michael j. morris

Les Noces
4 December, 2008, 5:05 pm
Filed under: research | Tags: , , , , ,

I am presently concluding research and authoring a paper on the effects of Vaslav Nijinsky and Bronislava Nijinska on the presentation and perception of gender in early 20th ballet. In the work that the two produced (Nijinsky’s first three of four ballets, L’Après-midi d’un Faune, Jeux, and Le Sacre du Printemps; two of Nijinska’s ballets, Les Noces and Les Biches), the roles of gender in society and in the ballet were radically challenged, disregarded, or overthrown. 

I will resist the urge to compose an abstract of the paper here and now, but I did want to give a sense of another aspect of my current research. I thought I would offer you links to video footage of Bronislava Nijinska’s first significant ballet. It was produced in 1923, presented first in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. Nancy Van Norman Baer says of the ballet: it was “a primitive ritual where both the bride and the groom are trapped by fate and repressive social custom.”

Nijinska herself wrote of her ballet: “I saw a dramatic quality in such wedding ceremonies of those times in the fate of the bride and groom, since the choice is made by parents to whom they owe complete obedience–there is no question of mutuality of feelings. The young girl knows nothing at all about her future family nor what lies in store for her. Not only will she be subject to her husband, but also to his parents. It is possible that after being loved and cherished by her own kind, she may be nothing more, in her new, rough family, than a useful extra worker, just another pair of hands. the soul of the innocent is in disarray–she is bidding goodbye to her carefree youth and to her loving mother . . .”

So here are videos of Nijnska’s Les Noces. It is one of the most powerful historical ballets I have seen in quite some time. It is in three parts on youtube, but well worth the watch. Remember that this were performed in 1923, and is a commentary on the role of marriage in Russian peasant traditions. Enjoy:

part one:

part two:

part three:

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