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.

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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.

Rumble in the Jungle with Alonzo King

Lines Ballet at Yerba Buena CenterLines Ballet in Alonzo King’s “Sand.” Photo copyright Chris Hardy and courtesy Maison de la Danse.

(Published in French and in English, you’ll find the first paragraphs of both versions below. For the complete versions — in both languages — and more photography, subscribers please e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Not already a subscriber? Subscribe with PayPal for just $29.95/year by designating your PayPal payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to find out how to subscribe by check. Subscribers get full access to the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager’s 20-year Archive of more than 2000 exclusive reviews by 150 critics of performances and art from five continents, plus the Jill Johnston Letter.)

Par /by Anne-Charlotte Schoepfer
Copyright 2018 Anne-Charlotte Schoepfer

LYON — Une grande virtuosité, des lignes qui s’allongent à l’infini et une précision sans faille dans les mouvements : tels sont les atouts des douze danseurs de la Compagnie Lines Ballet. Alonzo King, le chorégraphe de la compagnie, réussit à nous transporter dans l’excellence mais oublie de vraiment surprendre la spectatrice que je suis…..

LYON, France — Impeccable virtuosity, lines which stretch out to infinity, faultless precision – such are the trademarks of the 12 dancers of Lines Contemporary Ballet, seen December 14 at the Maison de la Danse. Alonzo King, director and choreographer of the San Francisco-based company, succeeds in transporting us with this excellence, but forgets to really surprise the spectator that I am….