Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines

Posted in books, exhibitions by Editor on December 10, 2021

The Ballet des Porcelaines cast in the Venetian Room, Albertine Headquarters, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, NYC. From left to right: Daniel Applebaum (Prince); Georgina Pazcoguin (Princess); Tyler Hanes (Sorcerer). Photo by Joe Carrotta.

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As part of the media preview of the exhibition Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, guests were given a special chance to see the first performance in centuries of the Ballet des Porcelaine. A publication, noted below, is forthcoming. Additional information about the performance, including credits, is available here.

The original Ballet des Porcelaines, written by the comte de Caylus and staged around 1740 at a château outside of Paris, was based on an Orientalist fairy tale in the same literary milieu as Beauty and the Beast (1740). The story tells of an Asian sorcerer who lives on a ‘Blue Island’ and transforms anyone who dares to trespass into porcelain cups, vases, and other wares. When the sorcerer turns a captive prince into a teapot, a princess comes to rescue her lover by stealing the sorcerer’s wand and turning him into a pagod, an eighteenth-century version of a porcelain bobblehead. Displayed today in museums like The Met, pagods were collectible trinkets that inspired Oriental caricatures in the performing arts. European choreographers mimicked the features and gestures of these porcelain figures, which persist in such iconic, problematic productions as The Nutcracker’s “Chinese Tea” dance.

Scheduled Performances

6 December 2021, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2–3 March 2022, The University of Chicago
18–19 March 2022, Princeton University
16–17 June 2022, Waddesdon Manor
19–21 June 2022, Royal Pavilion, Brighton
25–26 June 2022, Capodimonte, Naples
28–29 June 2022, Palazzo Grassi, Venice
2–3 July 2022, Sèvres Museum, Paris

Meredith Martin, with contributions by Phil Chan and Charlotte Vignon, Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines (Turnhout: Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2022).

In addition to the performance and the book, many readers will find this recorded conversation fascinating as well:

Phil Chan and Meredith Martin, hosted by the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, “Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines: A Story of Magic, Desire, and Exotic Entanglement,” YouTube, posted 9 November 2021, 63 minutes.

Phil Chan and Meredith Martin have reimagined this lost Baroque work with an all-Asian American creative team, aiming to make it meaningful and relevant for a multiracial and contemporary audience. This talk explores their process and performance plans and features performances by Martha Graham Principal Dancer Xin Ying and actor, singer, dancer, choreographer Tyler Hanes.

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Note (added 15 December 2021) — The posting has been updated to include the cast photo by Joe Carrotta.


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