By Patricia Boccadoro
7 March 2000 - I did not particularly want to see Maurice Béjart's
Le Concours at the Palais Garnier, but went out of a sense of
duty because I had been asked to write a review. I had seen the work
almost fifteen years ago, when it had been staged at the Théâtre
de Châtelet, and I remember my disappointment only too well. The
story was weak, the characters silly, and the choreography seemed
empty. Interpreted by a lesser company than the Ballet of the XXth
Century, it would have been unbearable.
The "ballet film"
is a detective story set in an international dance competition.
Shortly after it starts, one of the young contestants, Ada, is shot,
and in the course of the enquiry with its reconstruction and
flashbacks to places including Rimini, in Italy, and a circus in
Provence, the audience is shown six suspects, all of whom, for
extremely obscure reasons, had threatened to kill her in the past.
A clever show, the work was brilliantly interpreted by the
Paris Opera Ballet, who were all thoroughly enjoying themselves. They
gave a superb demonstration that classical ballet is very adaptable .
Why shouldn't it be empty entertainment after all; it isn't always
meant to be great culture.
Interpreting the work of
choreographers like Pina Bausch has extended their range, and now it
seems there's nothing the French dancers don't dare to do. Definitely,
"different", Béjart was nevertheless serving the art
of dance, even if he did throw in quite a bit of café theatre .
the production has been worked on over the years, (it is now two hours
long, instead of the original one and a half),or whether it has
matured like old Scottish whisky, I wouldn't like to say, but what is
certain is that Maurice Béjart made the most of the magnificent
Palais Garnier, (even opening up the foyer de la danse at the back of
the stage for his grand finale), and the most prestigious company of
classical dancers in the world.
The two stars of the evening
were the ravishing Aurélie Dupont in the role of the victim,
and detective Manuel Legris, hands thrust in the pockets of his
raincoat, who danced only with his legs and feet, and while it would
be unfair to single out any one dancer as better than anothe , one of
the heroes of the evening was undoubtedly Emmanuel Thibault.
was the contestant who arrived a little late and was a bit slow to
change, rushing on stage in his gaily flowered underpants, bow-tie,
and shirt-tails flapping round his bottom to do his bit in five
minutes of stupendous soft leaps and amazingly precise fouettés,
mixed with Groucho Marx burlesque.
Of course, the irony of
the whole situation is that it is Thibault, perhaps not a danseur
noble in the accepted sense, nor the étoiles' dream partner,
who is blocked year after year in real life by the Paris Opera's
annual competition. If the true subject of the piece, as Béjart
is at pains to point out in the programme, is the futility of official
competitions, whether internal or international, then why present this
at the Paris Opera where each year the all-important Concours
determines the future of each dancer?
In the real Concours,
held in February 2000, a post of premier danseur was vacant, but
whether Thibault would be given this promotion or whether it would be
awarded to an inferior member of the troupe is almost irrelevant, for
there is no official category for artists like Thibault.
has consistently refused to be part of any jury.
Orchestre Colonne, admirably conducted by David Coleman played
snitches of music from several classical ballets interspersed by
original music composed by Hugues Le Bars.
You see him here,
you see him there.......
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