Le Parc à Paris. Plot summary.

CarteDuTendreChoreography by Angelin Preljocaj (1994, created for the Paris Opera Ballet)
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Goran Vejvoda
At the Palais Garnier, 18 performances from December 7 through 31.

You are in Paris now, a perilous yet exhilarating place. Surely, you expect to find romance. Maybe in a park, under the shade of a tree? But what do you really want? Love or sex? Reason or emotion? Are they mutually exclusive? A meeting of the minds or…And just how much of yourself are you willing to surrender? These are ageless questions.
Fascinated by the great early novels of 17th and 18th century French literature, Angelin Preljocaj tried to see whether such a verbal genre could survive translation into the language of movement. Les Liaisons dangereuses, La Princesse de Clèves, Mlle de Scudéry’s Clélia, and the plays of Marivaux, all charted the treacherous journey which might connect your heart to your brain and to the rest of your body. At the time artists even drew maps of this untamed wilderness: relationships depicted as a landscape littered with land mines. When trapped between the dangerous Sea of Passion and the Lake of Indifference, are trust and tenderness even possible? Do lovers ever truly know or understand each other?

While the ballet is danced in one piece – 1:40 minutes and no intermission – conceptually, the ballet is set up into three sections:
PART ONE:
Each section begins with a weird, stiffly-moving, coven of Gardeners. Are they fate? Are they the rigid rules of society? Wearing welder’s glasses and butcher’s aprons, are they hiding from the light of day or does this indicate that love is blind, scalding, fatal? Their music will be like a train wreck or the repetitive grind of a factory assembly line: are we ever in control of such events? In a harsh and stiff way, they map out the very gestures and movements that will follow. Notice that the “garden” is carved out of steel and wood beams. This “park,” this “landscape of love,” will have sharp and painful edges.
Suspicion/Flirtation. The company assembles around a game (is it only a game?) of one-upmanship and musical chairs. He checks out the available women (en travesti, a wink at Marivaux) while She feigns indifference. But He has noticed Her. Despite the ordered surface, the disorienting game of seduction has begun.
The first meeting/Temptation (Pas de deux/duet #1) He is ardent, she apprehensive; but both quickly realize that they are in synch. The two of them “talk” but hesitate to touch…until she faints. They struggle to remain true to – and break out of – polite society’s rules.

PART TWO:
Gardeners again.
Delicious bait. The women, having discarded some clothing, cheerfully anticipate being loved some more. She, in a bright red gown, is curious but apprehensive.
Desire. Four men arrive on hands and knees as if desperate. He is one of them, and he happily pairs off to flirt with another woman. Four other men who don’t get lucky dance out their frustrations.
The second meeting/Resistance (Pas de deux #2). The gardeners bring her to a grove in the park. As hard as He tries to impress her, She resists. While he seems to be offering his body and soul, she fears the consequences. Perhaps she could surrender only her body but not her soul ?

PART THREE:
She is trapped in a nightmare, manipulated by the ice-cold gardeners.
Regrets. Late at night, the women lament lost (or dead) love.
Passion. He, aflame with desire, goads the other men on.
Weakness. A second later, some of the men realize just how much women can/will depend upon them. While seduction may result in a man acquiring a “ball and chain,” for all women the results – including childbirth – could be fatal.
The Third Meeting/ Surrender (Pas de deux #3) In French, the title is “abandon.” As They dance, the steps they once did side by side merge into one. This is truly love, but can it last?
EPILOGUE: As the sky blackens (the storm approaches?) the gardeners have the last word.

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10 réponses à “Le Parc à Paris. Plot summary.

  1. « Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
    ’cause men were inconstant ever.
    One foot at see, and one on shore,
    and to one thing constant never… »

    I’ll never understand why French is supposed to be the food of love, whereas so many English words/songs are so great contestants to the title…
    but this is a delightful article. I’m looking forward to enjoy this ballet very soon, thank you so much to introduce it so exquisitely,

    Noor

    • (and sorry for proofreading at its worse on my account)

    • Fenella

      Ah, you love the game of quotes as much as I do! Indeed « Speak low, if you speak of love » would have been the perfect title, except for the fact that most people wouldn’t get the joke. My response? « O! What men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do! » Much Ado…indeed.

      • « What power art thou, who from below
        hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
        from bed of everlasting snow…

        Let me, let me freeze again… »

        wouldn’t it be a great subtitle for « Resistance » ?

        I missed the quotes I dare say.
        Now I’m happy.

      • Fenella

        Perfect! Thou will be condemned into everlasting redemption for this…your comment. Patch grief with proverbs! (Too late to add this spice once the thing is published, I do regret that). May I steal your Shakespearean ideas for a future review?

  2. Might I offer them to you, so that you might be spared the trouble of stealing them ? Thank you, this brightened my evening.

    • Fenella

      The most apt response I could think of, and then finally found, should not — I hope — seem too odd. After all, so many writers are inspired by either our friend Shakespeare or… by the gorgeous English of the King James version of the bible. This, from The Book of James, provides the way I wish to answer your kind message: « Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. » So I will indeed take your gift, lightfull Noor, gladly.

  3. This is truly love, but can it last ?

    I would say « no » after the elegant and empty afternoon spent with Laetitia Pujol and Stephane Bullion. He was a true Darcy, though, until the wide, high and victorious kiss told it all. The lady was pretty lyrical, and fought against herself more than she resisted him – how can sensibility give way to trust, when you face such an elegant but reserved gentleman ? I was very impressed by the corps de ballet – all dancers were brilliant at this game of play and loss, with such a « melancholy ending ».

    Is love anything more than a beautiful and empty bubble whose reflections will dissolve tomorrow or later ?

    « De mémoire de rose, on n’a jamais vu mourir de jardinier ».

    • Fenella

      « It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy, » said Mr. Bennett. You also, most importantly, took me to the ballet through your eyes…and I can see what you mean, and I imagine so would those who lived the roles.