Music: Dowland, Neusidler, Morley and anonymous composers
Choreography: Eliot Feld
Premiere: American Ballet Company, New York 1970
Try finding footage – or even a still photograph! – of this ballet online and see for yourself the lack of any record of its existence. This is a perfect example of how potential audiences are missing out on dance history and another opportunity to discover its joy.
Just this week New York City Ballet posted footage from its recent performance of The Sleeping Beauty on Facebook. What a brilliant marketing tool! When will NYCB and its ilk stop hoarding footage and share it publicly for free online? Rather than driving down ticket sales, surely such access can only serve to peak interest.
With such a dearth of visual data on Eliot Feld’s The Consort, it’s hard to see why exactly Balanchine included it in his “101 Greats.” A 1989 review* by Martin Bernheimer of Feld’s later ballets laments their diminished quality compared to The Consort’s “inventive antics.” Indeed, the ballet is sure to have plenty of those. Beginning with costume and choreography suited to the ballet’s Elizabethan score, the piece soon devolves – or evolves? – into an earthy, sexual foray. The dancers cast off traditional clothing onstage, revealing peasant gear befitting the loose romp to follow. Reviewers largely agree that this is where Feld’s choreography shines.
Deborah Jowett of The Village Voice says of The Consort’s conclusion, which sees the rowdy peasants engaged in “a debauch,” “It reminded me of one of those Breughel scenes: you feel that because most of the time the peasants must have worked so hard, their appetites for play and drunken oblivion must have been immense, simple and quickly sated.”