Frédéric Chopin- The Composer Who Never Created a Ballet
Although there is some debate as to his official date of birth, the widely recognized birthday of Frédéric Chopin is March 1, 1810.
In the ballet world, Chopin is mainly known for his compositions used in Les Sylphides,The Concert, A Month in the Country, and Lady of the Camellias, each of which place a piano on the stage with a live accompanist, reaffirming his presence in each of these unique productions.
And although never having created specifically for ballet, Chopin’s legacy will forever live on in ballet classrooms – where many young dancers are often first exposed to the composer – and stages around the world.
Les Sylphides is the best known ballet to Chopin’s work, a romantic non-narrative ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine.
The ballet premiered on June 2, 1909, sixty years after the composer’s death. It was first performed by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with an original cast that included Anna Pavlova andVaslav Nijinsky.
Les Sylphides is the first example of a choreographer adapting precomposed music for a ballet, an innovation that changed the course of ballet history.
The Concert is a thirty-minute comedic ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet.
The Concert, which premiered on March 6, 1956, is an homage to Chopin and his legendary compositions. The quirky, exaggerated characters find themselves daydreaming, lost in the music, and their dreams are produced visually on the stage.
A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY
A Month in the Country, a one-act ballet choreographed by Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet, is based on Ivan Turgenev’s play of the same name. It premiered on February 12, 1976.
The story follows a family that is spending a month in the Russian country, and whose vacation does not go as planned when Natalia, the mother, falls in love with the tutor that she has hired for her son. When the ward, who also pines for the tutor, realizes Natalia’s feelings for him, she becomes deeply distraught. Natalia is blamed for the disarray and is left by her family and the tutor.
LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS
With three acts, Lady of the Camellias is the longest of ballets choreographed to Chopin. Both John Neumeier and Val Caniparoli have choreographed well-recognized versions which premiered with the Stuttgart Ballet in 1978 and Florida Ballet in 1994, respectively.
Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas of the same name, Lady of the Camellias tells of Marguerite, a Parisian courtesan who has recently died. Her lover, Armand, is distraught over her death and begins to relate the story of their relationship. He recounts their meeting, their torment over family and class, and Marguerite’s predictable yet tragic death.
Frédéric Chopin (born Fryderyk Chopin) was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland to Justyna of Poland, and Nicholas of France.
The baptismal register dates his birthday as February 22, and the Chopin Society celebrates his birthday on this date, but his family was known to have celebrated, and claim Frédéric’s birthday to fall on, the first of March.
Chopin was known to have been extremely ill throughout his life, starting in his early childhood. However, he published a polonaise at age seven and was known to have been a child prodigy. He moved to Paris at age 20, never to return to Poland. There he became close friends with Franz Liszt and other famous composers of the time.
For the majority of his short adulthood, Chopin maintained a relationship with the French novelist George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin). Together eleven years, the relationship ended two years before the pianist’s death, an event that as noted by close friends and family resulted in a more rapid decline in his health.
On October 17, 1849 Chopin died at age 39. He left his last performance early because he was feeling particularly unwell, after which it is said that he then collapsed and died upon arrival at his home.
Upon Chopin’s request, his heart was preserved in alcohol after his death; his sister smuggled it back into Poland where it remains today. The heart was later examined by doctors, at which time they concluded that tuberculosis was not implausible. However, his low weight, only 88 pounds at 5′-6″, also suggests he could have suffered from cystic fibrosis.
Though Chopin’s life seems characteristic of the era in which he lived, his talents have been preserved and cherished since his untimely death.
Kendall grew up in Raleigh, NC where she studied ballet, modern, and jazz under the direction of Sandra Zellinger, Cherilyn Joy Lee, and Andrew Lamar. She has performed with Carolina Ballet in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid on various occasions. In 2016 and 2017, Kendall taught alongside Willie Hinton at the Carolina Ballet Summer Intensive. After acceptance into the Joffrey school at age 10, she decided to stay in North Carolina to complete a study of the Cecchetti Method with Rosina DeVries. She has completed grades I-VI, scoring Highly Commended or Commended on all levels. She is now working toward undergraduate degrees in Advertising and Public Relations as well as a minor in dance at Appalachian State University while in her third year of teaching at a local studio.