Later this week, I’ll post the promised piece on variations on the classics. My prompt is James Kudelka’s “Cinderella,” which American Ballet Theatre premiered this summer at Lincoln Center, and such questions as: Can an individual make a fairy tale or can only a folk? What would count as a contemporary fairy tale?
Dance videographer Amy Reusch sent me these intriguing questions:
Regarding making fairy tales: Are the Oz stories fairytales? How about the Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings? Made up fairytales, such as Cinderella, seem to depend much more on having interestingly developed characters than on elaborately embroidered mythologies. If the main character doesn’t grab you, there’s little patience for the mythology. Is it difficult for modern ballet choreography to develop interesting characters?
The distinction Amy makes between well-developed characters and embroidered mythologies got me excited.
Psychoanalysts such as Bruno Bettelheim argue that fairy tales deliver their audience, children, to primal emotions not only to prepare them for the terrors of life but also to inoculate them against those terrors. When we bowdlerize the fairy tales, we destroy their purpose. But Amy is offering the possibility that the ballet can’t go that deep–or only via character, not the story itself.
Characters in written fairy tales are often very schematic. The plots are rigged to excite deep emotional responses, but are schematic as well. In theater perhaps, predictable plot is okay as long as the characters complicate it. …. I could go on and on. Anyway, there’s a good deal more to think about, and I hope we’ll get to.
I may also consider such remade classics (not all from fairy tales) as Matthew Bourne’s “Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake,” Mats Ek’s “Sleeping Beauty,” Mark Morris’s “Hard Nut,” all to Tchaikovsky scores with well-known original choreography by Petipa-Ivanov of the Imperial Russian ballet.
Another note: I should say–as I haven’t yet–that, this being a blog, it’s likely to be badly written. I hope I write well enough to convey some of the meat of a topic, but it will depend for nuance on YOU.