The Jazz Ballet: A 1936 Musical Masterpiece

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Jazz Ballet is a 1936 musical masterpiece by Duke Ellington. Many consider it to be one of his finest works, and it is certainly one of the most innovative and influential ballets of its time.

The Jazz Ballet: A 1936 Musical Masterpiece

The Jazz Ballet is a 1936 musical composition by famed American composer Duke Ellington. The work was originally commissioned by the American Ballet Company and first performed by them in New York City. It has since been hailed as a masterpiece of American music, and has been performed by ballet companies around the world.

The Jazz Ballet is based on an African-American folktale about a young girl named Liza who loves to dance. Liza’s mother disapproves of her daughter’s passion for dance and forbids her from pursuing it. One day, Liza’s mother goes out and leaves her daughter home alone. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Liza puts on her mother’s dress and dances around the house. Suddenly, a group of ghosts appear and begin to dance with her. Liza is so enchanted by their dancing that she forgets all about her mother’s prohibition and joins in the fun.

Eventually, Liza’s mother comes home and is shocked to see her daughter dancing with the ghosts. She screams at them to go away, but they only laugh and continue to dance with Liza. In the end, Liza’s mother relents and allows her daughter to continue dancing, realizing that it is something that brings her great joy.

The Composer: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington, an American composer and bandleader was born in Washington D.C. in 1899. Best known for his orchestral and big band compositions, Duke Ellington wrote over 2000 songs during his career, including “Sophisticated Lady” and “Mood Indigo.” In 1936, he composed The Jazz Ballet, a musical masterpiece that was performed by his Orchestra at the Cotton Club in New York City. The Jazz Ballet was groundbreaking for its time, and featured some of the most innovative and memorable music of the 20th century.

The Choreographer: George Balanchine

George Balanchine was one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904, and his family moved to Georgia when he was a young boy. He began studying ballet at the age of nine, and by the time he was fifteen he had already joined the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. In 1921, he graduated from the school and joined the Mariinsky Theater, where he danced for two years before moving to Paris to study with renowned choreographer Serge Diaghilev.

In 1928, Balanchine returned to Russia to choreograph for Diaghilev’s company, but left again in 1929 to start his own company in New York City. It was there that he truly made his mark on the world of ballet, creating numerous ground-breaking works that are still performed today. In 1933, he joined forces with composer Vladimir Dukelsky to create The Jazz Ballet, a musical masterpiece that blends classical ballet with American jazz influences. The piece was an instant hit, and helped solidify Balanchine’s reputation as one of the most innovative and exciting choreographers of his generation.

The Dancers: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

As the main stars of The Jazz Ballet, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers epitomized elegance, sophistication, and style. Their on-screen chemistry was undeniable, and their dancing was some of the best ever captured on film.

The Jazz Ballet was released in 1936, and is considered one of the most important musicals of its time. It was groundbreaking in its use of music and dancing to tell a story, and is credited with helping to popularize the genre.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were both accomplished dancers before they ever met. They each had successful careers on stage and in film, but it was their work together that made them legends.

The two danced their way into the hearts of moviegoers with their performances in The Jazz Ballet. Their routines were endlessly entertaining, and their chemistry was undeniable. While they would go on to star in other films together, it was their work in this 1936 musical that solidified their place in Hollywood history.

The Music: Jazz Standards

The original score for the ballet was lost, but it was later reconstructed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn from surviving parts and Ellington’s memory of the work. The music is a set of seven jazz standards: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” “Solitude,” “Mood Indigo,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” and “Caravan.”

The Set: A New York City Street

The Set: A New York City Street
In the early hours of the morning, a milk truck arrives on a busy New York City street. The sound of hooves clop against the pavement as the truck makes its way to the curb. The milkman makes his delivery, and as he does, he notices a group of people gathered around a building on the other side of the street. He approaches them to see what is going on.

The group is composed of a few men and women, all with an air of excitement about them. They are clustered around a poster that reads “The Jazz Ballet: A 1936 Musical Masterpiece.” The milkman can’t believe his eyes – he’s been waiting for this show for months!

He joins the group and they begin to discuss the show. They talk about how it is set in New York City and will feature some of the best dancers in the world. They are all looking forward to seeing it and can’t wait to find out more.

The Costumes: Glamorous Evening Wear

The costumes for The Jazz Ballet were designed by the renowned fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. They were inspired by the glamorous evening wear of the Roaring Twenties and featured sequined dresses, feathered headpieces, and long gloves. The ballet was a huge success and the costumes were praised for their beauty and originality.

The Story: A Romance in Dance

The Jazz Ballet was a unique ballet in that it was a fully-fledged musical theater production, with singing, acting, and – of course – plenty of dancing. The story followed the romantic entanglement of two young dancers, Sandy and Dixie, set against the backdrop of the world of New York City nightlife in the 1930s.

The production was a massive success, playing to packed houses for months on Broadway and then going on tour across the United States. The choreography by Fred Astaire was groundbreaking, and the score by Duke Ellington is still considered one of his best. The Jazz Ballet was a true pioneer in bringing together ballet and jazz – two forms of dance that would go on to influence each other greatly in the years to come.

Despite its infrequent stagings, The Jazz Ballet has been praised by critics and audiences alike as a masterpiece of 20th-century musical theater.Set to an original score by Duke Ellington and featuring a cast of acclaimed dancers and musicians, the ballet tells the story of an African-American family in the early 1900s through the eyes of their young daughter, Lulu.

Critics have called The Jazz Ballet “a stunning display of talent” (The New York Times) and “a work of art that transcends time and place” (The Washington Post). The ballet has also been praised for its relevance to contemporary issues, with one critic writing that it is “as timely now as it was when it was first created” (The Los Angeles Times).

Audiences have similarly applauded The Jazz Ballet, with many calling it a “moving and exhilarating” experience (The New York Times). Others have described it as “visually stunning” (The Washington Post) and “an unforgettable evening of entertainment” (The Los Angeles Times).

The Legacy: A Timeless Classic

The Jazz Ballet: A 1936 Musical Masterpiece is a timeless classic that has been enjoyed by millions of people around the world. This delightful ballet was composed by George Gershwin and is one of the most popular pieces of music ever written. The Jazz Ballet was first performed in New York City on October 10, 1936 and was an instant success. It has been performed countless times since then and has been adapted for film, television, and stage productions.

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