Richard Kostelanetz
from 1001 Contemporary Ballets

            A good libretto, even an impressionist, double-exposed or
            portmanteaued one, follows most of the rules of simple dramaturgy.
            Balanchine once said the perfect type plot for a dramatic narrative
            ballet was the story of the Prodigal Son.  Once there was a man who
            had everything, then he had nothing; finally he had everything again.
                   –Lincoln Kirstein, Ballet Alphabet (1939)

   A wealthy businessman has arranged to have knowledge of his daughter’s
blindness kept from her by threatening to fire immediately any of the family
servants who reveal her disability to her.  A psychic tells the businessman
that only if his daughter knows of her blindness and wills its removal can
she be cured.  Into her garden come two men, one of whom falls in love with
the daughter and, it seems, she with him.  Her father declares that the
marriage cannot take place unless his daughter regains her sight. That
threat succeeds in miraculously curing her.

   Ice hockey is played not with a standard puck but a whiffleball.

   Two young lovers, sunbathing nude on an ocean island, sink beneath a
rising tide.

   While spasms of circumscribed movement break out among isolated groups
crouching around the stage, the protagonist, surrounded by an entourage,
makes expansive movements that apparently consecrate the ground.  Maidens
enter, looking anxious, as though programmed to participate in an undesirable
fate.  An orgy ensues until the maidens’ anger transcends their religious
humility.  How this conflict is resolved is left to the discretion of the

   Several performers vigorously play nothing on familiar instruments, making
a ballet of their moves over the sound of their physical efforts.

   Contemporary Ballets consists only of a large message screen, probably a
liquid crystal display, on which appear the texts published here.

   Onto the stage comes a man who leaps into the air, where he hangs
suspended for the duration of the performance.

   A large man spits directly on his enemies, apparently blinding each of
them in a single eye.  They spit back, to no avail, while the protagonist
stands apart, stoically satisfied.

   In a dance lasting at least twenty years, a company of a dozen performers
do things they would normally do.

   A man falling from behind the top curtain brakes in mid-air, never
touching the floor.  Once applause ends, curtains are closed, forever hiding
the secret behind his suspension.


   The performers scan the audience for past loves.  Finding none from the
stage, they go out in the audience, looking for any reasonable semblances.

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