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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 1 MARCH 2016 — The recent creation, Je T’ai Rencontré par Hasard,  by choreographers and dancers, Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Julien Derouault, a couple on stage,  husband and wife  offstage,  was presented at the Folies Bergères  in Paris to packed audiences.  The work, at the same time both poetical and highly theatrical, questions human relationships from the moment two people meet, the aim being, as Maurice Béjart said, to express in dance what words alone cannot say.

In a fusion of contemporary and classical techniques, Pietragalla and Derouault interpret a series of solos and pas de deux in a joyful blend of dance, mime, and comedy, accompanied by a score where musician Yannael Quenel has linked extracts from Gorecki, Vivaldi, Part, Mahler and Portishead.

Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Julien Derouault in
Je T’ai Rencontré par Hasard
Photo: Pascal Elliott

The piece opened dramatically with Derouault clad in black standing on a chair, with Pietragalla, in a long white tutu poised motionless next to him. From the beginning, the absolute beauty of this physically perfect, classically trained ballerina gave depth and poignancy to the entire performance.

Pietragalla, who left the Paris Opera Ballet in 1998, after her nomination to the rank of étoile as Kitri in Nureyev’s Don Quichotte in 1990 was never a pale, ethereal Romantic ballerina.  With her fiery temperament and expressive dark eyes, she brought passion and depth to contemporary roles, winning first prize in the International competition of Paris with Béjart’s Bhakti. She left her stamp on Mats Ek’s modern version of Giselle and excelled as Roland Petit’s Carmen as well as Death in his Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. After creating many works by choreographers including Tharp, Kylian, Graham, and Gallotta, she began to produce works of her own, including Corsica for 5 dancers, inspired by her own roots in the Ile de Beauté.

Leaving Paris to take over the Ballet of Marseilles where she met principal dancer Julien Derouault, she subsequently formed the "Theatre du Corps" with him in 2004.

In their search for a universal language, the couple has developed an experimental dance form which works and attracts. There are few occasions in contemporary dance more beautiful than watching the grace of movement of an exceptional ballerina and since 1999, Pietragalla has worked with Julien Derouault , a dancer who comes from a  different background  and in whom she has found an ideal balance.  In Je T’ai Rencontré par Hasard, an unsophisticated and sincere work, they epitomize the eternal masculine and feminine.

Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Julien Derouault in
Je T’ai Rencontré par Hasard
Photo: Pascal Elliott

Derouault, who joined the Marseilles school at the age of 23 and the company a few months later, is a strong young dancer full of energy, the perfect foil to Pietragalla’s more classical approach.

Portraying early desire and ensuing doubt with the passing of time, the piece also contains several brilliantly conceived light-hearted moments, drinking tea at the table in the kitchen, playing with the crockery. A sensual bedroom scene is followed by a humorous sequence of everyday life full of charm; she is using the vacuum cleaner after breakfast, while he is lazing in a chair. She alternately wipes the table and his head with her dishcloth in movements of fun, but touched with grace.

Each sequence or stage of their relationship is accompanied by the musical score alternating with a recital of poetry, Racine or Sade. Everything worked to make an enjoyable whole, an illustration, where, to quote the programme notes, "Ma Plus Belle Histoire D’Amour, C’est vous". 

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.

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