The Polovtsian Dances (or Polovetsian Dances) (Russian: Половецкие пляски, Polovetskie plyaski from the Russian name of the Turkic Polovtsy people) are perhaps the best known selections from Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor (1890). They are often played as a stand-alone concert piece. Borodin was the original composer, but the opera was left unfinished at his death and was subsequently completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. In the opera the dances are performed with chorus, but concert performances often omit the choral parts. The dances do not include the "Polovtsian March," which opens Act III (No. 18), but the overture, dances, and march from the opera have been performed together to form a suite from Prince Igor. In the opera Prince Igor, the dances occur in Act II (in the original edition). A typical performance lasts between 11 and 14 minutes.
- Ballets Russes performances
As part of his first "Saison Russe" at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Sergei Diaghilev presented Polovtsian Scenes and Dances (consisting of Act II of Prince Igor) with full orchestra and singers; the debut took place on 18 May 1909. Choreography was by Michel Fokine, sets and costumes were designed by Nicholas Roerich. The work was performed in later seasons of the Ballets Russes, without singers, as The Polovtsian Dances. The work was subsequently re-choreographed (in part) by Bronislava Nijinska for the 1923 season.
The first dance, which uses no chorus and is sometimes omitted in concerts, is No. 8, entitled "Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens" ["Пляска половецких девушек"]: presto, 6/8, F major; it is placed directly after the "Chorus of the Polovtsian Maidens," which opens the act and is followed by "Konchakovna's Cavatina". The dances proper appear at the end of the Act as an uninterrupted single number in several contrasting sections listed as follows (basic themes are indicated with letters in brackets and notated in the accompanying illustration)
- No. 17, "Polovtsian Dance with Chorus" ["Половецкая пляска с хором"]
- [a] Introduction: Andantino, 4/4, A Major
- [b] Gliding Dance of the Maidens [Пляска девушек плавная]: Andantino, 4/4, A Major
- [c + a] Wild Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин дикая]: Allegro vivo, 4/4, F Major
- [d] General Dance [Общая пляска]: Allegro, 3/4, D Major
- [e] Dance of the Boys [Пляска мальчиков] and 2nd Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин]: Presto, 6/8, D Minor
- [b’ + e’] Gliding Dance of the Maidens (reprise, soon combined with the faster dancing of the boys): Moderato alla breve, 2/2, A Major
- [e’’] Dance of the Boys and 2nd Dance of the Men (reprise): Presto, 6/8, D Minor
- [c’ + a’’] General Dance: Allegro con spirito, 4/4, A Major
As an orchestral showpiece by an important nineteenth-century Russian composer, notable instrumental solos include the clarinet (in No. 8 and the Men's Dance [c]) and the oboe and English horn (in the Women's Dance [b]).
The text of the first stanza of this particular section in the opera is given below.
Улетай на крыльях ветра
Fly away on wings of wind
References in popular culture
Some Polovtsian Dances performed by Daniel Bautista (fragment).
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
Most of the themes from No. 17 were incorporated into the 1953 musical Kismet, best known of which is the women's dance ("Gliding Dance of the Maidens"), adapted for the song "Stranger in Paradise". Thirteen years earlier, in 1940, Artie Shaw recorded "My Fantasy" (credited to composers Paul Whiteman, Jack Meskill, and Leo Edwards), which has a tune virtually identical to this dance. Paul Whiteman adapted the music from the Polovtsian Dances theme from Prince Igor (1890). The Paul Whiteman Orchestra recorded "My Fantasy" in 1939.
The heavy metal song Lonely Winds of War by Masterplan also uses the melody in the chorus.
More recent adaptations of the music include the following:
- Julio Iglesias recorded the Polovtsian Dances under the title Quiéreme in his album Emociones, a Spanish homage to Borodin's masterpiece.
- British string quartet bond recorded an instrumental version of the women's dance in their album Shine, renamed "Strange Paradise" to fit with Kismet's use of the melody.
- Different adaptations of No. 17 "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" have been featured as background music in several Japanese animated TV series, including Princess Tutu, Noir, and Kare Kano, while it is given a special significance in RahXephon. The track "The Garden of Everything" on the top 10 Maaya Sakamoto single "Tune the Rainbow" uses it as a sub-melody.
- An arranged version of the song was created and used as the opening theme to the PlayStation 2 video game, The Sword of Etheria. The vocals are performed by Martha Matsuda. This arrangement was adapted for 'Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2.'
- An arranged version of the song was used as one of the themes for the puzzle stages in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 video game, Catherine.
- The opening theme of the 2012 Japanese anime series "Appleseed XIII" is an adaptation of the original melody.
- In the 1970s there was a television commercial for a classical music compilation set that tried to hook viewers by arguing that many of their favorite tunes were actually classical pieces. The narrator (British actor John Williams) speaks at one point, with "Stranger in Paradise" playing in the background, and says, "You may think of this as 'Stranger in Paradise,' but did you know it was from the Polovtsian Dance Number 2 by Borodin?"
- Polovtsian Dances was used a large number of times throughout the film Fire Maidens of Outer Space
- The "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" section is played, to suggest loneliness and despair, during the pilot episode of the cartoon series "Ren and Stimpy" when Ren and Stimpy are jailed at the dog pound.
- Garofala, Lynn. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. (New York, NY: DaCapo Press, 1998). p. 384.
- Borodin, A. Le Prince Igor. Partition pour chant et piano. Edition M.P. Belaieff. (Russian, French, and German text.)