Fiddler on the Roof at Wolf Trap today was absolutely fantastic!
Set in a small town in Tsarist Russia, Fiddler follows the story of a poor Jewish milkman, Tevye, and his family of five daughters as they cope with increasingly difficult social and political upheavals that threaten the traditions of the small town.
A joyful narrator, Tevye explains that their lives are like a fiddler perched on a roof: one of survival through tradition in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. But as his three eldest (and strong-willed) daughters push those traditions for the sake of love, Tevye must reexamine his philosophy and decide what is more important: family or tradition?
Watch the Broadway revival cast perform “Tradition” at Radio City Music Hall:
About the Bottle Dance
The bottle dance as choreographed by Jerome Robbins (in collaboration with Tommy Abbott and Betty Walberg) was popularized by the Broadway play and film musical, Fiddler on the Roof. To ensure the historical accuracy of his choreography, Robbins turned to the work of renowned Jewish dance scholar, Dvora Lapson, and spent time in the Orthodox community in New York City attending celebrations that drew on the heritage of Russian and Eastern European immigrants. The product of his painstaking research – the bottle dance – is that rare cultural phenomenon that captures the imagination of the world, and takes on a life of its own:
There are only a handful of Broadway numbers distinctive enough to go by their own names. For people who’ve seen Fiddler, the words “bottle dance” summon up more than steps. You remember a line of black-suited men, arms linked, knees jackknifed in deep plie, brows furrowed in concentration, slowly, deliberately thrusting their legs out and propelling themselves forward without toppling the wine bottles perched precariously on their hats. And you remember the mixture of surprise and delight and suspense, the feeling that you were being transported into the realm of the impossible.
“There was a rule about the bottle dance,” says Wallace Munro, who first danced in the national touring company of Fiddler in 1969. “Periodically, one of the dancers had to drop his bottle. Robbins wanted it to be exciting. He felt that the audience needed to understand that those bottles weren’t glued on — they were really balanced.”
– Dance theater: Robbins’s Fiddler launched a choreographic showstopper in the bottle dance