Archives d’Auteur: Fenella

À propos de Fenella

Pour ne pas rester muette, car je n'ai pas les deux pieds dans le même sabot, i will write in English.

“Can we ever have too much of a good thing?” The Ballet du Capitole’s Don Q

Théâtre du Capitole – salle. Crédit : Patrice Nin

Way down south in a place called Toulouse you will find a Don Q that – as rethought by Kader Belarbi – avoids cliché and vulgarity both in story telling and in movement. The dancing bullfighters, the gypsy maidens, and even the “locals” inhabit their personae with force and finesse, with not an ounce of self-conscious irony, and never look like they feel silly. Liberated from the usual “olé-olé” tourist trinket aesthetic of what “Spanish” Petipa has become, the ballet became authentically engaging. By the end, I yearned to go back to that time when I struggled to learn how to do a proper Hota.

Production:

The key to Belarbi’s compact and coherent rethinking of this old chestnut is that he gave himself license to get rid of redundant characters thus giving those remaining more to do. Who needs a third suitor for Kitri’s hand – Gamache – when you can build up a more explicit rivalry just between the Don and Basilio? Who needs a “gypsy queen” in Act II, when Kitri’s girlfriend Mercedes could step in and gain a hot boyfriend on the way? Why not just get rid of the generic toreador and give his steps and profession to Basilio?

This version is not “streamlined” in the sense of starved: this smallish company looked big because all tore into new meat. Even the radiant individuals in the corps convinced me that each one of them thought of themselves as not “second row, third from left” but as “Frasquita” or “Antonio.” Their eyes were always on.

Economy and invention

The biggest shock is the transformation of the role of Don Quixote into a truly physical part. The role is traditionally reduced to such minimal mime you sometimes wonder why not get rid of him entirely? Yet the ballet IS called “Don Quichotte,” after all. Here the titular lead is given to someone who could actually dance Basilio himself, rather than to a beloved but now creaky veteran. This Don is given a ton to act upon including rough pratfalls and serious, repeated, partnering duties…while wearing Frankenstein boots, no less. (Don’t try this at home unless your ankles are really in shape.)

Taking it dead-seriously from the outset, Jackson Carroll’s tendril fingers and broken wrists could have gone camp but the very fit dancer hiding under those crusty layers of Gustave Doré #5 pancake foundation infused his clearly strong arms with equal measures of grace and nuance. His every pantomimed gesture seemed to float on top of the sound – even when trilling harshly through the pages of a tome — as if he were de facto conducting the orchestra. Carroll’s determined tilt of the head and firm jut of chin invited us to join him on his chivalric adventure. His minuet with Kitri, redesigned as an octet with the main characters, shook off the creepy and listless aspect it usually has.

Imagine what the dashing Douglas Fairbanks could have brought to Gloria Swanson’s role in Sunset Boulevard. That’s Carroll’s Don Q. Next imagine Oliver Hardy officiating as the butler instead of von Stroheim, and you’ve got Nicolas Rombaut or Amaury Barreras Lapinet as Sancho Panza.

Kitri:

At my first performance (April 23rd, evening), Natalia de Froberville’s Kitri became a study in how to give steps different inflections and punch. I don’t know why, but I felt as if an ice cream stand had let me taste every flavor in the vats. The dancers Belarbi picks all seem to have a thing for nuance: they are in tune with their bodies they know how to repeat a phrase without resorting to the Xerox machine. So de Froberville could be sharp, she could be slinky, she could be a wisp o’ th’ wind, or a force of nature when releasing full-blown “ballon.” Widely wide échappés à la seconde during the “fanning” variation whirled into perfect and unpretentious passés, confirming her parallel mastery of force and speed.

The Sunday matinée on April 24th brought the farewell of María Gutiérrez, a charming local ballerina who has been breathing life with sweet discretion into every role I’ve seen in since discovering the company four years ago (that means I missed at least another twelve, damn). She’s leaving while she is still in that “sweet spot” where your technique can’t fail but your sense of stagecraft has matured to the point that everything you do just works. The body and the mind are still in such harmony that everything Gutiérrez does feels pure, distilled, opalescent. The elevation is still there, the light uplift of her lines, the strong and meltingly almost boneless footwork. Her quicksilver shoulders and arms remain equally alive to every kind of turn or twist. And all of this physicality serves to delineate a character that continued organically into the grand pas.

Typical of this company: during the fouettés, why do fancy-schmancy doubles while changing direction, flailing about, and wobbling downstage when you can just do a perfect extended set of whiplash singles in place? That’s what tricks are all about in the first place, aren’t they: to serve the character? Both these women remained in character, simply using the steps to say “I’m good, I’m still me, just having even more fun than you could ever imagine.”

Maria Gutiérrez reçoit la médaille de la ville de Toulouse des mains de Marie Déqué, Conseillère municipale déléguée en charge des Musiques et Déléguée métropolitaine en charge du Théâtre et de l’Orchestre national du Capitole.
Crédit photo : Ville de Toulouse

Basilio:

Maybe my only quibble with this re-thought scenario: in order to keep in the stage business of Kitri’s father objecting to her marrying a man with no money, Basilio – so the program says – is only a poor apprentice toreador. Given that Belarbi could well anticipate which dancers he was grooming for the role, this is odd. Um, no way could I tell that either the manly, assured, and richly costumed Norton Fantinel (April 22nd, evening) or equally manly etc. Davit Galstyan (April 23rd, matinée) were supposed to be baby bullfighters. From their very entrances, each clearly demonstrated the self-assurance of a star. Both ardent partners, amusingly and dismissively at ease with the ooh-wow Soviet-style one-handed lifts that dauntingly pepper the choreography, they not only put their partners at ease: they aided and abetted them, making partnership a kind of great heist that should get them both arrested.

Stalking about on velvet paws like a young lion ready to start his own pride, Davit Galstyan – he, too, still in that “sweet spot” — took his time to flesh out every big step clearly, paused before gliding into calm and lush endings to each just-so phrase. Galstyan’s dancing remains as polished and powerful as ever. In his bemused mimes of jealousy with Gutiérrez, he made it clear he could not possibly really need to be jealous of anyone else on the planet. Even in turns his face remains infused with alert warmth.

Norton Fantinel, like many trained in the Cuban style, can be eagerly uneven and just-this-side of mucho-macho. But he’s working hard on putting a polish on it, trying to stretch out the knees and the thighs and the torso without losing that bounce. His cabrioles to the front were almost too much: legs opening so wide between beats that a bird might be tempted to fly through, and then in a flash his thighs snapped shut like crocodile jaws. He played, like Galstyan, at pausing mid-air or mid-turn. But most of all, he played at being his own Basilio. The audience always applauds tricks, never perfectly timed mime. I hope both the couples heard my little involuntary hees-hees.

Mercedes

Best friend, free spirit, out there dancing away through all three acts. Finally, in Belarbi’s production, Mercedes becomes a character in her own right. Both of her incarnations proved very different indeed. I refuse to choose between Scilla Cattafesta’s warmly sensual, luxuriant – that pliant back! — and kittenish interpretation of the role and that of Lauren Kennedy, who gave a teasingly fierce touch straight out of Argentine tango to her temptress. Both approaches fit the spirit of the thing. As their Gypsy King, the chiseled pure and powerful lines of Philippe Solano and the rounded élan of Minoru Kaneko brought out the best in each girlfriend.

Belarbi’s eye for partnerships is as impressive as his eye for dancers alone: in the awfully difficult duets of the Second-Best-Friends – where you have to do the same steps at the same time side by side or in cannon – Ichika Maruyama and Tiphaine Prévost made it look easy and right. On the music together, arms in synch, even breathing in synch. There is probably nothing more excruciatingly difficult. So much harder than fouéttés!

Dryad/Nayad/Schmayad

Love the long skirts for the Dream Scene, the idea that Don Q’s Dulcinea fantasy takes place in a swamp rather than in the uptight forest of Sleeping Beauty. The main characters remain easily recognizable. Didn’t miss Little Miss Cupid at all. Did love Juliette Thélin’s take on the sissonne racourci developé à la seconde (sideways jump over an invisible obstacle, land on one foot on bended knee and then try to get back up on that foot and stick the other one out and up. A nightmare if you want to make it graceful). Thélin opted to just follow the rubato of the music: a smallish sissone, a soft plié, a gentle foot that lead to the controlled unrolling of her leg and I just said to myself: finally, it really looks elegant, not like a chore. Lauren Kennedy, in the same role the previous day, got underdone in the later fouéttés à l’italienne at the only time the conductor Koen Kessels wasn’t reactive. He played all her music way too slowly. Not that it was a disaster, no, but little things got harder to do. Lauren Kennedy is fleet of foot and temperament. The company is full of individuals who deserve to be spoiled by the music all the time, which they serve so well.

The Ballet du Capitole continues to surprise and delight me in its fifth year under Kader Belarbi direction. He has taken today’s typical ballet company melting pot of dancers – some are French, a few even born and trained in Toulouse, but more are not –and forged them into a luminously French-inflected troupe. The dancers reflect each other in highly-developed épaulement, tricks delivered with restrained and controlled finishes, a pliant use of relevé, a certain chic. I love it when a company gives off the vibe of being an extended family: distinct individuals who make it clear they belong to the same artistic clan.

The company never stopped projecting a joyful solidarity as it took on the serious fun of this new reading of an old classic. The Orchestre national du Capitole — with its rich woody sound and raucously crisp attack – aided and abetted the dancers’ unified approach to the music. In Toulouse, both the eye and the ear get pampered.

The title is, of course, taken from Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Book I, Chapter 6.

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Classé dans France Soirs, Retours de la Grande boutique

Balanchine’s « Songe » : Energy is Eternal Delight

Balanchine’s Dream remains an oddly-told tale. When I was young and picky in New York, and even as I grew older, I was never fully enchanted, never transported from start to finish. Nor have I been this time around in Paris. Does this ballet ever work? Who cares about Hippolyta or that guy in the shapka? (I will write about neither, you won’t notice). What I’ve been told for way too many years is that what I’ve been missing is a cast with the right kind of energy…which the ballet’s very structure seems to want to render impossible.

“Man has no body distinct from his soul”

And yet I found some of that elusive energy. With Marion Barbeau one night and with Hugo Marchard the other. In both cases: an almost carnivorous joy in eating the air of the stage with their bodies, indeed letting us in on their glee at how they could use their flesh to enliven Titania’s or Oberon’s story. Their energy – not to mention the beautiful lines that both dancers richly carved into thin air – proved contagious.

Eleonora Abbagnato appears so seldom with the company anymore that to me she is an alien. Paired with a technically sharp but emotionally green Paul Marque, she faded into doing the right stuff of a guest artist. Marchand, mischievous and very manly, woke Abbagnato up and inspired her to be the ballerina we have missed: instead of doing just the steps with assurance, she gave those steps and mime that little lilt of more.

“Those who restrain Desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained”

Even if the audience applauds her, Sae Eun Park continues to dance like a generic drug. Yes, she has lovely Taglioni limbs, but no energy flows up to her legs from the floor (don’t even think about any life in her torso or back) nor does any radiate into her unconnected arms or super-high arabesque. You get served, each time, the same-old-same-old perfect grand jeté split reproduced with the same precision and « effortlessness » [i.e. lack of connection to a core] that is required to win competitions. Watching a gymnast with excellent manners always perform completely from the outside just…depresses me. She’s been promoted way too fast and needs to learn so much more. After today, I swear I will never mention her again until she stops being a Little Miss Bunhead.

Act II’s only interesting thing, the “pas de deux” via Park, then, was very worked out and dutiful and as utterly predictable and repetitive as a smoothie. Dorothée Gilbert in the same duet left me cold as well: precise, poised, she presented the steps to the audience.  Gilbert freezes into being too self-consciously elegant every time she’s cast in anything Balanchine. The women’s cavaliers (Karl Paquette for Park: Alessio Carbone for Gilbert) tried really, really, hard. I warmed to Carbone’s tilts of the head and the way he sought to welcome his ballerina into his space. Alas, for me, the pas died each time.

“Life delights in life”

If Park as Helena hit the marks and did the steps very prettily, Fanny Gorse gave the same role more juice and had already extended the expressivity of her limbs the second time I saw her. As Hermia, Laëtitia Pujol tried so hard to bring some kind of dramatic coherence to the proceedings that she seemed to have been coached by Agnes de Mille. This could have worked if Pujol’s pair, a reserved Carbone and an unusually stiff Audric Bezard, had offered high foolishness in counterpoint. For my third cast, Fabien Révillion and Axel Ibot – eager and talented men who could both easily dance and bring life to bigger roles — booted up the panache and gave Mélanie Hurel’s Hermia something worth fighting for.

As Oberon’s minion, “Butterfly,” both the darting and ever demure Muriel Zusperreguy and the all-out and determined Letizia Galloni (one many are watching these days) made hard times fly by despite being stuffed into hideous 1960’s “baby-doll” outfits that made all the bugs look fat. (Apparently there was some Balanchine Trust/Karinska stuff going on. Normally, Christian Lacroix makes all his dancers look better).

I am ready to go to the ASPCA and adopt either Pierre Rétif or Francesco Vantaggio. Both of their Bottoms would make adorable and tender pets. And Hugo Vigliotti’s Puck wouldn’t make a bad addition to my garden either: a masterful bumblebee on powerful legs, this man’s arms would make my flowers stand up and salute.

« If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite »

I am so disappointed that Emmanuel Thibault – and maybe he is too – has spent his entire career in Paris cast as the “go-to” elf or jester. Maybe like Valery Panov or Mikhael Baryshnikov, he should have fled his company and country long ago “in search of artistic freedom.” He never got the parts he deserved because he jumped too high and too well to be a “danseur noble?” What?! Will that cliché from the 19th century ever die? As Puck the night I saw him, Thibault did nice and extraordinarily musical stuff but wasn’t super “on,” as I’ve seen him consistently do for decades. Maybe he was bored, perhaps injured, perhaps messed up by the idea of having hit the age where you are forced to retire? [42 1/2, don’t ask me where the 1/2 came from]. I will desperately miss getting to see this infinitely talented artist continue to craft characters with his dance, as will the:

Ancient Lady, as thin and chiseled as her cane, who lurched haughtily into the elevator during an intermission. She nodded, acknowledging that we were old-timers who knew where to find the secret women’s toilets with no line. So the normal longish chat would never happen. But I got an earful before she slammed shut her cubicle’s door: “Where is Neumeier’s version? That one makes sense! Thibault was gorgeous then and well served by the choreography. This one just makes me feel tired. I’m too old for nonsense dipped in sugar-coated costumes.” On the way back, the lady didn’t wait for me, but shot out a last comment as the elevator doors were closing in my face: “Emmanuel Thibault as Oberon! This Hugo Marchand as Puck! Nureyev would have thought of that kind of casting!”

The quotes are random bits pinched from William Blake (1757-1827). The photo is from 1921, « proceedings near a lake in America »

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Classé dans Retours de la Grande boutique

Un argument pour « Le Songe d’une nuit d’été » de Balanchine.

Grandville : L’Amour fait danser les ânes

Dans l’original de Shakespeare vertigineusement déroutant, une palette de personnages divers et variés s’entrecroisent, se déchirent et se rabibochent sous un clair de lune.

Un roy des fées et sa noble dame se querellent pour savoir lequel des deux aura la garde d’un joli petit page de compagnie. Chacun d’entre eux considère qu’il le vaut bien. Pauvre chéri !

Deux jeunes damoiselles et deux jeunes damoiseaux, aristocratiques mais terre-à-terre, considèrent qu’ils sont / ne sont pas amoureux. Qu’ils se détrompent !

Un duc (d’Athènes, rien que ça) et sa guerrière de fiancée considèrent qu’une toute nouvelle pièce de théâtre serait la plus digne des additions à leur festivités de noces. Mauvaise idée.

Une horde calamiteuse d’artisans mal dégrossis qui considèrent qu’ils peuvent écrire cette pièce – et même apprendre à la jouer- tout ça en un jour. Mais en fait, non…

Et puis il y a Puck, qui considère qu’il sait ce qu’il fait mais qui en fait ne distingue pas sa droite de sa gauche.

Aucun d’entre eux ne capte vraiment  «qu’à trop considérer, on sidère surtout par son ânerie ».

Mais  voilà que le vrai âne entre en scène. C’est le sot enchanté et enchantant, Bottom le tisserand, que Puck a transformé en bourricot. Gentil et naïf, Bottom considère qu’il n’a pas besoin de magie pour mettre en chaleur une reine des fées…

Mais voyons ce que donne l’adaptation par Balanchine de ce classique sans queue ni tête.

Acte 1 (à peu près une heure)

Ouverture et scène 1

De grands papillons et de mignonnes petites lucioles  sautillant aux côtés de Puck le lutin, voient leur clairière traversée par une grande variété de personnages ; une jeune fille au désespoir sémaphorique, une titubante troupe d’artisans avinés ; le roi des fées Obéron et sa reine Titania.

Titania et Obéron semblent être au milieu d’un véritable incident diplomatique – elle dit « non » à foison. Voyez-vous, Obéron veut que sa femme lui cède son jeune page (en général costumé en petit indien d’Inde à turban). Il est tellement  condescendant que vous pourriez bien confondre et le prendre pour son papa. Il ne remporte pas cette manche.

Et voilà qu’un nouveau type paraît. C’est Thésée, le duc d’Athènes. Il aimerait bien se consacrer à sa fiancée, une autre reine, Hyppolyte. Elle est du genre infatigable avec un arc greffé à son poing. C’est une guerrière amazone.

Mais tout d’abord, Thésée doit gérer la jeune désespérée – son nom est Héléna – et ses trois comparses tout aussi désespérés. : Hermia, Démétrius et Lysandre… Mais qui est qui ? Sans plaisanter, qui s’appelle quoi a toujours été l’aspect le plus ardu de cette pièce pour le spectateur. Juste pour information, Hermia est celle qui est adorée par les deux garçons au début puis rejetée tandis qu’Héléna est la mal aimée qui sera ensuite adorée par eux contre son gré. Seule la magie, et certainement pas les lois athéniennes, sera en mesure de démêler tout cela.

Scène 2

Titania et ses papillons font leur aérobic avant  d’aller au dodo, interrompues par des représentants du sexe fort, d’abord Puck et puis… non ! Pas Obéron. L’un des petits caprices assumés de la version Balanchine, qui déborde de duos, est que Titania ne danse jamais avec son légitime. Néanmoins, une ballerine peut avoir besoin  d’une présence masculine occasionnelle pour la soutenir. La solution choisie, que je trouve un peu bizarre, est de la coupler avec un gars sorti de nulle part. Le pas de deux est savoureux, mais vous ne recroiserez jamais le monsieur. Si ça peut vous aider de penser que Titania est tellement furieuse qu’elle s’est lancée dans une aventure extraconjugale, allez-y.

Scène 3

Entouré d’une nuée d’insectes dansants, Obéron boude. Un papillon danse énormément (son nom est « Papillon »). Mais voilà qu’il a une idée de génie : il est temps d’utiliser son arme secrète, la fleur au nectar si puissant qu’elle vous fait tomber violemment amoureux de la première créature que vous croisez. Il l’utilisera pour humilier sa femme cabocharde. Mais d’abord, il ordonne à Puck de l’utiliser pour mettre un peu d’ordre dans l’esprit de Démetrius, le garçon désiré ardemment par Héléna.

Mais voila, parce que Puck confond dans le programme lequel est Démetrius et lequel est Lysandre, le chaos s’ensuit, avec tous les quatre jeunes gens courant après ou fuyant l’autre. Désormais, Héléna est encore et toujours désespérée parce qu’elle a DEUX soupirants pour la tripoter et Hermia est en larmes.

Scène 4

Grandville : âne et chardon

Titania – je suppose qu’elle ne pouvait plus s’endormir après tout cet exercice – traîne avec ses copines et entame un solo. C’est ensuite le tour de Hermia. Et les artisans qui apparaissaient brièvement lors de l’ouverture y trébuchent de nouveau. Alors que la petite troupe traverse la scène, Puck en arrache le tisserand Bottom, et le transforme en âne. Ça c’est méchant, d’autant qu’à l’époque élisabéthaine, les ânes étaient réputés très libidineux !

Scène 5

Obéron surprend finalement Titania endormie, saupoudre la potion d’amour sur ses yeux et positionne stratégiquement Bottom. Le résultat est des plus charmants. Les mouvements de Titania et son mime sont remplis d’une immense tendresse, tandis que l’âne bâté se concentre sur les gratouilles et la tambouille. Leurs « amours » croisant les espèces sont bien innocentes. Elle le caresse comme s’il était son greffier et on pourrait presque l’entendre ronronner.

Scène 6

Vous vous souvenez d’Hippolyte, la fille à l’arc ? Eh bien, la voilà qui revient, dégainant les grands jetés et les fouettés dans tous les sens, accompagnée dans le petit matin glacé par une meute de chiens qui ondoie par-dessus les fumigènes. Thésée se retrouve nez à nez avec les quatre jeunes gens en colère. Obéron décide alors qu’il est temps de régler tout ça. Bottom perd son ânitude, Titania se réveille sous le regard interrogatif de son mari, prête à céder le petit page. Lysandre se relève amoureux de Hermia ; Démetrius ne cessera jamais d’aimer Héléna  (j’espère que j’ai bien tout compris). Thésée et Hippolyte décident d’organiser un mariage de groupe.

Entracte

Acte 2 (à peu près 30 minutes)

On entend la marche nuptiale (oui, celle-là même). Tout le monde est maintenant sur son trente-et-un classique (c.à.d les tutus). Et voilà pour l’argument. La scène est livrée à un flot de «divertissements ».

Dans le courant de l’action, votre cœur stoppera peut-être à la vue d’un pas de deux complètement infusé de lyrisme qui semble encapsuler tout la signification de l’amour véritable. C’est une démonstration magistrale de la manière dont l’âme et le corps peuvent trouver la paix et l’harmonie. Mais, bizarrement, il n’est dansé par aucun des danseurs que vous viendriez à reconnaître. Un nouveau couple est apparu, sorti de nulle part, et a commencé à danser. Pouf, comme ça ! Et ils n’ont même pas de nom. Ils sont identifiés dans le programme comme : « pas de deux ». Dans une histoire qui a déjà trop de personnages, je reste toujours perplexe face à ce choix d’ajouter un monsieur souteneur à l’acte 1 et un monsieur et madame allégorie de l’Amour à l’acte deux.

Cet interlude, je suppose, a permis à Balanchine de penser qu’il pouvait se dispenser de faire connaître la fin de l’histoire de Bottom et de ses amis. Ils disparaissent purement et simplement. Je pense que si vous avez jamais vu la pièce sur scène – ou toute autre de ses adaptations filmées, chantées ou dansées – vous conviendrez que la représentation par les artisans de la « courte et fastidieuse histoire du jeune Pyrame et de son amante Thisbé ; farce très tragique » pendant les célébrations de mariage est la chose la plus drôle que vous ayez jamais vu. Son absence me gène cruellement ici. S’il a été possible de trouver un moyen de faire entrer le chat botté par effraction dans le mariage de La Belle au bois dormant, alors pourquoi le maître de ballet n’a-t-il pas laissé ces gars revenir tituber sur scène ?

Grandville. La vie d’un papillon

Commentaires fermés sur Un argument pour « Le Songe d’une nuit d’été » de Balanchine.

Classé dans Hier pour aujourd'hui, Retours de la Grande boutique

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plot summary

Grandville

Grandville : L’Amour fait danser les ânes

In Shakespeare’s giddily confusing original, a palette of castes and characters intersect, collide, and re-form under moonlit skies.

A Faerie Kinge and Queene squabble over who will get to keep a pretty boy as pet. Both assume that they deserve the prize. Poor pet.

Two young ladies and two young laddies, aristocratic but earthbound, assume they are/are not in love. Mistaken.

A duke (of Athens, no less) and his warrior bride assume that a new play would be just the dignified thing for their nuptial celebrations. Not the best of ideas.

A calamity of roughhewn craftsmen assume they can write that play — and even learn to act — all in one day. But they don’t.

Plus Puck, an elf, who assumes knows what he’s doing, but really doesn’t.

None of them ever really catches on to the fact that : « when you ‘assume,’ you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”

Then there’s the real ass in the room, the enchanted and enchantingly silly Bottom the Weaver, whom Puck transforms into a donkey. Sweet and naïve Bottom will assume that a Faerie Queene doesn’t need magic to have the hots for him…

So let us look at Balanchine’s adaptation of this classic “from top to bottom” as it were.

Act 1 (about one hour).

Overture and Scene 1

Big butterflies and cute little fireflies prancing around with Puck, the imp, find their forest glade traversed by a variety of characters: a young woman semaphoring despair; a stumblingly drunk troupe of artisans; the faerie kinge Oberon and his queene Titania.

Titania and Oberon seem to be having a rather stately quarrel – she is clearly saying “no” a lot. You see, Oberon wants his wife to hand over her little page (usually costumed as an IndianIndian in a turban). He’s so patronizing, you might mistake him for her father. He doesn’t win this round.

Now yet another guy in a crown turns up. It’s Theseus, Duke of Athens. He’d like to be concentrating on his fiancé, another queen, Hippolyta. She’s the restless one with a hunter’s bow stuck in her fist: she’s a warrior Amazon.

But first Theseus has to deal with the desperate young woman – her name is Helena – and the plaints of her three equally desperate companions: Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander…but who is who?  If Theseus looks a bit frustrated, perhaps you can sympathize. I’m not kidding, remembering who goes with what name has always been the hardest part of experiencing this play. For reference, Hermia is the one first adored by both of the boys, then rejected; Helena is the one first unloved by both and then loved too much by both for her own taste. It will take magic to disentangle this one, not Athenian law.

Scene 2.

Titania and her butterflies do a full aerobic workout before bedtime, interrupted by people of the male persuasion: first Puck and then…not Oberon. One of the deliberate quirks in Balanchine’s version, which overflows with duets, is that Titania never dances with her husband. Nevertheless, a ballerina still needs the occasional man to hold her up. The solution, which I find a bit odd, is to here have a random guy pop in out of nowhere to partner her. The pas de deux is quite juicy, but we will never see him again. If it makes sense to you that she’s so mad she’s having an affair, feel free to go with it.

Scene 3.

Surrounded by dancing insects, Oberon broods. One butterfly does a lot of dancing (the role is named “Butterfly”). He has a brainstorm: it is time to use his secret weapon, the flower with nectar so potent it makes you fall violently in love with the next creature you see. He will use it to humiliate his stubborn wife. But first he orders Puck to use it to put some sense into Demetrius, the boy Helena longs for.

Well, because Puck can’t tell from the program which one is Demetrius and which one is Lysander either, chaos ensues, with the four young people all either running at or away from each other. Helena is still desperate because she now has TWO partners pawing at her and Hermia is in tears.

Scene 4.

Grandville : âne et chardon

Titania – I guess she couldn’t fall asleep after all that exercise – wafts in with her ladies and launches into a solo. Hermia then has her turn. And the artisans who briefly appeared during the overture stumble back in. As the little crowd crosses the stage Puck plucks out the weaver Bottom, transforming him into a donkey. This is really mean, for in Elizabethan times donkeys were reputed to be extremely randy.

Scene 5.

Oberon finally catches Titania asleep, pops the love potion into her eyes and strategically positions Bottom. The result is utterly charming: her movements and mime filled with enormous tenderness, the bewildered ass seems to have his mind more on food and scratching. Their interspecies “love affair” is utterly innocent: she caresses him as if he were a beloved cat and the donkey practically purrs.

Scene 6.

Remember Hippolyta, the one with the bow? Well here she comes, shooting grand-jétés and fouettés all over the place, as a pack of hounds race with her through wafting dry ice. Theseus finds himself face to face again with the four angry young things. Oberon decides that it is time to fix everything. Bottom loses his ass-itude, Titania wakes up to Oberon’s bemused gaze, ready to surrender the little boy. Lysander wakes up in love with Hermia; Demetrius won’t stop loving Helena (I hope I got that right). Theseus and Hippolyta decide to host a group wedding.

Intermission

Act 2 (about 30 minutes)

We hear the Wedding March (yes, that one). Everyone is now in high classic attire (i.e. tutus). And that’s it for the plot. The stage is given over to a stream of “divertissements.”

In the midst of the action, your heart will stop as you witness an utterly meltingly lyrical pas de deux that seems to encapsulate the very meaning of true love. You will literally have to fight the urge to sigh out loud. It’s a masterpiece about how body and soul can find harmony and peace. But, oddly, it’s danced by none of the dancers you’d finally come to recognize. A new couple just appeared out of nowhere and started dancing. Poof! They don’t even have names, and are identified in the cast list as: “Pas de deux.” In a story that has too many people in it in the first place, I remain puzzled by the need to add a Mr. Prop-Up Partner in Act One and then a Mr. and Mrs. Allegory of Love in Act Two.

This interlude, I guess, let Balanchine feel he could avoid having to deal with finding a way to impart the end of the story about Bottom and his friends. They just disappear. I think if you have ever seen the play live – or any other cinematic, operatic, or choreographic adaptation of it — you will agree with me that the “performance” by the artisans of The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby during the wedding celebration is just about the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life. I miss its absence terribly here. If a way could be found to sneak Puss and Boots into the action of Aurora’s wedding, then why did the dance-master not allow these guys to stumble back up on to the stage?

Grandville. La vie d’un papillon

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Cosi : The Artic Semi-Circle

P1010032Mozart’s Così via Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the Palais Garnier, January 28, 2017.

Brrr, it’s been cold in Paris. But if you want to really feel your soul freeze and shrivel, run to see the sextet of singers studiously navigating around their icy, pointless, and smoothly dancing avatars (not from the Paris Opera Ballet, but ATDK’s imported folk) in this new production of Così Fan Tutte.

This opera is supposed to be about how easily we misunderstand life. How badly we know each other and ourselves, yet how fiercely we yearn for human warmth, for certainty, for love. Mozart was born to teach us how to laugh in the face of those blizzards of emotion that can temporarily blind us to, oh, just about everything we lie to ourselves about. In this new production, Mozart turns out to have left the room…

Nothing ever happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear. [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book V, 18]

If Mozart’s music and Da Ponte’s text both nudge us to dare to live and learn from our mistakes, this staging concentrates upon testing the audience’s capacity for stoic attention. Thought and craft get yoked to a nice, clean, predictable – and very monotonous – exercise. The staging refuses to invite the audience to in. The fault must be laid at the feet of the choreographer and director, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. And perhaps at those of Philippe Jordan, who delivered a most odd dry and percussive reading of the score.

All things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle. [Book II, 14]

The blindingly white and empty set — from the white Mylar floors traced with a few symmetrical circling patterns (remember fooling around with a “Stylograph Kit” as a child?] to the plexiglass side panels that echo a bare lightbulb’s light, to the whitewashed fire-screen upstage – while harsh, might still have provided a magnificent big space to fill with movement. Alas, that was not to be.

So what happened? Small happened.

At the end of the overture, the entire cast marched in — right in step to the music — parked itself crisply downstage on the stencils, and then swayed in a semicircle – some with mouths open, some closed — for about twenty minutes.

You see, “the concept” is that each singer is assigned a dancing avatar, an echo, a shadow: like the Anna 1 and Anna 2 in Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins.” OK, parallel worlds. But then don’t just plop each singer downstage to stand and deliver. Is that old-fashioned staging or what? If on top of that you add dancing shadows that barely interact with anybody to make moves intended to be vaguely illustrative, distance on the part of the viewer soundly sets in. I found myself resorting to the supertitles: the words flashing above the stage provided so much more drama than what was spread out down below: a tiny alphabet of steps at a loss for words.

The flaccidly-conceived stage action radiated no one’s id, no one’s ego. All of the dances or dancelike steps by anyone involved, whether tied directly to a singer’s line or to an orchestral flourish, were relentlessly “on the beat” and scrupulously mild. In the end, the warmth of a singer’s voice sometimes prevailed. But should you ever feel the urge to watch puppets who really know how to make their bodies sing, let me suggest we reserve tickets for an evening at the Salzburger Marionettentheater.

Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the ruling part. [Book II, 2].

As the evening wore on I began to imagine branding what I was seeing as the Isadora Duncan 9.0 Etch-A-Sketch kit: find that solar plexus, sway and swoop your upper body, lift your arms and now sway side to side bigger, walk-skip-shimmy, bend your knees (for the singers especially), or sweep your bent legs backward like a skater on dry land (that’s Don Alphonso’s avatar). Return to your place and stand around. Slowly collapsing to the ground by singer or dancer proved the Great Big Leitmotif. At one point during tonight’s performance, I completely spaced out on both singer and dancer during a major aria and let my eyes close. When I reopened them, I rediscovered the pair lurking near the same marks, swaying pleasantly, still stolidly ignoring each other as before.

Movement got mildly more engaged and a bit more individuated during the second half. A double did something wildly new. But, alas, it turned out to be “I can’t get the goddamn lawnmower to start” (bend down, pull one arm up hard, repeat, repeat). OK, that could be some kind of physical metaphor for frustration, but when this is all you remember in sharp outlines from a performance only a few hours later, that’s probably not a good sign.

Many a contemporary choreographer has taken a simple concept and simple steps and made a stage fill and shimmer in unexpected ways. But this basic vocabulary of steps, repeated with careful and skilled monotony for three ice-bound hours stuck in my craw. It was like an evening at a chic restaurant spent repeatedly staring in disbelief at the appearance of yet another tiny emulsion stranded on a big white plate.

Remember this, that there is a proper value and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act. [Book IV, 35]

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Sense and Sensitivity at Swan Lake

BastilleLe Lac des cygnes at the Palais Garnier on December 7, 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. [Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 1]

And sometimes even an enchanted princess is in want of a suitable husband. Myriam Ould-Braham, my swan on December 7th, lasered a pensive and inquisitive gaze at the sleeping prince during “Siegfried’s Nightmare, “ the prologue to Nureyev’s version for the Paris Opera Ballet. Just before getting caught in the clutches of Dr. Evil, she tried to touch the man of her dreams but could only use her eyes, the arch of her neck, and a roll of the shoulder. This episode – a moment where the Prince slumbers decoratively – became Sleeping Beauty in reverse, as if a happy end were still in sight.

Barely into Act 1, I then voted too for Mathias Heymann’s Prince Desiré [yes, I am making this mistake on purpose] whose every movement designated him a paragon of the decent values and that strange unease with reality that a strict upper-class upbringing imposes. A prince charming, a misunderstood Darcy, his arms reached out and his hands said “welcome” to all, yet he’d clearly been taught that his place was to stand quietly apart from the crowd.

p1130649

Odette and Mathias / Myriam and Siegfried on the evening of December 13th

Siegried and Odette’s encounter in Act II again seemed like something out of Jane Austen. Restrained and almost evasive pantomime conversation, tentatively articulated hope, was embedded in perfectly chiseled but un-fussy movement. When Ould-Braham shyly grasped Heymann’s hand and slowly brought it to her cheek, I felt that very intimate shock that can happen when someone French you are attracted to finally asks if they might call you “tu.” While I adore the memory of adamantly passionate and feisty ballerinas like Makarova, let’s leave some space in the room for drama queens who whisper rather than shout. Experiencing such performances can be no less intense.

Ould-Braham chose to understate the obvious – flappyflappyswanny arms were put on indefinite hold. But her gorgeous giant arabesques — replete with arms unfolded from the bottom of her back, more Nike than bird — will find their way into textbooks, despite not being poses at all, not vogued, but soft and breathing.

I often tell people unused to ballet: look, all the movement is metaphor. So if a man’s line perfectly follows the woman’s a split second later, his arms and legs seeming to be inspired by her, it means love. But this is rare, and this is what I witnessed. Heymann’s movements flowed through and beyond Austen’s painfully joyous comment: « I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”

p1130627

Siegfried and Myriam / Odile et Mathias. December 13th.

Then I gloated, watching Ould-Braham silkily rip apart the so-old cliché that nice girls don’t have it in them to be a Black Swan. Just give ‘em a tube of scarlet lipstick and yell: “123 go!” The Act 3 pas de deux became a real “dance-off.” Heymann – completely “on” — soared and floated: hey, is this his dream or is he just dreamily perfect? Then Ould-Braham opted for an all too rare series of simple but perfectly cooked fouettés with such a soft and controlled landing that I “oohed.” When Ould-Braham’s Odile softly puckered a teasing air-kiss at our fellow just before launching into the great big arabesque hops backwards, she totally reflected her partner’s – and our — willingness to be awed by her slinky grace and charm.

This pair must have worked long and hard in the studio to strip away all the corny and crass flourishes that encrusted themselves onto these two roles. Circus tricks can be tremendously entertaining, and entertaining an audience is what you want to do. But why not pare it all down once in a while and go back to the pure beauty of the basics? A Jane Austen attitude does indeed suit the personalities of these two artists.

If you think that “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love,” sounds a bit tepid, I found that this pair’s quiet and un-gaudy and sandpapered approach gave new life to our beloved old warhorse. Restrained ardor can be titanic in its own way, dear reader, and can teach us — most unexpectedly — that it is what we have hungered for.

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Swan Lake: get your story here.

cygne-rougeThe basic story is so ridiculous even Freud would break out in giggles. A mama’s boy falls for a female impersonator really into feathers who goes by the moniker #QueenOfTheSwans. He digs her divine Virgin in White get-up but can’t stop making googly eyes at a sexy fashionista in black who turns out to be her -get this – Evil Twin. Then there’s the problem of their pimp. Since our hero has also demonstrated from the outset that he’s a limp noodle when it comes to standing up to father figures, he’ll…oh never mind. I mean, would you keep a straight face if late one night a middle-aged guy suddenly jumped out of the bushes, ripped open his Bat-cape, and exposed you to…his sequined green bodysuit?
But every time I’m actually experiencing Swan Lake, my snarkiness about the plot just evaporates. This ballet – like the best of operas — simply lets you cry in the dark over how you yourself, younger and softer and in better shape, had once been a fool for love.
What’s really weird, though, is that most people with bucket-lists think that if you’ve seen one Swan Lake you’ve seen ‘em all. Wrong. So if you don’t go see Rudolf Nureyev’s 1984 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, still fresh and juicy after all these years, you will miss out on something big: a dramatically coherent and passionately danced dreamscape. This production, for once, succeeds in forcing the tired threads of the generic story into real narrative. To boot, it gives the male dancers of the corps – sans les plumes de ma tante — as much to do as the female ones.
Many, many, versions of this ballet exist. All of the steps of the first one from 1877, created in tandem with Tchaikovsky’s music and famed as a colossal flop, seem to have been lost. Every production we see today claims to be « after the original » 1895 version as devised by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for the Maryinsky Theater. Yet we probably should consider 1895’s as lost, too. Ballet, by definition, just keeps evolving.
Just imagine: not that long ago, the Prince only mimed and his bestie, Benno, did all the complicated partnering stuff. An annoying court jester still scampers about in some productions, boring everyone on either side of the footlights. Just imagine: in some productions, this big tearjerker comes to a happy end. Some constants: almost all the steps in Act II and Odile’s extended series of fouettés (where the ballerina whirls like an unstoppable top) in Act III. Imagine the challenge each leading ballerina faces: she must convince you that you must have seen two completely different leading ladies – one fragile and tender, the other violent and bad. But in some earlier versions, you did indeed see two different leading ladies…

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corhoborée par les sources journalistiques

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corroborée par les sources journalistiques

PROLOGUE (OVERTURE)
Prince Siegfried has a nightmare where he looks on helplessly as a beautiful princess falls into the clutches of a half-human bird of prey. Before his eyes, the evil succubus transforms her into a swan and carries her off into thin air.

ACT ONE: THE CASTLE
It is the prince’s birthday. A crowd of young people, Siegfried’s friends, burst into the room, along with the prince’s Tutor Wolfgang (who bears a striking resemblance to the monster in Siegfried’s dream). Siegfried, aroused from his slumber, somewhat half-heartedly joins in their revels. He’s a melancholy prince, a dreamer.
The revel is interrupted by trumpet fanfare and the Queen Mother makes her entrance. She has come to congratulate her son upon his coming-of-age, but also to remind him of normal stuff. Her birthday gifts comprise a crown (do your duty) and a crossbow (shooting could provide some pleasure perhaps in the Freudian sense). As she points to her ring finger, the Queen Mother make it clear to the prince that both objects mean it’s time he took a wife (duty and/or pleasure?). At the ball in his honor tomorrow night, he will have to choose a bride. Eew! Her son goes limp at the mere thought.
Once they are sure that momma has gone back upstairs, Siegfried’s friends try to cheer him up: two girls and a boy perform a virtuosic pas de trois. Then the Tutor tells all the girls to fluff off. He gives the prince a dance lesson that involves a strong undercurrent of aggression: it looks like a power struggle rather than an initiation to the idea of the birds and the bees. The chorus boys break into one more rousing group dance-off, full of exhilaratingly complicated combinations, as they take leave.
The prince dances a sad solo while the Tutor glares at him. He has zero right to disapprove, for he’s not the prince’s father nor even his step-father. After once more bringing the prince to his knees, this oddly dominant employee suggests Siegfried go shoot his crossbow. In most productions, the Tutor is just a fat patsy who has nothing to do with evil. I happen to appreciate how, by sneakily combining our doubts about two characters, Nureyev’s production will soon merge both the Oedipal complex and Hamlet’s troubled relationship with male authority figures into one Really Big Bird.

We hear the “Swan theme.” The stage empties.

... et la "Danse des coupes", préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

… et la « Danse des coupes », préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

WITHOUT A PAUSE

ACT TWO BEGINS: NIGHT AT THE LAKE. ODDLY, IT FEELS AS IF WE HAVEN’T LEFT THE CASTLE, JUST GONE INTO ANOTHER ROOM…

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

We see that creepy bird of prey again, rushing across the stage. But is it the wicked magician von Rothbart or…the Evil Twin of the Tutor? Siegfried enters, and takes aim at something white and feathery rustling in the bushes. To his astonishment, out leaps the most beautiful creature he has even seen in his life: the princess he had already discovered in his dream. But she moves in a strange fashion, like a bird. Terrified, she begs him not to shoot. But Siegfried cannot resist the urge to grab her and to ask: “who are you? Um, what are you?”
“You see this lake? It is filled with my mother’s tears, for I,” she mimes, “am Odette, once a human princess, now queen of the swans. That evil sorcerer cast a spell on us, condemning us to be swans by day but we return to almost-human form at night. The spell will only be broken when a prince swears his undying love for me and never breaks that vow.” They are interrupted, first by von Rothbart, then by the arrival of the swan maidens (a corps de ballet of thirty-two).
Surrounded by the swan maidens, Siegfried and Odette express their growing understanding of each other in a tender pas de deux, which is followed by a series of dances by the other swans. Siegfried swears he will never look at another woman. But as dawn approaches he watches helplessly as von Rothbart turns Odette back into a bird. Siegfried doesn’t know it, but the strength of his vow is about to be put to the test.

INTERMISSION

ACT THREE: THE NEXT EVENING, IN THE CASTLE’S GRAND BALLROOM
Lac détailIt’s time for the Prince’s birthday party. Guests who seem to have been called forth from the Habsburg empire – Hungary, Spain, Naples, Poland — perform provincial dances in his and our honor.
Six eligible princesses waltz about, and the Queen Mother forces Siegfried to dance with all of them. Siegfried is polite but cold: the princesses all look alike to him, and not one is his Odette. Tension increases when the prince tells his mother he doesn’t even like, let alone want, any of these dumb girls. Suddenly two uninvited guests burst into the ballroom. It’s the Tutor (or is it von Rothbart?) and a beautiful young woman, It’s Odette!
But something is odd: she’s dressed in black and much coyer and sexier than the demure and frightened creature he’d embraced last night. As they dance the famous Black Swan Pas de Deux, the fascinated prince finds himself increasingly blinded by lust. Convinced she is his Odette, simply a lot more macha today, he asks for her hand in marriage and, at the Tutor/von Rothbart’s insistence, swears undying love. [A salute with fore and middle finger raised]. At that moment, all hell breaks loose: the Black Swan bursts out laughing and points to another bird who’d been desperately beating at the window panes. “There’s your Odette, doofus!” The Black Swan is actually Odile, her evil twin! The foolish prince falls in a faint, realizing he has completely screwed things up.

PAUSE (DON’T LEAVE YOUR SEATS!)

ACT FOUR: BACK AT THE LAKE. OR STILL INSIDE THE PRINCE’S MIND?
Siegfried finds himself back at the lake, surrounded by the melancholy swan maidens. He rushes off to find Odette. She rushes in. Frantic and distraught, Odette believes that, if she wants to liberate her fellow swans, she now has no other option but to kill herself.
The swans try to comfort their queen, while the triumphant von Rothbart unleashes a storm. Odette tries to fly from him to die but our gloating villain grabs at her with his claws.
The prince finally finds Odette, barely alive. Her wings – like her heart – are broken. Nevertheless, she forgives him and they dance together one last time, their movements illustrating how lovers cling to each other even as fate and magic try to pull them apart.
In 1877, the pair just ended up drowned. What a bummer.
In 1895, choosing to jump into the lake and drown together as martyrs meant the two would be carried up to the heavens as befits a final orchestral apotheosis.
In 1933, the evil magician killed Odette. Poor prince got left with little to do. Another bummer.
In the USSR, 1945, the hero ripped off von Rothbart’s wig and the gals all dropped their feathers. Liberation narratives befitted those times, we must assume.
Tonight?
Odette looks on helplessly as Siegfried tries to do battle with the sadist that is von Rothbart. As in the “lessons” with the Tutor in the first act, the prince is brought to his knees. Is this for real? Has all of this been a dream? Do nightmares return? Bummer.

Le Lac des Cygnes. L'acte 3 et sa tempête...

Le Lac des Cygnes. L’acte final et sa tempête…

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Le Lac des cygnes : Par ici l’argument!

cygne-rougeL’histoire de base est tellement ridicule que Freud même en aurait eu un fou rire. Un fils à sa maman tombe raide pour un transformiste emplumé qui répond au pseudo de #ReineDesCygnes. Il en pince pour son attirail de vierge immaculée mais ne peut non plus s’empêcher d’écarquiller les yeux  à la vue de la sexy fashionista en noir qui, tenez-vous bien, se trouve être sa Jumelle Maléfique. Et puis il y a le problème de leur souteneur. Vu que notre héros s’est aussi avéré être depuis le début une chiffe molle quand il s’agit de s’opposer à une figure paternelle, il… Mais laissons tomber. Franchement, garderiez-vous votre sérieux si, en fin de soirée, un mec entre deux âges sautait hors des fourrés, écartait sa cape et vous révélait … son maillot à paillettes verdâtre ?

Mais il n’empêche qu’à chaque fois que j’assiste à un Lac des cygnes, mon esprit sardonique se dissout dans l’air. Ce ballet – comme les meilleurs opéras – vous fait pleurer dans le noir sur ce vous-même, plus jeune, plus vulnérable et en meilleure forme, qui s’est jadis ridiculisé par amour.

Ce que je trouve vraiment bizarre, en revanche, c’est tout ces gens trois étoiles guide Michelin, qui pensent que quand on a vu un Lac des cygnes on les a tous vus. Tout faux ! Donc, si vous n’allez pas voir la version Rudolf Noureev du Lac de 1984 pour le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, encore fraîche et savoureuse après toutes ces années, vous manquerez quelque chose de rare : une production onirique dramatiquement cohérente qui, pour une fois, parvient à  tirer des ressorts usés de l’histoire un récit vrai. Par-dessus le marché, elle donne aux garçons du corps de ballet – My Tailor is Rich! – autant à danser qu’aux filles.

Beaucoup, beaucoup trop de versions de ce ballet existent. Les pas de la première de 1877, créés en même temps que la musique de Tchaïkovski et considérés comme un flop total, ont tous été perdus. Toutes les productions que nous voyons aujourd’hui clament être la réincarnation de « l’originale » de 1895 conçue par Marius Petipa et Lev Ivanov pour le Théâtre Marinsky. Peut-être d’ailleurs devrions-nous également considérer la version de 1895 comme perdue. Le Ballet est, par définition, en constante mutation.

Imaginez seulement qu’il n’y a pas si longtemps le prince mimait seulement et que son pote, Benno, se chargeait de toutes les difficultés du partenariat. Un ennuyeux bouffon batifole toujours dans certaines productions, rasant tout le monde des deux côtés de la rampe. Imaginez seulement : dans certaines productions, ce tire-larme finit par un happy end. Quelques constantes : presque tous les pas dans l’acte 2 et la série de fouettés d’Odile (quand la ballerine se met à tournoyer comme une irrésistible toupie) à l’acte III. Imaginez le défi pour chaque ballerine : elle doit vous convaincre que vous avez vu deux étoiles différentes – l’une, tendre et fragile, l’autre, violente et méchante. Il fut d’ailleurs un temps où on voyait effectivement deux danseuses différentes dans ces rôles.

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corhoborée par les sources journalistiques

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corroborée par les sources journalistiques

  PROLOGUE (OUVERTURE)

Le prince Siegfried fait un cauchemar où il assiste impuissant à la tombée d’une belle princesse dans les griffes d’un oiseau de proie à moitié humain. Devant ses yeux, le maléfique succube la transforme en cygne et se volatilise avec elle.

ACTE I : LE CHÂTEAU

C’est l’anniversaire du prince. Une foule de jeunes gens, les amis de Siegfried, font irruption dans la salle, accompagnés du tuteur du prince Wolfgang (qui ressemble étrangement au monstre du songe). Siegfried, tiré de son sommeil, se joint presque à contre cœur à leurs festivités. C’est un prince mélancolique. Un rêveur.

La fête est interrompue par une fanfare de trompettes et la reine-mère fait son entrée. Elle est venue féliciter son fils pour sa majorité mais pour lui rappeler aussi quelques fondamentaux. Ses cadeaux d’anniversaire se composent d’une couronne (fais ton devoir), d’une arbalète (la chasse peut procurer un certain plaisir, peut-être au sens freudien du terme). Lorsqu’elle désigne l’anneau à son doigt, la reine-mère exprime clairement que ces deux objets signifient qu’il est temps pour lui de prendre femme (devoir et/ou plaisir ?). Au bal donné en son honneur demain soir, il devra choisir une fiancée. Beurk ! Son fiston se ramollit rien qu’à l’idée.

Une fois surs que maman est remontée à l’étage, les amis de Siegfried essayent de lui remonter le moral : deux filles et un garçon interprètent un pas de trois virtuose. Puis, le tuteur dit aux filles d’aller batifoler ailleurs. Il donne au prince une leçon de danse qui comporte une forte charge d’agression sous-jacente : cela ressemble plus à une lutte de pouvoir qu’à une initiation au sujet des roses et des choux-fleurs. Les chorus boys se lancent alors dans une énième vibrante danse de groupe, pleine de grisantes combinaisons complexes, avant de se retirer.

... et la "Danse des coupes", préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

… et la « Danse des coupes », préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

Le prince danse un solo triste sous le regard réprobateur du tuteur. Il n’a aucun droit de désapprouver, n’étant ni le père ni même le beau-père du prince. Après avoir mis le prince sur les genoux encore une fois, cet employé étrangement dominateur suggère à Siegfried d’aller essayer son arbalète. Dans la plupart des productions, le tuteur est juste un gros pigeon qui ne ferait de mal à personne. Il se trouve que j’apprécie la manière dont, en combinant malignement nos doutes au sujet de deux personnages, la production de Noureev va bientôt fondre le complexe d’Œdipe et les relations troubles d’Hamlet avec les figures de l’autorité paternelle en un seul et même Grand Oiseau.

On entend le thème du cygne. La scène se vide.

SANS PAUSE

L’ACTE DEUX COMMENCE : NUIT SUR LE LAC. BIZARREMENT, IL SEMBLERAIT QUE NOUS N’AVONS PAS QUITTÉ LE PALAIS MAIS QUE NOUS SOMMES SEULEMENT PASSÉS DANS UNE AUTRE PIÈCE.

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

Nous voyons une fois encore cet inquiétant oiseau de proie, qui court à travers la scène. Mais s’agit-il du méchant magicien von Rothbart ou du jumeau maléfique du tuteur ? Siegfried entre et prend pour cible quelque-chose de blanc et de duveteux bruissant dans les buissons. À son grand étonnement, en sort la plus jolie créature qu’il ait jamais vue de sa vie : la princesse entrevue dans ses rêves. Mais elle se meut d’une étrange façon, comme un oiseau. Terrifiée, elle le supplie de ne pas tirer. Mais Siegfried ne peut résister au besoin de l’attraper et de lui demander : « Qui êtes-vous ? Euuuh. Qu’êtes-vous ? »

« Vous voyez ce lac ? Il a été rempli des larmes de ma mère, car Moi » mime-t-elle  « Je suis Odette, jadis une princesse humaine, aujourd’hui reine des cygnes. Ce méchant sorcier a jeté sur nous un sort, nous condamnant à être des cygnes le jour mais nous retournons à une forme presque humaine la nuit. Le sort ne sera brisé que si un prince me jure un amour éternel et qu’il ne se parjure pas ». Ils sont interrompus d’abord par von Rothbart, puis par l’arrivée de femmes-cygnes (un corps de ballet de trente-deux).

Entourés par ces femmes-cygnes, Siegfried et Odette expriment leur entente toujours grandissante par un tendre pas de deux suivi par une série de danses des cygnes. Siegfried jure qu’il ne posera jamais les yeux sur une autre femme. Mais alors que l’aurore pointe il regarde impuissant von Rothbart transformer a nouveau Odette en cygne. Siegfried ne le sait pas, mais son vœu va bientôt être soumis à un test.

ENTRACTE

ACTE TROIS : LE SOIR SUIVANT, DANS LA GRANDE SALLE DE BAL DU CHÂTEAU

Lac détailLe temps est venu pour la soirée d’anniversaire du prince. Les invités interprètent  des danses provinciales de l’empire des Habsbourg – Hongrie, Espagne, Naples, Pologne – en son honneur et pour notre plaisir.

Six princesses éligibles valsent dans les parages, et la reine force Siegfried à danser avec chacune d’entre elles. Siegfried est poli mais froid : ces princesses se ressemblent toutes pour lui, et aucune d’entre-elles n’est Odette. La tension monte quand le prince dit à sa mère qu’il n’apprécie ni ne veut d’aucune de ces oies blanches. Soudain, deux invités surprise font irruption dans la salle de bal. C’est le tuteur (à moins que ce ne soit von Rothbart ?) et une belle jeune femme, c’est Odette !

Mais quelque chose cloche : elle est habillée de noir et bien plus hardie et sexy que la créature sage et terrorisée qu’il avait étreinte l’autre soir. Alors qu’ils dansent le célèbre pas de deux du cygne noir, le prince se sent irrésistiblement aveuglé par la luxure.

Convaincu qu’elle est d’Odette, juste une peu plus macha aujourd’hui, il demande sa main et, à la demande insistante du Tuteur/von Rothbart, lui jure un amour éternel. [Un salut avec l’index et le majeur dressés]. À ce moment, les éléments se déchaînent : le cygne noir éclate de rire et désigne un autre oiseau frappant désespérément aux carreaux. « Voilà ton Odette, triple buse ! ». Le cygne noir n’est autre qu’Odile, son double maléfique! L’imprudent prince s’effondre évanoui, réalisant qu’il a vraiment tout gâché.

PAUSE (ON NE QUITTE PAS SON SIÈGE !)

ACTE QUATRE : DE RETOUR AU LAC. OU TOUJOURS DANS L’ESPRIT DU PRINCE ?

Siegfried se retrouve transporté au lac, entouré par les mélancoliques femmes cygnes. Il se précipite pour trouver Odette. Elle fait irruption. Affolée et  désespérée, Odette pense que, pour libérer ses camarades cygnes, elle n’a d’autre option que de se tuer.
Les cygnes tentent de consoler leur reine tandis que le triomphant von Rothbart déchaîne une tempête. Odette essaye de lui échapper mais notre ricanant vilain pose ses griffes sur elle.

Le prince trouve finalement Odette, presque morte. Ses ailes – comme son cœur – sont brisées. Néanmoins, elle lui pardonne et ils dansent ensemble une dernière fois, leurs mouvements illustrant la façon dont des amants se raccrochent l’un à l’autre même lorsque le destin et la magie essaient de les arracher l’un à l’autre.

En 1877, le couple finissait noyé. Quelle poisse.

En 1895, choisissant de se jeter dans le lac et de se noyer ensemble tels des martyrs, tous deux étaient emportés au paradis en une apothéose suggérée par les accords finaux de l’orchestre.

En 1933, le maléfique magicien tuait Odette. Le pauvre prince restait là avec bien peu à faire. Encore la poisse.

Dans l’URSS de 1945, le héros arrachait une aile à von Rothbart et toutes les filles tombaient leurs plumes. Les récits de libération convenaient à l’époque, semble-t-il.

Ce soir ?

Odette regarde Siegfried impuissante alors qu’il essaye de lutter contre le sadique qu’est von Rothbart. Comme dans la « leçon » avec le tuteur au premier acte, le prince finit à genoux. Est-ce pour de vrai ? Tout cela n’aurait-il été qu’un rêve ? Les cauchemars sont-ils récurrents ? La poisse, on vous dit.

Le Lac des Cygnes. L'acte 3 et sa tempête...

Le Lac des Cygnes. L’acte final et sa tempête…

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Giselle… Si les fleurs pouvaient parler #FlowerPower

Carte postale 1900Margaux à Lili :

Ma vie est vraiment top ! J’suis au soleil, tranquille, devant la petite maison de cette très gentille veuve un peu névrosée. Elle ne fait de mal à personne ; elle agite juste un peu les bras pour mimer des machins un peu lugubres du genre « mourir », « morte » et « ressuscitée d’entre les morts ». La maison est proprette, le terreau bio, comme il se doit dans un village perdu au milieu de nulle part, et mes pétales sont devenues d’un blanc crémeux, d’un duveteux… C’est bien simple, ces derniers jours, je me passe allègrement de mousse coiffante.

Sa fille Giselle est trop choute, un peu comme nous les marguerites ; même si on n’est pas des fleurs de la haute, on a une élégance naturelle, on relève le menton, on s’bouge et on donne envie de sourire aux gens.

Un jour, quelqu’un me la posera, « LA question » ! En attendant, j’maîtrise.

Le seul bémol du bled c’est ce type, Hilarion. Tu sais, celui qui fait son mec parce qu’il a du boulot ? Il arrête pas d’accrocher des trucs au clou qu’est juste au dessus d’ma tête. Les bouquets, c’est déjà pas top – les fleurs des champs sont d’un vulgaire et leur conversation d’un rasoir. Attends : les A-beeeeeeilles ! Mais alors quand c’est des lapins morts, j’ai juste envie d’pleurer. Le sang goutte sur mes pétales et ensuite j’ai plus qu’à prier pour qu’il pleuve. Beurk !

Attends ! Attends !!! Ouhhh, v’la un joli minet qui s’amène ! Tiens, bizarre, il a une épée et son pote s’en va la cacher dans la chaumière d’en face, là où les mauvaises herbes ont l’habitude de zoner. Huuuum !

Il fait du flan à Giselle ! Il lui court après ou quoi?

Wesh, ça y est ! Le thème musical est lancé ! Giselle me regarde, mais c’est qu’elle va m’choisir !!! Je vais être candidate à « ZE Quouestionne ». Une star de la télé réalité ! Bon, à plus, j’m’arrache !

Ça fait mal ! Plus que j’aurais pensé. Et la façon dont tout-ça s’est terminé m’a vraiment vexée.

J’ai ESSAYÉ de dire à G « Fais gaffe, monsieur beau gosse, c’est qu’des problèmes, même si je l’trouve mimi aussi. » Mais ce troudu m’a arraché un autre pétale, sournoisement- comme si deux épilations c’était pas déjà plus qu’assez. Du coup mon « IL T’AIME, PAS-DU-TOUT » est passé complètement hors radar. Et puis, tu vas halluciner, ensuite il m’a j’tée ! Quel saligaud. Encore heureux que son poteau avait mis son épée à l’abri.

Alors me voilà, faisant tapisserie sur le côté, cul par-dessus-tête et définitivement en vrac du côté pétale. Mais ce que je peux tout de même voir avec ma petite figure jaune boudeuse, ça ne m’plais pas du tout.

Le nouveau, le mimi, il s’avère que c’est un TO-TAL IMPOSTEUR. Fiancé genre depuis toujours, à une espèce de riche pétasse.

Par contre, je fais un come back de fou. La brave fille vient juste partager notre selfie « Il m’aime, Un peu, beaucoup… » avec «Amis et Connaissances ». ENFIN ! Tout le monde a maintenant pigé c’que j’essayais de dire depuis le début.

C’est trop triste que Giselle ait dû mourir. Je l’aimais bien.

:(((

*

*                                                  *

Lili à Margaux :

Tu ne connais pas ta chance, tu t’es juste fait débiner. BON D’ACCORD, déchiquetée aussi. C’est pire.

Aujourd’hui, ton mec, le prince, a pointé son nez dans notre serre fraiche et a fait couper une brassée d’entre nous au dessus de la cheville par Wilfrid ; tu sais, son copain.

Donc me voilà, au milieu de nulle part, de nuit avec mes sœurs, congelée et complètement flippée. Tu le crois, ça, Albrecht – c’est son vrai nom – nous a emmené là-bas, genre au milieu de méga-nulle-part et s’est contenté de nous larguer toutes sur la première tombe venue. Brrrrrrrr !

Un pathétique bouquet de fleurs des champs nous avait devancées sur la tombe. C’est confirmé, la rubrique des abeilles crevées est leur seul sujet de conversation.

….

Dernières nouvelles :

La forêt est dirigée par une bonne femme pas commode qui – le croiras-tu ? – chaque soir à minuit, empoigne de quelconques feuillages, des brindilles, bref si elle n’en trouve pas, tout ce qui lui tombe sous la mire (tu me pardonneras l’homonymie) et puis, crois-le ou pas, se met à agiter dans tous les sens ces quelques choses afin de convoquer toutes ces autres nénettes hyper déprimées.

Puis elles piétinent en rond toute la nuit, de très, mais alors de très très mauvaise humeur. Le gazon se plaint d’affreux maux de tête !

Attends un peu ! Tu me disais que Giselle était morte ? Mais la voilà ! Bon, c’est vrai qu’elle est toute pâlote.

Et ne voilà-t-il pas qu’elle fait des avances à Albrecht ! Elle lui verse même sur la tête un escadron de fadasses petites fleurs des bois. Hé ! Mamzelle Perfection ! Ça t’aurait fait mal de nous faire participer à la place ?

Quant à l’autre pimbêche de reine des zombies, madame Myrna, Mirza, ou je ne sais plus de quel nom ronflant elle s’épelle : sérieusement, est-ce qu’elle peut ignorer que ses brindilles sont incroyablement allergiques à tout objet en forme de « t » ? C’est un coup à les faire crever.

Elle a deux meilleures copines qui se font appeler dans le programme, tiens-toi bien…, Moyna et Zulma, sans blague…

Cet endroit est bourré de cas cliniques…

Margo, toi et les lapins serez heureux d’apprendre que les fiancées viennent juste de jeter ce ringard d’Hilarion dans le lac.

Oooh, je te le donne en mille, G et A se fredonnent ton thème l’un à l’autre. Trop bien ! Marguerites en force !

Ne me vire pas de ta liste d’amis, mais peut-être te trompais-tu au sujet du « pas du tout » ? J’dis ça, j’dis rien.

Après pas mal d’émois, les voilà tous partis. Whouuuu !

Enfin à part Albrecht. Il est tout suant et je pense que ses batteries sont sérieusement à plat.

Mais, mais,… il se dirige vers nous avec ce regard qui dit, j’ai besoin de prendre LA pose (dramatique).

Que va-t-il faire ? Choisir l’une d’entre nous ? Ça ne serait pas équitable.

Ou alors en prendre quelques-unes, et nous lâcher une par une sur la tête afin que nous soyons non seulement laissées seules dans cette damnée forêt mais encore obligées de lutter contre la baisse de réseau consécutive à une chute ?

Il ne pourrait pas juste nous ramener toutes à la maison ?

Pour sûr, j’opterais bien pour cette dernière solution. Mais cela voudrait dire sans doute qu’il nous recyclerait en nous donnant à sa femme. Rien que d’y penser… Beuuuurk !

Parfois, c’est tout de même moche la vie d’une fleur, hein ?

VDF

Carte postale 1900bis

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Giselle…If The Flowers Had Their Say #FlowerPower

Carte postale 1900Daisy to Lily:

 I love my life. I get to sit in the sun in front of the little house of a nice, if kinda neurotic, widow lady. She does no harm, just waves her arms around miming gloomy stuff like “dying,” “dead,” and “rising from the dead.” House is clean, the plant food organic as it should be in a village in the middle of nowhere, and my petals have become so creamy white and super fluffy these days that I can even skip the conditioner.

Her daughter, Giselle, is a real sweetheart, kind of like us daisies: even if we’re not a noble flower we do have natural elegance, hold our heads up high, wave a lot, and make people smile.

One day, someone will ask me “the question.” But while waiting, I’m chill.

The only real downer in this nabe is that Hilarion guy. You know, the one who thinks he’s a big hotshot because he has a job?  He keeps hanging things up on the hook right above my head. The bouquets are bad enough – flowers from the field are so tacky and such boring conversationalists. I mean: bees? Puhlease. But when it’s the dead rabbits I just want to cry. They drip blood on my head and all I can do is pray for rain. Gross.

…..

Wait a minute. Ooh, a cute new guy just showed up. Weird, he’s got a sword and his man friend goes to hide it in that cottage across the way where the Weeds hang out. Hm.

He’s putting to moves on Giselle. Is he chasing her or what?

OMG, it’s happening! The theme song has started! Giselle is looking at me, no, she’s reaching for me…I’m gonna be a contestant on “The Question?” A reality star! Gotta go!

…..

 That hurt more than I expected. And the way the whole thing panned out really hurt my feelings.

 I TRIED to tell G. “Watch out, Mr. Handsome looks like such bad news, even if I think he’s cute, too.” But then the asshole yanked out yet another petal on the sly – as if even two just plucked wasn’t like so much more than enough. So my cry of  “he loves you not, BFF!” went totally off her radar. Then he, get this, just tossed me away. What a creep. Good thing his bro had taken away that sword.

So here I am, kind of off to the side, upside-down and definitely the worse for wear petal-wise. But what I can still see with my little yellow frowny face, I do not like.

 The cute new guy turned out to be a TOTAL fraud. He’s a…PRINCE! Engaged to some rich bitch since, like, forever.

 But I’m having the most amazing comeback. That sweet girl just shared our “He Loves Me, Not” selfie — even with acquaintances.  FINALLY everybody got into what I had been trying to say in the first place.

 Pity Giselle had to die, though. I liked her.

: (((

 *

*                                                 *

Lily to Daisy:

 You are soooo lucky you only got seriously dissed.  OK, shredded too. This is worse.

 Today your prince guy showed up at our nice chill hothouse and had Wilfried — his pal, you know, the one who’s always worried and hiding stuff — chop a bunch of us off at the ankles.

 So here I am in the middle of nowhere at night with my sisters, freezing and freaked out. Would you believe it, Albrecht – that’s his real name — took us out here into like mega-nowhere and just plonked the bunch of us on some random grave. Creepy!

 A pathetic bunch of wildflowers already beat us to the tomb. Yup, confirmed, all they can talk about are dead bees.

…..

 So here’s what’s goin’ down:

 The forest is ruled by this really tough female who – every single midnight, would you believe it? – grabs some foliage, twigs, whatever if she can’t find the myrrrh (they try really hard to hide from both spells and spell-check) and then, believe it or not, waves around the whatever so as to summon up all these other severely depressed females.

 They then stomp around all night in a really, really, bad mood. The grass have developed major migranes.

 …..

 Wait a minute. You said Giselle was dead. But here she is! Does look kind of pale though.

And she’s putting the moves on Albrecht. Even dropping a posse of dinky little woodland flowers on his head. Hey, Miss Perfect, what would have been so uncool about using us instead?

As for hoity-toity zombie queen Ms. Myrna, Myrtle, or whatever fab way she spells her name: can she seriously not know that twigs are incredibly super-allergic to all objects shaped like a “t?” Makes them pass out?

She’s got two besties who call themselves in the program book, get this, Moyna and Zulma. Not kidding.

This place is full of nutcases.

…..

Daisy, you and the rabbits will be happy to hear that the girlfriends have just dumped that loser Hilarion into the lake.

Ooh and get this. G & A keep humming your theme song to each other. Cool! All power to the Daise’!

Don’t unfriend me, but maybe you were wrong about the “he loves me not” stuff? Just thinkin.’

…..

After a lot of commotion they’ve all gone.  Whew.

 Except for Albrecht. He’s all sweaty and his batteries are thisclose to dying.

….

Uh, oh. He’s heading towards us with that “I need a flower to strike a pose [dramatic]” look.

What will he do? Pick just one of us? That would be so unfair.

Or grab a few, and then drop us on our heads one after the other, so that we’re not only still out alone in a goddamn forest but battling those kinds of concussions that makes our wireless go down?

Couldn’t he just take us all back home?

Obviously I’d prefer this last one.

 But that would probably mean he’d recycle us off to his wife.

Come to think of it: eeew.

Sometimes being a flower really sucks, doesn’t it?

 WTF just happened to us?

 The “F,” of course, is for “flower.”

Carte postale 1900bis

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