dontate now

Join Email List

Facebook  Become a Fan on Facebook
twitter  Follow Us on Twitter

329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

Search Collections

Camille [1959]

Bookmark and Share
Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0173
Run Time
0h 44m 0s
Date Produced
"Camille" is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page in 1958, based on Verdi's 1853 opera La Traviata, itself based on the play La Dame aux Camélias (1852).  Page choreographed the ballet specifically for Marjorie Tallchief, who had been engaged as a soloist for the third tour of Ruth Page's Chicago Opera Ballet that year.  Camille premiered on January 13, 1959 in Columbia, Missouri using Verdi's original music, arranged by Isaac Van Grove.  Costumes and sets were designed by José C. Basarte.

This film represents a rehearsal of the ballet in April of 1959, without costumes or scenery.
The film opens with a shot of a stage, where a group of both male and female dancers stand and sit in various poses.  A group of five women then break into an ensemble dance while the rest look on--this appears to be a party scene.  As they complete their dance, different groups of two and three, now including the men, briefly form and then dissolve; more dancers enter and one couple dances together at center while the rest mill about.  Once this couple spins their pas de deux offstage, a group of three women and three men forms at center, and they perform an ensemble dance.  The central couple then returns and everyone else forms into couples around them; all six couples dance in a revolving circle.  As all strike their final pose, a couple more dancers enter and then usher in a female soloist (presumably the courtesan Camille, hostess of the party), who performs a lively dance while the rest watch.  When it is complete, she dances with various men, particularly taken with one named Armand, with whom she shares a toast.  While they are dancing, however, she falls dizzy.  The guests, all concerned, guide her to a "sofa" (a bench in this rehearsal) to sit down and rest.  Soon, the guests all filter out and leave Camille alone.

Camille slowly stands up and dances a somewhat frenzied solo, determined to get well.  However, she then glimpses herself in the mirror and becomes distraught.  Just then, Armand enters and initiates a romantic pas de deux.  Towards the end of the dance, Camille begins to feel ill again, but she gifts Armand with a flower as a sign of her interest in him.  He kneels lovingly by her bedside as she sits again to rest, but then a couple (apparently her friends?) enters, keen on helping out.  They pull Camille out of bed and entreat her  to dance with them.  Feeling better, she throws back some medicine (or alcohol) and remains feeling lively even after they exit.  She and Armand dance together a bit more and then kiss on her sofa.

The next scene is transitional, and features a series of couples and small groups streaming across the front of the stage.  They seem to be heading to the countryside with parasols and picnic baskets.  The film soon cuts to a farm scene in the countryside, containing all of the individuals who had traveled across the stage.  At center a farmer couple performs a sort of exhibitionist dance together while the rest look on.  After they strike their final pose and their audience applauds them, a male soloist steps forward and performs for the crowd, which claps along encouragingly as he does so.  When he completes his dance, all mill about for a few moments, after which a group of four dancers performs an ensemble dance at center; soon, many of the onlookers also join in.  A female dancer breaks out for a brief solo, after which all join hands and form lines.  These dissolve into more ensemble dances and solos.

The merrymaking is suddenly interrupted, however, by the appearance of Armand's father.  The people disperse and Armand, after greeting his father, attempts to introduce him to Camille.  But the man spurns her, and when she tries to protect Armand from his reprimands, Armand leaves them alone together.  Camille dances a pleading solo but to no avail; Armand's father walks her over to a seat and paints a picture of what she has caused (performed by dancers at center): Armand's sister, as a bride, is refused by her intended groom at the altar because of Camille's relationship with Armand, who is then dragged offstage by his sister as Camille reaches toward her imaginary lover.  Dismayed, Camille cries at the feet of Armand's father.  She then stands and dances a sorrowful and pleading solo-turned pas de deux with him as he comforts her.  Eventually, she sends him away in her angry grief, removes her long skirt (through mime), and invites a group of entertainers (meant to be gypsies and matadors) onstage with her as she collapses onto a bench.

The group performs acrobatics and lively dances while Camille looks on--eventually they convince her to rise and join them, dancing with two of the men and then performing an impressive solo (mostly consisting of fouettés) at center.  She feels ill afterwards, nearly collapsing and then then reclining on her bench with one of the men.  Armand suddenly appears and agrily pulls her from this man's arms.  The anger melts momentarily and the two embrace lovingly at center.  She becomes hysterical, however, remembering that she can only save Armand's family by losing him, and continues her wild dancing until she falls to a kneel.  Armand disgustedly throws money at her feet and exits.  She collapses one final time and the group of entertainers looks toward her bench with great concern.

The camera then cuts to an empty stage for a few moments, then cutting to the next scene, in which Armand dances a tormented solo.  While he does so, two dancers bring chairs onstage.  Eventually, a dream version of Camille is carried in by three dancers beneath a large veil.  Armand runs to her, unwrapping the veil (the three dancers exit with it) and dancing a longing pas de deux with her.  Eventually, she collapses either in grief or illness and is carried away again by the three dancers with the veil--indicating this reunion was only Armand's dream.  He falls to the ground and reaches after her.

The film then cuts to the final scene, where Camille lies ill in her bed.  Two men enter, acting much like children playing.  They are soon shooed away by a woman and followed by a large group of girls.  All seem to be acting silly, soaring about like airplanes.  The girls, too, exit and leave the slumbering Camille alone.  The boys (plus two more) return, one of whom waves a doll in Camille's face.  They slink away as she stirs.  Once fully awake, Camille realizes she is clutching a letter and reads it attentively.  It is apparently about Armand, as she clutches it dramatically to her chest and begins weeping.  She then stands to perform an excited but weak solo.  She also desperately clutches and dances with what appears to be a flower, clearly reminding her of her courtship by Armand.  Soon, however, she collapses again onto her bed.  A servant comes along to rouse her, as her entertainer friends then appear.  It is almost as if she is experiencing a fever dream, happily surrounded by the group while a sinister figure--Armand's father--looks on, eventually intervening.  Armand appears and his father prevents him from fully embracing Camille by carrying her suddenly limp body away from him.  But as the stage clears, Armand's father exits and allows the two one final loving pas de deux.  During a final lift, she collapses and Armand sits on the bed, holding her.  She dies in his arms, and the four men from earlier enter and look on as she does so.  All hold this final pose for a moment, but as they break character the film cuts to an empty stage, and then ends.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Tallchief, Marjorie (is performer)
Skibine, George (is performer)
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)