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Carmina Burana [1974, Dallas, Southern Methodist University, McFarlin Auditorium]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0421
Run Time
0h 45m 0s
Date Produced
Ruth Page choreographed two versions of Carmina Burana, both set to Carl Orff's original music. The first version was premiered in Chicago, at the Civic Opera House, on November 12, 1965. The performance was a joint endeavor between Page's Chicago Opera Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, including a children's chorus. It featured scenery by the House of Sormani, Milan and costumes by Casa D'Arte Cerrstelli from Florence (after the designs of Emmanuel Luzzati). The second version, with designs by André Delfau, was first performed in Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 9, 1967 by Ruth Page's International Ballet.

This video appears to represent a performance of Page's second version of Carmina Burana, performed by the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet in November 1974, under the direction of Bill Atkinson and Ann Etgen. It took place in McFarlin Auditorium, on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The video is black and white, dark but over-exposed, and thus often difficult to make out.
The video opens with a shot of a darkened stage, at the center of which stands Death, in a spotlight, facing away from the camera. A number of additional figures enter the stage and circle the cloaked figure until he eventually shows his face (a skeleton mask). He engages with two of the figures (apparently a king and a prostitute), eventually forcing both dead to the ground. The stage then goes dark and applause is heard from the audience.

The camera then cuts to Act I of the ballet: Spring/Primavera. Four female dancers enter the stage and begin an ensemble dance. They are soon joined by four young men with flowers who initiate pas de deux. As they exit, a single couple enters and takes center stage, performing a brief but lively pas de deux of their own. Next, five more couples enter and join them for an ensemble dance. As they complete it, a trickster figure (perhaps Death in disguise?) enters from the back and causes a commotion. The dancers take turns timidly approaching and circling him; eventually, all surround him and he is carried offstage. The six couples then return to their positions and perform another merry pas de deux. This is followed by a flirtation sequence in which the men leave the women, who then eagerly anticipate the men's return; they gallop in as if on horseback only to leave again and tease the women. After they return again and all leave together, a peddler figure appears, followed by two young girls. After he treats them to a bird and a shawl, Cupid pops out of his sack and accidentally makes the girls fall in love with the peddler. Realizing his mistake, he beckons a slightly older young woman and shoots her with his arrow. As he and the young girls exit, the peddler and the young woman begin a series of slow, intense, and playful pas de deux. For the act's finale, the six other couples return to stage, joined by Cupid and one of the young girls at center, and perform one last pas de deux before all men but Cupid exit and he shoots the whole row of women with an (invisible) arrow. The stage goes dark and applause is heard again.

Act II: The Tavern begins with a man carrying a barstool onstage and dancing a solo. He is soon joined by other men, who carry additional stools, each doing unique choreography until all collapse in unison. At this moment, a woman enters and dances a provocative, dramatic pas de deux with the initial man. As they run offstage, the other men wake up and another woman enters. All have their eye on her, slowly closing in and pawing her body as she is trapped among them. Overwhelming her, several carry her offstage just as two more women enter. The six men, now dancing as if inebriated, are enticed by these last two women into a clumsy ensemble dance, is split into two ravenous groups, one surrounding each woman. The group eventually comes together and the women sort of heard them, dancing separately, until one of the women begins a pas de deux with one of the men and the rest surround them. All finally join together for an ensemble dance while one man stands dramatically on a table; the final pose has the two woman atop the table as well, and all collapsing after reaching toward them. Once again, the stage goes dark and applause is heard.

Act III: The Court of Love begins with a female sprite (Amour) dancing a light solo. As she completes it and kneels to the ground, a regally costumed woman enters and begins her own solo; Amour watches, and then presents herself to the woman. After the two dance together momentarily, Amour whispers briefly in the woman's ear, and scurries offstage, returning momentarily with a similarly dressed man for her. The two then begin an elegant pas de deux. Upon their exit, four more men and then four more women arrive onstage and dance simultaneously in two separate gender groups. Then, as they intersperse a lead couple arrives at center stage and leads them in a pas de deux. Once they all exit, the initial regal couple returns for a more classical, adagio pas de deux. Afterwards, the other couples return one at a time, with each dancer carrying a branch. Once all reach a standing pose, Cupid and Amour enter and (re-)present the primary couple for a final time. Then all begin circling off stage. Amour, who is last, seems magnetically pulled back on stage as a transition into the finale; Death appears and continues to draw her toward him. She soon runs off stage and the couples from The Court slowly reenter, circling around Death in single file. Next, the primary couple reenters, drawn forth but separated by Death, running and dancing rather desperately between Death and the others. Finally coming together in a spotlight before Death, the two kneel down side by side and then collapse to the ground at his feet. The video then goes black and there is applause, signaling the end of the ballet.

When lights come back up and the curtain reopens, the dancers are arranged around the edge of the stage and the rest enter in groups for bows. One of the central ballerinas is handed a bouquet, and she then brings out a woman who appears to be Ruth Page. All bow together, Page exits, the curtains close, and the video ends.
Additional Credit
Orff, Carl (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Related Place
Dallas (production location of)