Archives de Tag: Ballet in Paris

Giselle in Paris : Ut Pictura Poesis

Dorothée Gilbert/Mathieu Ganio (February 11th) and Amandine Albisson/Hugo Marchand (February 15th matinée)

Act One(s)

Gilbert/Ganio.Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. Their skies may change, but not the souls of those who chase across the sea. Ceux qui traversent la mer changent de ciel, non d’esprit (Horace, Epistles)

Gilbert’s Giselle, a more fragile and melancholy version of her naïve and loving Lise of La Fille mal gardée, was doomed from the start, like the Flying Dutchman. In those joyous “catch me if you can” jétés and arabesques with Ganio’s equally interiorized and gentle and devoted Albrecht, Gilbert’s suspended phrasing and softened lines started to make me shiver. What I was seeing was the first act as remembered by the ghost of the second. Gestures were quiet, subtle, distilled for both protagonists as in a 19th century sepia print: the couple was already not of this world. I have rarely been so well prepared to enter into the otherworld of Act II. Those on the stage and in the audience were as one soul, drawn into reminiscing together about daisies in tears and about “what might have been.”

La Giselle de Gilbert, une plus fragile et mélancolique version de sa naïve Lise de La Fille mal gardée, était condamnée dès le départ, comme le Hollandais volant. Avec ces joyeux jetés « Attrape-moi si tu peux » et ses arabesques avec l’Albrecht également doux, intériorisé et dévoué de Ganio, Gilbert suspendait le phrasé et adoucissait les lignes […] Et si on assistait au premier acte vu par les yeux du fantôme du deuxième ?

Albisson/Marchand. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. Seize the day, and care not to trust in the morrow. Cueille le jour présent, en te fiant le moins possible au lendemain (Horace, Epodes)

At the matinee on the 15th, we enter another world, this time fully in the present, with a joyous and self-assured pair blissfully unaware of what lies in store. Down to earth, they make no secret of their mutual attraction, neither to each other nor before the village. When Albisson’s daisy predicts “he loves me not,” clearly this is the first time a cloud has passed before the sun in her sky. Gilbert’s Giselle seemed to withdraw into a dark place upon her mother’s cautionary tale about the Wilis (the supremely dignified Ninon Raux at both performances). Albisson’s Giselle seemed more bewildered by the brief sensation of being possessed by a force she could not control. “How can such awful things even be possible? Why am I shivering when there is sunlight?” Most often, the Albrechts stand back, turn their backs on mama, and let the heroine have her moment. But here Marchand’s intense concentration on what the mother was describing – as if he, in turn, was experiencing his first glimpse of the shadows to come, possessed by a force he could not control either –made the moment even richer. Aurora and Desiré had just been told that, in the end, they would not live happily ever after. Marchand, as with the daisy, kept on trying to make everything work out. There are some Albrecht’s who try to shush Bathilde over Giselle’s shoulder [“Let me explain later”], and those who don’t. Marchand tried.

Pour la matinée du 15, on entre dans un autre monde, cette fois pleinement dans le présent, avec un duo béatement ignorant de ce que l’avenir leur prépare. […]

La Giselle de Gilbert semblait s’enfoncer dans les ténèbres au moment des avertissements de sa mère sur les Willis (la suprêmement digne Ninon Raux lors des deux représentations). La Giselle d’Albisson semblait plus déconcertée par la brève sensation d’être possédée par une force qu’elle ne pouvait contrôler. « Comment de si horribles choses seraient-elles seulement possibles ? Pourquoi tremblé-je sous le soleil ?»

To Bathilde – rendered unusually attentive, warm, and reactive by Sara Kora Dayanova – Gilbert mimed winding thread (another Lise reference), twirling her fingers delicately downward. Her mad scene had the quality of a skein of silk becoming unravelled and increasingly hopelessly knotted and pulled in all directions. Albisson mimed sewing in big healthy stitches instead. Her physically terrifying mad scene – just how can you fling yourself about and fall down splat like that without injury? — reminded me of the person just served divorce papers who grabs a knife and shreds all her partner’s clothes and smashes all she can get her hands on, and then jumps out the window.

À l’intention de Bathilde – rendue exceptionnellement attentive, chaleureuse et réactive par Sara Kora Dayanova – Gilbert mimait le filage de la laine (une autre référence à Lise), tortillant délicatement ses doigts vers le bas. Sa scène de la folie avait cette qualité de l’écheveau de soie devenant désespérément dénoué et emmêlé à force d’être tiré dans toutes les directions. Albisson mimait plutôt la couture à points larges et décidés. Sa scène de la folie, physiquement terrifiante, – jusqu’où peut-on se démener violemment et s’effondrer à plat sans se blesser ? – m’a rappelé ces personnes recevant les papiers du divorce qui saisissent un couteau, déchiquètent les vêtements de leur partenaire et brisent tout ce qui leur tombe sous la main avant de sauter par la fenêtre.

Second Act(s)

Permitis divis cetera. Leave the rest to the gods. Remettez-vous en aux dieux (Horace, Epodes)

Gilbert’s Act II lived in the realm of tears. The vine-like way she would enfold Ganio in her arms – and I was smitten by the way he interlaced himself into all her gestures and thoughts – defined their couple. They reached for each other. Here, at the same moments, Albisson was less about tears than about how insistently she stretched her arms up towards the heavens just before re-connecting to Marchard’s avid hands. “I remember you swore to love me forever. And now I am certain you were true. The skies know this.”

L’acte II de Gilbert se situait dans une vallée de larmes. Sa façon d’enlacer Ganio de ses bras telle une vigne vierge – et j’ai été touchée de la manière dont Ganio s’entrelaçait lui-même dans ses gestes et dans ses pensées – définissait leur couple. […] Ici, aux mêmes moments, Albisson était moins dans les larmes que dans l’intensité de l’étirement des bras vers les cieux juste avant de reconnecter avec ceux avides de Marchand : « Je me souviens que tu as juré de m’aimer pour toujours et maintenant je suis certaine que tu disais vrai » […]

In Act II, Marchand doesn’t need to run around searching for Giselle’s grave. He knows where it stands and just can’t bear to deal with how real it is. He also knows how useless bouquets of flowers are to the dead. He has come to this spot in the hope that the vengeful Wilis of her mother’s horrifying tale will come to take him. But his un-hoped for encounter with Giselle in the “flesh” changes his mind. As in Act I, they cannot stop trying to touch each other. This pair risked those big overhead lifts with breathtaking simplicity, in the spirit of how, for their couple, love had been wrapped around their need to touch. The final caress bestowed by this Albrecht upon all he had left of the woman he would indeed love forever – the heavy stone cross looming above Giselle’s tomb — made perfect sense.

À l’acte II, Marchand […] sait combien les bouquets de fleurs sont inutiles aux morts. Il est venu là dans l’espoir que les Willis vengeresses […] le prennent. Mais sa rencontre inespérée avec Giselle en « chair » et en os le fait changer d’avis. Ces deux-là ne peuvent s’empêcher de se toucher. Ils ont osé le grand porté par-dessus la tête avec une simplicité époustouflante. […] La caresse finale que donne Marchand à tout ce qui lui reste de cette femme qu’il aimera toujours – la lourde croix de pierre surplombant la tombe de Giselle – avait tout son sens.

Hilarion (one and only).

Pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas/Regumque turris. Pale Death knocks with impartial foot at poor men’s hovels as at rich men’s palaces. La pâle mort frappe d’un pied indifférent les masures des pauvres et les palais des rois. (Horace, Epodes)

Audric Bezard, both times. Both times elegant, forceful, and technically on top as usual, but different and creative in his approach to this essential – but often crudely crafted — character. With Gilbert, Bezard reacted in a more melancholy and deeply worried manner. Some neophytes in the audience might have even mistaken him for a protective older brother. Hilarion opens the ballet with his mimed “she loves me not” and the way he nuanced it then and thereafter built up a backstory for Gilbert: « I grew up with the girl, everyone – even me – assumed we would live happily ever after. Why is this happening? » But, alas, “that nice boy next door” can sometimes be the last thing a girl wants, even if he be soulful and cute. Bezard’s rhythm in mime is magnificent in the way it takes its time inside and along the lines of the music. You see thoughts shaping themselves into gesture. With Albisson, one saw less of that long-term story. I appreciated his alternate approach, more reminiscent of the impetuous in-the-moment passion Bezard had already demonstrated as a leading partner to this same ballerina in other dramatic ballets…

Audric Bézard les deux fois. Chaque fois […] créatif dans son approche de ce personnage essentiel – mais si souvent interprété trop crûment.

Avec Gilbert, Bezard réagissait d’une manière plus mélancolique et soucieuse. […] Hilarion ouvre le ballet avec sa scène mimée « Elle ne m’aime pas » et la façon dont il la nuançait ici et plus tard fabriquait un passé à Gilbert : « J’ai grandi avec cette fille, et tout le monde – moi y compris – était persuadé que nous serions heureux pour toujours. Pourquoi cela arrive-t-il ? » […] La façon qu’à Bezard de rythmer sa pantomime est magnifique en ce qu’il prend son temps à l’intérieur et aux côtés de la musique. […] Avec Albisson, on voyait moins une histoire au long cours. J’ai apprécié cette approche alternative réminiscence de l’impétuosité de l’instant que Bezard avait déjà développé dans un rôle principal aux côtés de la même ballerine.

Myrtha(s):

Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus. Now is the time to beat the earth with unfettered foot. Il est temps maintenant de battre le sol avec des pieds sans entraves. (Horace, Odes).

If Valentine Colasante’s Queen of the Wilis on the 11th proved the very vision of a triumphant and eerie ectoplasm so beloved by 19th century Victorians, Hannah O’Neill’s on the 15th seemed instead to have risen out of an assemblage of twigs and bones (which is not potentially a bad thing). Let me explain.

As a dancer, Colasante’s elongated neck now connects to eased shoulders that send the word down her spine, releasing pulsating energy. The result? Probably among the most perfectly fluid series of bourrées I have ever seen. The feet or legs should start from the head, from the brain, but most often they do not. These tiny tippy-toe steps – pietinées in French — often seem to have been designed to make dancers look like scuttling crabs. Colasante’s bourrées, so fluid and expressive and instantly in character, were those of someone who has really evolved as an artist. Control and release extended out from a really intelligent core informing her big, juicy, regal jumps and expressive back [Myrtha spends a lot of her time downstage facing away from House Right]. Mind-body intelligence infused even the tiniest of Colasante’s calm and unhurried gestures. Each of the umpteen times she had to mime “thanks for your thoughts and prayers, but now you must die ” — raise arms, clench fists, bring them down across the wrists– Colasante gave that gesture variety, reactivity, and lived in the moment.

[Le 11] Le cou de [Valentine] Colasante désormais allongé se connecte à des épaules déliées qui transmet le mouvement dans toute sa colonne vertébrale, libérant et pulsant de l’énergie. Le résultat ? Probablement parmi les plus fluides séries de piétinés qu’il m’ait été donné de voir. Car les pieds ou les jambes doivent commencer de la tête, du cerveau même ; et cela arrive si peu souvent. […] Ce contrôlé -relâché se diffusait depuis un centre très « intelligent » et infusait de larges, de savoureux et souverains sauts ainsi qu’un dos intelligent.

For the moment, O’Neill is on a learning curve and her stage presence has retrograded to more serious and studious than I would like for her to be doing at this point in her career. It’s if she’s lost that something so fresh and lively she used to have. Yes, you might say, “who do you think you are to expect fresh and lively from a Queen of the Zombies?” O’Neill did the job with full-out dedication, but seemed so…dry, despite perfectly executed steps. She needs to add some more mental flesh to the twigs and bones of her overly reserved phantom. My mind drifted way too often in the direction of impressive technical details. I couldn’t believe that this was really Myrtha, not the dancer named Hannah O’Neill. Until then, during both performances, I had completely been swept into the zone by all of the dancers described above as well as by the delicious demi-soloists and corps de ballet

Pour l’instant, [Hannah] O’Neill semble en phase d’apprentissage et sa présence scénique a rétrogradé vers quelque chose de plus sérieux et studieux qu’il ne le faudrait à ce stade de sa carrière. […] O’Neill a « fait le travail » avec une totale implication mais semblait tellement … aride, en dépit des pas parfaitement exécutés. Il lui faudrait ajouter de la chair émotionnelle sur les os de son trop réservé fantôme.

Hannah ONeill

Cléopold saw a distinct delicacy in her version of Myrtha from where he was sitting, and I do not wish to be harsh. But in a poetic story-ballet, technique must learn to serve the story above all else.

Ut pictora poesis. As in painting, so in poetry. Telle la peinture est la poésie (Horace, Ars Poetica).

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Swan Lake: Get Your Story Here. A plot summary.

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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