Archives de Tag: Soirée Forsythe/Brown

When flights of angels sing. Forsythe and Brown for the Paris Opera Ballet.

photo (1)Tuesday, December 11

Has he attained the seventh degree of concentration? (G.B. Shaw, Heartbreak House, Act 1)

On Tuesday night, I think the Paris Opera’s dancers did.

I start with the second piece, O Zlozony/O Composite physically composed by Trisha Brown. As I expected, those around me alternated between slumping back in their seats and keening forward. The audience dances a connect/disconnect on their part too! Quite often, those sitting react more to the music than to the dance. But this once, I leant forward all the way through because of the way the music was danced to.

I somehow had felt left out in the cold by the first cast I saw on Dec. 6: Aurelie Dupont, Nicolas LeRiche, and Jéremie Bélingard. Perhaps this trio intended to create a mood which could only emphasize my winter? But as I sat there in the warm dark of the Palais Garnier my only thought proved to be about how I would soon have to head out again into a cold and solitary early winter’s night. The trio looked as pretty and as icy and as disconnected as snowflakes. I could swear I saw snow abstractly represented on the backdrop.

But on Tuesday night suddenly van Gogh’s Starry Night seemed to have enveloped the back of the stage as another almost-new cast orbited in response to a sheltering sky and lifted me up and away from this cold world. Straight-faced – as modern/contemporary demands — but not deadpan. Lost in their own thoughts, this trio melted the snow without having thrown any obvious flames in that direction. Suddenly, I didn’t give a flying fuck about the soundtrack’s irritating and repetitive “brrrd.”

1) Aurélien Houette’s subtly menacing brawn added a wryly poetic mystery to the weird aura that Milosz’s poem already fully embraces. He played against the piece’s potentially glacial prettiness. He embodied a man, a man who moves as he wishes, a man of slowly burning fires. A man with issues and suppressed stories to tell.
2) Jeremie Bélingard, who seemed somehow an outsider filled with an unnecessary fire or hope for warmth when dancing with Dupont and LeRiche here found his place. I know, I know, narrative has been out of fashion in modern dance since, like, forever. So Bélingard keeps his marvelously expressive face quite still, as the task requires. Yet the way he moved and physically reacted to both of his willing partners implied that he certainly had invented his own internal monologue. One which both partners – equally concentrated on their own ideas – somehow understood this time around. His every step seemed to stem from some deep logic, a driving force. He wanted to say something to his partners, to us. And the audience heard him.
3) Muriel Zusperreguy made herself as weightless as a feather in these two men’s calibrated arms. Her unselfconscious femininity has already pleased me many times. The way she allowed the trio to turn her into a graceful yet unpredictable Calder mobile made me think “Aha, New York.” She, too (and how do you do that through a relevé?) let us out front know that she might just have found what she’d spent a lifetime looking for: someone(s) she can trust with her life.

This time, instead of random snowflakes, I found myself fascinated by the stately revolutions of three planets: Houette’s Mars, Bélingard’s Mercury, and Zusperreguy’s…Venus.

Goddesses as well could be found in the Forsythe pieces:  Amandine Albisson — whose superbly proud and juicy Venus had made last season’s Ratmansky Psyché watchable — Sabine Mallem and Marie-Agnes Gillot pulled the audience into their orbit by offering up their wide and true port de bras which made them all resemble proud eagles in flight.  Particularly Eleonora Abbagnato (too rarely seen in Paris as of late) seduced the audience with her rallentando swishes of arms fore and aft in Woundwork. When in focus, Abbagnato always proves as energetic and poignant as anyone’s choreography encourages dancers to dare to be.

Perhaps because Zusperreguy, Houette, Bélingard had reminded me to look and listen and trust my feelings I suddenly, thirteen years after the premiere of Pas./Parts, realized why it has always made me feel at home. During Tuesday’s performance, the music, and the dances, and especially the dancers, sent me back to New York during the long summers of years long gone by. A walk on the West Side in the 1970’s would have taken you to streets overcrowded by kids playing jacks or hopscotch or fighting the way only thirteen-year olds know how to mess up. Watching Pas./Parts, I started to hear not only bubble-gum popping, but to realize that I was hearing snippets of all those kinds of music that once had blared from open tenement windows – yes, the cha-cha, but also a celestial albeit random mix of boogie-woogie, polkas, rock, bits of classical…This ballet, even if from 1999, turns every dancer on stage into a potential John Travolta. The entire cast that night, through its youthful and reckless energy, asked us to play jacks with them. I loved them all, but particularly appreciated the live-wire energy of the very young Emilie Hasboun. Like every one the school produces, of course she has spectacularly assured technique. But not all of them seem to attract the eye, to refract the light, and to glow like a starry night. She does.

For me, all the dancers this evening illustrated two lines from a poem so rarely considered nowadays (perhaps because, um, it’s a bit overheated) Longfellow’s Evangeline: Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven /Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of angels.


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To pointe or not to pointe… Is that the question?


What a piece of work is a man! […] how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! (Hamlet, Act II, scene 2)

These four pieces were created on the bodies of dancers in the Paris Opera Ballet yet are these “ballets?” Does ballet mean: women wearing toe shoes? Fluffy tutus? Men in tights? Perennial productions of The Nutcracker? Are these four « modern » either, though? The term proves equally slippery, and as rich with clichés. Does modern mean anything anymore when we still automatically call Picasso’s work “modern” and he has been dead since 1973?

Invented in the US and Germany about a 100 years ago, modern dance defined itself against the sissified genre of ballet: rejecting any footwear and seeking a more natural way of moving, these pioneers developed a grounded, earthy, expressive form. Then in the 1960’s, a new generation of “post-modernists” went as far as one could go to eliminate, if not movement, then “dance” from their dances.

The term used much today, “Contemporary,” means reacting to and interacting with current trends in society and art. As in: what “modern” used to mean. [This month’s Dance Magazine interrogation of current choreographers on this subject inspired my musings).

The “modern contemporary ballets” we witness tonight try to defy categorization. By indirections find directions out, as Shakespeare counsels us (Hamlet Act II, scene 1).

By now almost all dance makers have learned to appreciate the way classically-trained ballet dancers understand the use of the body and its weight and its center and its energy. And they love to take chances. If anyone can look good – both ethereal and earthy — while intentionally falling off their shoes, the Paris Opera’s dancers can.

In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987)

Choreography by William Forsythe; Music by Thom Willems. (28 minutes)

The mysterious title refers to just where Forsythe blithely told the Opéra’s management to put those golden cherries (so that’s what’s dangling up there!) when told he had no budget for a set.

But the music will probably bother you more than the title. The composer constructed a “Theme and Variations” out of the sound of a locomotive crashing into a train, along with electronic distortions of his own voice. 25 years on, the opening chord still…no, I won’t tell you, just sneak a look at your neighbor when the lights first blast on…I own a copy of the recording, and play it when I need something violent to get me out of a bad mood. Smashing things – or at least bouncing around full force– can prove quite cathartic, if you stick with it.

Forsythe likes the idea that any part of the body – from your big toe to your little finger — can provide the intitial impulse for a violent cascade of movement to follow. He knows that tension, distortions, weird changes in speed, all challenges can lead us to dance in ways we never thought of before. This ballet (it has girls in toe shoes, guys in tights, no?) breaks movement down in order to let the dancers exult in demonstrating how they have chosen reconstruct it.

The laws of gravity need not apply. You can start from any point or any “pointe,” in order to test the limits of your strength and balance.

For me this ballet illustrates a portion of Hamlet that I’ve always found both perfect and absurd: … there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. (Act V, scene 2).

The dancers are ready.


O Zlozony/O Composite (2004)

Choreography byTrisha Brown;Music by Laurie Anderson.(25 minutes)

Trisha Brown belongs to an earlier generation (born in 1936 vs. Forsythe’s 1949), yet her imagination fed Forsythe’s just as her own continues to grow and evolve. A founder of the post-modern and minimalist wave one could encounter downtown at Manhattan’s Judson Church during the ‘60’s, her early works often used the music of complete silence.

With the still inventive and chic violinist Laurie Anderson (do a search of ‘O Superman’ from 1981), Brown chanced upon a poem by Czeslaw Milosz. Anderson recorded a Polish actress reading this ode to a bird and began to tweak it in her own way. Each musical section is exactly two minutes long. Brown, always willing to attempt a new way of looking at things, broke this poem down in her own manner too: a trio set against a starlit sky, against which they evolve, revolve, return, float, and come to rest.

The opening section illustrates (distills? cracks open?) the image of a branch still swinging from the heavy weight of a bird that rocked back and forth over great seas of air.

You may get distracted when the composer gets to the poet’s bird sounds: “pta, pteron, fvgls, brd.” Or by trying to figure out how dancers supposedly (according to the program) are shaping letters – including inexistent ones – of the alphabet as they go along.

The woman in this triangle sometimes wears pointe shoes. Could that mean something? I find myself again in Hamlet: see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel? (Act 3, scene 2) i.e. just let it go…and try not to think too much.

Tonight you will either die of boredom or experience a kind of out of body experience if you surrender to the dancers’ intense concentration and quiet commitment to revolving within outer dimensions of space and sound.

INTERMISSION (20 minutes)

Woundwork 1 (1999)

Choreography by William Forsythe; Music by Thom Willems. (15 minutes)

Wound as in “winding,” not “harming.” For two couples.

Growing up on Long Island in the 1960’s, Forsythe thought that dance meant the twist (and he was high school dervish) and music meant rock and roll. He discovered classical ballet in college, along with the Derrida, Foucault, Barthes…

The music stems from the recording of three clarinets, deconstructed and unraveled.

The piece could be called “roll and reroll.” Or “ twist and detwist.” While at first the two duets seem not to belong to the same place, the more you look the more you realize that one couple’s to- and-fro gets echoed, and mixed up, by the other’s.

Perhaps Hamlet fits these dancers too: though I am native here/and to the manner born – it is a custom/ more honored in the breach than the observance. (Act 1, Scene 4). By breaking some genteel rules of ballet, Forsythe frees the Parisian dancers to stylishly outdo themselves. If you are to the manner trained, is « too elegant »even possible?


Pas./Parts (1999)

Choreography by William Forsythe; Music by Thom Willems. (35 minutes)

One of the touchstones of modern French literature, Raymond Queneau’s Exercises de style, comprises 99 retellings – in 99 different literary styles – of the same dull anecdote about standing around waiting for a bus. After a while, the absurdity starts to cheer you up.

Here we only experience 20 sequences (parts) put out by 15 dancers who each latch onto micro-segments of a dance phrase (a step, a pas, let’s say “the letter ‘E’”) as they dance into and around each other. After a while, even Hamlet would have started to smile. You won’t believe your ears when Willems’s music devolves into a deliciously perverse version of the cha-cha.

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough-hew them how we will. (Act V, scene 2).

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Forsythe-Brown : sur orbite

P1010032Soirée du 6 décembre 2012 : programme Forsythe-Brown

Revoir In the Middle… Il a fallu passer par le choc des cinq premières minutes ; il a fallu oublier le passé : Laurent Hilaire sculptural, Manuel Legris élastique, les pieds incroyablement ductiles d’Isabelle Guerin ou encore la présence menaçante et curieusement athlétique d’Elisabeth Platel. Avec ses nouveaux interprètes, le ballet a perdu cette fascinante précision chirurgicale de la création. Mais y a-t-il perdu pour autant ? Pas si sûr. L’énergie brute dégagée par cette distribution de jeunes artistes a fini par m’entraîner sur les mêmes pentes où je m’étais senti entraîné à l’orée des années 90 aussi bien par les danseurs de l’Opéra que par le ballet de Francfort. Les garçons, moins stylés que leurs devanciers, approchent les filles comme des prédateurs. Mais ils trouvent du répondant. Pas effrayées, celles-ci leur donnent la réplique avec un plaisir jubilatoire. Tous les risques sont pris. Caroline Robert distord ses lignes jusqu’à la rupture ; Simon Valastro fait feu des quatre fers, plus ramassé et plus nerveux que n’était Legris mais tout aussi palpitant ; Audric Bezard (dans le rôle d’Hilaire) est un danseur noble qui veut jouer au marlou et remuer des biscottos. Il attend son grand moment, le tango acrobatique et tauromachique avec Amandine Albisson qui semble prête à inventer le battement à 360° quand, altière et minérale, Sabrina Mallem décide que c’en est assez et achève nos plaisirs d’un simple port de bras. Cet In The Middle 2012 est plus terre à terre sans doute mais plus charnel aussi. L’essentiel est conservé : l’enivrante apologie de la prise de risque, « the vertiginous thrill of inexactitude ».

Pour se remettre, on nous donne vingt-cinq minutes. Non pas vingt-cinq minutes d’entracte mais vingt-cinq minutes d’intermède. Dans O Zlozony/O Composite, sous un ciel étoilé, un trio de danseurs développe les entrelacs chorégraphiques de Trisha Brown. Les mouvements sont coulés jusque dans les poses les plus contorsionnées, les bras sont en sempiternel mouvement. La chorégraphe aspire vraisemblablement à faire ressembler les interprètes à une constellation évoluant dans l’univers. Mais le ballet n’a pas suscité plus d’émoi chez moi qu’il ne l’avait fait huit ans auparavant. Est-ce cette chorégraphie cotonneuse, ou bien ces passages avec la danseuse sur pointe (Aurélie Dupont) égrenant avec l’aide de ses partenaires (Nicolas Le Riche et Jérémie Bélingard) des combinaisons fort conventionnelles ou encore la musique de Laurie Anderson, tout en susurrements, qui évoque ces disques de musique relaxante qu’on trouve dans une boutique « nature et environnement » ? Peut-être est-ce les trois à la fois… O Zlozony / O Composite pourrait aussi bien être une tisane bio relaxante. Ça calme certes, mais ça n’a pas bon goût.

Dans Woundwork1, la musique de Tom Willems ne susurre pas, elle chuinte plaintivement. Les étoiles, décor du ballet précédent, semblent s’être déposées sur les costumes crème des danseuses ; les danseurs assumant les couleurs du ciel. Et on se perd dans la constellation mouvante formée par Agnès Letestu et d’Hervé Moreau. Lignes étirées vers l’infini, imbrications furtives toujours miraculeusement déjouées, ce couple nous attire et nous exclut à la fois par son absolue cohésion. Autour d’eux, Isabelle Ciaravola et Nicolas Le Riche semblent être ravalés au rang de satellite.

Pas./Parts finit de nous mettre sur orbite. L’abondance presque étourdissante de solistes, l’absence de propos clairement défini, les changements erratiques d’ambiances musicales (du gamelan au cha cha), les couleurs tranchées des costumes, tout ce qui pourrait être défaut dans ce ballet concorde en un tout roboratif. Dans ce ballet, les filles sont des lianes faites de quelque matériau industriel (Laurène Lévy semble avoir une colonne vertébrale ondulante, Marie-Agnès Gillot retrouve une légèreté dont elle semblait avoir oublié l’existence et Caroline Bance exulte). Les garçons gesticulent autour d’elles à la manière de feu-follets (Christophe Duquenne a des bras infinis et ondulants, Sébastien Bertaud ne touche pas le sol tandis qu’Aurélien Houette est tout en densité). On soutient sa danseuse par la pliure du coude ou par une hanche décalée. L’équilibre est aussi inattendu que sa soudaine perte. Pourquoi toute cette maestria ?

Mais faisons fi du sens et de la signification. Car Forsythe a sans doute créé ici son « Études », sa somme du ballet post-moderne ; un précieux cadeau dont les danseurs du ballet de l’Opéra se sont montrés les dignes dépositaires.

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Classé dans Retours de la Grande boutique

In The Middle Somewhat Elevated; 21’53 »

Revoir in The Middle…

C’est toujours avec une certaine émotion que je me dis cette phrase incantatoire. Je devrais dire plutôt « redécouvrir In the Middle » car une œuvre de Forsythe échappe forcément à la mémoire. Lorsqu’on est transporté par l’œuvre du chorégraphe, on ressort du théâtre avec des fourmis dans les jambes, une bouillie d’images qui se catapultent dans la tête et … on oublie. On oublie les pas, on ne se souvient que de l’énergie qu’ils nous ont insufflée même paisiblement assis (du moins le croyait-on) dans un fauteuil de théâtre. A quoi devons-nous cela ? Sans doute à la technique de travail du chorégraphe qui travaille avec des « loops » ou « boucles », des combinaisons chorégraphiques susceptibles d’être ouvertes à n’importe quel endroit et refermées de même, ce qui donne aux ballets du maître de Francfort cet aspect implacablement déstructuré. Les départs du mouvement qui ne viennent plus d’un quelconque centre de gravité mais de différentes parties du corps ajoutent à la perte de repères et à l’impression d’absolue liberté.

Mais d’In The Middle Somewhat Elevated, on ne connait le plus souvent qu’un solo et un pas de deux filmés jadis par André Labarthe sur Sylvie Guillem et Laurent Hilaire. Ces deux extraits qui interviennent respectivement à 8mn27 et 21mn53 dans un ballet de 25 minutes (on notera ici l’influence de Merce Cunningham), ne se conçoivent vraiment que dans leur environnement, au milieu de ces corps-lianes qui entrent sur scène comme bon leur semble, initient des ébauches de mouvement ou des débauches de virtuosité puis semblent changer d’avis en chemin et déserter l’espace.

Le pas de deux est donc la concrétisation des tensions présentes sur le plateau et dans la partition construite de manière très classique par Tom Willems avec un thème qui va et vient, s’élude ou se met en avant jusqu’au crescendo final. Il est également un moment de -relative- harmonie dans un monde déconstruit.

Ici privé de ses éclairages à contre-jour pour les besoins d’un plateau de télé, il s’offre d’une manière encore plus crue. On voit la volonté du réalisateur de prendre en compte l’intégralité du ballet. Les regards échangés par Guillem et Hilaire font penser à l’ouverture du ballet quand la lumière éclate en même temps que le premier tonnerre de rame de métro. Le ballet semble s’achever sur un Tango argentin futuriste qui, à l’image du thème principal de la partition, fait de subreptices mais néanmoins significatives apparitions (ici entre 18 et 28’’ ou encore entre 50 et 55’’) au milieu d’une avalanche de dérapages contrôlés. Mlle Guillem et Laurent Hilaire excellent dans ce domaine (il faut regarder les tours attitude décalés à l’extrême à 1’35’’ ou encore carrément tombés à 1’47’’).

Ce qui fait la grandeur de ce ballet, c’est qu’au milieu de cette apparente cacophonie, un sentiment d’accord et d’harmonie éclot, comme une plante à fleur entre deux pierres disjointes. Le « cavalier » qui semblait jusqu’ici avoir des difficultés à dompter sa partenaire s’accorde avec elle après qu’elle est tombée comme une planche face à lui (2’38’’). Un ralenti presque cinématographique commence alors (2’45’’ à la fin)… Le début de l’harmonie?

Dans le documentaire de Labarthe comme dans ce plateau télé, la chute finale est coupée.

Mais au fait, saviez-vous que le pas de deux d’In The Middle était en fait un pas de trois ?

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