By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 4 APRIL 2016 The Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon is possibly
the finest contemporary dance troupe in France today. It is a company full
of contrasts. Essentially a classically based company, it specialises in
contemporary works with a wide range of dance styles, and possesses a
repertoire of over 90 pieces created by todays leading choreographers
including Kylian, Mats Ek, Cunningham, as well as Roland Petit.
Based in Lyon, France, it is directed by Greek-born Yorgos Loukos who
was Petits assistant for many years, and is composed of dancers
from over 10 different countries and from very different backgrounds, many
of whom, like Dorothée Delabie, have been with the troupe for over a
decade. Noellie Conjeaud was a pupil at the Paris Opera school while
Simon Galvani, aged 21, studied at the Conservatoire of Music and Dance
there. Kristina Bentz, 23, hails from New York, where she trained at the
Julliard School, but whether from South Africa, Japan, or Cuba, all the
dancers are linked by their fierce desire to interpret contemporary
Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon in Black
Choreography: Lucy Guerin
Photo: Michel Cavalca
I spoke to Roylan Ramos and Leoannis Pupo-Guillen, two excellent young
dancers from Havana, who, after completing their studies, joined the
National Ballet of Cuba before coming to Europe. "I became bored with
interpreting only the traditional classics", Ramos told me. "I wanted to
be able to move my body differently and I heard about this company and
came here together with Leoannis and his wife. Its both exciting and
stimulating, and we are very fortunate to be able to dance so many
Certainly the mixed bill presented at the Theatre de la Ville reflected
the troupes diversity, beginning with the elegant and visually very
attractive, Xylographie by Portuguese choreographer, Tania
Carvalho, followed by the latest piece by Israeli, Emmanuel Gat, curiously
named, Sunshine which was probably more enjoyable to dance than
to watch. An intriguing experimental work by Australian, Lucy
Guerin, Black Box, was also shown with One Flat Thing,
Reproduced, the masterpiece by American, William Forsythe concluding
an enjoyable programme.
The evening opened withc, a fascinating, highly theatrical work which
began with a lone dancer in black sidling across a dramatically lit stage.
A work demonstrating very great aesthetic research, Xylographie
also revealed the remarkable technical prowess of the dancers, 18 in
Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon
Choreography: Tania Carvalho
Carvalho cleverly used groups to convey mass movement, where each group
of 6 dancers, in red, in black, and in brown, ebbed and flowed, such as a
flock of birds blown by the wind. They formed diagonals, and then leant
backwards then forwards, one after the other in an extremely refined,
sophisticated choreography. Set to music by Ulrich Estreich and Tania
Carvalho herself, with unusual, elaborate costumes designed by Alexsandar
Protic, the work was an excellent start to the evening.
Gats Sunshine was a bit of a let-down after the striking
group scenes, costumes and superbly worked choreography of Carvalho.
But no matter if the audience sat restlessly through this piece which had
no theme, no recognizable choreography, décor or costumes and where the
score, supposedly "after" Handels Water Music, favoured either
long silences or Gats love of people talking over traffic noises, the
dancers, Leoannis Pupo-Guillen told me, had a great time. "Each time
we dance, its different", he said. "Much of what we do depends on us as
its based on improvisation, so everything we do follows the movements of
what the dancer next to us is doing".
So, dressed in their street clothes, the dancers ran around the stage,
jumping, twisting, sliding, knocking each other over, rolling on the floor
and generally having fun. Make of that what you will.
Lucy Guerins slow-moving contribution imposing physical and mental
limitations upon eleven dancers was more ambitious. To a soundtrack
by Oren Ambarchi, a girl in white is dancing alone in a square of light
before being joined by ten companions. A game of appearance and
disappearance then followed as by twos, threes or groups of more, the
dancers were obliged to retreat into a black box which was raised and
lowered throughout. Finally, a lone dancer was left outside and the work
slowed to a halt. Peaceful and stressless, the piece, despite its limited
choreographic language, was not without interest. The dancers wore simple
shorts and T shirts of various shades of white and grey, perfectly in tune
with the work.
In stark contrast, the audience was jolted bolt upright with the first
clashes and clangs of Thom Willems score signaling the start of
Forsythes One Flat Thing, Reproduced, a work which was
brilliantly danced by the Lyon Opera troupe who exploded on stage.
Created for the Frankfurt Ballet in 2000, it entered the repertoire of the
Lyon based company 4 years later and is a work they relish and know well.
Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon in One
Flat Thing, Reproduced
Choreography: William Forsythe
Fourteen dancers surge forward from the back of the stage
dragging along behind them 16 rectangular, white, metallic tables. To the
impressive score, they frenetically explore every possibility to dance
that has been given them, edging along the table tops, sliding
underneath, dropping onto the ground and using up the space to slip
their agile bodies between the sides of the tables.
With speed and with grace, they leap from table top to table top and so
much is going on in so many different areas it is hard to know where to
look. One becomes afraid of missing the slightest movement from this
whirlwind of multicolored bodies.
Nothing is brutal or violent in this whirling, swirling, spinning mass
of dancers, moving with bewildering rapidity and where one had to have
ones eyes all over the place to fully appreciate this spectacular
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