By Patricia Boccadoro
15 October 1999 - Three very different companies were presented at
the New International Dance Festival of Paris this year : the Ballet
National de Marseille with its new artistic director, Marie-Claude
Pietragalla, who inherited an established troupe without any
repertoire, the Ballet de la Comunidad de Madrid, founded in 1996, and
where teacher / director / choreographer Victor Ullate, hampered for
the moment by financial considerations, is in the process of creating
a repertoire, and the American Ballet Theatre which possesses one of
the richest repertoires in existence, from the nineteenth century
classics to works by Balanchine, Robbins, de Mille, Tudor, Tharp,
Morris, as well as works by the most outstanding European
choreographers. None was more eagerly awaited than the American
troupe, currently celebrating their sixtieth anniversary , back in
France after an absence of eleven years.
An opening gala in
the presence of Madame Jacques Chirac and Her Majesty the Queen of
Spain was followed next evening by a mixed programme of five pieces
beginning with Nacho Duatos Without Words, a hauntingly
beautiful plotless ballet created for the company in 1998.
neo-classical piece, where the leitmotiv was the placing of a hand in
front of the mouth, a gesture reflected in the photographs projected
on a screen onstage, was accompanied by six songs of Franz Schubert
adapted for the cello by Mischa Maisky. The yearning ,evocative music
carried the dancers far beyond the limitations of words in a
succession of solos, pas de deux and pas de trois
which merged together in an unbroken flow of movement.
transcendent interpretation of the eight dancers, including stars
Amanda McKerrow and José Manuel Carreno, led the audience to
believe that they were in for an exceptional evening. Not so. The rest
of the programme fell sadly short of its early promise.
a company goes on tour, they obviously want to show off the whole
range of their repertoire, presumably the idea the administration had
in mind when they programmed two rather flashy display pieces, the
first an extract from Petipas Corsaire for three
ballerinas, and the second, Variations for Four by Anton
Dolin, a glittering but grotesque piece of male virtuosity not danced
What is hard to understand is why these works,
and in particular Dolins contribution written in 1957 for
Gilpin, Flindt, Godfrey and Prokovsky (a sort of male equivalent to
the legendary ballet created for Taglioni, Grisi, Cerrito and Grahn
back in 1845) were not danced by the companys stars. Three
pretty blondes with neither the style nor the technique coped as best
as they could with the nineteenth century Petipa, while in a company
blessed by brilliant male virtuosi, one could only wonder at the
absence of Julio Bocca, Jose Manuel Carreno, Angel Corella, Eithan
Stiefel and Vladimir Malakov. Did they ALL dance the night before ?
Gomes is an excellent member of the corps de ballet, but for the
moment, is he really ready to take over the role of the great Danish
star, Eric Bruhn, creator of the ballet in New York in 1958 ? If such
a work must be presented, then it has to be danced by four stars every
Sandwiched between these two pieces Julie Kent and
Robert Hill did their best with Kudelkas short and somewhat
pointless pas de deux, Cruel World .
anticipation remained high in the auditorium. Angel Corella, who won
all hearts in Paris when he carried off first prize in the
International Dance Competion here in 1996 was dancing the leading
role in Billy the Kid (choreography Loring - music Copland),
the mythical 1938 work which had disappeared from the repertoire for
many years. After sitting through it, one understood why only too
Certainly not a ballet and neither a musical comedy nor
theatre, it could possibly be described as a cartoon without a story.
Few were those in the audience, if any, who understood why or how the
hero had killed the twenty-one men referred to in the programme, and
whether the growing disappointment of those watching who had hoped in
vain to see at least some bravoura dancing transmitted itself to those
on stage, or whether the latter transmitted their lack of conviction
to the spectators it is hard to say.
One of the dancers who
left the theatre on the double bumped into my daughter who was waiting
for me outside. Believing her to be one of the many who had miserably
trailed off, he raised his hands to the sky, "I, know, I know",
he wailed , "It was awful . If I had been in the audience, I
would have left early too. "
Questionable choice of
The dancers themselves cannot be condemned
for empty choreography. When a company is capable of dancing the Duato
work the way they did, there can be no excuse for the rest of the
evening. One can only question the wisdom of the choice of repertoire
and casting .
On September 24, 25, and 26, (matinée
and evening) , Don Quixote , choreography after Petipa and
Gorsky in the restaging by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones first
performed in New York in 1995 was shown with three different casts.
saw Eithan Stiefel in the role of Basilio, the barber-hero. He danced
with lightness and technical assurance, but his jerky head movements
in the first part of the ballet, and unnecessary fussy additions to
his jumps in the second part were very off-putting. Neither was he
helped by his partner, Julie Kent, mis-cast as Kitri, and without the
sensuality, warmth, and the playful touch so essential to the role.
Because they were not enjoying themselves, nobody else was either.
decor (presumably a version adapted for touring) was out-dated, and
the costumes unattractive. Except for a few magical moments when the
gipsy couple, Erica and Herman Cornejo erupted on scene, the whole
production, lacking passion, sparkle, and joy, spluttered out like a
The dancers also had to contend with the
difficulties of performing a traditional ballet, requiring large
numbers of people on stage at the same time in the limited space
available. The Théatre des Champs- Elysées, one of Paris
finest theatres, is more adapted to welcome smaller contemporary
troupes. Moreover, the Orchestre de Colonne, led by ringmaster Ermanno
Florio played disgracefully. No company on earth should be subjected
to the indignity of this kind of accompaniment.
Don Quixote , featuring a documentary on the making of the film,
A Little Bit of Don Quixote. 1999, International Arts, Inc.
Also available on C D from ABC Classics
The best film
version of this joyous ballet remains that which Rudolf Nureyev danced
in, directed , filmed, and choreographed, (after Petipa) in 1973, now
restored and re-issued. Featuring Nureyev, Lucette Aldous, and Robert
Helpmann with the Australian Ballet. The State Orchestra of Victoria
is conducted by John Lanchbery.
Available through Kultur
Video in the U. S. A.