Archives de Tag: Myriam Kamionka

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.



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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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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Les Balletos d’or 2015-2016

Louis Frémolle par Gavarni. "Les petits mystères de l'Opéra".

Louis Frémolle par Gavarni. « Les petits mystères de l’Opéra ».

L’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur a eu beau faire de la trompette avec son interminable promotion du 14-Juillet, ces derniers jours, chacun n’a eu d’yeux que pour la liste des Balletos d’Or de la saison 2015-2016. Tout le petit milieu des aficionados de la danse s’est pressé devant une petite affichette grise épinglée dans les coulisses des grandes salles de spectacle de France, d’Europe et du monde. Beaucoup d’appelés, peu d’élus : à Covent-Garden, au Bolchoï, à Bastille ou à Garnier, plus d’un a été déçu. Jugez vous-mêmes, voici la liste des prix.


Ministère de la Création franche

Prix Tu nous surprendras toujours: William Forsythe, Blake Works I

Prix Adage agité ex-aequo: Benjamin Millepied & Justin Peck

Prix musical : Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (soirée Bartók/Beethoven/Schönberg)

Prix Service minimum : Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (pour son tiers de Casse-Noisette)

Prix Déjà oublié : Wayne McGregor (Alea Sands)

Prix Tout arrive : Wayne McGregor inspiré dans Obsidian Tear (musique d’Esa-Pekka Salonen)


Ministère de la Loge de Côté

Prix Versatilité : Pablo Legasa (Giselle-Pas des Vendangeurs, Blake Works 1-Put That Away)

Prix Densité : Eléonore Guérineau (Of Any If And)

Prix Ballon de jeunesse (ou Jeunesse du ballon) : Emmanuel Thibault (Mercutio)

Prix Râteau sacré (ou Sacré râteau) : Guillaume Charlot, grand Brahmane dans La Bayadère


Ministère de la Place sans visibilité

 Prix Sur-vitaminé : Valentine Colasante et François Alu (Thème et Variations)

 Prix Balanchine : Sterling Hyltin (tournée du New York City Ballet)

 Prix Pina Bausch: Vincent Cordier (Le Sacre du Printemps)

 Prix Présence scénique (ex-aequo) : Pierre Rétif et Francesco Vantaggio (20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle)

 Prix Papier-peint d’Art : le corps de ballet féminin (La Bayadère)

 Prix Puritain : Dmitri Tcherniakov (scénario de Iolanta/Casse-Noisette)


Ministère de la Ménagerie de scène

Prix sylvestre : Hannah O’Neill (Myrtha)

Prix alpestre : Sara Mearns

Prix céleste : Héloïse Bourdon, pour l’ensemble de sa saison

Prix Bébête en manque de tendresse : Steven McRae (la Créature, Frankenstein ; Royal Ballet)


Ministère de la Natalité galopante

Prix quatuor stylé : Mlles Bourdon et Hurel, MM. Révillion et Lorieux (Variations Goldberg)

Prix Nounours caoutchouc : Brigel Gjoka et Riley Watts (Duo2015, Théâtre des Champs Élysées)

Prix de l’arabesque affolante : Hugo Marchand (Blake Works I-I Hope My Life)

Prix Joli pied : Marion Gautier de Charnacé (20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle)


Ministère de la Collation d’Entracte

Prix Navet: Carlos Acosta (Carmen, Royal Ballet)

Prix Carême: Tannhäuser pour le défilé du Ballet

Prix Étouffe-chrétien : Le Corsaire de l’ENB


Ministère de la Couture et de l’Accessoire

Prix Spirou : Karl Paquette et Karl Lagerfeld (la coiffe groom du Brahms-Schönberg Quartet)

Prix Je veux cette robe : Mary Katrantzou (Entre Chien et Loup)

Prix Jersey poignant : Myriam Kamionka (Lamentations de Graham ; 20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle)

Prix Comment tu t’appelles déjà ? : Pierre-Arthus Allard-Raveau (une compilation)


Ministère de la Retraite qui sonne

Prix N’avait pas lu la description de poste : Benjamin Millepied

Prix Exécution musicale : Giselle par l’orchestre des lauréats du Conservatoire

Prix Encore une année sans danser ou presque : Jérémie Bélingard (un abonné)


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Boucles hostiles

P1010032Les Applaudissements ne se mangent pas (Maguy Marin, 2002). Opéra Garnier, soirée du 27 avril 2016.

À part le rideau multicolore, fait de rubans de plastique encadrant la scène, rien n’est gai dans la pièce de Maguy Marin. La musique de Denis Mariotte, oppressante, évoque tantôt le vrombissement d’un moteur tantôt le vacarme d’une chaîne d’assemblage, et enferme le spectateur dans sa boucle sonore. Les danseurs – quatre filles et quatre garçons – apparaissent ou disparaissent à travers le rideau, traversent la scène en marchant, en courant. Se toisent, s’évitent, s’affrontent.

La tension est palpable. Elle irrigue la gestuelle, les regards, et explose dans les rapports entre les personnes. Dans Les applaudissements ne se mangent pas, le corps est un instrument de combat. Les portés sont hostiles : l’autre est un appui, un moyen de scruter l’horizon de plus haut ; on l’escalade, puis l’on s’en détache sans un regard. Chaque interaction semble empreinte d’hostilité ou de défiance.

On se chiquenaude, on s’attrape par les tempes, on se repousse. Les positions sont interchangeables – tel oppresseur devient oppressé – mais pesamment répétitives. Par moments, un danseur s’effondre, convoquant une image de mort. Un autre vient le porter hors de scène. À de très rares moments – une accolade entre deux danseurs vers la vingtième minute, trois pas de deux au sol vers la quarantième – l’idée de la coopération pointe le bout de son nez. Fausse piste, vain espoir. Au final, l’apaisement ne semble jamais que le sous-produit de l’épuisement.

Je découvre après le spectacle que la pièce, créée en 2002 pour la Biennale de Lyon, qui avait pour thème l’Amérique latine, fait écho à Las venas abiertas de América Latina (1971), d’Eduardo Galeano.  L’arrière-fond politique de l’œuvre s’éclaire, sans chambouler l’impression d’ensemble, car tout dans la chorégraphie parle de suspicion, de domination, bref, de tension dans les relations humaines.

Les applaudissements sont mous, et durent 90 secondes à tout casser. Heureusement qu’on n’en nourrit pas les danseurs, qui paient injustement le prix de l’âpreté du propos.

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Charmatz at the Opéra : “Fate is a foolish thing…Take a chance”*


The evil fairy’s costume from Nureyev’s « Sleeping Beauty, » trapped in a glass case. Her dancer spirit roamed the halls of the Palais Garnier.

20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle. Palais Garnier. September 30th

The public spaces outside the auditorium of the Palais Garnier are designed for circulation, a bit of people-watching, but certainly not for strap-hanging.

I feared getting around Boris Charmatz’s seemingly random collage of dance and dancers would feel like being stuck in the Paris metro. God, another accordionist. You rush to the car behind, but then get your nose crushed against the door. Moments later you find yourself waist-high in a school group. Then, abruptly, it all thins out and you are gawking at two boys rapping and doing back-flips in the aisle. Maybe, with luck, you get to sit.

That’s why I only took one chance on 20 Danseurs pour le XXe siècle as adapted for the Paris Opéra dancers. The Charmatz/Musée de la danse concept sounded borrowed from what has, in the space of twenty years, become a theatrical staple. Actors spread out throughout an a-typical space repeat scenes – fragments of a story – and are gawked at. You use your legs to trace a path, choose how long you want to stand in one doorway, and worry about what’s going on elsewhere. Chances are you will construct a narrative that makes sense to you, or not. I find this genre as annoying as where — just when you start to get into the novel you are eaves-reading – your seatmate hops off at her stop.

I was so wrong. Instead of a half-overheard conversation in a noisy train, here we were treated to an anthology of coherent one-page short stories. It was the hop-on-hop-off tour bus: only a three-day ticket lets you get to enough of the sights. But even one day in Paris is definitely worth the trip.

If, as Fred Astaire’s Guy Holden says, “chance is the fool’s name for fate,”* somehow I was fated (pushed and pulled?) to stopping off at those stations that housed tiny but complete narratives of sorrow. (A Balletonaut has told me I missed much happy, even foolish, fun. Next time, I’m travelling with him).

“How do you do? I am delightful”*

Perhaps the oddest thing for both conductor and passengers is finding themselves face to face. When the lights are out in a theater, the auditorium looks like a deep dark tunnel from the stage…not like these hundreds of beady eyes now within touching distance. And even we were uneasy: one wall had been broken down, but where to put eye contact? We did what we usually do at the end of each snippet: applauded and moved on. Very few dared to actually approach and speak to the ferociously focused dancers. Thank god joining in some kind of conga-line was not part of the plan. Instead:

I stumbled across Stephanie Romberg, loose and intense, unleashing all of Carabosse’s furious curse within the tiny rotunda of the “Salon du soleil.” As in each case here: no set, no costume. It felt almost obscene to be peeping at a body sculpting such purely distilled rage. Think: the crazy lady, with a whiff of having once been a grande dame, howling to herself while dangerously near the edge of the subway platform.

Myriam Kamionka’s luminous face and warm and welcoming persona then drew me over into a crowded curving corridor. Casually seated on a prop bench in front of a loge door, she suddenly disappeared into the folds of Martha Graham’s Lamentations. I wound up experiencing this dance from total stage left. Pressed between tall people, my cheek crushed against the frilly jabot of Servandoni’s marble bust, I felt like someone pretending not to be looking directly at the person collapsed on the station floor. And then I couldn’t stop staring. You could almost feel the air thicken as Kamionka drew us into her condensation of despair. Even the kiddies, just a few feet away, sat silent and wide-eyed and utterly motionless. As they remained for the next story: a savagely wounded swan in pointes and stretch jeans dying, magnificently.

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In search of air to clear my head I wound up behind two visions of Stravinsky’s Sacre. The view from the wrong end of the station, as it were, was so cool: this is the corps’ or the stagehands’ view!

In Pina Bausch’s version, Francesco Vantaggio pushed against the limits of the long and narrow Galerie du Glacier like a rocking runaway train. His muscular, dense, weighted, rounded and fully connected movement projected deep power, unloosed from the earth. When he repeated that typical Pina shape that’s kind of a G-clef – arms as if an “s” fell on its side (rather like an exploded 4th), body tilted off legs in passé en pliant – I thought, “man, Paul Taylor’s still alive. Get on the subway and go barge into his studio…now!” Yet when it was over, as he moved away and sat on the floor to the side to decompress and I was trying to catch my own breath back…I feared making eye-contact. (Forget about, like, just walking over and saying “Hi, loved it, man.” You don’t do that in Paris, neither above the ground nor underneath it).

Marion Gautier de Charnacé. Nijinsky's Rite of Spring

Marion Gautier de Charnacé possessed by Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring

Marion Gautier de Charnacé, on the outdoors terrace, then made the honking horns and sirens accompanying “The Chosen One’s” dance of death seem like part of the score. All our futile rushing about each day was rendered positively meaningless by the urgency of Nijinsky’s no-way-out vortex of relentless trembles and painful unending bounces. Even if she was wearing thick sneakers, I since have been worrying about this lovely light-boned girl repeatedly pounding her feet on a crushed stone surface over thirteen days. Make-believe sacrifice, yes. Shin-splints, no.

Finally I cast my eyes down from an avant-foyer balcony to spy upon Petroushka’s bitter lament of love and loss, as Samuel Murez – making it look as if his limbs were really attached by galvanized wires — let the great solo unfold on the Grand Escalier’s boxy turnabout. A moment of grace arrived. Two little girls framed within the opening to the orchestra level behind him could not resist trying to mirror his every movement. Not for us, but for themselves. As if they really believed he was a life-size puppet and were trying to invite him home to play. The barrier between audience and performer, between real and unreal, the prosaic and the magical, had finally given way. Too soon, it was all over. Time to wave goodbye.


Beyond the rainbow: Samuel Murez conjures Petroushkins.

“Chances are that fate is foolish.”*

Back on the metro the next morning, I got a seat and quietly began to concentrate on my thoughts. But then at the next station that woman got on who still gives us no choice but to endure three stops’ worth of “Besame mucho” whether we want it or not.

* Quotes are from Fred and Ginger’s 1934 The Gay Divorcée, especially as mangled by Erik Rhodes’s enchanting “Alberto Tonnetti”

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