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Dance Review: Excelsior
Choreography by Ugo Dell'Ara after Luigi Manzotti


By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 5 June 2002 - Invited to the Palais Garnier for the first time, the Ballet of La Scala Milan brought overweight luggage with it . Vastly overweight luggage. Excelsior, according to the programme, is an allegorical fresco in celebration of the advent of Electricity and a hymn of praise to scientific progress . Performed as it was this season, it is kitsch pushed to its most extravagant and inglorious worst. Knowing little of Luigi Manzotti's original version created in 1881, except that history tells us it was one of the greatest successes in the history of Italian ballet, this re-staging by Dell'Ara in 1967, when Tudor, MacMillan and Ashton were creating timeless works at Covent Garden, barely falls short of burlesque.

If such a work, created only ten years after the unification of Italy, and presumably of intrinsic historical value is staged, must be performed, then it has to be brilliantly danced. It wasn't. With the notable exception of Viviana Durante as Light, there wasn't a ballerina in sight. Some members of the troupe had a certain technique, but were devoid of artistry, grace or charm. There was no distinction, no class, no feeling for style whatsoever, and no enjoyment or entering into the spirit of things from anyone apart from guest artist Roberto Bolle. Grim faced Isabel Seabra as Civilisation did not smile once. This was not dance by anyone's standards.

The mime scenes were especially embarrassing, with awkward young men in crude make-up pretending they were old men or eccentric professors. Not one member of the company was credible.

The evening was spent watching an army of young people, rows and rows of them, dressed in old curtains or lampshades, kicking their legs high in the air, philosophising about peace and the civilising role of Europe. By moments, I caught glimpses of what the work must once have been, but they were drowned in a sea of indifference.

Understandably, the crowds in Italy flock to the lyric opera. So would I.

The Orchestre Colonne thumped out Romualdo Marenco's pop music, conducted by the courageous Paul Connelly.

No photographs were available for the press.

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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