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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…..

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