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Gershwin Song Book [1976]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0454
Run Time
0h 14m 54s
Date Produced
"Gerswhin Song Book" is a ballet choreographed by James Clouser, set to George Gershwin's Song-book of eighteen brief piano solos (though not in order). It premiered in Houston, Texas in September of 1974; its Chicago premiere was in November of 1976, when it was performed by the Chicago Ballet.

This video appears to represent a rehearsal of the ballet, likely soon before its 1976 Chicago premiere. Dancers wear practice clothes; the video is dark.
The video begins with a shot of a rehearsal space, with a pianist in the lower left corner of the frame. A male and female dancer are posed--him sitting, her standing, in the middle of the space. They move little during the first song; the man stands up and they embrace before returning to their previous positions.

The second song brings the couple into a more lively pas de deux, though the female dancer is still more active than the male.

The third song brings forth a second man, who steals the female dancer away from her original partner, who turns away from this new pas de deux. The woman does not forget him, however; midway through dancing with her new partner, she runs back to the old one and dances with him until the second grabs her away. They then all come together for a momentary pas de trois, after which the two men take turns with her. But as the song ends, the second suitor exits. The female dancer begins to run after him, but her original partner pulls her back.

For the fourth song, two more men enter and perform and energetic duet while the couple looks on.

For the fifth song, the woman's second partner joins the two men in lifting the female dancer above their heads, each then taking his turn to partner her until all three exit and leave the original man to dance with her. She soon walks away from him, however, and seems happier to dance with the other three when they return, though they ultimately leave her alone with the original partner once again.

For the sixth song, one of the duet enters and performs a brief solo before the female dancer and her companion, soon convincing her to join (but not partner with) him. The companion intervenes by partnering her, and then joining with the newcomer to form a trio. On the last couple notes, all of these men, plus a fifth, kneel before the female dancer as suitors.

For the seventh song, the female dancer seats herself and the five men perform an ensemble dance before her. They begin to slim down in their numbers, however, losing a man every few bars. The final man who remains is her original partner, and he lands on one knee before her. She then begins a solo of her own. Eventually, the man intervenes to partner her. They finish the song together.

For the eighth song, the remaining four men enter and dance an introduction, after which the couple joins them for a group ensemble dance. The female dancer everntually separates herself and stands in wait for the men to finish, after which she dances a diagonal solo in front of the four, awaited at the end by her original partner. Before she reaches the edge of the stage, however, the four men rise and partner her one at a time, down the line. At the end, they all run off and she finds herself once again up against her original partner.

For the ninth song, the female dancer performs a pas de deux with her original partner, but she pushes him away halfway through. Still, he takes her hand again and they continue their intimate dance, which ends with a promenade.

This seems to mark the end of the ballet, for the video then cuts to static and when it comes back up, the dancers are rehearsing their bows: the four men, the original male partner, and finally the female dancer. Applause is heard from the small rehearsal audience; a voice is heard saying "Ok, very nice" and the video ends there.
Additional Credit
Clouser, James (is choreographer)
Gershwin, George (is composer)