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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 28 JULY 2009 — The Paris Opera Ballet finished the season on a high note, rivaling the festivities across at the Chatelet. The restaging of Frederick Ashton's romantic comedy, La Fille Mal Gardée, a ballet created in Bordeaux in 1789, proved even more successful than two years ago, delighting crowds at the Palais Garnier. The story could not be more simple; a country girl, Lise, and her lover, Colas, outwit the plan of the former's mother to marry her off to Alain, the half-witted son of a rich farmer.

This time round, many of the younger dancers made their debut in the leading roles, not least Emmanuel Thibault partnering first Mathilde Froustey, still 'sujet' despite her prodigious gifts, followed by Miriam Ould-Braham a week later.

Mathilde Froustey
in La Fille Mal Gardée
Photo: Agathe Poupeney
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet

Froustey was the Lise that dreams are made of. Exquisite and enchanting, with her light, air-born leaps and neat, precise technique, she was both loveable and naughty in the second half of the work in the spirited scenes with her mother interpreted by the irreplaceable Michael Dénard. But despite her warmth and tenderness towards Colas, their love scenes did not quite convince despite the likeable performance of Thibault, who accomplished all the tricky technicalities of the role with aplomb.

Emmanuel Thibault and Mathilde Froustey
in La Fille Mal Gardée
Photo: Agathe Poupeney
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet

He, however, bloomed when partnering Miriam Ould-Braham, the lovely young première danseuse who made her own notable debut as Lise in 2007, for these two dancers are made to dance together, each bringing out the other's best. Ould-Braham is a Lise full of gentleness, tenderness and charm, and this was a happy occasion, full of light and laughter. Thibault's intelligent interpretation of the lively, happy-go-lucky Colas, head-over-heels in love with his pretty Lise, matched the excellence of his dancing. The happiness of this adorable couple spilled right over into the audience, who left the theatre with smiles on their faces

Miriam Ould-Braham in La Fille Mal Gardée
Photo: Agathe Poupene
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet

In both performances there was also a very strong, supporting cast. The, as yet unknown Allister Madin, coryphée, gave a moving, poetic and totally new interpretation of Alain, making him extremely loveable. Dancing strongly, for he is a very fine classical dancer, he was shy and dreamy, and were it not for the excellent performance of Thibault as Colas, and his love for Lise, one would not have been surprised to see Lise fall for this boy. I, for one, would have liked to see her give him at least a kiss at the end. His performance, which brought tears to one's eyes, was a revelation.

Ashton's work is obviously well-suited to the company. Not only have the complicated 'ribbon dances' and comic moments been well-done without any over-acting, but the work has brought forward many unexpected young talents. In another cast which I was unable to see, Josua Hoffalt and Muriel Zusperrequy also triumphed in the central roles.

Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for

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