By Patricia Boccadoro
18 November 2002 - The
excellent Petit / Robbins programme which opened the season at the
Palais Garnier was a mixed bill in every sense, from fireworks, pathos
and emotion to the merely competent .
Roland Petit's visually
beautiful Passacaille, which takes its title from Webern's
1908 Passacaille for String Orchestra opus 1, is an
uncompromisingly non narrative work fraught with technical
difficulties. Just fourteen dancers on an empty stage with Rolland
Petit playing with abstract forms and the technical prowess of his
interpreters. It was very well danced, and certainly fair enough for
evening continued with The Cage, Jerome Robbins' 1951 work
inspired by the praying mantis and the spider, who both devour their
prey after mating, not a work I have greatly appreciated in the past.
Set to Stravinsky's Concerto in D, the one-act work tells the
tale of two male intruders into a tribe of women ruled by a queen.
They rapidly dispatch with the first intruder, but have a little more
trouble with the second, who succeeds in seducing a novice. However,
at the end her basic instincts prevail and the helpless victim is done
to death with the help of her elders.
Guérin in The Cage.
Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Photo: © ICARE
much of the success of the work depends on the quality of the two main
interpreters, in this case, Yann
Bridard, a powerfully expressive young dancer partnering
Isabelle Guérin, sublime. What is poignant in art is
authenticity. It is what makes dance great, and these two interpreters
were just that. When Bridard, the second intruder, died, many in the
audience almost believed he was dead for a few heart-stopping seconds.
It is this kind of performance which counteracts the rumour that the
French company has lost its soul, and reconciles the public to dance.
Another cast was disappointing.
be good-looking and dance prettily is simply not enough for Other
Dances, the second Robbins' work of the evening . Neither Eleanora
Abbagnato nor Jean-Guillaume Bart possess the technique and artistry
for this deceptively simple duet. Their minds were elsewhere, their
gestures empty, and consequently the ballet was somewhat pointless,
particularly for those who had seen it interpreted by Makarova and
Baryshnikov, for whom it was created, or by Guérin and Manuel
Legris at its premiere in Paris.
sensation of the evening, as was expected, was Roland Petit's L'Arlesienne.
Directly inspired and guided by Bizet's score, the ballet itself is a
masterpiece. As the curtain rises on a decor reminiscent of a painting
by Van Gogh, preparations are underway for the engagement party of
Frederi when it is discovered that the beautiful girl from Arles, a
town in the South of France, was the mistress of another man. Frederi,
beside himself, turns to his childhood sweetheart, Vivette, but
remains haunted by the memory of his first love. Unable to come to
terms with losing the woman he loves, he jumps to his death while all
the village is celebrating Saint Eloi's day.
dancing of all the corps de ballet with Isabelle Guérin as the
innocent Vivette, was exceptional, and the performance of Nicolas Le
Riche as Frédéri came close to the incredible. His long
powerful jumps and impassioned interpretation showed a consummate
artist now at the height of his art.
Guérin and Nicolas Le Riche in L'Arlesienne
Photo: © ICARE
this 1974 narrative work is obviously centred on the relationship
between the two young people, the role of the corps de ballet is
primordial. The expressiveness of their dancing gives atmosphere to
the whole work as they witness the course of the drama. And drama
there is. Roland Petit at his glorious best, well served by a cast of
the highest quality.
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 Culturekiosque.com.