Archives de Tag: Laure Hequet

“Some enchanted evening/you may see …” (My spring season at the Paris Opera)

Just who wouldn’t want to be wandering about dressed in fluffy chiffon and suddenly encounter a gorgeous man in a forest glade under the moonlight? Um, today, that seems creepy. But not in the 19th century, when you would certainly meet a gentleman on one enchanted evening…« Who can explain it, who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons, wise men never try. »

Notes about the classics that were scheduled for this spring and summer season — La Bayadère, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Giselle — on call from April through July.

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After the confinement, filmed rehearsals, and then two live runs in succession, DOES ANYONE STILL WANT TO HEAR ABOUT LA BAYADERE? But maybe you are still Dreaming or Giselling, too?

Here are my notes.

Bayaderes

« Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger across a crowded room. And somehow you know, you know even then, That somehow you’ll see her again and again. »

April 21

In La Bayadère, if Ould-Braham’s Nikiya was as soft and naïve and childlike as Giselle. Bleuenn Batistoni’s  Gamzatti proved as hard and sleek as a modern-day Bathilde: an oligarch’s brat. [Albeit most of those kinds of women do not lift up their core and fill out the music]. Their interactions were as clear and bright and graphic as in a silent movie (in the good sense).

OB’s mind is racing from the start, telling a story to herself and us, desperate to know how this chapter ends. Partnering with the ardent Francesco Mura was so effortless, so “there in the zone.” He’s one of those who can speak even when his back is turned to you and live when he is off to the side, out of the spotlight. Mura is aflame and in character all the time.

OB snake scene, iridescent, relives their story from a deep place  plays with the music and fills out the slow tempi. Only has eyes for Mura and keeps reaching, reaching, her arms outlining the shape of their dances at the temple (just like Giselle. She’s not Nikiya but a  Gikiya).

Indeed, Batistoni’s turn at Gamzatti in the second act became an even tougher bitch with a yacht, as cold-blooded as Bathilde can sometimes be:  a Bamzatti. There was no hope left for Ould-Braham and Francesco Mura in this cruel world of rich fat cats, and they both knew it.

April 3

Park  as Nikiya and later as Giselle will channel the same dynamic: sweet girl: finallly infusing some life into her arms in Act 1, then becoming stiff as a board when it gets to the White Act, where she exhibits control but not a drop of the former life of her character. I am a zombie now. Dry, clinical, and never builds up to any fortissimo in the music. A bit too brisk and crisp and efficient a person to incarnate someone once called Nikiya. Could the audience tell it was the same dancer when we got to Act 3?

Good at leaps into her partner’s arms, but then seems to be a dead weight in lifts. When will Park wake up?

Paul Marque broke through a wall this season and finds new freedom in acting through his body. In Act Three: febrile, as “nervosa” as an Italian racecar. Across the acts, he completes a fervent dramatic arc than is anchored in Act 1.

Bourdon’s Gamzatti very contained. The conducting was always too slow for her. Dancing dutifully. Where is her spark?

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Midsummer Night Dreams

« Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing, You may hear her laughing across a crowded room. And night after night, as strange as it seems, The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams. »

June 30

Very baroque-era vivid conducting.

Aurelien Gay as Puck: feather light.

Pagliero’s Titania is clearly a queen, calm and scary. But also a woman, pliant and delightful.

Jeremy Loup-Quer as Oberon has heft and presence. Dances nicely. Smooth, but his solos are kind of like watching class combinations. (Balanchine’s choreography for the role is just that, basically)

First Butterfly Sylvia Saint-Martin displayed no authority and did the steps dutifully.

Paris Opera Ballet School kiddie corps has bounce and go and delicate precision, bravo.

Bezard/Demetrius in a wig worthy of a Trocks parody. Whyyyy? Particularly off-putting in the last act wedding scene. Who would want to marry a guy disguised as Mireille Matthieu?

Bourdon/Hyppolita unmusical fouettés. I miss her warmth and panache. Gone.

Act 2 Divertissement Pas where the couple appears out of nowhere in the “story.” (see plot summary). The way Louvet extends out and gently grasps Ould-Braham’s hand feels as if he wants to hold on to the music. Both pay heed and homage to the courtly aspect of the Mendelssohn score. That delicacy that was prized by audiences after the end of the Ancien Régime can be timeless. Here the ballerina was really an abstract concept: a fully embodied idea, an ideal woman, a bit of perfect porcelain to be gently cupped into warm hands. I like Ould-Braham and Louvet’s new partnership.  They give to each other.

July 12

Laura Hequet as Helena gestures from without not from within, as is now usual the rare times she takes the stage. It’s painful to watch, as if her vision ends in the studio. Does she coach Park?

Those who catch your eye:

Hannah O’Neill as Hermia and Célia Drouy as Hyppolita. The first is radiant, the second  oh so plush! Hope Drouy will not spend her career typecast as Cupid in Don Q.

In the Act II  Divertissment, this time with Heloise Bourdon, Louvet is much less reverential and more into gallant and playful give and take. These two had complimentary energy. Here Louvet was more boyish than gentlemanly. I like how he really responds to his actresses these days.

Here the pas de deux had a 20th century energy: teenagers rather than allegories. Teenagers who just want to keep on dancing all night long.

NB Heloise Bourdon was surprisingly stiff at first, as if she hadn’t wanted to be elected prom queen, then slowly softened her way of moving. But this was never to be the legato unspooling that some dancers have naturally. I was counting along to the steps more than I like to. Bourdon is sometimes too direct in attack and maybe also simply a bit discouraged these days. She’s been  “always the bridesmaid but never the bride” — AKA not promoted to Etoile — for waaay too long now.  A promotion would let her break out and shine as she once used to.

My mind wandered. Why did the brilliant and over-venerated costume designer Karinska assign the same wreath/crown of flowers (specifically Polish in brightness) to both Bottom in Act I and then to the Act II  Female Allegory of Love? In order to cut costs by recycling a headdress ? Some kind of inside joke made for Mr. B? Or was this joke invented by Christian Lacroix?

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Giselles

« Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love, When you hear her call across a crowded room, Then fly to her side and make her your own, Or all through your life you may dream all alone.. »

 July 6

 Sae Eun Park/Paul Marque

 Sae Eun Park throws all the petals of the daisy already, does not lower the “he loves me” onto her skirt. There goes one of the main elements of the mad scene.

Her authoritative variations get explosions of applause due to obvious technical facility , plus that gentle smile and calm demeanor that are always on display.

What can Paul Marque’s Albrecht do when faced with all this insipid niciness? I’ve been a bad boy? He does try during the mad scene, shows real regret.

Ninon Raux’s Berthe:  gentle and dignified and not disdainful.

Park’s mad scene was admired by those around me at the top of the house. Many neophites. They admired from afar but not one of those I surveyed at the end of Act I said they had cried when her character died. Same thing at the end of the ballet while we reconnected and loitered around on the front steps of the Palais Garnier.  I asked again. No tears. Only admiration. That’s odd.

On the upside, the Paris Opera has a real thing with bourrées (piétinées), Each night, Myrtha and Giselle gave a plethora of what seemed almost like skateboard or surfing slides. They skimmed over a liquid ground with buttery feet whether forward, backward, or to the side. I think a new standard was set.

In her variations, Hannah O’Neill’s Myrtha gave us a will o’ the wisp of lightly churning jétés. She darted about like the elusive light of a firefly. Alas, where I was sitting behind a cornice meant a blocked view of downstage left, so I missed all of this Wili Queen’s acting for the rest of Act II.

Daniel Stokes’s Hilarion was not desperate enough.

Despite the soaring sweep of the cello, I don’t feel the music in Park-Marque’s Giselle-Albrecht’s pas de deux.  Not enough flow. Marque cared, but Park so careful. No abandon. No connection. The outline of precise steps.

July 11

 Alice Renavand/Mathieu Ganio

Act I

Battistoni/Magliono peasant pas: Turns into attitude, curve of the neck, BB swooshes and swirls into her attitudes and hops. As if this all weren’t deliberate or planned but something quite normal. AM’s dance felt earthbound.

Renavand fresh, plush, youthful, beautiful, and effortlessly mastering the technique (i.e. you felt the technique was all there,  but didn’t start to analyse it). I like to think that Carlotta Grisi exhaled this same kind of naturalness.

ACT II

The detail that may have been too much for Renavand’s body to stand five times in a row: instead of quick relevé passes they were breathtakingly high sissones/mini-gargoullades…as if she was trying to dance as hard as Albrecht in order to save him (Mathieu Ganio,, in top form and  manly and protective and smitten from start to stop with his Giselle. Just like all the rest of us)

Roxane Stojanov’s Myrtha? Powerful. Knows when a musical combination has its punch-line, knows how to be still yet attract the eye. She continues to be one to watch.

July 16

 Myriam Ould-Braham/Germain Louvet

Act I :

A gentle and sad and elegant Florent Melac/Hilarion, clearly in utter admiration of the local beauty. Just a nice guy without much of a back story with Giselle but a guy who dreams about what might have been.

Ould-Braham a bit rebellious in her interactions with mum. This strong-minded choice of Albrecht above all will carry into the Second Act. Myrtha will be a kind of hectoring female authority figure. A new kind of mother. So the stage is set.

Peasant pas had the same lightness as the lead couple. As if the village were filled with sprites and fairies.

Peasant pas: finally a guy with a charisma and clean tours en l’air:  who is this guy with the lovely deep plié? Axel Magliano from the 11th!  This just goes to show you, never give up on a dancer. Like all of us, we can have a day when we are either on or off. Only machines produce perfect copies at every performance.

Bluenn Battistoni light and balanced and effortless. She’s not a machine, just lively and fearless. That spark hasn’t been beaten out of her by management. yet.

O-B’s mad scene: she’s angry-sad, not abstracted, not mad. She challenges Albrecht with continued eye contact.

Both their hearts are broken.

Act II:

This Hilarion, Florent Melac, weighs his steps and thoughts to the rhythm of the church bells. Never really listened to a Hilarion’s mind  before.

Valentine Colasante is one powerful woman. And her Myrtha’s impatience with men kind of inspires me.

O-B and Germain Louvet both so very human. O-B’s “tears” mime so limpid and clear.

GL: all he wants is to catch and hold her one more time. And she also yearns to be caught and cherished.  All of their dance is about trying to hold on to their deep connection. This is no zombie Giselle. When the church bells sang the song of dawn, both of their eyes widened in awe and wonder and yearning at the same time. Both of their eyes arms reached out in perfect harmony and together traced the outline of that horizon to the east where the sun began to rise. It was the end, and they clearly both wanted to go back to the beginning of their story.

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What would you do, if you could change the past?

« Once you have found her, never let her go. Once you have found her, never let her go. »

The quotations are from the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical called
« South Pacific » from 1949.
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Pas de deux at the Paris Opera Ballet : Baby Can YOU drive my car?

The extended apron thrust forward across where the orchestra should have been gave many seats at the Palais Garnier – already not renowned for visibility — scant sightlines unless you were in a last row and could stand up and tilt forward. Were these two “it’s a gala/not a gala” programs worth attending? Yes and/or no.

Evening  Number One: “Nureyev” on Thursday, October 8, at the Palais Garnier.

Nureyev’s re-thinkings of the relationship between male and female dancers always seek to tweak the format of the male partner up and out from glorified crane operator into that of race car driver. But that foot on the gas was always revved up by a strong narrative context.

Nutcracker pas de deux Acts One and Two

Gilbert generously offers everything to a partner and the audience, from her agile eyes through her ever-in-motion and vibrantly tensile body. A street dancer would say “the girlfriend just kills it.” Her boyfriend for this series, Paul Marque, first needs to learn how to live.

At the apex of the Act II pas of Nuts, Nureyev inserts a fiendishly complex and accelerating airborne figure that twice ends in a fish dive, of course timed to heighten a typically overboard Tchaikovsky crescendo. Try to imagine this: the stunt driver is basically trying to keep hold of the wheel of a Lamborghini with a mind of its own that suddenly goes from 0 to 100, has decided to flip while doing a U-turn, and expects to land safe and sound and camera-ready in the branches of that tree just dangling over the cliff.  This must, of course, be meticulously rehearsed even more than usual, as it can become a real hot mess with arms, legs, necks, and tutu all in getting in the way.  But it’s so worth the risk and, even when a couple messes up, this thing can give you “wow” shivers of delight and relief. After “a-one-a-two-a-three,” Marque twice parked Gilbert’s race car as if she were a vintage Trabant. Seriously: the combination became unwieldy and dull.

Marque continues to present everything so carefully and so nicely: he just hasn’t shaken off that “I was the best student in the class “ vibe. But where is the urge to rev up?  Smiling nicely just doesn’t do it, nor does merely getting a partner around from left to right. He needs to work on developing a more authoritative stage presence, or at least a less impersonal one.

 

Cendrillon

A ballerina radiating just as much oomph and chic and and warmth as Dorothée Gilbert, Alice Renavand grooved and spun wheelies just like the glowing Hollywood starlet of Nureyev’s cinematic imagination.  If Renavand “owned” the stage, it was also because she was perfectly in synch with a carefree and confident Florian Magnenet, so in the moment that he managed to make you forget those horrible gold lamé pants.

 

Swan Lake, Act 1

Gently furling his ductile fingers in order to clasp the wrists of the rare bird that continued to astonish him, Audric Bezard also (once again) demonstrated that partnering can be so much more than “just stand around and be ready to lift the ballerina into position, OK?” Here we had what a pas is supposed to be about: a dialogue so intense that it transcends metaphor.

You always feel the synergy between Bezard and Amandine Albisson. Twice she threw herself into the overhead lift that resembles a back-flip caught mid-flight. Bezard knows that this partner never “strikes a pose” but instead fills out the legato, always continuing to extend some part her movements beyond the last drop of a phrase. His choice to keep her in movement up there, her front leg dangerously tilting further and further over by miniscule degrees, transformed this lift – too often a “hoist and hold” more suited to pairs skating – into a poetic and sincere image of utter abandon and trust. The audience held its breath for the right reason.

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Manfred

Bewildered, the audience nevertheless applauded wildly at the end of this agonized and out of context solo. Pretending to themselves they had understood, the audience just went with the flow of the seasoned dancer-actor. Mathias Heymann gave the moment its full dose of “ah me” angst and defied the limits of the little apron stage [these are people used to eating up space the size of a football field].

Pas de deux can mostly easily be pulled out of context and presented as is, since the theme generally gravitates from “we two are now falling in love,” and “yes, we are still in love,” to “hey, guys, welcome to our wedding!” But I have doubts about the point of plunging both actor and audience into an excerpt that lacks a shared back-story. Maybe you could ask Juliet to do the death scene a capella. Who doesn’t know the “why” of that one? But have most of us ever actually read Lord Byron, much less ever heard of this Manfred? The program notes that the hero is about to be reunited by Death [spelled with a capital “D”] with his beloved Astarté. Good to know.

Don Q

Francesco Mura somehow manages to bounce and spring from a tiny unforced plié, as if he just changed his mind about where to go. But sometimes the small preparation serves him less well. Valentine Colasante is now in a happy and confident mind-set, having learned to trust her body. She now relaxes into all the curves with unforced charm and easy wit.

R & J versus Sleeping Beauty’s Act III

In the Balcony Scene with Miriam Ould-Braham, Germain Louvet’s still boyish persona perfectly suited his Juliet’s relaxed and radiant girlishness. But then, when confronted by Léonore Baulac’s  Beauty, Louvet once again began to seem too young and coltish. It must hard make a connection with a ballerina who persists in exteriorizing, in offering up sharply-outlined girliness. You can grin hard, or you can simply smile.  Nothing is at all wrong with Baulac’s steely technique. If she could just trust herself enough to let a little bit of the air out of her tires…She drives fast but never stops to take a look at the landscape.

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As the Beatles once sang a very, very, long time ago:

 « Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you »

Evening Two: “Etoiles.”  Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

We were enticed back to the Palais Garnier for a thing called “Etoiles {Stars] de l’Opera,” where the program consisted of…anything and everything in a very random way.  (Plus a bit of live music!)

Clair de lune by Alistair Marriott (2017) was announced in the program as a nice new thing. Nice live Debussy happened, because the house pianist Elena Bonnay, just like the best of dancers, makes all music fill out an otherwise empty space.

Mathieu Ganio, sporting a very pretty maxi-skort, opened his arms sculpturally, did a few perfect plies à la seconde, and proffered up a few light contractions. At the end, all I could think of was Greta Garbo’s reaction to her first kiss in the film Ninochka: “That was…restful.”  Therefore:

Trois Gnossiennes, by Hans van Manen and way back from 1982, seemed less dated by comparison.  The same plié à la seconde, a few innie contractions, a flexed foot timed to a piano chord for no reason whatever, again. Same old, eh? Oddly, though, van Manen’s pure and pensive duet suited  Ludmila Paglerio and Hugo Marchand as  prettily as Marriott’s had for Ganio. While Satie’s music breathes at the same spaced-out rhythm as Debussy’s, it remains more ticklish. Noodling around in an  absinth-colored but lucid haze, this oddball composer also knew where he was going. I thought of this restrained little pas de deux as perhaps “Balanchine’s Apollo checks out a fourth muse.”  Euterpe would be my choice. But why not Urania?

And why wasn’t a bit of Kylian included in this program? After all, Kylain has historically been vastly more represented in the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire than van Manen will ever be.

The last time I saw Martha Graham’s Lamentation, Miriam Kamionka — parked into a side corridor of the Palais Garnier — was really doing it deep and then doing it over and over again unto exhaustion during  yet another one of those Boris Charmatz events. Before that stunt, maybe I had seen the solo performed here by Fanny Gaida during the ‘90’s. When Sae-Un Park, utterly lacking any connection to her solar plexus, had finished demonstrating how hard it is to pull just one tissue out of a Kleenex box while pretending it matters, the audience around me couldn’t even tell when it was over and waited politely for the lights to go off  and hence applaud. This took 3.5 minutes from start to end, according to the program.

Then came the duet from William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman, another thingy that maybe also had entered into the repertoire around 2017. Again: why this one, when so many juicy Forsythes already belong to us in Paris? At first I did not remember that this particular Forsythe invention was in fact a delicious parody of “Agon.” It took time for Hannah O’Neill to get revved up and to finally start pushing back against Vincent Chaillet. Ah, Vincent Chaillet, forceful, weightier, and much more cheerfully nasty and all-out than I’d seen him for quite a while, relaxed into every combination with wry humor and real groundedness. He kept teasing O’Neill: who is leading, eh? Eh?! Yo! Yow! Get on up, girl!

I think that for many of us, the brilliant Ida Nevasayneva of the Trocks (or another Trock! Peace be with you, gals) kinda killed being ever to watch La Mort du cygne/Dying Swan without desperately wanting to giggle at even the idea of a costume decked with feathers or that inevitable flappy arm stuff. Despite my firm desire to resist, Ludmila Pagliero’s soft, distilled, un-hysterical and deeply dignified interpretation reconciled me to this usually overcooked solo.  No gymnastic rippling arms à la Plisetskaya, no tedious Russian soul à la Ulanova.  Here we finally saw a really quietly sad, therefore gut-wrenching, Lamentation. Pagliero’s approach helped me understand just how carefully Michael Fokine had listened to our human need for the aching sound of a cello [Ophélie Gaillard, yes!] or a viola, or a harp  — a penchant that Saint-Saens had shared with Tchaikovsky. How perfectly – if done simply and wisely by just trusting the steps and the Petipa vibe, as Pagliero did – this mini-epic could offer a much less bombastic ending to Swan Lake.

Suite of Dances brought Ophélie Gaillard’s cello back up downstage for a face to face with Hugo Marchand in one of those “just you and me and the music” escapades that Jerome Robbins had imagined a long time before a “platform” meant anything less than a stage’s wooden floor.  I admit I had preferred the mysterious longing Mathias Heymann had brought to the solo back in 2018 — especially to the largo movement. Tonight, this honestly jolly interpretation, infused with a burst of “why not?” energy, pulled me into Marchand’s space and mindset. Here was a guy up there on stage daring to tease you, me, and oh yes the cellist with equally wry amusement, just as Baryshnikov once had dared.  All those little jaunty summersaults turn out to look even cuter and sillier on a tall guy. The cocky Fancy Free sailor struts in part four were tossed off in just the right way: I am and am so not your alpha male, but if you believe anything I’m sayin’, we’re good to go.

The evening wound down with a homeopathic dose of Romantic frou-frou, as we were forced to watch one of those “We are so in love. Yes, we are still in love” out of context pas de deux, This one was extracted from John Neumeier’s La Dame aux Camélias.

An ardent Mathieu Ganio found himself facing a Laura Hecquet devoted to smoothing down her fluffy costume and stiff hair. When Neumeier’s pas was going all horizontal and swoony, Ganio gamely kept replacing her gently onto her pointes as if she deserved valet parking.  But unlike, say, Anna Karina leaning dangerously out of her car to kiss Belmondo full throttle in Pierrot le Fou, Hecquet simply refused to hoist herself even one millimeter out of her seat for the really big lifts. She was dead weight, and I wanted to scream. Unlike almost any dancer I have ever seen, Hecquet still persists in not helping her co-driver. She insists on being hoisted and hauled around like a barrel. Partnering should never be about driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

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