Archives de Tag: Trocks

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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Avé Cranko : Tous les chemins mènent à Stuttgart

P1090927Alles Cranko! Ballet de Stuttgart. Représentations du dimanche 14 juin, matinée et soirée.

A Stuttgart, on célèbre le chorégraphe-phare de la compagnie, John Cranko, décédé en 1973. Pour ce Alles Cranko, deux de nos Balletonautes ne partaient pas précisément du même point; non parce qu’ils n’écrivaient pas dans la même langue – cela a-t-il de l’importance? Ayant créé leur propre petite Pentecôte, ils rédigent dans le même esprit – mais parce que Cléopold cherchait la Terre promise tandis que Fenella était à la recherche d’un Paradis perdu. Que nous disent en deux langues – mais qui croit avec ferveur au ballet comprendra l’une et l’autre – nos pilgrims de Stuttgart?

Konzert für Flöte und Harfe Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Elisa Badenes, Alexander Jones, Friedemann Vogel, Alicia Amatriain, Ensemble

Konzert für Flöte und Harfe
danseurs: Elisa Badenes, Alexander Jones, Friedemann Vogel, Alicia Amatriain, et le corps de ballet. Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

 

Cléopold : Cranko, l’inconnu.

John Cranko est un célèbre inconnu chez nous. L’Opéra de Paris, comme n’importe quelle compagnie de ballet de la planète, possède son Onéguine depuis une dizaine d’années. Elle a eu, bien subrepticement, son Roméo et Juliette. Monté à grand frais en avril 1983, dix ans après la mort prématurée du chorégraphe, pour huit représentations (Marcia Haydée – créatrice de cette version – était venue danser le rôle de Juliette avec Charles Jude et Noëlla Pontois l’interprétait avec Mickaël Denard), il fut remplacé sans ménagement, dès 1984, car Rudolf Noureev voulait imposer sa propre vision. En 1955, John Cranko, alors chorégraphe au Sadler’s Wells, avait même créé sur Yvette Chauviré et Michel Renault « La Belle Hélène », musique d’Offenbach, charmants décors et costumes de Vertès. Le ballet avait, semble-t-il, été bien reçu et Chauviré y avait révélé des dons comiques insoupçonnés. Mais là encore, il n’y eut pas de reprise et la chorégraphie est certainement perdue.

Dans l’histoire récente, les Parisiens n’ont guère eu l’occasion d’associer Cranko à autre chose qu’au ballet d’action. En 1991, Marcia Haydée présentait Onegin sur la scène du Palais Garnier. En 2007, la compagnie, très remaniée sous la direction de Reid Anderson revint avec l’excellente « Mégère apprivoisée » (1969).

Deux œuvres de jeunesse de Cranko ont été récemment rééditées dans un DVD, « Pineapple Poll » (1951) et « The Lady and the Fool » avec l’exquise Beriosova (1954) ; là encore, des ballets narratifs.

En cela, le programme « Alles Cranko ! » était sous le signe de la découverte et de la nouveauté. Il n’est guère aisé de rendre compte de quelque chose d’inhabituel, surtout quand à la découverte de la chorégraphie s’ajoute celle d’une compagnie qui a nécessairement changé en huit ans. Tout se brouille en un fouillis d’émotions, d’atmosphères et de couleurs en partie crées par la danse et ses interprètes, en partie par les costumes. Alors quid de Cranko « l’abstrait » ?

Simplicité … Enfance de l’art… On aimerait pouvoir utiliser ces termes mais on en est dissuadé par l’extrême technicité des pièces présentées. Les solos d’hommes débutent souvent par des sortes de manifestes pyrotechniques avec doubles tours en l’air et multiples pirouettes avant de s’apaiser pour offrir aux interprètes l’occasion de développer leur lyrisme. C’est le cas pour le «Konzert Für Flöte und Harfe», un surprenant « ballet blanc pour hommes » où douze gaillards en pourpoint blanc s’offrent en écrin à deux danseuses solistes. Les garçons ont presque tous une chance de se détacher du groupe, soit à l’occasion d’un pas de deux avec les solistes féminines, Alicia Amatriain et Elisa Badenes – car si Friedemann Vogel et Alexander Jones sont leur partenaire en titre, les demoiselles folâtrent avec qui bon leur semble – soit dans une compétition amicale avec un membre du groupe. Arman Zazyan et Jesse Fraser endossent ainsi les parties de la harpe et de la flute, sorte de Moyna et Zuylma de cette Giselle masculine. Lorsqu’un garçon retourne dans le corps de ballet après un solo, il peut occasionnellement jouer des coudes pour se replacer dans la ligne. L’humour ou la tendresse ne sont jamais loin dans les pièces sans argument de Cranko. On regrette cependant un peu que le premier soit tellement distillé dans Für Flöte und Harfe.

Le registre de la tendresse est en revanche parfaitement équilibré dans «Aus Holbergs Zeit», chorégraphié sur le 1er, le 4ème et le 5ème mouvement de la suite de Grieg, un ballet-Pas de deux en forme de badinage chorégraphique. On retrouve dans ce pas de deux « abstrait » tout ce qui fait la force des duos d’Onegin : des portés acrobatiques, des poses inattendues (celle de la fin de l’adage ou la fille termine en cambré, posée sur l’épaule de son partenaire agenouillé), la présence en filigrane de la danse de caractère qui offre d’ailleurs au ballet sa conclusion en forme de charmant pied de nez. La pièce semble avoir été écrite pour Daniel Camargo et Elisa Badenes alors qu’en matinée, ils effectuaient tous deux leur début. Lui, a une plastique parfaite mais pas seulement. C’est un « grand » qui a la vélocité d’un petit gabarit ; et lorsqu’il est immobile, il dégage une sorte d’aura lyrique. Elle est une jeune et jolie ballerine avec un travail de pointe époustouflant qui lui donne l’apparence d’être montée sur coussins d’air.

Aus Holbergs Zeit Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Elisa Badenes, Daniel Camargo

Aus Holbergs Zeit
Elisa Badenes, Daniel Camargo Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

La qualité des solistes emporte en général l’adhésion même lorsqu’une pièce laisse plus perplexe. «Opus 1», sur la Passacaille pour orchestre, op.1 de Webern n’est pourtant pas une pièce faible, bien au contraire. Elle s’ouvre sur l’image saisissante de douze danseurs couchés au sol en formation d’étoile servant de piédestal à un soliste, presque nu, recroquevillé en position fœtale. Les six garçons le portent à bout de bras et le manipulent pour le mettre en état d’apesanteur. On ne sait pas trop ce qu’ils figurent. À un moment, ils forment une chaîne le long de laquelle chacun des nouveaux membres vient s’agréger en glissant le long de la ligne de ses camarades et se raccrochant à eux par une couronne en forme de maillon. On pense à des chaines moléculaires. Jason Reilly, le corps musculeux, presque trapu avant qu’il ne commence à danser allonge alors ses lignes et bondit parmi les vagues successives du corps de ballet. Au milieu de cet espace étrange et vaguement inquiétant, Reilly rencontre Alicia Amatriain, ses longues lignes et son travail de pointe moelleux propres à magnifier toutes les rencontres lyriques, qu’elles aient lieu dans un ballet d’action (on se souvient de sa Tatiana à Paris la saison dernière) ou ici dans un ballet abscons qui, curieusement, à l’air d’une partie détachée de son tout.

Opus 1 Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Alicia Amatriain, Jason Reilly

Opus 1
Alicia Amatriain, Jason Reilly Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

Mais de tous les ballets présentés, celui qui résiste le plus à la description est sans doute pour moi « Initialen R.B.M.E », créé par Cranko en 1972 pour son quatuor fétiche de danseurs, Richard (Cragun), Birgit (Keil), Marcia (Haydée) et Egon (Madsen) entourés d’une importante troupe de danseurs. Ce « ballet pour quatre amis » est de structure complexe. Cranko dédie un mouvement à chaque danseur mais les trois autres ne sont jamais loin, à l’image des scènes d’ouverture et de fermeture où le garçon du premier mouvement est entouré par les trois autres dédicataires. Le problème – mais en est-ce un, vraiment ? – c’est que ces amis ne sont pas encore les nôtres comme ce fut sans doute le cas avec les créateurs, immédiatement identifiables par leur public d’alors. Ici, on reconnaît aisément le talentueux et sculptural Daniel Camargo, qui bénéficie au premier mouvement d’une sortie spectaculaire, partant en vrille dans la coulisse côté jardin, ou encore Arman Zazyan, dans un mouvement à la batterie ciselée, car ils avaient déjà dansé précédemment. En revanche, dans le troisième mouvement, celui originellement créé pour Haydée, on découvre la brune et délicate Myriam Simon. Mais son partenaire n’est autre que Friedemann Vogel qui impressionne par la noblesse de ses ports de bras. L’équilibre du ballet n’en est-il pas bouleversé ? Même chose dans le deuxième mouvement. Notre attention est attirée par la danse moelleuse de Hyo-Jung Kang. C’est pourtant Anna Osadcenko qui est en charge de la partition de Birgit Keil. Mais pour perdu qu’on soit, on peut se laisser dériver au gré du concerto de Brahms et surtout des vagues successives et inattendues du corps de ballet masculin et féminin paré des mêmes couleurs que le rideau de scène « tachiste » imaginé par Jürgen Rose. À un moment, dans le premier mouvement, huit garçons évoluent en ellipse au centre de la scène, des lignes de filles traversent alors l’espace en lignes si droites qu’elles en paraissent coupantes. Ce jeu d’oppositions semble ainsi animer la peinture d’une vie propre, comme si un enfant s’était amusé à faire tomber des gouttes de gouache dans un verre d’eau et perturbait volontairement avec un pinceau l’expansion des cercles de couleur.

Quid de Cranko chorégraphe « abstrait » ? Disparu prématurément en 1973, le chorégraphe appartient certes à son époque – Konzert Für Flöte und Harfe, 1966, utilise des portés décalés presque lifariens et Opus 1 a un petit air de famille avec les grands messes de Béjart. Mais ses ballets ne sont pas datés. Le mouvement, la fantaisie et la musicalité ne se démodent jamais.

Un exemple qui est trop rarement suivi par les faiseurs de pas qui monopolisent actuellement les scènes du ballet mondialisé.

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P1090939

Fenella: Stuttgarter Ballett, Psalms to Life

“Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives sublime,/And, departing, leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time.”

Your body is your instrument. You are a flute. When the sound fades, the sight of you is lost. You live in someone’s memory. But when everyone who has ever seen you dance that day is dead, what remains? That is every dancer’s tragedy. But if your shape, once carved into the air, gets inhabited by another, that’s way cool. Every Giselle makes Grisi rise up out of the grave, every James tickles either Mazilier’s toes or Bournonville himself, and every time you try to make those damn fouéttés come out perfect you must hear Legnani’s encouraging giggles rise up out of the floor.

“Let us, then, be up and doing/With a heart for any fate/ Still achieving, still pursuing/Learn to labor and to work.”

Too often, we mindlessly applaud the “abstract.” We kowtow to a dance-maker but not enough to the next dancers who must make it come alive. We increasingly consider ballet as a tarted-up floor-mat exercise or a version of figure skating with better music. Forget “six o’clock,” we have become blasé to “ten past six.” But is that what dancing should be about? All dancers have forever possessed astonishing plasticity, but god spare me yet another photo-shopped 10 out of 10 template as a definition of what dance is about.

Yet some abstract ballets live on and manage to both celebrate and tame these extravagant gymnastic abilities in order to achieve a greater goal: that of expression. John Cranko’s sort of abstract “Initals RBME,” I am glad to report, remains one of them.

P1090942There was something in the air in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s, when choreographers offered their dancers little gems, seemingly abstract, but so personal that each step seemed to have been chiseled by an adoring Pygmalion in response to a plethora of statues already able to breathe on their own. “Dances at a Gathering.” “Jewels.” I can’t see them without conjuring up the original casts. Yet these generous ballets allow new casts – none of who by this generation could have ever known their respective “Masters” – to give new gifts to those of us still sitting here, passionately, in the dark .

Bien sûr, I still believe that for “Dances” only Edward Villella could have forced Robbins to find that “Boy in Brown” who lived inside of both of them. But what allows me to continue to delight in “Dances at a Gathering” – almost too much so — is that I can easily convince myself to forget which dancers originally painted what colors and let new movers just wash over me. Pink? Blue? Who? Which year, what company? Even the gulls of the Trocks can make my day when they don their skirts of chiffon and Chopin it.

So there I was, in Stuttgart for the first time in my life, terrified. I was about to confront a ballet –twice in a row with a cast of dancers I didn’t know – which I had adored at every single one of its performances in New York by the original cast too long ago, then had lost track of for decades. Worse than that, I was about to rediscover a ballet where each letter of the title refused to let me forget “who was who way back then.”

I dreaded the moment when memories must crash. But they didn’t. I’m rather pleased that I now have new faces to go with that grand old concerto by Brahms that has never stopped rattling around my brain since Cranko made me discover it along with this, his valentine to dancers.

“Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant/Let the dead Past bury its dead!/ Act, – act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o’erhead.”

Initialen R.B.M.E. Arman Zazyan, Myriam Simon, Daniel Camargo, Anna Osadcenko Photographie

Initialen R.B.M.E.
Arman Zazyan, Myriam Simon, Daniel Camargo, Anna Osadcenko. Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

“Initialen RBME”

“R,” vaguely dressed in brown himself, has too long lived in my memory as a specific dancer and a persona: “Ricky.” Cragun, that is.

This new to me “R,” Daniel Camargo, attacked all those steps designed around Cragun’s easy whiplash toss-about spins and turns, but also gave me the feeling that he wanted us to realize how carefully he was paying homage to our memories of the nonchalantly calm and poised way Cragun used to always finish a gesture, raw muscle and emotions reined back in. The choreography encourages the dancer to embrace character in the momentum engendered by each step, not the gymnastics of any specific one. Intent trumps the specifically remembered height of a jump. Willful head-tilts in pirouette (as many as the dancer is wont to do), a nod to his two female satellites (play as you will), why not a simple set of rond-de-jambes front-side-and-back: the choreography somehow anchored this generation to the pull of the pas. Polished and manly, Camargo both reminded me of Cragun’s curly headstrong vividness and allowed me to finally finish mourning that I could never see him dance live again. I grinned, happy that the past had met the future.

Cranko developed the “B” (Birgit Keil) movement around a “homegrown” ballerina and perfect flower along the lines of England’s Jennifer Penny and France’s Isabelle Ciaravola. All of these women shared those feet, that short bust that made their arms and legs seem as long as Taglioni’s, that heart-shaped face and supple neck. But most of all, they shared a fierce determination to make you forget all that: to harness their physical beauty to characters, not contact sheets. Alas, this section satisfied me the least. I was more convinced – as was Cléopold – by the demi-soloists, particularly the creamy and spooling Hyo-Jun Kang, than by the “Birgit.” Kang, as most of us despairingly live with, does not have the above-mentioned ridiculously ideal body, but she makes hers vibrantly alive. She let herself catch the mood embodied in the steps and in those rhythms as offered by Brahms’s piano and orchestra. She understood the way Keil never took her perfect body as the be-all–and-end-all. Both Keil and Kang knew/know that an audience should be treated not as a cold mirror rather but as a friendly face. Please, this movement’s creators still gently urge us – if we would do nothing else ever again in our lives – please try to listen to the dance.

“M for Marcia”(Haydée) must terrify the new dancers even more. How can you step into the shoes of Cranko’s muse? (Just think of the Suzanne Farrell effect, generations later). Haydée had danced like a glorious she-wolf — keen-eyed, strong-shouldered, power springing deep from paw and hind leg. She made you think she was made of rich fur on supple bones, ever ready to pounce. Well, Myriam Simon –who hopefully didn’t even imagine these metaphors – took on the same damned impossible steps with a lighter heart. And, magically, they conspired to let her turn this lady into a fox. So not the same, no, Cheerier and slinkier. It worked for her, and for me.

Ah, “E” for Egon (Madsen). An Antony Dowell of the high, unblocked, and almost backless arabesque; a worthy descendant of Bournonville in his buttery light batterie. Plus a humorous sense of timing Robbins would have loved. No one parses tragedy better (he inspired Cranko’s Lensky of the endlessly supple backbends) than a born comedian (Madsen will always remain my beloved fabulously stiff and absurd arioso-prone Gremio, too). Arman Zayan caught this dichotomy and teased the steps into playing along with him. He got Cranko’s sense of Madsen’s sense of the funny sigh, of his fleetness of foot, of his pliant grasp of reining in and letting go.

The little to and fro gestures and inside jokes Cranko once embedded in the steps of this ballet make each soloist reach out and react to a corps that-as alive now as then – completely loses anonymity and never merely serves as a decorative frame.The other two thirds of this program, rich and juicy and full of opportunities for corps members to step out and shine, have been well-described by Cléopold.

If old Cranko, revived, can make me feel that what was old is new again, then this is a company — if you haven’t seen it then or now — you must go visit Stuttgart and see and judge for yourself.

“The heights by great men reached and kept/Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept/Were toiling upward in the night.”

Quotes are from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” and “The Ladder of St. Augustine.”

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