Friday, August 16, 2013

The Clique of Claqueurs.

"Everything's beautiful at the ballet...hey," sang the character Sheila in A Chorus Line.

And it is.


If you ever saw Black Swan, you'd have had some idea how ruthless things can get in the business of producing ephemeral works of art and beauty. And as if to drive home that point, in Russia, there is a middle-aged clique who controls the professional-applause racket at the Bolshoi.

That's right. This is a thing.

"Don't cry. Pay."

If the Chinese have professional Crying Ladies, the Russians have professional Applauders. And while the very idea sounds farcical at first thought, giving credit where credit is due was not always the norm in the performing arts:

The idea that applause in response to performance should be spontaneous is a relatively new one. Roman emperors trained professionals to mingle with crowds at key moments, encouraging the dull roar of approval that speaks of a mandate. This behavior was refined in the theaters of 18th- and 19th-century France, where the term “claque” — from the phrase “to clap” — was coined. At the Paris Opera, claqueurs became mighty arbiters of theatrical success; Balzac writes in “La Comédie Humaine” that the chief of the claque had “the endorsement of the boulevard playwrights, all of whom have an account with him, as they would with a banker.”

And even in this late day and age, the modern claqueurs wield enough power to actually sabotage a danseur's performance:

It is possible, for instance, to clap off-rhythm when a dancer is performing the series of difficult turns called fouettés, he said. “Kolya fell down because of us many times, because I was at war with him for years and arranged these things for him,” he said, of Mr. Tsiskaridze. “Poor guy, in ‘Raymonda’ he screwed up the whole variation and flew off and ended up with his nose on the floor. In ‘Nutcracker’ once, I made him drop his fouetté, from way up high, and he sat down on his bottom, butt facing the hall. And we all laughed.”

Faux-pas de deux?

Read more at the link. 

In the meantime, this gives me a deliciously wicked idea for Giselle tomorrow night.