Re-Imagining Jean-Georges Noverre’s ballet, Les Petits Riens

Les Petits Riens was performed at the Paris Opera in June, 1778 as entr’actes inserted into Niccolo Piccini’s opera Le Finte Gemelle. It seems that the music for the ballet was already partially composed when Noverre asked Mozart to write additional music for the ballet. From Mozart’s letters he says: “He only needed half a ballet. Six pieces in it are composed by others and are made up entirely of wretched old French airs, while the overture and contredanses, about twelve pieces in all, and have been contributed by me. This ballet has already been performed four times with the greatest applause.”

Catherine Turocy, artistic director and choreographer, along with 6 dancers of her New York Baroque Dance Company, re-imagined the ballet based on contemporary descriptions of the work from Le Mercure de France. Using the music attributed to Mozart, she has choreographed the ballet with steps of the pre-romantic era as described in published dance treatises by Genarro Magri, Raoul Auger Feuillet and La Cuisse. She has woven a story line together based on the original review of Le Mercure de France, emphasizing the charm and humor of the work. Although Noverre left no dance notations of his choreography, he wrote much about ballet composition and theory and Ms. Turocy has employed his ideas in her re-imagining of the ballet.

This presentation will consist of an introduction by Ms. Turocy revealing the challenges to reconstructing and interpreting such a work as Les Petits Riens. A showing of her choreography for the ballet on DVD will follow. The presentation will conclude with a question/answer period open to the audience.

Catherine Turocy
Symposium Title: 
Celebrating Jean-Georges Noverre 1727-1810: his world, and beyond – 2010
Author affiliation: 
New York Baroque Dance Company