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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 5 MAY 2008- A curious combination of ballets by the French choreographer, Angelin Preljocaj, was presented at the Theatre de la Ville in March. The evening begin with L'Annonciation, one of his finest works, and was followed by Centaures, a powerful pas de deux for two men. All the greater, then, were the expectations of the audience for his new work, Eldorado (Sonntags Abschied ), and all the more sharper the disappointment of many for this display of dreary, meaningless movements in space to the accompaniment of a strident score by Stockhausen which was pure torture to the ears.

L'Annonciation is a very beautiful, ambiguous pas de deux which delves with sensitivity into the relationship between the Angel and the Virgin Mary. Noted for his exceptional musicality, the choreographer set the work to excerpts from Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat subtly interspersed with special effects by Stéphane Roy. Created for his own company in 1995, the ballet was first danced by the Paris Opéra Ballet the following year and has since become a popular work in their repertoire.

Inspired by numerous XVth century paintings , where the Virgin is often shown in an enclosed garden, Preljocaj' ballet depicts the intrusion of the Angel into her universe, announcing that she will shortly be mother to the Son of God. It is the reason why Mary is alternatively serene, and mystical, dancing with slow, delicate movements, then moving more rapidly as she is beset by doubts, but at all times her gentle femininity remains a foil to the stronger, more violent gestures of the Angel. Preljocaj has succeeded in conveying the young girl's anxiety and fears as well as her purity, and her attitude which fluctuates between submission and revolt. The ballet was superbly interpreted by two casts, Virginie Caussin and Zaratiana Randrianantenaina, one evening, and by Céline Galli and Nagisa Shirai the next.

This was a hard act to follow, but Centaures, a remarkable duo for two men created in 1998, an adaptation of a pas de deux from La Peau du Monde and set to a score by Gyorgy Ligeti , also held the spectators in its grip. It is a fiery, highly inventive piece, where the two mythological creatures, half-men, half-horses , weave and interlace, their strong muscular bodies forming a sculptured whole. An extremely physical piece, it was brilliantly interpreted by both Yang Wang, a truly remarkable dancer, and Thomas Michaux.

But whatever possessed Preljocaj to set his new work, Eldorado, to music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, already the creator of the sound-track for the choreographer's 1992 Helikopter, not one of his more successful adventures? Sonntags Abschied is a complex score for five synthesizers, the resulting cacophony making many listeners wriggle in their seats, praying for the piece to end. It proved to be one of those rare occasions when, I found myself longing for the ballet to be danced in silence, for Angelin Preljocaj merits his reputation as the leading figure of the younger generation of French choreographers.

But Stockhausen's score seems to have been a deliberate choice. Preljocaj first heard it in the composer's own studio in 2005, and was, as he says, "captivated, almost hypnotized by it". However, it took him some time before he decided to make the plunge, in more ways than he perhaps intended, acknowledging from the start that he was taking a risk. However, he took up the challenge, and maybe there are some who appreciate the result.

The work certainly begins in a most spectacular way, with twelve dancers standing in front of twelve panels which form a wide semi-circle around the stage. From time to time, their bodies, in light, close-fitting transparent costumes, are outlined by a chain of tiny lights. But after these first few minutes, the next half hour was hard going. It proved to be a repetitious and boring work, too long by half, which desperately tried to have some kind of relation to the sounds, discordant and painful to listen to. A pity.

Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor of

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