#Throwback Thursday: Paquita

Hi everyone! Day one of ballet exams is over and done with - well done to all our wonderful students! I'll be posting more on the exams when the session has ended tomorrow. In the meantime, here's this weeks's #ThrowbackThursday: Paquita.

The Australian Ballet

Paquita is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by the ballet master of the Paris Opera, Joseph Mazilier, to music by Edouard Deldevez and Ludwig Minkus. It is set in Spain, during the country's occupation by Napoleon's army. A young Gypsy girl, Paquita, saves the life of a French Officer, Lucien d'Hervilly. He had been sent to a Gypsy chief, Inigo, by the Spanish governor, who had wished to have him killed. Lucien falls in love with Paquita, who discovers via an inherited medallion that she is really of noble birth. She was stolen by the Gypsies as a baby, and is really a distant cousin of Lucien's. The ballet ends with the wedding of Lucien and Paquita.

Ekaterina Vazem in the title role, St. Petersburg, 1881

The ballet premiered on 1 April 1846 at the Salle Le Peletier, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet with Lucien Petipa as Lucien and Carlotta Grisi as Paquita. It remained in the repertoire until 1851. In 1847, Paquita became the first ever work to be staged by Marius Petipa in St. Petersburg for the Imperial Ballet. Staged by the joint effort of Petipa and Pierre-Frederic Malavergne, it also starred Petipa as Lucien and ballerina Yelena Andreyanova as Paquita.

Students of the Imperial Ballet School in Mazurka des enfants, St. Petersburg, 1881

Petipa staged a revival in 1881, adding new pieces composed by Ludwig Minkus. This included the now-famous Paquita Pas de trois, the Paquita Grand pas classique, and the Mazurka des enfants. The production starred Ekaterina Vazem and Pavel Gerdt, and remained in the repertoire of the Mariinsky Ballet until 1926. Petipa's additions from the 1881 revival survived long after the full-length ballet ceased to be performed.

Virginia Zucchi in the title role, St. Petersburg, 1886

The Grand pas classique is particularly famous. In the original 1881 addition, only one variation was included for Ekaterina Vazem, a polonaise. The now traditionally five variations stems from the 1897 gala performance at Peterhof in honour of the Empress Catherine II. Mathilde Kschessinskaya performed the lead role and invited several other soloists to perform their favourite variations, extracted from other ballets. The tradition was cemented in 1902 at a farewell gala for Enrico Cecchetti. Nearly all of the leading ballerinas of the Imperial Theatres were his pupils, and all wished to pay him homage; for this reasons, the Grand pas classique was chosen as the perfect vehicle to show off each one. Some twenty-one variations were performed, a tradition which has continued to the present day.

Michel Fokine as Lucien, St. Petersburg, 1898

Petipa's choreography for the Imperial Ballet was notated using the Stepanov method while the ballet master himself was coaching Anna Pavlova in the lead role. The notations are now in the Sergeyev collection at Harvard University, and were used during a restaging of the full production by Pierre Lacotte for the Paris Opera Ballet in 2001. A full reconstruction was staged by Alexei Ratmansky in 2014, for the Bayerisches Staatsballett.

Elsa Vill, Pierre Vladimirov, and Elizaveta Gerdt in the Paquita Pas de Trois, St. Petersburg, 1909

The Grand pas classique is by far the most popular piece of the ballet and is often staged alone. Anna Pavlova included it in her company's repertory. Rudolf Nureyev staged it in 1964 for the Royal Academy of Dance, in 1970 for La Scala Ballet, and for the Vienna State Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in 1971. Natalia Makarova then staged it for American Ballet Theatre in 1984, a production which remains in the repertoire.

Dorothee Gilbert in 'Paquita', Paris Opera Ballet, 2010

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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