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BALLET FAIRY TALE TURNS NASTY IN MONTE CARLO

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 16 AUGUST 2007— Jean-Christophe Maillot, artistic director and choreographer of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo since 1993, created this original and attractive version of The Sleeping Beauty for his company in 2001. Set to Tchaikovsky's score, with a modern, luminous décor by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, effective lighting by Dominique Drillot, and extravagant costumes by Philippe Guillotel which rank as some of the most beautiful ever seen on the Chatelet's stage, the production in Paris could not fail to please.

Maillot has delved into the psychological aspects of Charles Perrault's tale and opposes the over protected world of Aurore which is all light and lightness, to that of the prince, a sad, solitary, but dreamy youth who has grown up in the shadow of a dominant mother who proves to be some sort of monster. His is a world of darkness.


Jean-Christophe Maillot: la Belle
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Photo: Marie-Laure Briane

The ballet, a meeting of classical and contemporary dance, opens with a film projected onto the stage showing a young prince leafing through the tale of the sleeping princess. As he turns the pages, a king and queen clad in radiant apparel as in a traditional fairy story appear on the left of the stage, while the shadows of a sombre couple in grey and black struggle on the right. The film disappears when the man in black is strangled by his wife, whom, we gather, is Carabosse the wicked fairy. Rainbow-coloured figures in vibrant shades of green, orange, pink, blue, turquoise and yellow take over as the opening festivities begin and where the lilac fairy, ever-present in a traditional long pink tutu, serves to bridge the transition between the old fairy tale and the new.


Jean-Christophe Maillot: la Belle
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Photo: Marie-Laure Briane

The costumes, an intelligent combination of traditional and modern as befits the ballet, are so stunning that they are a show in themselves, conveying atmosphere and cleverly contributing to the development of each character. Guillotel, said Maillot, designed the clothes at the same time as the choreography was created, and one would even be tempted to write that the steps become almost secondary but for the fact that Maillot's choreography, straightforward though it seemed, conveyed a whole range of emotions, from love and sexuality to envy, greed, and longing.


Jean-Christophe Maillot: la Belle
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Photo: Laurent Philippe

Princess Aurora's arrival on stage in a dress of shimmering white, protected inside a giant-sized, transparent bubble as she glides across the floor is most spectacular, but balloons can be pierced as she finds out to her cost when she is gang-raped. But it was less the rape and more the extraordinary performance of the androgynous Bernice Coppieters, with her short-cropped white blonde hair, in the role of the princess which left a mark. She succeeds in being sexual yet pure and abstract at the same time. Her costume, after her diaphanous dress and train held aloft by two floating bubbles had been ripped off, seemed to have been painted on her body. In pointe shoes which emphasized her extreme fragility, she is virtually naked except for the circlets of white thorns around her body.


Jean-Christophe Maillot: la Belle
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Photo: Laurent Philippe

A remarkable five-minute pas de deux, simplicity itself in its sensuality, where the prince and princess cling together the length of a kiss, seals the fate of Carabosse, splendidly interpreted by Jerome Marchand. Good performances were given from all the dancers in this fine company, particularly from Chris Roelandt in the thankless role of the prince.


Jean-Christophe Maillot: la Belle
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Photo: Marie-Laure Briane

This re-reading, intentionally entitled, la Belle, makes no claim to follow the traditional story. Indeed, if one reads the programme notes very carefully, which is the only way to understand the rather confusing story, the work is full of all sorts of nasties. We learn that the prince's mother, who turns out to be a man, is in fact an ogress who not only finishes off her husband, but intends to throw Beauty into a boiling cauldron of toads and snakes. Happily for everyone, she or he, as the case may be, is accidentally devoured by the beasts.

Thanks to a kiss?

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at Culturekiosque.com

Related CK Archives

Interview with Jean-Christophe Maillot and Les Ballets de Monte- Carlo



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