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Yerma [September 15, 1977]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0484
Run Time
0h 38m 10s
Color
B&W
Sound
Mono
Date Produced
1977
Abstract
"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 recording of a television broadcast of the piece, preceded by roughly eight minutes of static and advertisements; its container notes suggest that it was recorded on September 15, 1977. 
Description
The video begins with static on the screen, but with an audio recording of television advertisements for the first several minutes. It seems as if someone may be channel-surfing; at one point, a station identification is heard: "Channel 32, WFLD-TV, Chicago." Then, after the sounds of a police or detective procedural, the video cuts to titles for a dance performance: "Le Corsair pas de deux;" "Kathleen McInerney, Basil Gandara;" "Music: Riccardo Drigo;" "Choreography: Jules Perrot;" "Reproduced by Richard Collins." These seem to be the credits for a program that has just ended.

The video then fades to a new title: YERMA. A voiceover explains, "The ballet Yerma is a torrid modern work and follows closely the narrative motif of the play by Frederico García Lorca. Yerma, a Spanish peasant woman, is married to Juan, whose jealous and possessive love prevents him from giving her the child she desires. Dolores, a sorceress figure, offers help in fulfilling this wish. She persuades Yerma to take part in a fertility rite, invoking a Christ figure, who is represented by Dolores' son Victor. It follows a sensuous and tender scene between them, and then a wildly throbbing dance which is somewhere between a bacchanale and a witch's sabbath. Inevitably, tragedy follows, as the crazed Yerma focuses all her pent up frustration and bitter yearning on her husband Juan, and explosively exacts a terrible vengeance." While he explains all this, still images representing the dance move by in a montage sequence. 

The video then fades to a shot of a woman (as Yerma) resting in a hammock in an otherwise empty space. After she wakes and dismounts, she launches into an intense solo dance. She ends it by kneeling and cradling an imaginary baby in her arms. At this point, a male soloist (as 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, the female dancer drops to the ground and the two perform floorwork together, but she soon rises again. To end the pas de deux Yerma throws herself onto Juan in an embrance and then slowly falls to a kneel; he runs off stage right to exit.

As the female soloist rises from her kneel and runs down center stage before returning to the back, a second female soloist (cloaked, as Dolores) enters from the back, followed by a tight group of additional dancers. As Dolores approaches Yerma and begins to comfort her, the group scurries about the stage. Soon, Yerma joins the large group (~6 dancers). As they gather in a huddle near the back of the stage, Dolores performs a solo. She then leads the group for a moment, before Yerma separates from the group, grasping her womb, before rejoining the others. After she looks on for a few moments, Dolores takes Yerma aside and dances a fertility ritual with her (the rest huddle in a corner near a cross).

Suddenly, the cross turns ro reveal a Jesus-like figure on it (apparently Dolores' son, Victor). He descends from the cross and slowly approaches Yerma. The rest of the group and Dolores exit with the cross 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 dance, Yerma once again kneels, facing away from the camera, and Victor stands facing her (and the camera). He grabs and moves her head, and lets down her hair. He then backs away and, as she turns around, Dolores reenters holding large tablets, accompanied by her followers (who slowly march in a procession, holding candles).

After Dolores circles Yerma, she rises and follows the sorceress to the back of the performance space; they are joined by the group procession. As all settle into place, a group of four shirtless male dancers enters and performs an ensemble dance. A soloist briefly breaks away from them several times, but he always rejoins them and they continue as an ensemble. Female dancers from the procession then rise to join them for wild couple dances, throwing their bodies about freely. Dolores presides over the affair, arms raised and holding her tablets. Eventually, the four couples split by gender into separate groups, with the males moving to the back and the females clustering at center. They then rejoin their partners and all scurry to the back except for one of the shirtless men.

Yerma comes forward and is embracing this man when Juan suddenly appears, furious in a spotlight. The shirtless man crawls away and Dolores tries to shield Yerma from Juan's anger. But she fails and backs away into darkness as Juan grabs Yerma and inaugurates a possessive pas de deux in which he rarely lets go of her until he seems to choke her (?) and she falls to the ground. When she rises again, they dance separate simultaneous solos in separate areas of the stage and Yerma once again mimics carrying a baby but symbolically yanks it away from Juan, and he chases her upstage toward the now-reappeared hammock, where he lifts her. In this moment, the woman seems to slay the man, balancing triumphantly atop his limp body. She then backs away, dances a brief but frenzied solo, and crouches beneath his suspended body. She rolls around a bit, and rocks the corpse in the hammock as if a baby in a cradle.

The camera slowly pulls back and final credits are superimposed over the image: "YERMA;" "Music: George Crumb (Ancient voices of children);" "Choreography: Domy Reiter-Soffer." Then, on the next screen: "JUAN [illegible]: Richard Collins;" "YERMA [illegible]: Kathleen Smith;" "DOLORES [illegible]: Anna Donovan;" "VICTOR [illegible]: Dennis Spaight[?]." Then "Villagers: Eileen Barry, Carol Bryans, Patricia Crosbie, Jill d'Alton, Margaret Goodner, Kathleen McInerney;" T[illegible]: Kevin Batten, Sven Bradshaw, Terrence Grizzell." Then "Dennis Spaight appears by kind permission of MUDRA, Brussels. (Director: Maurice Bejart)." Then "On Behalf of the Irish Ballet Company; Artistic Director: Joan Denise Moriarty; Costumes and Theatre Design: Patrick Murray; Ballet Master: David Gordon." Then "Graphics: Ries Hoek; Production Assistant: Anne Parkinson; Videotape Editor: Paddy Kelly." Then "Cameraman: Phil Mullally; Lighting: Donal O'Callaghan; Design: Charles Self; Directed by: Ted Dolan. HRTE [illegible]." The video then cuts to black before cutting again to the HRTE logo; finally, it cuts to static and ends.
 
Distributors
HRTE
Main Credit
Dolan, Ted (is director)
Parkinson, Anne (is co-producer)
Mullally, Phil (is videomaker)
Additional Credit
Reiter-Soffer, Domy (is choreographer)
Crumb, George (is composer)
Kelly, Paddy (is editor)
O'Callaghan, Donal (is lighting director)
Hoek, Ries (is contributor)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Smith, Kathleen (is performer)
Collins, Richard (is performer)
Donovan, Anna (is performer)
Spaight, Dennis (is performer)
Barry, Eileen (is performer)
Bryans, Carol (is performer)
Crosbie, Patricia (is performer)
D'Alton, Jill (is performer)
Goodner, Margaret (is performer)
McInerney, Kathleen (is performer)
Batten, Kevin (is performer)
Bradshaw, Sven (is performer)
Grizzell, Terrence (is performer)
Genre
Dance
Subject
Dance