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Read about the evolution of this ballet
Find out more about the Producer of the ballet
Read how Paquita allows the girls to shine after the male-dominated Edward II
Nine Sinatra Songs
How Sinatra inspired the dance
What built the choreographer's reputation?
Read what the critics have said about previous BRB performances of the ballet
Daphnis and Chloë
Find out about the original creative team behind the ballet
Find out about the characters in the ballet
Charmed Life: John Craxton RA
Find out about the artist responsible for the ballet's designs
Paquita originally started out as a narrative ballet, telling the story of a Spanish gypsy girl called Paquita, who falls in love with a French nobleman called Lucien. Unfortunately, due to their differences in background and social standing, the two characters are incompatible. Later it is discovered that the gypsies are not her real family, and that they saved her from a pirate massacre when she was just a child. Travelling the country, they find and reunite her with her original family, revealing her to be the daughter of a nobleman, and she and Lucien are united.
Since its premiere in 1846, a number of different versions of the ballet have been performed, most extracting particular sections of the music and/or choreography to create shorter pieces, focussing on the dance itself rather than the story. Such is the strength of the material, the loss of the narrative makes these versions no less entertaining.
The choreography itself was originally by Joseph Mazilier, who was quick to exploit the exceptional pointe work of his first Paquita, an acclaimed dancer named Carlotta Grisi. Grisi had also been the first to perform the emotive title role in Marius Petipa's Giselle, five years previously, to great acclaim. The first Lucien was Lucien Petipa, brother of Marius himself. Marius twice staged his own version of the ballet years later, the second being the most successful, due in no small part to a number of extra dances that he introduced, to additional music by Ludwig Minkus.
Petipa went on to choreograph Swan Lake, one of Birmingham Royal Ballet's most popular productions, and his work on Paquita bears many of the hallmarks that have made the classical favourite so well-loved; smooth, shimmering moments of pure dance, lushly spectacular climaxes, and demanding steps for everyone involved – look out for an earlier appearance of Swan Lake 's breathtaking trademark 32 fouettés (requiring the ballerina to spin repeatedly on pointe for a full 30 seconds whilst keeping time with the music!). Like that ballet, BRB's production of Paquita is also dominated by female dancers – only one male appears on the stage throughout the entire performance – and at many times the steps of the principal are mirrored by the corps de ballet, providing challenges for all involved.
Petipa is known today as 'the father of classical ballet', cited by virtually everyone of note in the world of classical dance, and Paquita offers a taster of the great choreographers work, ahead of his full-length classics, Swan Lake and Giselle, later in the season.
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