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Sergeyev Collection
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Sergeyev Collection

A Drawing of Nicholas Grigorovich Sergeyev, made in 1929. Although the collection mostly documents the ballets of Marius Petipa, the collection is named after Sergeyev.
A Drawing of Nicholas Grigorovich Sergeyev, made in 1929. Although the collection mostly documents the ballets of Marius Petipa, the collection is named after Sergeyev.
The Sergeyev Collection is a collection of choreographic notation, music, photos, d cor and costume designs, theatre programs and various other materials relating to the repertory of the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia at the turn of the 20th century (the company is known today as the Kirov or Mariinsky Ballet). The majority of the choreographic notations document with varying degrees of detail the original works and revivals of the renowned choreographer Marius Petipa. Notation and scores of the ballets by Petipa's assistant Lev Ivanov are also included, as well as the dances from various operas by both Petipa and Ivanov, respectively.

The Sergeyev Collection is named after Nicholas Sergeyev, the of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres from 1903 to 1918, who brought the collection out of Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Today, the Sergeyev Collection is housed in the Harvard University Library Theatre Collection, where it has been since 1969.


The origins of the collection

The project of documenting the repertory of the Imperial Ballet began in 1893, with Vladimir Stepanov notating the one-act ballet La Fl te magique, a work originally produced by Lev Ivanov (Deuxieme Ma tre de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres) and the composer Riccardo Drigo (principal conductor and director of music for the Imperial Ballet) for the Imperial Ballet School. This notation project was done as a series of "certifications" executed for a committee of the Imperial Theatres to show the effectiveness of Stepanov's newly devised method of dance notation. This committee, which made decisions on the appointment of dancers, repertory, etc., consisted of Marius Petipa—Premier Ma tre de ballet of the Imperial Theatres; Lev Ivanov; Ekaterina Vazem—former Prima ballerina of the Imperial Theatres and an influential teacher at the Imperial Ballet School; Pavel GerdtPremier danseur of the Imperial Theatres; and Christian Johansson—former Premier danseur of the Imperial Theatres and influential teacher of the male students at the Imperial Ballet School.

Later in 1893, a second demonstration was presented in which Stepanov staged a reconstruction of an 1848 revival of the Ballet Master Jules Perrot and composer Cesare Pugni's ballet Le R ve du peintre, a work which originally premiered in London at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1843 as Le D lire d'un peintre, and was later staged by Perrot in St. Petersburg in 1848. The notations were created by Stepanov after consulting Christian Johansson, who participated in the 1848 production and many performances thereafter. The reconstructed ballet was performed by students of the Imperial Ballet School on .

Based on these successes, Stepanov began notating the repertory of the Imperial Ballet. Soon the 1894 Petipa/Drigo ballet Le R veil de Flore was notated, followed by Petipa's choreography for the scene Le jardin anim from his revival of Joseph Mazilier's ballet Le Corsaire.

After Stepanov's death in 1896, the dancer Alexander Gorsky took over the notation project and perfected Stepanov's system. After Gorsky departed St. Petersburg in 1900 to take up the post of Ballet Master to the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow, the former dancer of the Imperial Theatres Nicholas Sergeyev took over the project as supervisor. By 1903 Sergeyev was appointed r gisseur of the Imperial Ballet. It was Sergeyev's two assistants who created the majority of the notation—Alexander Chekrygin (ru: , , who joined the project in 1903) and Victor Rakhmanov (who joined the project in 1904), Nikolay Kremnev (ru: ), S. Ponomaryev (ru: . ) etc.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Nicholas Sergeyev left Russia with a great number of the notated choreographies. In 1920 he was invited by Sergei Diaghilev to stage the Petipa/Tchaikovsky The Sleeping Beauty from the notations for the Ballets Russes in Paris, but Diaghilev's insistence on altering passages of Petipa's choreography apparently caused Sergeyev to withdraw his services.

A Page of the Stepanov choreographic notation from the Sergeyev Collection for the Petipa/Minkus La Bayad re, circa 1900
A Page of the Stepanov choreographic notation from the Sergeyev Collection for the Petipa/Minkus La Bayad re, circa 1900

In 1921 Sergeyev took over the post of r gisseur to the Latvian National Opera Ballet in Riga, and during his appointment with the company he added a substantial amount of the music belonging to the notated ballets—orchestral parts for such ballets as Paquita by Eduard Deldevez, The Little Humpbacked Horse by Cesare Pugni, as well as Adolphe Adam's scores for Giselle and Le Corsaire were added to the collection.

In 1924, Sergeyev utilized the notation to mount Petipa's definitive version of Giselle for the Paris Opera Ballet, with the Ballerina Olga Spessivtseva in the title role and Anton Dolin as Albrecht. This was not only the first time the Parisian ballet had danced Giselle since the 1860s, but also the first western production of Petipa's version, which is the traditional choreographic text that most ballet companies have always used as a basis for their own productions.

With the aid of the notations, Sergeyev made what is perhaps his most substantial contribution to the art of ballet: at the invitation of Dame Ninette de Valois, Sergeyev staged Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, the Petipa/Cecchetti Copp lia, and The Nutcracker for the Vic-Wells Ballet of London, the precurssor of the Royal Ballet, who still perform these ballets. Sergeyev's revivals of these ballets in London formed the nucleus of what is now known as the "Classical Ballet Repertory", and as a result these works went on to be staged all over the world.

After Sergeyev died in Nice, France on 23 June 1951 the notations passed on for a brief time to a Russian associate of his, in whose possession they remained until Mona Inglesby, director of the International Ballet (an English company which disbanded in 1953), purchased the collection from him. Inglesby passed the collection onto C. and I.K. Fletcher, who sold the collection to Harvard University in 1969. Today the collection is known as Nikolai Sergeev Dance Notations and Music Scores for Ballets (or The Sergeyev Collection, for short). For some time the notations were useless, as no one in the world had any knowledge of how to read Stepanov's notating method. It was not until Stepanov's original primer was found in the archives of the Mariinsky Theatre that the notations were able to be deciphered.

Not all of the notations are complete, with some being rather vague in sections, leading some historians who have studied the collection to theorize that they were probably made to function simply as "reminders" for the Ballet Master or r gisseur already familiar with these works. Aside from the choreographic notations, the collection includes photos, set and costume designs, and music for many of the ballets in their performance editions (mostly in piano and/or violin reduction), many of which include a substantial number of dances, variations, etc. interpolated from other works. One example of this is the music and notations for the ballet Le Corsaire, which contain additions from some of Marius Petipa's original works and revivals, some of which were no longer in the active repertory at the time the notations were prepared—La Vestale (1888), Satanella (1848), Les Aventures de P l e (1876), Pygmalion, ou La statue de Chypre (1883), Trilby (1870), and Cinderella (1893).

Noted use of the collection

Few ballet companies have utilized the collection in modern times. In 1984 the historians Peter Wright and the musicologist/professor Roland John Wiley staged an adaptation of the original 1892 choreography for The Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet.

In 1999, Sergei Vikharev, former dancers with the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet and noted historian used the notations to stage a reconstruction of Petipa's original 1890 production of The Sleeping Beauty (while still retaining elements of the choreography as revised in Soviet times). In 2001 Vikharev also mounted an almost totally complete reconstruction of Petipa's 1900 revival of La Bayad re, again for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet.

In 2000, the Balletmaster/choreographer Pierre Lacotte created a new version of the Petipa/Pugni ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter for the Bolshoi Ballet, which was last performed in 1928. Lacotte called upon the Stepanov notation expert Douglas Fullington to reconstruct the so-called "River Variations" from the ballet's celebrated under-water scene and a few other pieces. Fullington was only able to reconstruct five out of the original six variations from the notation, none of which Lacotte used. In the end, Lacotte re-choreographed nearly all of the ballet himself "in the style of the epoch", and retained only a few pieces Fullington reconstructed from the ballet's second act, and two variation that Lacotte learned from former dancers.

In 2004, with the assistance of Manard Stewart, Fullington mounted a reconstruction of Petipa's original choreography for the scene Le jardin anim from the ballet Le Corsaire for the Pacific Northwest Ballet School's annual recital at the Seattle Opera House. Unfortunately the reconstruction had to be edited—a recording of Delibes' original music was utilized for the reconstruction, and the notated choreography included expanded passages in the music which the recording did not include.

In 2006 Fullington reconstructed twenty-five of Petipa's dances from the ballet Le Corsaire for the Bavarian State Ballet's new production.

The Bolshoi Ballet's director Alexei Ratmansky and the historian Yuri Burlaka also made use of the notations for Le Corsaire for their revival of the ballet, which premiered in 2007 to great acclaim. Rather than staging the ballet completely from the collection, Burlaka chose to expand on the notated choreographies.

In 2007 the Pacific Northwest Ballet School presented another performance which made use of the Sergeyev Collection. Douglas Fullington reconstructed various dances from the notations which were performed with examples of George Balanchine's choreography in order to show the evolution of classical ballet technique. A variation from the Petipa/Glazunov Raymonda and the Galop g n rale from the Petipa/Drigo Le R veil de Flore were among the pieces revived for the performance.

In 2008 the Bolshoi Ballet utilized the notation to stage Petipa's Grand Pas classique, Pas de trois and Mazurka des enfants from Paquita, as well as the Petipa/Cecchetti Copp lia.

In 2009, Yuri Burlaka utilized the collection again for the Bolshoi Ballet's revival of Petipa's version of the Perrot/Pugni ballet La Esmeralda.

For their 2011-2012 season, the Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala presented a complete reconstruction of the 1898 production of the Petipa/Glazunov Raymonda, using the notation.

Works documented in the collection

Ballets documented in the collection by other choreographers

  • La Fl te magique Ivanov (music: Drigo) 1 act
  • The Fairy Doll the brothers Nikolai and Sergei Legat (music: Bayer, etc.) 1 act/2 tableaux
  • Songe du Rajah (1930 - Nicholas Sergeyev's revised version of the scene The Kingdom of the Shades from Petipa's La Bayad re)


  • Fullington, Doug. Petipa's Le Jardin Anim Restored. The Dancing Times: September, 2004. Vol. 94, No. 1129.
  • Fullington, Doug: The River Variations in Petipa's La Fille du Pharaon. The Dancing times: December, 2000, Vol. 91, No. 1083.
  • Wiley, Roland John. Dances from Russia: An Introduction to the Sergeyev Collection Published in The Harvard Library Bulletin, 24.1 January 1976.

External links

fr:Nicolas Sergue ev ru: ,

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