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Catulli Carmina [1973, Pittsburgh, Heinz Hall] - Romeo and Juliet (Hollywood East) [1975]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0497
Run Time
1h 4m 0s
Date Produced
1973 - 1975
"Catulli Carmina" is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page, set to a cantata composition of the same name by Carl Orff from the 1940s. It was premiered in 1973 by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, with scenery, costumes, and masks by André Delfau.

Ruth Page's version of "Romeo and Juliet" is set to Tchaikovsky's original score for it, with designs by André Delfau. It was premiered in Niles, Michigan in January of 1969.

The first part of this video, recorded on November 8, 1973, represents a dress rehearsal of "Catulli Carmina" by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. The second part, a performance of "Romeo and Juliet," was produced by Hollywood East in 1975 for the Ruth Page Foundation, and was performed by the Chicago Ballet. 
The video begins with over a minute-long SMPTE color bar test pattern with accompanying tone. It then cuts to introductory credits in blue font: "This film is a record of a Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearsal in Heinz Hall, November 8, 1973;" "Carmina Catulli;" "Lesbia: Patricia Klekovic; Catullus: Kenneth Johnson;" "Ipsitilla: Dana Nugent; Caleus: Dinko Bogdanic;" "Ensemble Members of Pittburgh Ballet Theatre;" "Music: Carl Orff; Choreography: Ruth Page; Décor, Costumes & Masks: André Delfau;" "Produced & Edited by: Scott Larson; Cinematography: Norris Brock; Directed by: Nicholas Petrov;" "Film: AACF; Made in: WRS Laboratories."

The video then cuts to a shot of a stage, where curtains open to reveal six black-clad couples standing against a background of foliage. The couples begin an ensemble couple's dance involving both lifts and weight sharing. They then move to the edges of the stage and a male soloist (Catullus?) bursts into view. As he dances his solo, five more dancers (one male, four female), also burst into view and join him at center. Catullus and the other male soloist (Caleus?) then dance together in front, after which all but Catullus sit down in place. After he dances alone for a few moments, all rise again and perform an ensemble dance. As it begins to wind down, two men carry a tinsel-haired goddess onstage, followed by a large group of white-clad young women with wreaths and a group of six masked men (shamans?). She stands posed on a platform at the back of the stage and begins to dance there as her procession joins the previous dancers in lining the stage. Then she is carried to the front, where Catullus reaches toward her. Next, she is carried offstage, and many follow.

Only the original six couples and six masked men remain onstage; the couples roll back and forth on the ground while the masked men stand along the back. The couples then sit up, embrace, and freeze in these embraced positions. The masked men then begin to circulate among them, using walking sticks as if old and frail, but seeming to laugh at the naive couples around them; this becomes an ensemble dance by the masked men. As they recede, the couples stand up and dance together. Once they exit and the masked men reassemble themselves along the back, a woman in a white cloak (Lesbia?) enters, followed by Catullus. She removes the cloak and dances a pas de deux with him. During a particularly intense section, the masked men emerge menacingly from the back; as they exit Catullus throws himself at Lesbia's feet. He soon rises and the two continue their (long) pas de deux.

Eventually, the two retire to the back platform as if it were a bed, and several dancers holding a large curtain slowly shuffle behind them. As the two lovers finally separate, a large, headless statue seems to appear to the left as another man (Caleus?) appears from behind the bed and 'steals' Lesbia as his own sensual dance partner atop the "bed" while Catullus looks on. In response, he begins an angry solo as the two continue their dance. Soon, he grabs Lesbia and tears her away from this new man, throwing her on the ground. This results in a disagreement between all three, eventually culminating in Catullus collapsing on the ground alone as the new couple collapses together on the "bed."

In response, a man wearing a coyote(?) mask enters to comfort and guide the scorned lover. He is followed by two young female dancers and a man dragging himself along the ground (all three wrapped up like mummies), and then joined by another man with a torch of some kind. The scorned lover is directed to the bed, where he is guided to leave a blessing (or perhaps a curse). The coyote-masked man then leads his mini-procession to the other side of the stage and dances with Cutullus, who is then left to watch as the mummies repeat a simple but individualized ensemble dance. The masked man directs the scorned Catullus in a dance; Catullus then lays again on the ground as the new couple comes forward to taunt him with yet another pas de deux before returning to bed. The third member of the procession provides Catullus with a long white sash. The group then proceeds offstage, ending with the man in the coyote mask. Catullus kneels, and seems to be blessed by the masked man before he exits.

Suddenly, more men rush onstage and raise Lesbia (whose new lover has exited) above their heads while Catullus moves to the back and sways in agony with a few other (masked) men on the platform. As they do this, the statue set piece slowly rises out of sight. Before long, the men carrying Lesbia run offstage with her and Catullus's companions slowly exit as well. While they do so, two groups of five women enter stage and dance around him once he stands up again. When he emerges from the group and collapses twice, they help him back up. Suddenly, they all run offstage and a single female dancer (Ipsitilla?) enters and performs a fiery solo before Catullus. As he watches, a bit timidly, it becomes a pas de deux. Eventually, it ends as he runs offstage and she chases after him. The stage (and video) goes black momentarily. 

When the stage lights return, the group of ten female dancers reenters for an ensemble dance. Catullus, now cloaked, reenters as well and the women take turns dancing around and with him. As he passes through their cluster a final time, Lesbia appears in her cloak and they run off. They appear to kiss but then turn away from each other; the spark seems gone. She mounts the back platform and they reach toward each other; he paces before her and follows her downstage. After reaching toward each other one last time, they dance separate solos and she slowly exits, covering her face with her cloak. Catullus collapses to the ground in response. At this point, the six couples from the beginning return to surround him and spin in place, and four soloists enter in front and jump over his body. All then run offstage, leaving Catullus slumped on the ground. The stage and video go dark.

After remaining black for nearly a minute, the video switches to lined static for several minutes, and then to another SMPTE color bar test pattern with accompanying tone. Eventually the video cuts to black and then a scrolling title screen: "Ruth Page Foundation...presents...Chicago Ballet...performing...Romeo & Juliet." Then, credits: "Juliet: Charlene Gehm; Romeo: Dennis Poole; Tybalt: William Sterner; Mercutio: Tom Boyd; Corps de Ballet: Birute Barodicaite, Michael Bjerknes, Tom Boyd, Steven Cook, Jennifer Holmes, Eric Weichardt." "Choreography: Ruth Page; Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky; Designer: Andre Delfau; Lighting: William Banks; Ballet Master: Orrin Kayan; Cinematography: Cal Langenberg, William Gronke; Director-Editor: Rod Nordberg; Produced by: Hollywood East; © 1975 Ruth Page Foundation."

The video then fades to a shot of a stage from above, where six dancers in black (guards?) slowly walk forward, and then split and exit off the two sides of the stage. Then, two men in brightly colored costumes enter stage and circle around it before exiting; the six reenter with torches and wind around in meandering patterns, eventuallt making room for Romeo, who dances a brief solo. He is then joined by a masked companion (Mercutio?), who gives Romeo a mask so that they may crash the Capulet ball.  The two then run offstage and the stage goes black.

The lights come up again as Juliet enters the stage; she dances a brief solo before being joined by Tybalt. The two bow to one another and begin a pas de deux; as they do so, Romeo and Mercutio enter in the background. Romeo soon cuts in to dance with Juliet himself; before too long, a suspicious Tybalt returns and unmasks Romeo, revealing him as a Montague and inciting a fight.  Mercutio stands anxiously at the sidelines and Juliet tries to intervene and separate the two parties, only to find herself reaching for Romeo. Tybalt escorts her away and returns to find Mercutio; the two begin to fight and are mirrored by two sets of guards flanking them. Eventually, Tybalt angrily sends a cocky Mercutio away. The stage goes dark again.

The lights return to find Romeo onstage again, drawn toward a vision of Juliet being held afloat by guards. She descends and dances a solo while he looks on; he then emerges and joins her for a pas de deux. Eventually, they must separate, and he grabs at the hem of her dress as the guards carry her away again. As he reaches after her, Mercutio enters. He tries to talk Romeo out of his interest in Juliet, but Romeo simply wanders off as guards circle around Mercutio. THey are soon joined by Tybalt, and the two begin fighting again. The fight escalates, and Romeo arrives just in time to see his friend stabbed. He then lashes out at Tybalt in retaliation; as Tybalt is slain, Romeo exits.

Juliet then reenters stage and dances another solo, soon joined once again by Romeo for an increasingly passionate pas de deux. When Romeo suddenly exits, Juliet continues dancing somewhat desperately until she comes upon a vial of poison, which she eagerly drinks. As she falls into a sort of coma, the guards lift her and display her body as if she is dead. Romeo returns to this sight and, overcome with sorrow, drinks a poison of his own. Just as he collapses, Juliet awakens. She discovers him nearby and initiates one final pas de deux until the posion begins to overtake Romeo and he collapses, dead. Beside herself with grief, Juliet stabs herself with Romeo's knife and dies on top of him. The video goes black and soon ends.
Main Credit
Larson, Scott (is producer)
Petrov, Nicholas (is director)
Hollywood East (is production company)
Nordberg, Rod (is director)
Additional Credit
Banks, William (is lighting director)
Brock, Norris (is cinematographer)
Gronke, Bill (is cinematographer)
Langenberg, Cal (is cinematographer)
Orff, Carl (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Klekovic, Patricia (is performer)
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)
Nugent, Dana (is performer)
Bogdanic, Dinko (is performer)
Gehm, Charlene (is performer)
Poole, Dennis (is performer)
Sterner, William (is performer)
Boyd, Tom (is performer)
Barodicaite, Birute (is performer)
Bjerknes, Michael (is performer)
Cook, Steven (is performer)
Holmes, Jennifer (is performer)
Weichardt, Eric (is performer)
Related Place
Pittsburgh (production location of)