The Magnificent Costumes from the Verde Gaio Ballet

Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança

Verde Gaio, the first public Portuguese’s dance company in a nutshell

A quick overview of the precincts of the museum.

The Green Jay
The Verde Gaio [eng. green jay] ballet was the first public Portuguese’s dance company. It was founded in 1940 by the National Propaganda Secretariat, the governmental department that António Ferro directed. Ferro was deeply moved by Dhiaghilev’s Ballets Russes that were the inspiration for the creation of the Portuguese company.

Ballet costume for the "Lenda das Amendoeiras" [eng. "Legend of the Almond Trees"] ballet, based on a script by Fernanda de Castro, choreografed by Francis Graça, with music by Jorge Croner de Vasconcelos, costumes and set design by Maria Keil.

Verde Gaio was the instrument of the cultural governmental action in dance, at least for two decades. Francis Graça was the first dancer, first director and main choreographer of the Verde Gaio ballet.

The ballet "Lenda das Amendoeiras" was based on a popular legend of a Nordic princess that was brought to the south of Portugal by a moorish prince, she was dying of sadness, missing the snow of her homeland. The prince showed her a white field of florished Almond trees.

Francis Graça was an admirer of the Ballets Russes and thought of calling Francis Graça to be the company’s choreographer. The ballet was entitled "O Muro do Derrete" with Carlos Queiroz, the set and costumes were designed by Paulo Ferreira and the music was by Frederico Freitas. It opened during the festivities which celebrated the eighth anniversary of the Foundation of the Portuguese Nation, on the 8th of November, 1940.

Verde Gaio's performances
A company that is different from other ballet companies in that it is characteristically Portuguese, Verde Gaio was formed as if it were an unpretentious poetry anthology, made up of feelings about Portuguese landscape and race, like tears or smiles emerging from nature and from earthy men, the breath of Portuguese soul, of the whole Portuguese landscape that opens like a fan before our eyes, with its freshness and musicality, an orchestra of birds, human voices, rushing waters, tree branches...

In its performances, the Verde Gaio ballet company appealed to the work of set and costume designers and composers from a young generation of Portuguese modernist artists. Thus, consolidated a new aesthetics linking modernity and stylized tradition. Such visual context was the perfect match for the traditional Portuguese legends that inspired the dances’ choreographies.

Lusitanian Elements
The company defined its path in their performance of "weightless dance". This dance that depicted the Lusitanian contemplative gift that makes the Portuguese dream about the sea while looking at the sky or dream of the sky while looking at the sea…

Artistic interpreter of ancestral traditions, legends, customs, poetry, music, songs and dances of Lusitania, the Portuguese ballet group "Verde Gaio", served both the art of dance with its performances, as well as being a ballet school.

The Ballet Company
It also took part in the Opera season and contributed for the gradual renewal of the theatrical musical genre, both with their spectacular choreography as well as stage sets that were in excellent taste, and the harmonious way of using stage props and stage decoration.

In 1957 Francis was replaced in the artistic direction of the Verde Gaio ballet by the dancer Margarida de Abreu with a more classical bias. Therefore, the company would continue its artistic course until being replaced in 1977 by the new National Ballet Company.

The "Verde Gaio" ballet company was composed by thirty-two ballet dancers, the artistic and choreographic direction and eleven technicians. During its twenty-six years of existence, it gave performances showing its art, and presented themes depicting the life and soul of the Portuguese people.

The company gave hundreds of performances, either in Teatro de São Carlos, or in other more popular theatre, even in castles, royal palaces, monasteries, churches’ atriums, public squares or parks.

"Verde Gaio" also went abroad, performing with success in countries like France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Brazil.

Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança
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