Here is an Interview of Vida Brown by Mary Neal with footage of Vida Brown dancing in Gaite Parisieene. Vida was one of the dancer’s performing the part of the Flower Girl in the Gaite Paisienne film of Viktor Jessen. As Vida watches the film with Mary Neal who is conducting the interview she points out who is on stage in the part of the flower girl and how this is constantly changing! As she says at one point, “Have you ever seen anything like it?” Viktor just substituted one performer for another mid dance, even mid phrase if he had to to cobble the entire ballet together.
It must be remembered that he filmed the Ballet Russe for 10 years following them all over the country, attending performance after performance in order to do this! I find I do not mind the cast substitutions and rapid changes as the performances are so infectiously delightful the entire experience is just fun and joyous. Vida Brown didn’t mind it either, as she is smiling and laughing with delight throughout the film and as amazed as we are! She points out who is dancing when as they make their entrances and exits. It is amazing. The characterizations are very good. All the dancers are great! There is so much sheer joy and dancing with pleasure and abandon that dancers can only do if their technique is pure and perfect and they are performing a lot! The Ballet Russe performed constantly and traveled all over the country doing so. Those dancers got a lot of experience and owned the stage! So different than today. I just love seeing their great confidence and joy in performing. Of course some of the best ballet dancers in the world at that time were members of the Ballet Russe. The casting is perfection.
I recommend this film highly even though it is indeed a cobbled together version of the ballet with cast members changing (in mid phrase sometimes!) – and the sound is not dead on, but it is a fascinating picture of what the ballet looked like on stage at the time. Gaite Paisienne was an incredibly influential ballet, it was the image of what ballet is for tens of thousands of people, and seeing it helps put that mid-20th century period of ballet in context.
Massine, the choreographer said, “It was popular in the United States because we gave the audience something they could relate to onstage: the working people, the waiters, the dancers, the cabaret, the charming shop girls, the dandies and the soldiers. It was rowdy and fun and full of an infectious energy. The Americans loved it. It was a great success in America, but it was not popular in Britain where the taste was more restrained and the audience wanted subdued ballets.”