The Fille Files: 2021

One great oddity of the year 2021 is that, despite being rather a poor year for Kiss Me Kate, it was actually a moderately healthy one for La Fille Mal Gardée, once the recovery of the performing arts began to get underway. The Vienna State Ballet reopened in May, and Fille was one of the early offerings. Here’s a rehearsal, with Kiyoka Hashimoto as Lise:

The video is here.

In June, there was a minor disappointment from that usually reliable interpreter of Widow Simone, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, in one performance of the usually splendid St Petersburg production. It’s still excellent, and, in line with the production’s trend towards extending the spanking, Lise gets five slaps before the proceedings are interrupted. But…

sadly he forgot to raise her skirt! The video is here.

Never mind, at least she was spanked. And at least it’s not a new direction for the production, as may be illustrated by these tiny shots of a 2021 performance by the production’s finest Lise, Angelina Vorontsova, also getting five, but fair and square on her panties just as Ashton intended:

And another one in the same vein from later in the year:

In contrast, on the other side of the world, also in June, there was a major disappointment, in fact a complete travesty, in the production by Iowa Youth Ballet. Sensibly, the performers were all masked for safety. Nothing to complain of there. But on reaching the smacking, things start to go wrong, as Lise starts jumping before her mother has even got within striking distance.

That might indicate a certain slavish devotion to the precise details of the choreography, without properly understanding its rationale. But slavish devotion is unfortunately not in evidence later on. There is the usual comic business of Lise surreptitiously backing into her waiting mother, after which she shows no further sign of wanting to get away until after Simone has already grabbed her by the skirt to prevent her – which is, therefore, a completely unmotivated action. The widow then hoists her recalcitrant daughter over her shoulder,

and carries her over to the bench, where her dreadful fate is…

to be told to sit down and await the arrival of her idiotic future husband. The performance gestures at the dramatic buildup of the scene as Ashton choreographed it, but then eschews the dramatic payoff of the maternal reprisal Lise was trying so hard to escape – obviously because a spanking is such a terrible affront to some modern sensibilities that it must be avoided at all costs, even by committing the far greater affront of narrow-minded censorship and, in consequence, artistic incoherence. Shame on them! But if you still want to see the video, here it is.

At least the US could also boast a ballet school in Texas that had fewer inhibitions. Their production was presented virtually between June 27 and July 21, and was publicized with the following charming group photo:

Also at the end of June, from a ballet school in Brazil, a production that looks like no Fille ever seen before because, in response to the pandemic, it was staged not only with masks but entirely al fresco. This results in another minor disappointment: the constraints of the formal garden in which the first relevant part of the action takes place means there’s no room for Lise to leap about, and therefore no smacking. But never mind, because the more important scene is properly intact…

Some distinctive features there, like the fact that Lise is wearing long bloomers instead of the usual modern panties,

or the way she loses her cap when being carried across to the spanking chair, and has to retrieve it later. It’s the ‘narrow escape’ version where Farmer Thomas and son arrive before even one smack lands, but never mind again, because there is even better news: this production not only has the Ashton spanking in the first act but also the pre-Ashton spanking in the third – and that one does get as far as contact,

and bottom-rubbing afterwards!

The video is here (first spanking) and here (second spanking).

Meanwhile in Tokyo:

And so to Sao Paulo, for a brace of adaptations. The first, by Ballet Armorial, ran August 20-22, saw the ballet reimagined by André Matos da Gama and Patricia Pressuti Fereira da Gama, and retitled O Casamento Matuto (The Marriage Lesson). The action was relocated to a Brazilian setting and the story now involved Dona Josefa (André Diperoli) and her daughter Maria (Roberta Ramos Vital), but one thing hadn’t changed:

Mom’s still a bottom-smacker!

The other adaptation was performed by a ballet school in October. This version introduced a lot of original comic business, including an early moment when the Widow pointedly shows Lise the palm of her hand in an unmistakable spanking threat. As with the al fresco Brazilian production in June, the bad news is that the smacking is omitted, but once again the more than welcome compensation is that there are two spankings, this time both SLB. And in an especially piquant gesture, Lise crosses herself just before the second!

The video is here (first spanking) and here (second spanking).

Meanwhile, a straight production of the ballet was staged on October 9 at a ballet school in the Argentine city of Posadas.

The spanking wasn’t among the extracts that were made public, but the smacking is here.

And here’s some more smacking at a ballet school in Naples:

Another production that released no spanking imagery, and may not even have included any spanking, ought to be on the record simply because it was such a radical reimagining of the ballet by its choreographer, Jeroen Verbruggen. It opened at Theater Basel on November 6, with Gaia Mentoglio and Andrea Tortosa Vida alternating as Lise and Rachelle Scott and Mikaela Kelly as Simone, and the reason Lise, in blue gingham panties, doesn’t want to marry Alain is because here true love is not Colas but Colette, in pink gingham panties.

I can’t say I mind that at all, but if you do, there’s bound to be a more traditional Fille along soon, and hopefully one that won’t be so pusillanimous about the spanking!

And with that in mind, we finish off the year back in Brazil, at another dance school, which staged and streamed part of the ballet on 5 December. Fortunately, they opted for the first two acts, which gave us the smacking,

and a spanking that was not only abortive but perfunctory (and in which the skirt-lifting was something of an afterthought), but made up for it with a super pre-spanking carry:

And, of course, it had the absolute virtue of being there! The video is here (smacking) and here (spanking).

And 2022 is here.

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