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Noverre: Triple Bill

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Noverre: Triple Bill

Dates: 23/08/2016 - 23/08/2018

Location: Dance Drama

Noverre: Triple Bill

A program of three one-act dance dramas by John Senczuk

Featuring the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart & a pastiche of music based on popular French airs of the 18th century

Jean-Georges Noverre, (born April 29, 1727, Paris - died October 19, 1810, Saint-Germain-en-Laye), distinguished French choreographer whose revolutionary treatise, Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets (1760), still valid, brought about major reforms in ballet production, stressing the importance of dramatic motivation, which he called ballet d’action - a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century - and decrying over-emphasis on technical virtuosity. His birthday is now observed as International Dance Day.

Three one act plays - dance dramas - (each 45 minutes) that highlight extraordinary episodes in the life of one of the most astonishing and influential artists in the history of the dance.

Synopses -
1. Shakespeare of the Dance

Setting: Rehearsal Room, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London - 1755
Characters: Noverre, his wife (actress Marguerite Sauveur), Augustine (his brother), David Garrick, Garrick’s wife (retired dancer Eva Marie Veigel), repetiteur, dancers of Les Fêtes Chinoises company
At the invitation of famed Shakespearean actor/manager David Garrick, Noverre agrees to stage his ballet Les Fêtes Chinoises for a season at Drury Lane in London. While Noverre rehearses with a number of his soloists prior to their performance, he and Garrick are mutually fixated by their evolving ideas of a ‘new’ theatrical realism. Meanwhile, the auditorium on this particular night are all agitated Francophobes - already spooked by media reports of an imminent invasion - who are determined to keep the performance from going ahead. The anti-French protest soon turns into a riot resulting in an armed melee on stage where the scenery is destroyed and Noverre’s brother, Augustin, runs a man through with a prop sword! While Garrick farcically attempts to negotiate a resolution, Noverre’s obsession to create a cohesive ‘stage reality’ renders him oblivious to the threat of the ‘real world’ banging on the rehearsal room door. What has piqued his imagination is the strange sight of the desperate attempts by Garrick’s wife, a German actress who speaks little English, to communicate basic ideas of her fear to her husband in a primitive mime ... is this the physical story telling device Noverre has been looking for in his ballet d’action?

2. The Ballet Master
Setting: Rehearsal Room, Paris Opéra - 1778
Characters: Noverre, Marie Antoinette, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maximilien Gardel, Niccolò Piccinni, Jenemy Noverre, repetiteur, dancers of Les Petits Riens company
Despite expectations that either Maximilien Gardel or Jean Dauberval would replace the great Gaétan Vestris on his retirement, the intervention of Marie Antoinette (on the recommendation of her mother the Empress Maria Theresa) guaranteed that the influential posting of ballet master at the Paris Opera went to Noverre. Gardel is frustrated, but bides his time in deference to the new Queen’s wishes. Noverre, meanwhile, negotiates the inclusion of a new ballet Le Petits Riens - a commission given to the twenty-two year old recent arrival in Paris WA Mozart - into an opera (Le Finte Gemelle) by another Marie Antoinette appointee, Italian Niccolò Piccinni. Everyone is frustrated until Noverre decides to make the ballet completely separate to the opera as a distinct and autonomous artform. Mozart becomes extremely accommodating after meeting Noverre’s beautiful daughter Jenamy. Noverre, too, comes to understand the concept of ‘conflict’ and ‘sex’ through Mozart’s ballet. His radical new ideas, seemingly sanctioned by Marie Antoinette, and recently published as Lettres sur la danse et les ballets, appears to be gaining some traction!

3. Can You Trust Her?
Setting: Rehearsal Room, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux - 1789
Characters: Noverre, Jean Dauberval, Mme Théodore (Dauberval’s wife; creates the role of Lison), danseur Eugène Hus, Colas), Francois Le Riche (creates the role of the Widow Ragotte), repetiteur, dancers of Le ballet de la paille company
Dauberval has been in the position of maître de ballet at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux for five years. He is in the process of developing a new and innovative work based on an engraving of Pierre-Antoine Baudouin’s painting Le reprimande/Une jeune fille querellée par sa mère. The engraving shows a girl in tears with her clothes disarrayed being berated by an old woman (presumably her mother) in a hay barn, while her lover can be seen in the background scurrying up the stairs to the safety of the loft. Dauberval is finding the dance language difficult in translation. Fortunately, he thinks the solution might be found in his mentor Jean-Georges Noverre’s treatise on the ballet d’action when the man himself arrives. Noverre has fled Paris in fear of his life due to his relationship with Queen Marie Antoinette and the revelations of her unfortunate involvement in the notorious ‘affair of the Diamond Necklace’; an involvement that would lead eventually to a mob storming the Bastille and a scenario that would lead to the destruction of the monarchy and the execution of Louis XVI. But in the provinces, life and art merge on the rehearsal room floor to create an inspired, delightful and enduring dance ballet [La fille mal gardée].