Dance journalist to reflect on Petrouchka’s significance

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

“Petrouchka,” the 20th-century Russian ballet, just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Steve Sucato, freelance dance journalist, will speak on the dance in a lecture titled “The Importance of Petrouchka” at 3:30 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall. The lecture is hosted by the Chautauqua Dance Circle.

Sucato said he recently wrote an article about the ballet for Dance Studio Life magazine, which he’ll use as a guide for his lecture. He’ll also show a video of the ballet and discuss its history, formulation, choreography and music.

“Petrouchka,” which was created for the Ballets Russes, premiered on June 13, 1911, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Sucato said he refers to it as “ballet’s version of a perfect storm” because of the choreographer, composer and set designer’s groundbreaking efforts.

“Each contributed some of their best work in their career,” he said.

The ballet is set in Russia during the 19th century. The story is of an evil Charlatan who instills human emotions in a doll, named Petrouchka, and holds it captive along with a Ballerina and a Moor.

Michel Fokine’s choreography for the ballet was all about realism and modern movement, Sucato said. It was innovative in that it separated itself from what the Russian school was doing.

“Even in the principal roles, it kind of broke away from the regular technique that’s used in most of the story ballets of that time period,” he said.

The opening scene, for example, is that of a carnival during the Russian religious “Maslenitsa,” or “Butter Week,” celebration. The dancers move around the festivities with what Sucato referred to as “pedestrian” movement.

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s music accompanies the ballet. Sucato said it was this experience that helped to solidify the composer’s style.

“From this ballet, he said he got a real sense of who he was as a composer,” Sucato said.

Stravinsky came up with the idea for the ballet while working on a piece he later titled “Petrouchka’s Cry,” Sucato wrote in his article.

Sucato has been writing about dance for 13 years. What once was just a hobby became more of a passion. He enrolled in a dance class in college to fill an elective, but he quickly realized the benefits.

“I didn’t know it was ballet,” he said, “but it was me in a room full of girls, so I stuck around.”

He stuck around for roughly seven years, he said. His degree in communication led him to a job in journalism. Because of his love for dance, he remained committed to writing about the art, joining the Dance Critics Association for several years and contributing to national dance magazines.

He’s written for Dance Magazine, Pointe and The Buffalo News, among other publications.