The 6 Different Ballet Items You Watched Over The Weekend At The Gala

Images courtesy of KL Dance Works Production & credits go to Lim Yau Tong.

If you’re a ballet dancer, teacher or just a ballet enthusiast, chances are you were at the International Ballet Super Stars Gala 2019, organised by KL Dance Works Production. 8 international ballet stars performed excerpts of well-known ballets, with selected local students joining them on stage for the opening and for one of the segments. All ballet pieces performed that day were all well-known, and the audience probably had a blast watching Grand Pas Classique live – I know I did because it’s not often you see that in Malaysia! But what about the rest? Do you know those ballet items well enough? Let’s recap the moments of the gala last weekend, and relive them through brief explanations of these ballet items!

1. Diana & Actaeon

I searched, and apparently “Actaeon” could be spelled “Actaeon” or “Acteon”. (Maybe it’s a US/UK spelling thing?) Spelling aside, let’s talk about the story. This pas de deux is actually based on a myth in ancient Roman times, and the story wasn’t so great for them. The myth describes the tale of a young hunter, Actaeon, and his encounter with the chaste Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana. Diana was taking a bath in a spring, when Actaeon unwittingly stumbles upon her. Embarrassed and furious, Diana splashes water on Actaeon, who is then transformed into a deer, minus his ability to speak. I assume at this point he’d have been scared out of his wits, so he flees, naturally. But remember the little point about him being a hunter? His own hounds, failing to recognize their master in the form of a deer, track him down and kill him. Ouch. The origin for the ballet Diana & Actaeon existed as early as 1868, which was a pas de trois choreographed for the ballet Tsar Kandavl. However, the version we all know and love was choreographed by none other than Agrippina Vaganova for a 1935 version of La Esmeralda, in which she totally abandoned the tragedy and instead created a spectacular showy piece for lovers.

Danced by Yui Sugawara Celestin Boutin in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

2. Cinderella

Cinderella is such a popular folk tale that it hardly needs any introduction, to be honest. The music of Cinderella was composed by Sergei Prokofiev (the same man who brought us the music of Romeo & Juliet) to a scenario by Nikolai Volkov. So we all know that Cinderella is the girl who’s treated like a maid by her stepmother and stepsisters after her father passes away, and that they are unnecessarily cruel towards her. However, in the ballet version, the stepsisters (sometimes including the stepmother) take on comedic roles, ending up being more hilarious than cruel, which is actually great for the story to unfold. The story progresses with Cinderella getting a magical makeover from her fairy godmother, attending the ball and dancing with the prince, where they fall in love with each other. But! The clock strikes 12, and Cinderella has to leave, according to the agreement with her fairy godmother. Skipping ahead to Act 3 and the pas de deux we watched, the pas de deux is actually the end of the ballet, where the prince finally reunites with Cinderella, and live happily ever after.

Danced by Benedicte Bemet Kevin Jackson in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

3. La Esmeralda

The La Esmeralda ballet is a ballet in three acts and five scenes, and inspired by the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo. If you know it by the Disney version, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame? However, the full-length ballet of La Esmeralda is actually rarely performed excepted in Russia, Eastern Europe and in New Jersey – most major companies do not perform the full-length version. This explains why we hardly know how the ballet progresses, or why we only know the Esmeralda variation. Most commonly, we see La Esmeralda as a pas de deux, or pas de six. We saw the pas de six at the gala, joined by four local dancers. If you’re not sure about the story of Esmeralda, I’m going to try to take you through it very quickly. Esmeralda marries Pierre to save his life from the gypsy king, and he falls for her while she doesn’t love him at all. Frollo is the archdeacon, and he is infatuated with Esmeralda. He orders his henchman Quasimodo to abduct her, but he is instead thwarted by the King’s Archers and captured by their captain, Phoebus. The rest of the story isn’t important because I just needed to introduce Phoebus – and the scene we saw was between Phoebus, Esmeralda, and her friends.

Danced by Ksenia Ovysanick Dinu Tamazlacaru in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

4. Carmen Suite

The Carmen Suite is a one-act ballet, which was created in 1967 by Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso for his wife, prima ballerina assoluta Maya Plisetskaya, to the music of Rodin Shchedrin. Essentially, this is a retelling of Bizet’s opera of the same name, but with Shchedrin’s twist of the music. The story of Carmen is a pretty sad one though. It was a life of crime and a tempestuous, passionate love affair, which then led to Carmen being stabbed to death by her lover, Don José. Not cool, José, not cool. There are 13 dance numbers altogether, the most famous of which is probably Habañera. We didn’t get to see this though, but what we saw was the duet of Carmen and Don José.

Danced by Adiarys Almeida Taras Domitro in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

5. Grand Pas Classique

grand pas classique is actually a name given to a specific type of dance rather than a variation name, but how did the Grand Pas Classique variation get its name and status? Actually, a grand pas classique is a dance with variations in which classical ballet technique is prevalent, without any character variations. In other words, a grand pas classique showcases classical ballet in all its technical glory without putting a spin on it character-wise. It’s just a dance to display your skills; it’s not a role to play. The Grand Pas Classique variation we’re used to was choreographed by Victor Gsovsky, which is so brilliant and exacting that it has become an all-time favourite, performed by generations and generations of ballet dancers. I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention to the male variation, but I was instantly sucked into the iconic diagonal line of the relevés of the female variation right before the sautés en pointe and the quick and nimble posé turns to cap it all off!

Danced by Benedicte Bemet Kevin Jackson in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

6. Don Quixote

Don Quixote is yet another ballet based on a famous novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. The ballet is set in four acts and eight scenes, and no one can deny the palpable excitement whenever the Don Quixote ballet is mentioned. I mean, why wouldn’t anyone be excited? There are plenty of roles to play, the music is incredible, there’s a contrast of dynamics with the staging of the Dream Scene, it’s elaborate and it’s fun! Don Quixote is considered to be among the great classics of ballet, and rightly so. The original story of Don Quixote is of course, about the adventures of the eponymous character, but in the ballet Don Quixote himself is overlooked in favour of Kitri and Basilio, who are the protagonists. It’s also a forbidden kind of love story, but it all ends well for Kitri and Basilio (finally, thank God, not a tragic love story because we have enough of that with Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, Giselle etc.)! Undoubtedly the Grand Pas De Deux in Act 3 is one of the most famous and iconic scenes in the ballet, together with the solos and the breathtaking coda to wrap it all up! I believe I speak for most of everyone by saying “I love the Don Quixote coda!” This is my second time witnessing this scene, and I will never get sick of it, honestly.

Danced by Adiarys Almeida Taras Domitro in the gala.

Image Credit: Lim Yau Tong

All images courtesy of KL Dance Works Production.

We’d like to extend our thanks to KL Dance Works Production, the organiser of this wonderful International Ballet Super Stars Gala 2019, in collaboration with Istana Budaya, and for very kindly sending us images from the gala to be included in this article. Also, thank you to all the international dancers who flew all the way to Malaysia to put on a spectacular show! We believe that many budding dancers were inspired, and now have the drive to do even better!

For future ballet events and possible Super Stars Galas, follow:

@kldanceworks
@tdsmalaysia

Last but not least, we’ve also managed to secure exclusive interviews with six out of the eight international dancers, and all that’s coming up over the next few weeks! Make sure you hang tight to our website, or follow us on Instagram at @expression.platform for the latest updates! You won’t want to miss those interviews!

Author

Yiing Zhi

Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.

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