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Summer Festivals: Images From Spain and Portugal Along the Seine

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 17 August 2001 - With the prospect of Bill T. Jones' spectacle, You walk?, at the Festival d'Avignon, a work illustrating the suffering in the world caused by colonisation, in collaboration with Misia, the fado singer, I was trying to find the energy and enthusiasm for the long haul South, when I came across Summertime Along the Banks of the Seine, another festival featuring the Spanish/Portuguese singer's melancholy and nostalgic music.

This time, her husky voice was accompanying a solo, Fado, choreographed by twenty-two year old Jean-Philippe Dury, quadrille at the Paris Opera ballet, and was programmed at a more modest festival on the banks of the River Seine, much nearer home. The prospect of a pleasant drive through the lush green meadows of Normandy with its sixteenth century farms and picturesque black and white timbered houses was very appealing.

L'été en bord de Seine, a cultural festival inaugurated four years ago, and programming dance for the first time, was held at Alizay, a pretty riverside community of barely a thousand inhabitants about ten miles from Rouen. From 29 June to 7 July, evenings of music, theatre and dance had been organised by the mayors of seven local villages, some with only three hundred people living there, and today, posters along the way announced a Spanish theme with young artists from the Paris Opera. Following the groups of excited ladies in their gaily flowered dresses and families of swans floating leisurely along the river, all paths led to the small village hall where everything was happening.

Inside, more space had been given to the stage than to the seating, and conditions were ideal to get a close and privileged view of newly promoted premier danseur, Karl Paquette, and corps de ballet members, Christophe Duquenne, Alexandra Cardinale, and Emilie Cozette. Yannis Chevalier, young contemporary dancer/choreographer, prizewinner from the Paris Conservatoire also presented three of his own pieces, including Les Fleurs du Mal, an expressive and musical solo which proved to be one of the best modern works around this season.

Yannis Chevailier in Les Fleurs du Mal
Yannis Chevailier
Photo: Yves Boccadoro


The programme began with several short, very commendable pieces choreographed by the dancers themselves, including Fado, Dury's lovely solo taken from a full-length work, and seemingly choreographed for the beautiful, long-limbed Cozette, the 1999 gold medallist at the International Paris Dance Competition. ( the Opera Administration should take a closer look in the lower ranks of the company for their choreographers!)

Emilie Cozette, who possesses the look, elegance, and purity of style personified by the French school, demonstrated hidden depths in her interpretation of the grand pas de deux from Don Quixote, partnered by a handsome and smiling Christophe Duquenne.

Emilie Cozette and Christophe Duquenne in Les Fleurs du Mal
Emilie Cozette and Christophe Duquenne in Les Fleurs du Mal
Photo: Yves Boccadoro

Duquenne, a dancer of distinctive artistic ability, inexplicably passed over at each annual competition for promotion in favour of "technicians", and who has several times proved his worth as Benvolio in the Paris Opera's production of Romeo and Juliet shone this time as Basilio the barber in front of a smaller but not less enthusiastic audience.

All praise must certainly be given to Karl Paquette who replaced an injured Alessio Carbone at only a few hours notice, and who, partnering the darkly attractive Alexandra Cardinale, threw his all into the virtuoso choreography of Le Corsaire, a gala favourite which never fails to please. Cardinale as the young slave girl showed off her exquisite footwork and impeccable schooling with grace and assurance.

Alexandra Cardinale
Emilie Cozette in Don Quixote
Photo: Yves Boccadoro

Asked why they had all accepted to dance there, Emilie Cozette, who was brought up in Rouen and attended the Conservatoire of dance there before gaining a place at the Opera school, told me that they had all jumped at the occasion of being able to interpret a pas de deux on stage.

"I've never had the opportunity to dance this pas de deux from Don Quixote before, and both Alexandra and I had been looking forward to this gala for months. When you are in the corps de ballet, occasions to dance the wonderful classics don't arise very often, so when they do, we enjoy every second of them."

That certainly summed up the reaction of a delighted and very happy audience, who left the 'theatre', already planning their outing for the following year!




Karl Paquette is currently appearing as Demetrius in "Midsummer Night's Dream", choreography Neumeier Palais Garnier



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

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