Does anyone ever tire of La Fille Mal Gardée, the much loved ballet with a spanking scene? I don’t – so to inaugurate an occasional series of posts about different aspects of the ballet, here is a survey of the memorable stagings of Fille from 2014.
We’re going to travel backwards through the year, so we begin with a trailer for a production that opened in Bucharest, Romania, on December 13, and features the strangest Fille spanking you are ever likely to see:
It obviously wasn’t practical to administer the spanking on the puppet Lise’s panties, but they have still kept to the spirit of the ballet by raising her skirt and doing it on her pink petticoat. Back in real life, meanwhile, the production had four dancers in the role of Lise. One was Bianca Fota. Here she is looking pretty:
… and here with Calin Radulescu as the not-so-pretty Widow Simone:
And here she is looking pretty and being spanked!
The second was Cristina Dijmaru. She’s also looking pretty – and rather wistful.
Then there’s Marina Minoiu. Here she is looking pretty and being smacked in rehearsal:
And at the premiere, Lise was the Romanian ballerina Alina Cojocaru, who already danced the role with the Royal Ballet back in 2010. Here she is looking pretty and being smacked in the performance itself:
Would Lise be wearing pink panties to match the puppet’s petticoat? Not Alina, as it turned out: her panties were white, which is Lise’s usual, but not, as we shall see, her invariable color.
In November, the production by Ballet Gonzalez in Recife, Brazil, was of limited interest, because it used a hybrid choreography compiled by the director, Luis Ruben Gonzalez, combining features from various versions of the ballet, and one feature of the Ashton choreography that was omitted was the spanking. In other respects, it’s a fine interpretation, with an affectionately sparky relationship between Douglas Motta’s maternal Widow Simone and Paula Penachio’s moody Lise, who is, indeed, ill prepared in one respect for the risk of a good spanking:
She doesn’t escape altogether, though, because the widow takes a dim view of her point-blank refusal to go and churn the butter:
Nice rubbing afterwards, Paula! And in the third act, we do get the moment from the non-Ashton choreography when the exasperated widow picks up her disobedient daughter and whirls her around, smacking her bottom as she goes:
To France now for a production at the Entr’chats ballet school in Gouvernes, east of Paris. As in a lot of school productions, Widow Simone was, unconventionally, played by a girl, seen here smacking Lise:
… and here’s the spanking:
Meanwhile in Spain, the Compañía de Danza Grand Écart produced Fille. Regrettably we don’t have a picture of the spanking, but at least we have the smacking to enjoy:
In July, there was a production by the Ballet Municipal de Avellaneda in Argentina, where the ballet is entitled (in Spanish) The Naughty Girl. Ayelen Alvez was Lise and Gonzalo Burgoa was Widow Simone. It was a low-budget version in which the principal dancers were paid a quarter of the minimum wage, and the corps de ballet worked for nothing. No doubt that’s why Lise has only three friends, not really enough to hide behind when her mother is after her. In a way, it doesn’t make much sense, because another effect of the budget restrictions is that there’s no butter churn to set Lise to work at, meaning in turn that there’s no clear sense of what she is doing wrong by dancing with her friends. But never mind, at least she does get spanked – that costs nothing!
Is that an audible intake of breath we hear from the audience in response to the spanking?
If you also want to see the smacking scene, go back to 4.15. Or alternatively, just take a look at the poster for the show:
Back to June now, when the ballet was chosen as the examination piece by the Danzarte Scuola of Quarona in northern Italy. It is common practice in these exercises to cast an older, more experienced ballerina to dance the leading role while the students being examined work around her, and this was no exception: Lise was played by Deborah Pattaroni, while Widow Simone was the somewhat younger-looking but still adult (and again female) Daniela Marucco. An even more unconventional choice will be apparent from this photo of the spanking scene:
You don’t often see a Lise get spanked on red panties!
At the end of May, Roanoke Ballet Theatre produced Fille, and made a reasonable job of the smacking:
… whereas the ‘spanking’ can only be described as a total cowardly mess:
There was better earlier that month from Indiana Ballet Conservatory, which staged two performances on May 17. Here’s the matinee smacking…
… followed by the spanking:
A different Lise, Courtney Messer, danced in the evening performance. Here she is being smacked…
… and spanked:
Indiana Ballet has another production scheduled for May 2015. Watch this space!
To Milan now, for another ballet school examination performance at the Danza e Movimento school. Sadly no spanking photos are available, but here’s the smacking:
In April, Mexico’s Quimerina Ballet introduced Fille to the repertory, with Gaby Bohorquez as Lise and Brandon Olmedo Velasquez as Widow Simone. We have a video showing the smacking in a performance from July:
… but only a still photo of the spanking:
It looks as if this time the widow hasn’t got very far before Farmer Thomas arrives: at least, that looks more like a skirt about to be raised than one being hastily lowered for modesty’s sake.
Also in April, Dance Wisconsin staged the ballet, and Natalya Weise got a smacked bottom:
Now it becomes clear why I chose to organize this post in reverse chronological order: it means saving the best for last!
And for the very best Fille of the year, come with me now to St Petersburg, where the ballet entered the repertory of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in March. Here, in the highest available quality, is the terrific publicity photo chosen by the management to represent the production:
Widow Simone is Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the director of the St Petersburg Ballet Academy, and Lise is his protegee Angelina Vorontsova. My first thought about that was that the casting might incorporate a backstage joke (‘Naughty ballerina spanked by the headmaster’!), but it turns out that there’s more in the background than that. Both performers were previously employed at the Bolshoi in Moscow, where he was her teacher. After a power struggle with the head of the company, he was fired and she resigned, and after various scandalous goings-on they both wound up in St Petersburg. The details are murky and sordid and not really relevant (you can Google them if you really want to know), and the Russian media variously cast Angelina as either femme fatale or naïve pawn in the affair, so I guess there might be just a few people over there who’d be rather pleased to see this happening to her:
But personally, I have not a jot of animosity towards Angelina, just a whole lot of gratitude for a superb performance that makes her one of the outstanding Lises of all time – not least in the spanking scene, which is excellent right from when her skirt blows up as she is carried across to the seat:
Over she goes…
… and then there’s a great moment of panicky eye contact with the audience as her skirt goes up:
And with legs flailing wildly, she gets one!
But then Farmer Thomas walks in!
Time for a cover-up!
And down she gets…
But there’s more! Of course there is: after all, Lise always gets smacked as well as spanked. And in this production the smacking came with some very distinct impact sound effects, albeit more likely produced by the percussion section of the orchestra than by the Tsiskaridze hand landing on the Vorontsova bottom:
You’ll have guessed from the above that Angelina’s performance (on March 29, to be precise) was filmed from several different angles. Sadly the videos were quickly taken off the internet and can’t be shared with you now, but the search goes on…
But there’s more! We’ve already seen over in Indiana how ballet companies often spread their repertory across several different dancers, and the Mikhailovsky is no exception, so on different nights you might see different performers. Angelina shared the role with Anastasia Soboleva, who was spanked by Maxim Podosyonov:
We do have Anastasia’s performance on video, thanks to her own generosity in uploading it to Youtube in segments. Here’s the smacking:
Also watch at 8.55 when Widow Simone sends Lise off to watch the harvesters dance with a smack on the bottom that’s additional to what we usually see in Fille. And for yet more extra business, watch the next video: at the start, the widow tries smacking Lise on the head and hurts her hand. Better stick to the other end, Simone, it’s softer! Then, from 7.10, when Lise’s friends come to fetch her and she explains why she can’t go and dance with them: she does a little mime which unmistakably tells them that if she does, she will be spanked. The same detail is in Angelina’s performance, but I think Anastasia carries it off better, simply because of her slightly different characterization of Lise.
Angelina’s Lise is pert and a little daring with her mother, whereas Anastasia plays a more timid, sensitive Lise: when Angelina does her spanking mime, she is already much more interested in leaving her work to play, which is why she gets spanked; but Anastasia is obviously afraid of being spanked, and only goes off to dance at the extreme importunacy of her friends. This means that she plays the spanking scene in a very different way:
She’s clearly mortified at this turn of events…
… and covers her face in shame as her panties are exposed:
There’s none of the exciting kicking we got from naughty Angelina: Anastasia gives us a still tableau showing just what a disaster this is for her…
…and then she begs her mother to stop:
She’s saved after two slaps, one fewer than Angelina got, but of course that was everything to do with the widow’s embarrassment and not Lise’s entreaties at all…
But there’s more! The cameras were in another night later in the run, giving us a selective record of Angelina’s performance on May 7, thankfully including our favorite scene:
Only two slaps this time before the interruption, and what sounds like an audible impact is actually, I think, the click of the still photographer’s camera shutter, the result of which was:
Interestingly, the timing of this performance gives us a slightly different interpretation of the scene. Partway through the spanking, Lise looks round and sees Farmer Thomas arrive while Widow Simone is still completely preoccupied with administering justice to her bottom. There’s a visible gasp from Lise as she realizes that things just got worse: not only is she across her mother’s knee being spanked on her panties, but now the neighbors are watching! It then subsides into relief as the widow looks up, takes in the situation and brings the spanking to an abrupt and premature end.
There might be more… only not yet. Later still in the run, the Mikhailovsky introduced a third Lise, Oksana Bondareva, and, to spank her, a third Simone, Roman Petuhov. Here she is:
Her performance was also filmed, but so far only a few clips have escaped into the wild, showing a rebellious and easily bored daughter, but none of them featuring any kind of jeopardy for Oksana’s bottom. Another search that goes on!
So that was 2014, a good year for Fille. Here’s to another bumper crop in 2015!