BALLETS have three kinds of life.
There are ballets which are produced once only, fall out of the repertoire and are never revived. Such ballets may be complete failures or limited successes. The failure will die after a few performances. The limited success remains for only one season. For some reason it fails to catch on. Its appeal is too special or too small. Often this is the fate of the succes d’estime.
Secondly, there are ballets which enter the repertoire and stay there. They may be popular successes like Pineapple Poll which are frequently performed, or established succes d’estime like Job, which are revived occasionally.
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Thirdly, there are ballets which survive beyond the epoch in which they were created. These are the classics. Giselle, Coppelia, Swan Lake and Les Sylphides are obvious examples. Job, The Rake’s Progress, La Fille Mal Gardee, Jardin au Lilas, Rodeo and Symphony in C are possible candidates for recognition among the classics of tomorrow.
No-one can say for certain what makes a ballet live, but there are a number of decisive factors, artistic and practical.
The most important artistic factor is the effectiveness of the collaboration. Is the ballet a complete unity? Next comes the quality of that unity and its parts. History shows that survival depends primarily on a good scenario and a good score. If these parts are poor good choreography and decor cannot save the work.
Beside these artistic merits, practical factors sometimes exert an influence beyond their apparent importance. There are six such factors.
First, usefulness to the company. Much depends on the needs of a company, or theatre, at a given moment. Every repertoire should be balanced for audience appeal. It may need a dramatic ballet, a comic ballet or a ballet which finishes the evening well. If even an indifferent ballet meets this need its chances of survival are much improved. On the other hand a good ballet would be in jeopardy if it was difficult to carry in the repertoire, whatever the reason.
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