was “stolen” and brought in the United States by the choreographer Nikolaj Sergeyev during the years of the Russian Revolution, and is now part of the Theatrical Collection of the Harvard University).
These eleven variations reconstructed by Burlaka are:
- The blu anemone variation* from “Ondine”;
- The arp variation of Queen Nyssia in “Le Roi Candaule” (originally written for Anna Pavlova);
- Another variation from “Le Roi Candaule”;
- Cupid variation from “Don Chisciotte”;
- A variation from another act of “Paquita” (sometimes used as a male variation);
- Variation from “Le Pavillon d’Armide”;
- The Jetés variation from “Trilby”;
- A variation from “La Sylhide”;
- A variation from “Armida” by Perrot (that sometimes can also be included in the IV act of “Don Chisciotte”);
- A variation from “La Camargo” (originally written for the last performance of Pierina Legnani);
- A variation from the pas de trois from the I act of “Paquita”.
It seems that in the Bolshoi version of the Grand Pas six soloists and “Paquita” can choose their favourite variations among these eleven, indeed in the Mariinsky production the same seven variations are always repeated (but I wouldn’t know which).
It is also my understanding that the four variations danced in the Graduation Performance, that have already been mentioned in the responses below, are always taken from this eleven and that he additions made by Tsiskaridze and Burlaka for our beloved students are mainly in the historical dances, but, of course, I could be wrong because I didn’t find out enough infos about it!
*For the love of accuracy, I just noticed that I made a little mistake regarding the first variation that I mentioned: it is indeed from the ballet “Ondine”, but it was later inserted in the ballet “The Little Humpbacked Horse” in the scene under the scene for the blue anemone variation. I guess I did a “cut and mix” of the two things.
And another fun fact that I was forgetting (How could I!) is that Petipa staged the Grand Pas from “Paquita” a second time in 1902 in honour of Enrico Cecchetti that in that year left the School of Imperial Ballet to become the director of the Ballet School in Warsaw. On that occasion every etoiles wanted to pay their homage to Cecchetti and it appears (unfortunately no one could find the exact confirmation) that 25 soloists danced a variation! What a number!!
Some Extra Info from Me
According to Yuri Burlaka, the tradition of adding extra variation into the third act dates all the way back to 1881, when the Mariinsky prima-ballerina Ekaterina Vazem and her colleagues chose their own variations to perform within the grand pas. The tradition has been kept alive all these years, and the dancers now have around fifteen variations to chose from when it comes to the grand pas.
Ekaterina Vazem in her “Paquita” costume:
Fun Fact: Vaslav Nijinsky made his very first appearance on the Mariinsky stage in the children’s Mazurka. He was the first cavalier, and made a real impression on the audience.