Aught, no. 10 (2003)

Richard Kostelanetz

from 1001 Contemporary Ballets (for periodicals)

A good libretto, even an impressionist, double-exposed or portmanteaued one, follows most of the rules of simple dramaturgy. Balanchine once said the perfect type plot for a dramatic narrative ballet was the story of the Prodigal Son. Once there was a man who had everything, then he had nothing; finally he had everything again.

           — Lincoln Kirstein, Ballet Alphabet (1939)

A young man, saved from death at the hands of three hoodlums, believes his rescuer to be instead a garbageman, who is in turn harassed by the hoodlums for lying. Happening to see a picture of the hoodlums' sister, the young man falls in love. The hoodlums' mother tells of her daughter's capture by yet another hoodlum. To facilitate her rescue, the young man is given a magic flute and the garbageman magic bells. The daughter is guarded by a dumb servant who, mistaking the garbageman for the devil, flees. The young man learns that the purported kidnapper is really a good guy; it's the hoodlums' mother who is evil. The garbageman and the girl are prevented from escaping until the garbageman's bells, no joke, cause the kidnapper to dance helplessly. Now free of encumbrances, the young people are able to marry.

Onto the stage comes a man who leaps into the air, where he hangs suspended for the duration of the performance.

Well before the performance of purportedly erotic dancing is meant to begin, the auditorium is filled with a disagreeable odor that drives out all but those who cannot smell. No one should apologize for the odor, while the person selling tickets should conveniently disappear.

Several performers along with available props behave as though they were caught in a tornado.

Three male performers, roughly twenty, forty, and sixty, represent generational differences in dealing with worldly opportunities, including women, jobs, art, politics, and religion.

Meant to be a parable of masochism, this ballet confines several athletic performers to a single space open at the front but otherwise five feet on each side.

On a large blackboard three performers write messages of love to one another one letter at a time, backwards.

Onto the stage comes a man who leaps into the air, where he hangs suspended for the duration of the performance.

Set in the control tower of a small airport, this ballet portrays the anxieties and relationships of the flight controllers with the dancers flying gliders or hooked into self-propelled harnesses.

On stage is brought an upright piece of ice, roughly the size of a coffin that, as dancers chant and stomp around it, proceeds to defrost, revealing the anointed leader of the people.

A group of women drive kiddie cars resembling those found at amusement parks. They crash into each other until their cars are disabled or they run out of fuel.

Above a sleeping young man expands and contracts a balloon whose skin reads "riches, women, and power."

Contemporary Ballets consists only of a large message screen, probably a liquid crystal display, on which appear the texts published here.

The cowboys working on a ranch flirt with every woman within sight until their boss dies. The successor is his daughter whom, as their employer, they must respect. (Now they flirt with every women except one.)

Two athletic male dancers do triple jetes in alternation until one of them can jump no more.


Copyright 2003, by the author. All rights reserved.
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