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Cultivating a Garden:
Reconstructing & Staging Petipa’s "Le Jardin Animé"

An Interview with Doug Fullington and Manard Stewart

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

Jardin Anime in rehearsalJune 2004

In mid-May, we met with dance historian Doug Fullington and former PNB Principal Dancer Manard Stewart about their project of researching, reconstructing, and staging Petipa’s divertissement "Le Jardin Animé" from his famous "Le Corsaire" ballet from notation scores in the Stepanov system. How appropriate our discussion was amid the gardens and spring flowers of the bowers of the University of Washington in Seattle. Here is a summary of that talk.

Tell us about this project. Your interest and how it got started...

Mr. Fullington: I read a great book by Roland John Wiley titled "Tchaikovsky's Ballets" (1985), which discussed notations in the back, including a mention of a key by Gorsky to reading the notation. The notation itself is a little like Benesh notation in that it's written like musical notation. The notation takes time to learn to read. I might note that Stepanov also notated class exercises too -- but separately. The scores are currently housed at Harvard, and I went there to study the collection.

The scores were brought out of Russia in 1918 by ballet master and régisseur Nicolai Sergeyev which were later used for Sadler's Wells (later the Royal Ballet) productions, such as "Sleeping Beauty."
The scores went to a Mona Inglesby in the '50s and were later sold to Harvard. It's interesting to note that it's come full circle now in that the Kirov are also using them.

Doug Fullington and Jeannette Sheard rehearse Jardin AnimeThe materials made in Sergeyev's hand are very difficult to read. The notations were used as a memory aid. However, the early editions were very carefully done. There are three staves: legs/feet, arms, and head/body. Any text was written in Russian and we're fortunate that John Pendleton has provided translations. What's fascinating is that we've found that many current productions are quite different from the scores -- Anna Marie Holmes' staging of it, for example. What we're setting was notated twice -- the first half prior to 1899 and the second probably after that date by Sergeyev. It takes a large cast, 68 dancers, which is perhaps one of the reasons it’s not done too often today.

One of our goals is to try not to make the ballet look "old-fashioned." Today's trained dancers move in a contemporary way but completely within the parameters of the notation. The score is by Délibes; not the usual "suspects" of Russian Court composers of the day -- Minkus, Pugni, etc. The Library of Congress has an autographed copy of the score, and the Paris Opera Ballet has a performance copy of the full score.

Which dancers are participating?

PNB School in Jardin animeMr. Stewart: PNB School students. Level 3 boys through Professional Division. As the score was notated clearly and is short, we felt we could do it with students. Most of the Petipa ballets require so many resources because everything was done big. It's also a good example of Petipa's work, as a lot happens -- choreographically -- in a short amount of time. And there are no big prop expenses, only baskets and garlands (36!) all hand-made. It's 14 minutes long with two leads, soloists, and corps. It fits well within a ballet school's hierarchy.

Mr. Fullington: As far as we know, this is the U.S. premiere of this version of this balletic scene. Manard is teaching and setting the steps. Musical score reading is required, and he can do this. The score is very explicit in its description of use of the upper body. Oh, and there's lots of éffacé, which has been an adjustment for current dancers, as it's a directional facing that's just not used as much in today's ballets. In Petipa's day, éffacé and croisé actually held different "meanings."

A fun example of the charm of the choreography is when they make three "clovers" on the ground with their garlands and the ballerina has to jump in and out of them; very French -- charming and sweet. We found it interesting that there is a lot less repetition of steps than we had anticipated and a whole lot more diversity than is usually seen. Care was taken to make each "repetition" of a combination or pattern different.

The choreography tends to be very literal in its musicality. The men's variations (from other ballets notated in the Stepanov system) are more "through composed," following the musical design. There was actually a lot of speed, but the steps were more "contained" than now.

How is it coming along?

Everything is now "set," and we are working on cleaning and rehearsing at this time; about two hours each week.

Le Jardin Animé was performed on each of PNB's School Performance shows, 19 June 2004 at McCaw Hall in Seattle. See http://www.pnb.org/pnbschool/schoolperf.html for more information.


Edited by Lori Ibay

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