Degas meets Valéry at the Orsay, 1

degas9 group of dancers smallTo commemorate the centennial of the death of Edgar Degas (1834-1917), through Sunday the musée d’Orsay has organized an exhibition that juxtaposes paintings, pastels, and drawings from the Impressionist artist and others with “Degas Danse Dessin,” published in 1936 by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. Accompanied by 26 hors-textes reproductions of Degas’s graphic work, the luxury edition was written by French  poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945). “Degas is one of the rare painters to lend the floor its own importance,” Valéry noted. “He has admirable planks. At times, he views a dancer from high up, and her entire form gets projected on the plane of the plateau, like seeing a crab on a beach.” Edgar Degas (1834-1917), “Dancers,” also known as “Group of Dancers,” between 1884 and 1885. Pastel on paper, 78.3 x 77.2 cm.  Paris, Musee d’Orsay, RF 51757. © Musée d’Orsay Dist. RMN- Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt. Courtesy Service Presse / musée d’Orsay.

From Marie-Agnes Gillot and the Paris Opera Ballet, Heart and Technique in Balanchine, Robbins, and Preljocaj

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000, 2018 Paul Ben-Itzak

In tonight’s return to the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire of Maurice Bejart’s “Bolero,” Marie-Agnes Gillot will dance the lead role. Gillot retires from the Opera March 31.

PARIS — For as long as I’ve been covering dance intensely, I’ve been hearing what a brilliant dude this guy Balanchine is. So much so that he doesn’t even require a first name on first reference — kinda like “God.” So I’ve not broadcast that many of Mr. B’s ballets leave me cold. But I had a nagging sense — mostly from seeing the work performed by Dance Theatre of Harlem and Suzanne Farrell’s companies — that it didn’t need to be so, and may have just been the tepid presentations by New York City Ballet, only selectively amended by San Francisco Ballet’s clean executions of the 1950s black and white dances. Well, Saturday night at the Palais Garnier, courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet dancers Jean-Guillaume Bart, Agnes Letestu, Delphine Moussin, Karin Averty, Beatrice Martel, Aurore Cordellier, and Dorothee Gilbert, I was re-educated: It ain’t necessarily so. Balanchine does not have to be coldly rendered. The abstract, architectural beauty of his ballets can be inhabited in a way that gives them life. Elsewhere on Saturday’s mostly winning mixed program, Manuel Legris provided a reminder of how Jerome Robbins humanized the dance, Marie-Agnes Gillot and Clairemarie Osta rendered Angelin Preljocaj’s stark world with warm humanity, and dancers no less talented than all these could not save the evening’s one premiere, Lionel Hoche’s “Yamm,” from making me want to yell, “J’accuse!” (As I don’t yet know how to say, “Make it stop!” or “Oy!” in French.)

To receive the complete article, first published on October 23, 2000, subscribers please contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) by designating your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check. Subscribers receive full access to the DI/AV Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading critics of performances and art on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $109 (institutions) Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Sign up by March 1 and receive a FREE Home page photo ad.

Degas meets Valéry at the Orsay, 2

degas12 dancer in escalier smallTo commemorate the centennial of the death of Edgar Degas (1834-1917), through Sunday the musée d’Orsay has organized an exhibition that juxtaposes paintings, pastels, and drawings from the Impressionist artist and others with “Degas Danse Dessin,” published in 1936 by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. Accompanied by 26 hors-textes reproductions of Degas’s graphic work, the luxury edition was written by French poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945). “For Degas,” wrote Valéry, “an oeuvre was the result of an undefined quantity of studies, and, afterwards, a series of operations. I really believe that he thought that an oeuvre should never be considered ‘finished.'” Edgar Degas (1834-1917), “Dancers walking up a stairway,” between 1886 and 1890. Oil on canvas, 39 x 89.5 cm. Paris, musée d’Orsay, RF 1979. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Stéphane Maréchalle. Courtesy Service Presse / musée d’Orsay.

Infanticides, Shrews, and Sluts: Mats Ek Skewers the Fair Sex at the Paris Opera; Teshigawara Rides Their Wings

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003, 2018 Paul Ben-Itzak

In tonight’s return to the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire of Maurice Bejart’s “Bolero,” Marie-Agnes Gillot will dance the lead. Gillot retires from the Opera March 31. Special thanks to DI supporter NR for enabling our ballet coverage.

PARIS — For the first 10 minutes of Mats Ek’s “Appartement,” created on the Paris Opera Ballet in 2000 and reprised this past weekend at the Garnier, I was all set to write a piece regurgitating the question: Why isn’t Ek, a major contemporizing force in ballet in Europe, programmed by U.S. ballet companies, instead of the safe middling contemporary fare we often get from them? But then I realized the misogynistic vision of women Ek was using his innovative choreography to postulate. On International Women’s Day, no less, the Paris Opera Ballet was presenting a view of women as man-domineering baby-burners who, when they are not subduing their men, have only one thing in mind, to get them to fuck them. (I use the vulgar language to convey the vulgar way in which Ek expressed this.)

On paper, the conceit of “Appartement” is surprisingly full of possibilities. In the program notes, Ek points out that our apartments can be isolated chambers where we are alone with ourselves. (Indeed, the French word for ‘room’ is ‘chambre.’) How we interact with, in, and among its implements and environs is fertile territory for dramatic and kinetic exploration. Onstage, the piece begins intriguingly enough. As seen Saturday afternoon, the ever lissome Marie-Agnes Gillot squeezes under the drawn faux-curtain and onto the lip of the stage — willowy and statuesque at the same time, and a heart-stopper seen at such close range, as evidenced by the gasping of the woman seated next to me. That we’re in the bathroom is indicated, prop-wise, by a solitary bidet-sized bathtub. Where we are is also indicated by Gillot, who stands up and shivers in anticipation as she enters, as many of us do when stepping into the capsule of a hot bath, to be alone with our whimsies, musings… and fantasies. She is suddenly free, her long limbs shooting to the sky…..

To receive the complete article, first published on March 12, 2003, subscribers please contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) by designating your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check. Subscribers receive full access to the DI/AV Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading critics of performances and art on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $109 (institutions) Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Sign up by March 1 and receive a FREE Home page photo ad.

Degas meets Valéry at the Orsay, 3

degas15 dancer drawing smallTo commemorate the centennial of the death of Edgar Degas (1834-1917), through Sunday the musée d’Orsay has organized an exhibition that juxtaposes paintings, pastels, and drawings from the Impressionist artist and others with “Degas Danse Dessin,” published in 1936 by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. Accompanied by 26 hors-textes reproductions of Degas’s graphic work, the luxury edition was written by French poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945). “There’s an immense difference between seeing something without the pencil in hand, and seeing it in drawing it,” Valéry observed. “Or rather, one sees two different things. Even the most familiar object to our eyes becomes something completely different, if one proceeds to draw it; we realize that… we never really saw it.” Edgar Degas (1834-1917), “Dancer.” Drawing featured in Paul Valéry’s “Degas Danse Dessin,” published by Ambroise Vollard in 1936. Paris, musée d’Orsay. © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt. Courtesy Service Presse / musée d’Orsay.

Marie-Agnes Gillot: Notre Dame de l’Opéra de Paris, Grande in Ballets Petit & Bejart

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2001, 2018 Paul Ben-Itzak

In tonight’s return to the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire of Maurice Bejart’s “Bolero,” Marie-Agnes Gillot will dance the lead role. Gillot retires from the Opera March 31. Special thanks to DI supporter NR for enabling our ballet coverage.

PARIS — As spectacles go, you can’t get much more spectacular than Roland Petit’s 1965 ballet “Notre-Dame de Paris,” created for the Paris Opera Ballet and performed by the POB from etoiles to corps with gusto last night at the Garnier, as its opening production of the season. Because we have rather been plagued by new story ballets in recent years (“Othello,” “Pied Piper,” “Snow Maiden,” and more Draculas than there are corps maidens to feed them), I would like to comment on what Petit, a past and present master of spectacle, teaches us about how to make the form not just work, but work on our emotions. It’s in the details….

In “Notre-Dame de Paris,” based on the Victor Hugo novel more typically translated in the U.S. as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” we are provided with the potential for grandeur and intimacy, and Petit delivers on at least one of these levels, and the more important one. And in the Paris Opera dancers, who have this story and that poet in their blood memory, he couldn’t have found better vessels.

What struck me — and I use that word “struck” literally, for it hit me like a blow — most about Petit’s choreography for the four principals, as they were interpreted last night, was that it is Quasimoto who emerges as the most human of the quartet. As portrayed by Wilfried Romoli, Quasimoto is not so much “a hunchback,” as dehumanizing as reducing a man to such a description can be, but a noble soul trapped in a body that can’t quite meet, or can’t quite rise to, the elevated level of his soul and aspirations and heroic and romantic inclinations. He does, in fact, and often, regularly straighten his spine and rise, but can only remain erect for a fleeting moment, before, almost ritually, collapsing on bent knees, his right arm pulling his shoulder down (the hunch is communicated not by an artificial lump in the actor-dancer’s back, but by the way he carries and arrays the rest of his body, most notably the arms and a constantly drooping shoulder), his lower arm left to swing, lifelessly and out of his control, back and forth, its fingers splayed.

The most compelling moment arrives in a sort of role-reversed Rose Adagio: Technically Quasimoto is lifting heroine Esmeralda’s arm and hand so that she can lift one leg up and stand on just one pointe; in reality it’s Esmeralda who is lifting him so that he can stand up straight, as becomes clear when they release and he automatically crumples and re-hunches. (A sharp contrast with the arch deacon Frolo’s treatment of Quasimoto, manifest in his constantly pushing him down into a hunch.)

This passage is delivered in what is also the ballet’s romantic pay-off, the final duet between Quasi and Esmeralda, who he has secured — only tenuously, it turns out — in the church, having just saved her from the gallows. Both Romoli and Marie-Agnes Gillot, last night’s and the opening night’s Esmeralda, deliver. In her first appearance, aptly telegraphed by a solitary tambourine (played with gusto by a soloist of the Orchestre Colonne, as was the entire Maurice Jarre score, conducted by Paul Connelly), Gillot’s Esmeralda struck me as rather cold and constrained for a Gypsy Dancer. It might also have been her white tight short skirt designed by Yves Saint-Laurent, whose costumes overall affected me as almost too sleek and modern for a tale driven by such raw individual and crowd passions. (Rene Allio’s stage designs were much more appropriately medieval.) As the ballet progressed, however, Gillot displayed that greatest and rarest of acting gifts: She seemed to be responding and reacting to her progressive partners and in a way suitors, her temperament changing based on what they gave her….

To receive the complete article, first published on October 10, 2001, subscribers please contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) by designating your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check. Subscribers receive full access to the DI/AV Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading critics of performances and art on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $109 (institutions) Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Sign up by March 1 and receive a FREE Home page photo ad.

 

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freespace for adCelebrating 20 years as the Internet’s longest-running dance magazine, the Dance Insider is now offering Home page ads with photos starting at just $49 when you sign up by March 1. Contact paulbenitzak@gmail.com for more information to join Freespace Dance (above), Slippery Rock University Dance (top), and others in sponsoring the Dance Insider, for two decades the leading voice for dancers. Above: Freespace Dance’s Donna Scro Samori and Omni Kitts, photographed by Lois Greenfield.

Emma Gonzalez, American Hero

For all those who have lost hope in America, voila the answer.  (Story in French here.) And here’s the transcript of the speech Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,  delivered at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Saturday after 17 students and teachers at the school were killed by a lone gunman last week:

We haven’t already had a moment of silence in the House of Representatives, so I would like to have another one. Thank you….

Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.

We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. In Florida, to buy a gun you do not need a permit, you do not need a gun license, and once you buy it you do not need to register it. You do not need a permit to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

I read something very powerful to me today. It was from the point of view of a teacher. And I quote: When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student’s right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.

Instead of worrying about our AP Gov chapter 16 test, we have to be studying our notes to make sure that our arguments based on politics and political history are watertight. The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in the closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone.

I found out today there’s a website shootingtracker.com. Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA’s shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn’t had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.

I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we’ve had our say with the government — and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.

We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

There is one tweet I would like to call attention to: “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again.” We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. Okay, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.

And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student’s fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn’t take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I’m talking about the people he lived with. I’m talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.

If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

You want to know something? It doesn’t matter because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you..

If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once? You know what would be a good way to act like it? I have an example of how to not act like it. In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don’t really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don’t need a psychologist and I don’t need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.

Republican senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, “Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.” Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice, and our parents, to call BS. Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

Move, Members, Move

moma moving stories smallIf there’s one person in dance who is consistent, it’s Battery Dance’s Jonathan Hollander, whose vision, contrary to the myopia which sometimes infects other leaders of the New York dance community, has always been both global and community-oriented in the larger sense. Receiving its premiere Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Modern Art as part of MoMA’s Doc Fortnight festival, Rob Fruchtman’s 2017 “Moving Stories” follows six dancers from Battery, including ex-Graham fixture Tadej Brdnik, as they travel to India, Romania, Korea, and Iraq to work with at-risk youth, with just one week to prepare a performance. The documentary is preceded by Maris Curran’s “While I Yet Live,” in which five acclaimed African-American quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, discuss love, religion, and the fight for civil rights as they continue the tradition of quilting that brought them together, and followed by a discussion with some of the dancers, who also included Robin Cantrell, Mira Cook, Clement Mensah, Sean Scantlebury and Lydia Tetzlaff. Photo courtesy Rob Fruchtman.

Women aren’t just victims, 6: The Ciphers of Chantal — Corinne Rondeau Plunges into the “Akermanian Night,” now at the Cinematheque Française

chantal dis moi smallChantal Akerman, “Dis Moi.” Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2018 Paul Ben-Itzak

As an American who has always looked upon France as the Valhalla of Intellect and Reason, of Art and Culture, it’s been painful to hear the clarion call of Camus and Godard, of Dutronc and Brassens, of Pissarro and Cocteau, of Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril, of Claude Cahun and Man Ray, of Renoir and Renoir, of Voltaire and Misia Sert almost entirely drowned out by the obsession with terrorism, Islam, and immigration which has dominated the public airwaves since the criminal massacre of 130 innocents on the café terraces and in the concert halls and stadiums of Paris and Saint-Denis of November 13, 2015. It’s as if, like their New York colleagues (Susan Sontag was a brave exception) after September 11, 2001 — witness the New York Times’s supine readiness to enable the Bush-Cheney chicaneries whenever the pendulum of “national security” was dangled before its eyes — French radio journalists have been infected with a kind of survivor’s syndrome which prevents them from analyzing events, be they cultural or civic, political or societal, outside of these paradigms. (Living in the East of Paris when and where the terrorists struck on November 13, I haven’t been immune to this syndrome, since that day often interpreting events through the prism of my own fears.) On Radio France’s putatively high-brow chain, France Culture, it’s gotten to the point where one is cumulatively more likely to hear the words Islam, immigration, terrorism, jihad, and their various derivatives than the words France and Culture, particularly on the news programs. The exceptions have been the world affairs program Culture Monde and Arnaud Laporte’s panel discussion “La Dispute,” which considers a different art form every evening. (Theater and dance Monday, music Tuesday, the plastic arts Wednesday, literature including comics Thursday, and film and t.v. series Friday, should you want to check it out, at 1 p.m. EST. Link below.) If all the knights and ladies of renaissance man Laporte’s critical round-table are informed, literate, engaged, and engaging — the best curating may be Laporte’s in choosing his team, over whose language he presides with the vigilance of a high school French teacher, making for a minimum of “voila”s — the intellectually exhilarating rhetorical perambulations, pirouettes, and sautées I look forward to following the most are Corinne Rondeau’s.

Droll, colorful, imaginative, incisive, complex without being complicated, erudite without being aloof, humble before the oeuvre and authoritative in the aesthetic background she applies to analyzing it, curious, exuding panache — in effect, the art professor of your dreams, and who confirms, in the best tradition of Clement Greenberg, Edwin Denby, Michel Ragon, Jean-Luc Godard, and Phillip Larkin, that criticism can be its own art form — Rondeau not only knows her material but knows how to sell her arguments. So when I heard that Editions de l’éclat had just published a 125-page essay by my critical chou-chou (whose previous book took on Sontag) on one of my cinematic cheries, the late Chantal Akerman, I couldn’t wait to turn off my radio and sink my mandibles into something that instead of feeding my anxieties promised to stimulate my intellect and my appetite for art.

To read the complete article, please visit our sister magazine the Maison de Traduction by clicking here.