A glimpse into"La Vivandière" for Utah Ballet

03 February 2020 Published in News and Announcements

School of Dance Ballet Program undergraduate student Nicole Kallsen discusses Assistant Professor Christopher Alloways-Ramsey’s restaging of the Pas de Six from the ballet, "La Vivandière."

Transport yourself to Napoleonic France where playful flirtation pervades life, even during war. Men prepare for battle while women gather to say their goodbyes to fathers, brothers, cousins, or lovers. Unknown to most modern-day citizens, women were also leaving to go off to battle and needed to leave loved ones behind. These women were Vivandières (viv-on-dee-air), respectable women who sold goods to a chosen regiment in the French army. From ink, to bandages, beer, and food, a Vivandière was necessary to help keep up a minimum standard of living for the French soldiers. 

Through light footwork and coy épaulement, the audience is carried from 21st century drama to a 19th century romance in the Pas de Six from the 1848 ballet La Vivandière. This period ballet will be presented during Utah Ballet II – February 6th - 8th and 13th - 15th at the Hayes Christensen Theater located in the Marriott Center for Dance.

This ballet includes a variety of movement qualities that constantly emphasizes the versatility of the dancers. From light petit allegro, to beautiful adagio and pas de deux, and triumphant grand allegro, this ballet artistically and technically challenges the dancers. Additionally, the technicality of movement increases when the style of the French Romantic period is layered on top. Combining the differing movements and clear period body placement, this piece highlights the dancer’s eye to detail.

In this divertissementLa Vivandiére depicts the love between Fanny, a French Vivandière, and Arthur, a tavern keeper. From the original audience perspective in the Paris Opéra, they would see a respectable woman falling into a youthful love that would not work out. Since the Vivandière would need to travel with the regiment, she would need to leave her tavern keeper behind in the village. Thus, a youthful romance unfolds as two fall for one another even though they will be separated in the end. As this is an excerpt from the full ballet, audiences will see Fanny and Arthur fall in love, unaware of their their demise. 

In the original staging of La Vivandière, Fanny Cerrito and Arthur Saint-Léon danced the roles of Vivandière and Tavern Keeper with four supporting female demi-soloist roles. Fanny Cerrito was an infamous Italian ballerina who was known for popularizing this ballet with her intricate and bright footwork that effortlessly carried her across the stage. This time period was the highlight of the female dancer – Fanny was a star. Likewise, Arthur Saint-Léon was coming into his shoes as a dancer and musician. With this combined talent of music and dance, Saint-Léon created his dance notation system, Sténéochorepgraphie, from which this ballet was restaged.

To restage this work for the University of Utah, a variety of archival, theoretical, and auto-empirical methodologies needed to be put into place. As there were no means to film this ballet while it was in the Paris Opéra’s repertoire between 1848 and 1872, restagers resort to archival knowledge of this ballet. Archival sources include the choreographic and musical notation from Sténéochoreographielibrettos, and lithographs of the costuming. Additionally, theoretical knowledge of the French Romantic style and choreographic tenancies from surviving ballets from this era aid in establishing the style of the steps. Furthermore, Assistant Professor Christopher Alloways-Ramsey used embodied knowledge from learning variations in his schooling. Lastly, video sources from previous restagings were used for reference.

Audiences have a chance to see this period ballet in Utah Ballet II alongside other classical and contemporary works. Specifically, audiences will see original choreography from award winning choreographer Heather Gray. There will be a world premiere from School of Dance Assistant Professor Melissa Bobick. Visiting Professor Rick McCullough’s set his work, "Preludes," on University dancers – where dancers will be joined on stage by Pianist Dr. Vedrana Subotic from the University of Utah School of Music. Come and view this versatile group of dancers February 7th - 9th and 13th - 15th at the Hayes Christensen Theater located in the Marriott Center for Dance.

Original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon (1848) and original restaging by Ann Hutcherson Guest (1977). Music by Cesare Pugni and Jean-Baptiste Nadaud.