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Read the fairy-tale story of the Firebird
Children's activity sheet
Click here for a printable colouring and puzzle sheet featuring the Firebird herself
See what the critics thought The Firebird.
The history of The Firebird
Read more about the creation of the ballet
Your first destination for information on one of Stravinsky's most popular ballets
Le Baiser de la fée
Find out about this ballet, and the other versions that have preceded it.
Read the biography of the choreographer
The Fairy's Kiss
Michael Corder discusses his new piece
Introduction to Petrushka
Find out about the creation of the ballet, and one of the few narrative scores in Stravinsky's career
Behind-the-scenes: the shoe supervisor
A behind-the-scenes interview with Michael Clifford, Birmingham Royal Ballet's shoemaster, where he explains why Petrushka demands more work than Sleeping Beauty.
The Acrobat and the Ringmaster
Read about the prolific partnership of Stravinsky and Diaghilev
The Fairy's Kiss
Dave Mead talks to Michael Corder about his new version of Le Baiser de la fée and his approach to choreography
Michael Corder confesses to having had mixed feelings when approached by David Bintley to make a new version of Le Baiser de la fée. On the one hand he was both surprised and delighted since he has long been attracted to the score, which is a combination of two of his favourite composers, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. At the same time however, he was concerned about the difficulties inherent in the work that have kept it from maintaining a permanent place in the repertory.
Never having seen a previous version, Corder is unsure why the ballet hasn't been performed more regularly. Balanchine highlighted the problem of the 20-year leap in time over the course of the narrative. More difficult though, Corder believes, is that while there is a clear story, there is not a huge amount of incident in Stravinsky's scenario, and the characters are not strongly delineated. They don't even have names. The male principal, for example, is simply described as 'The Young Man,' and the female as 'The Bride.' He feels you 'have to be clever' to fill in the colour, which as he added, has much to do with who you choose to cast, and how the ballet is designed. Most important though, he thinks, is to tell what story there is as clearly as possible, and that is exactly his intention in Birmingham and Salford this summer.
Although The Ice Maiden is also the basis for The Snow Queen, which he recently made for English National Ballet, Corder really wanted to emphasise that Le Baiser de la fée is not another version of that tale. For him, the music comes first, and this ballet like all his others is very much being shaped by it. 'It is Stravinsky,' he said. He feels that although he doesn't really have the option of changing anything, he wouldn't want to anyway, because the 'whole thing is so fabulously constructed.'
'What is central to every piece I do is the score,' he said, explaining that you listen to the score to try and work out what is happening when; then you get more down to the practicalities such as what are the characters, what are they like, what are the scenes, and how do they change. He says that while you need some initial inspiration and desire, most of the work for any choreographer is extremely practical.
With Le Baiser de la fée he will be planning ahead as always, but as he says, a lot of it happens in the studio as you are doing it, and things can, and do change. In that sense he sees himself as much a craftsman as an artist.
Corder emphasises that the ballet will, 'absolutely be classically-based.' He explained that this is how he used to dance and feels it is the dance language with the richest vocabulary.
While adapting his style to the requirements of the narrative, period, and most importantly the music, he said he will be working in the way he always works, which means finding a language and vocabulary that comes naturally out of the music with the dancers that he is working with. Ballet allows him to do that while still retaining that classical basis.
He agrees that this approach helps make work accessible for regular ballet audiences, which is important. He feels there is a misconception in some quarters these days that if something is classically wrought, it is somehow trivial and that because it's actually accessible to a large public, it's not of so much value artistically as things that are more often described as 'contemporary' dance. 'I am working now, but in a classical language that is absolutely vast,' he says.
Corder is also a firm believer in the narrative ballet and believes that it has a strong and vibrant future. He talks passionately about the great literary and dramatic tradition in this country, whether in opera, ballet or theatre, but feels that sometimes we just need to acknowledge and nurture our heritage a little more. He sees himself as just one small part of that tradition. Having said that, he emphasises that while he is delighted to have the opportunity to make story ballets, he is not wedded to them. The main interest for him in dance and choreography, and his main motivation, is music. That comes first and foremost, he explained, adding that, if there happens to be narrative attached or the possibility of it, he can work with that too.
Edited from a longer article that appears in the spring 2008 edition of Entrechat, the magazine of the BRB Friends.
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