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Edouard Lock at the Palais Garnier


By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 18 December 2002 - Edouard Lock working with the Paris Opera Ballet? Was the Palais Garnier, temple of classical dance, really the place for this contemporary Canadian choreographer from Quebec, famous for his strenuously athletic style, and notable collaborations with such people as David Bowie?

With disappointments, including Odile Duboc's Gershwin offering and Spanish choreographer Blanca Li's Shéhérazade, still in mind, it seemed that artistic director Brigitte Lefèvre was again putting her head in a noose with her latest commission. However, having seen many of the French-Canadian's creations and with the conviction that if Lock "misappropriated" classical language it was to offer very acceptable alternatives, Lefèvre took the risk and her gamble paid off. Lock's powerful creation, AndréAuria was excellent.

Marie-Agnès Gillot and Yann Bridard
Marie-Agnès Gillot and Yann Bridard in AndréAuria
© Photos: Icare

The curtain rose on a darkened stage. Two grand pianos, which formed an integral part of the decor and almost seemed to participate in the action, were just about visible towards the back of the set, glinting through the semi-obscurity, while four white metallic vertical bars moved from left to right, and again from front-stage to back as the choreography unfolded. Even more striking was John Munro's clever use of light, with spotlights focusing first a couple, then a trio of dancers, settling on one dancer only to move to another. Irrespective of any choreography, it was already a feast for the eyes.

The costumes designed by Liz Vandal contributed to a possibly unintentional harmonious whole, with the women clad in flattering short black stretch-suits, while the men wore black trousers and jackets over black, and later white, open-necked shirts. The choreography, created separately for each of the eleven interpreters who were all superb, was extremely rapid, almost spasmodic, and sought neither to illustrate a theme nor tell a story, but rather, in Lock's own words, to "analyse the abstract complexity of the human body". Far from resembling William Forsythe, to whom Lock has sometimes been mistakenly compared, Lock did not push the dancers to extremes, but drew upon an accumulation of movements.

A few days after seeing the ballet, I spoke to première danseuse, the magnificent, long-legged Marie-Agnès Gillot, unsurprisingly chosen for the leading role by Lock.

Marie-Agnès Gillot , Jean-Philippe Dury
Marie-Agnès Gillot , Jean-Philippe Dury in AndréAuria
Choreography: Edouard Lock
© Photos: Icare

"It's the rapidity of the movement which is important to Lock", she told me. "We don't take enormous risks with him as we did with Forsythe, for he gives you a position, then superimposes another, then again another on top of that, and it is the speed of the transposition which interests him, joining each gesture to the following to make the movement. The danger of course is that you can easily trip up as it all happens so fast . But he never sends us off balance, and we don't have to stretch our bodies into impossible angles . "

"He is a creator of images rather than movement, and what fascinated me was that he worked essentially with, and on each dancer, using their different personalities.", she explained. "Moreover, he also played upon our state of mind, on the mood we were in as we arrived at rehearsal which was not so happy as you might imagine, because we only had a month to learn and perfect the whole work. When we felt good, he reflected it in his choreography, which became joyous, but if we had a problem the following day, the ballet became more sombre, and he altered our positions to mirror the change. Consequently, the beginning of André Auria is gayer than the ending, which is full of tears. "

The ballerina also pointed out that Lock frequently asked them to incorporate such everyday actions as rubbing their eyes, touching their mouth or wiping the sweat off their forehead into the work, and that it was the very simplicity of the gesture, which, when accelerated lost all heaviness and became almost poetical, a word not normally associated with Edouard Lock. It gave the ballet some kind of inner meaning, which instilled the strictly non-narrative work with its own strange atmosphere.

Clairemarie Osta, Stéphane Bullion
Clairemarie Osta, Stéphane Bullion in AndréAuria
© Photos: Icare

"For a ballet with no given theme, I felt a whole palette of emotions I never dreamed I'd feel when I first learned the choreography", Gillot said. "It was also fantastic to dance, despite being scary because of the incredible speed he demanded. If anyone had hesitated but a fraction of a second, they'd have been lost," she added. "Moreover, the music gave no indication of where we were up to. You could only find your bearings by listening to the rhythm of the others. In fact", she laughed, "when there was silence, it was easier! "

Gillot, who plays the part of AndréAuria, a transvestite Lock met twenty-five years previously, leaves the stage to dress as a man, while the work, more classical at this moment, continued without her. In fact, she never saw the other members of the cast apart from her partner Yann Bridard, sulky, wild, feline and full of grace, and the remarkable Stephanie Romberg with whom she rehearsed. Her final stunning pas de deux with young dancer Stéphane Bullion broke off abruptly shortly after it began.....

Lock conceived the ballet as a sequel to Amélia, a title again inspired by a second transvestite met twenty-five years ago, a work he created for his own troupe, and premièred in Prague last year. The links, he says, are to be found in the realms of the imagination and in the style of the choreography with its use of pointe-work, its dizzying speed, and in what he declares as a distortion of the classical language of dance. The Canadian choreographs in silence; in this work, his fourth with composer David Lang, they work independently. The music, discordant, bang-bang, boring and repetitive, and particularly ear-splitting in Amélia, the sister ballet, does not meet the choreography until the meal is served, so to speak. But it seems to suit his style.

AndréAuria was deservedly well-received.

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

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