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La Fille Mal Gardée [1978, Chicago]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0447
Run Time
0h 49m 47s
Date Produced
"La Fille Mal Gardée" is a comic ballet in two acts originally choreographed by Jean Dauberval in 1789. Several other versions have been choreographed since then; Fernand Nault debuted his own (three-act?) version in 1959 for the Joffrey Ballet. He later staged this version for the Chicago Ballet several times. 

This version was recorded in March of 1978. It was apparently recorded from the back of a large auditorium. It is dark and out of focus, so it is very difficult to make out.
The video opens with a shot of a stage, curtain down. After a few moments, two dancers playfully pull the curtain open to reveal a home. Once they exit, there is a single dancer on the stage, presumably the Widow Simone (mother of the young maiden Lise). After awhile, she is drawn away by two other dancers and Lise enters for a solo. She is eventually joined by two farmhands who talk with her before exiting; she then follows them off.

Next, a male soloist (perhaps her lover, Colas?) enters; Lise returns and the two dance a merry pas de deux. Before long, however, the Widow returns and shoos Colas away and chastises Lise; she plans for Lise to marry the rich but dimwitted Alain. A large group of dancers then enters and dances as an ensemble (for some sort fo springtime celebration?). Eventually, Lise jumps up to join, including the Widow briefly, but eventually the Widow exits. It appears that Lise engages in a pas de deux (perhaps with Colas?) while the rest continue their ensemble dance, but the Widow returns and catches them angrily. Lise rejoins the other maidens under the Widow's watchful eye.

Eventually, all of the dancers exit and Lise is back at home with the Widow, where she is put to work. Soon Colas appears and the two dance merrily together once again, this time also employing a ribbon. Eventually, they hear the Widow approaching so he runs off and Lise runs back inside. Before long, it appears that Alain and Thomas arrive. The dull Alain dances a solo with his butterfly net (?). Eventually, the Widow tries to force Lise and Alain together, but Lise very much resists. She finally seems to give in as the two dancers from the beginning pull the curtain closed. 

When the curtain opens again, a celebration appears to be unfolding. A group of farmers perform a brief ensemble dance, and then a group of maidens enters and performs one of their own. The Widow Simone and Lise then arrive, and it appears Thomas and Alain do as well. They join in the dancing and festivities. It is difficult to make out what else happens among the crowd, but the Widow eventually rushes offstage, followed by a few other dancers. The rest congregate in groups for a few moments before fading to the edges to allow a pas de deux take place. The couple appears to be Lise and Colas, and they dance a grand pas de deux: they bow after the pas de deux proper and she exits, after which her partner dances a solo variation, after which she returns for her own. Suddenly Alain appears with his butterfly net and dances a lively solo while two women (it is unclear) look on, and then join him. A group of four maidens then performs an ensemble dance. This is followed by brief reprises from the couple and Alain before transitioning into a large ensembe dance involving both couples and single maidens.

Suddenly, pandemonium strikes the stage and the dancers begin running around chaotically (perhaps because a storm has hit?). All eventually exit but then Alain enters stage thrashing around confusedly with his butterfly net. Another dancer, barely visible, appears and guides him; the Act is then marked as over when the curtain is once again pulled shut.

When the curtain is opened for Act III, Lise and the Widow appear to be back in their home. Lise is once again being disciplined and made to work. Mother and daughter then conduct various illegible activities, after which Lise launches into a lively solo. Soon afterward, the Widow opens the front door to a large group of dancers who then enter and dance around their home (it is unclear why). When they eventually leave, Lise tries to leave with them but is dragged back inside by the Widow. The Widow then exits, too, leaving Lise to pound desperately on the door before giving up and crying alone.

After awhile, Colas emerges from a hiding place in the room, startling Lise to the ground. She tries to ignore him and push him away, aware that she is supposed to be preparing for her wedding to Alain. Eventually, however, she seems to relent and dances with her lover. But they soon hear Alain and Thomas approaching for the bride, so they scurry around in search of a hiding place. Colas successfully hides before the Widow Simone enters, eager to drag Lise off to her wedding. Lise refuses, the Widow comically chases her around the room, and picks her up kicking and screaming before tossing her into the very place where Colas is hiding.

The Widow then welcomes Alain and a wedding party. A commotion ensues on the stage: Alain begins running around and is chased by the Widow; he or someone else opens the curtains where Lise is to be waiting but she emerges with Colas; the two of them appear to collapse on the ground. When they rise, they beg the Widow to allow them to marry out of love; Thomas waves the wedding contract in protest but the Widow finally relents and rips it up. The commotion continues for a few more moments and then all on stage assemble into a formation for the finale. At first, all dance in unison, and then the group lines the stage while Lise performs a long set of fouettés. She rejoins the group and all skip around in a circle and then out the door. Then the final curtain falls. It rises again for a series of bows by various parts of the cast, culminating with the happy couple. When bows are complete, the curtain drops once again, only to rise and drop two more times for additional bows by the main characters; afterwards the main couple comes out in front of the curtain for their own final bow. The screen goes black and the video ends.
Additional Credits
Nault, Fernand (is choreographer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)