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Yerma [1978]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0462
Run Time
0h 27m 34s
Date Produced
"Yerma" is a ballet choreographed by Domy Reiter-Soffer, set to George Crumb's 1970 composition "Ancient Voices of Children." It was premiered by the Irish National Ballet on June 21, 1976 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, with desgins by Patrick Murray. 

This video appears to represent a studio rehearsal of the piece by the Chicago Ballet, recorded on January 24, 1978.
The video opens with a shot of a stage where a single female dancer stands at center. One viewer is visible in the audience. After the music begins, the dancer (as Yerma) begins performing a long solo. She ends the solo in a kneeling position downstage, appearing to cradle an invisible baby, at which point a male soloist (as her husband, Juan) enters behind her and begins a solo of his own. During his solo, he approaches Yerma from behind but he does not disturb her and she does not notice. He soon returns, however, touching her shoulders and then lifting her, thus inaugurating a long pas de deux. At one point, Yerma drops to the ground and the two perform floorwork together, but she soon rises again. To end the pas de deux, she throws herself onto Juan in an embrance and then slowly falls to a kneel; he runs off stage right to exit. 

As Yerma rises from her kneel and runs down center stage before returning to the back, a second soloist (apparently as the sorceress Dolores?) enters from the back, followed by a tight group of additional dancers. As Dolores approaches Yerma (who has once again kneeled in the downstage corner) and begins to dance with her, the group scurries about the stage as if blown by the wind. Soon, the Yerma joins the large group (~8-10 dancers), splitting off with half of it for a moment but rejoining the complete group a moment later. As they gather in a huddle near the back of the stage, Dolores performs a solo.

The group then moves away from its corner and dances around the stage in a tight ensemble. Yerma soon re-separates from the group and stands alone momentarily before rejoining it. Dolores then runs to her and inaugurates a second dance together as the group retreats to the upstage right corner and crouches there. But as they stand facing each other just moments later, they are interrupted by a Christlike figure (as Victor, Dolores' son) who stands up abruptly from behind the group. The rest of the group and Dolores exit as Victor begins his solo--Yerma kneels far upstage to watch. Eventually she rises, he makes his way to her, and the two begin a pas de deux. 

As they complete the solo, Yerma once again kneels; Victor exits as Dolroes returns, again accompanied by the large group, which enters in two waves of kneeling dancers holding candles. She, too, holds a candle/torch, and Yerma follows her while the group continually changes its formation. They eventually all cluster in the back, including Dolores and Yerma. While they all stand there, another group (of male dancers) enters and performs an ensemble dance. About half of the group breaks away and joins those in back, leaving just a trio still dancing up front. But then they, too, move to the back and the entire (new) group falls to the ground in front of the rest before jumping up again and continuing their dance. 

When the new group returns to the back, it appears to gain partners from the other group, such that the dancers then spread across the stage in couples. A soloist breaks away from the group of couples and dances a solo while they cluster on stage right. A female from the group is then lifted high and taken to the downstage left corner; the couples spread again and continue moving in unison. Soon, the group separates by gender and the men (except for the male soloist) line the back of the stage while the women perform an ensemble dance. They then rejoin their partners as Yerma emerges to join the male soloist.

But suddenly, Juan returns, seemingly angry to discover his woman with another man. The group of couples quickly exits and Dolores comes forward to stand between Juan and Yerma, as if to prevent a fight (while the male soloist quietly exits, having been caught). Dolores is unable to stop them, however, so she exits once Juan has grabbed Yerma's arm. They then dance a possessive pas de deux in which he rarely lets go of her until she falls to the ground. When she rises again, they dance separate simultaneous solos in separate areas of the stage until meeting for a final lift at upstage center. In this moment, Yerma woman seems to slay Juan, standing triumphantly over his slumped body. She then backs away, dances a brief but frenzied solo, and crouches near his body. She rolls around a bit and then sits up and sways, rocking back and forth for the final few counts. The camera lens is then covered, signifying the end of the ballet. The last ~30 seconds of the video are a black screen.  
Additional Credit
Crumb, George (is composer)
Reiter-Soffer, Domy (is choreographer)