Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 2
by Nina Pinzarrone
Last month I wrote about useful music from operas. (See “2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers: Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 1,” November 2016.) Here are more examples.
Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable: Act 2’s “Pas de cinq” occurs during a medieval tournament. Use its light, bouncy tunes in 6/8 for ballonné, ballotté, and glissade jeté. Use its sections in 2/4 for petit battement, petit allegro, and pointe work. Act 3’s Ballet of the Nuns, the first Romantic ballet, or ballet blanc, starred Marie Taglioni dancing en pointe. Use “Seduction par le jeu,” a lively waltz with continuous eighth-note melodic movement, for pointe work at the barre, piqué turns, ronds de jambe en l’air, and bourrées. Use “Seduction par l’amour,” a 4/4 andante, for a lovely port de bras, slow warm-up, or easy-to-count développé exercise.
Gounod’s Faust: Act 5’s ballet takes place on Walpurgis Night, when the dead wander freely on earth. Balanchine used the music for Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1975). Use “Les Nubiennes” for a fondu, rond de jambe en l’air, or center-practice waltz; “Variations de Cléopâtre” for a strong tour en l’air; and “Variations du miroir” for tendu pirouettes in center.
Rossini’s William Tell: Act 1’s “Pas de six” and Act 3’s “Pas de trois,” both dances for Swiss peasants, contain two of my favorite pieces for petit battement or terre à terre allegro—the 2/4 allegrettos, with their constantly running 16th-note figures. I often combine them, especially for center. Act 3’s “Pas de soldats” begins with my favorite small jump music; its consistent upbeat lifts dancers into the air.
You can find these selections on the albums Meyerbeer: Ballet Music from the Operas (Nesterowicz/Barcelona Symphony Orchestra); Gounod: The 2 Symphonies, Faust Ballet Music (Marriner/Academy of St. Martin in the Fields); and Rossini/Donizetti: Ballet Music (Almeida/Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo).
Nina Pinzarrone, pianist at San Francisco Ballet since 1992, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Illinois and has recorded nine CDs for ballet class.