Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Greece of Dreams

Benjamin Millepied’s new choreography for Ravel’s “Daphnis et ChloĆ©”

Daniel Buren, Daphnis et ChloĆ© | Choreography by B. Millepied |Photo © Agathe. Source link.
French composer Maurice Ravel and Russian choreographer Michel Fokine had a hard time remembering the names of the characters in Longus’s second-century C.E. Greek novel Daphnis and Chloe, from which they adapted their ballet of the same name in 1912. Was the name of Daphnis’s rival for Chloe’s affections Darcan or Dorcon? Is the city slicker who tries to seduce Daphnis called Lyceion or Lycenion? Such concerns were ultimately immaterial to Ravel: “My intention in writing [Daphnis] was to compose a vast musical fresco, less concerned with archaism than with fidelity to the Greece of my dreams," he wrote in a 1928 autobiographical essay—dreams which, he acknowledged, leaned heavily toward the Greece imagined by late-eighteenth-century French art. On the other hand, Fokine, who had committed himself in print to the idea that dance should reflect the style of the time of a work’s setting, wanted to incorporate poses and gestures found on red-figure ceramics as extensively as possible (his dancers wore sandals or went barefoot, precluding pointe work), and was disappointed to learn that there was insufficient evidence on which Ravel could recreate the music of ancient Greece. By most accounts, the two were at odds with one another for most of the lead-up to the show (reconciled only by their mutual exasperation with an even bigger ego, the Ballet Russes’ impresario Serge Diaghilev).