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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.
Click here for details of all BRB performances of this ballet currently on sale.
BRB Ballet Master
'Paquita is Galina Samsova's ballet - I remember dancing it with her even before I was with The Royal Ballet. There's only one male part in it so it's mainly a women's ballet, with some really very, very challenging solos, and strong corps de ballet stuff. At the moment we've got some really very strong talent amongst the girls - and it will be great to see them dance this.'
BRB Wig Master
'When Galina Samsova first staged Paquita for the Company, it had a different style from anything I'd seen before. It made an impact then and it still sticks in my mind, because – and this is nothing to do with my job, this is purely from watching it – it's just different. To look at it you might think 'oh it's just girls in tutus’, but it’s not, it has a completely different style that at that time it was made the girls had never done before; it just seems to come over a lot more 'Russian'! I've seen it since and it still stands out.'
Click on the names for individual biographies
Music Ludwig Minkus
Orchestrated by Barry Wordsworth
Choreography Marius Petipa
Production Galina Samsova
Designs Peter Farmer
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