As Spring approaches, the soft pastel shades of the season start to appear. Everything begins a slow movement towards life. Flowers push from below, beautifully developed in color. The Easter candy is youthfully wrapped in baby-like hues of pink and blue, yellow and green. Even though the seasons seem to almost birth too soon, as according to the store shelves, it is hard not to anticipate. It has always been a favorite time of year. Memories of new attire and hats for church come to mind. Not to be left behind is the dancer’s Spring Recital, and event every little or big girl in dance looks forward to.
The memory of such performances brings to mind a certain ballet almost performed at one of my old schools’ Le Spectre De La Rose. I never got to see the ballet performed due to a lead dancer’s injury, but I have observed it through photographs and art, and recently found an old copy of Cyril W. Beaumont’s Complete Book of Ballets, which contains personal reviews on these old gems. With the recent anticipation of the release of the movie on Nijinsky, it seemed a great time to put all my (Easter) eggs in one basket for a nice and informative post on all of the above.
In a short synopsis, Le Spectre De La Rose is an adaptation of a poem by Gautier which I have pleasantly researched here and would like to share below. The ballet interprets the story of a young girl at a ball, to whom a rose is given. The excitement of the ball, which has also been set to Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, has left her weary, and as she sinks into a deep sleep, the object of her dream appears through the open window in her room. He is the spirit of the rose, dancing with abandonment, similar to a rose petal in the wind. In one magical moment she is waltzing with him, her spirit lifted into heavenly realms of dance with his company. In the next moment, she is awake in her chair as if it were just her imagination. The spirit hovers for a brief instant, disappearing through the open window just as the sun rises. She stirs from her slumber enough to recall and question if it were a dream or reality. Still doubting in her empty room, she picks up the rose in remembrance, pressing it to her heart with a sad half-smile.
According to Beaumont the intention of choreographer Michel Fokine was to use Nijinsky’s rare elevation and energetic male energy as the rose to create charming contrast to Tamara Karsavina’s presence as the sleeping girl. This ballet, in the Romantic style, is a classical pas de deux, also displaying this technique in Nijinsky’s effortlessness and graceful entrance through the window. Like a grasshopper, it says! The ethereal themed ballet achieved great success whenever performed, once so loved that it was performed twice in one evening. (So sorry for that male dancer that night!)
Like most visual art I suppose, it presented itself so beautiful with these two performers that when it ended you were uncertain as to whether you had just seen what you did. Beaumont expresses that it was so linked to Nijinsky and Karsavina that all revivals failed to impress.
Thus passes the glory of the world.
The Phantom Of The Rose – Poem by Theophile Gautier
Sweet lady, let your lids unclose.–
Those lids by maiden dreams caressed;
I am the phantom of the rose
You wore last night upon your breast.
Like pearls upon my petals lay
The weeping fountain’s silver tears,
Ere in the glittering array
You bore me proudly ‘mid your peers.
O lady, ’twas for you I died–
Yet have I come and will I stay;
My rosy phantom by your side
Will linger till the break of day.
Yet fear not, lady; naught claim I–
Nor mass, nor hymn, or funeral prayer;
My soul is but a perfumed sigh,
Which pure from Paradise I bear.
My death is as my life was–sweet;
Who would not die as I have done?
A fate like mine who would not meet,
Your bosom fair to lie upon?
A poet on my sentient tomb
Engraved this legend with a kiss:
‘Here lies a rose of fairest bloom;
E’en kings are jealous of its bliss.
Le Spectre de la Rose
Ballet in 1 Act. Book : J.L. Vaudoyer. Music : Weber. Scenery and costumes Leon Bakst. Choreography Michel Fokine. First produced Theatre de Monte Carlo, 1911.