School Ensures Future for the Paris Opera Ballet, but What About the
Gernez and Aurélien Houette
PARIS, 20 April 1999 - In Dame Ninette
de Valois' book, "Come Dance with me", she quotes Enrico
Cecchetti, who said there was no such thing as a prima ballerina under
the age of twenty-six years, but that there was nothing more beautiful
to see in life than the same in embryo in her late teens or very early
I heartily agree with him, although at the Paris Opéra
school the embryonic age is now much lower. It's not possible to
over-estimate the merits of "headmistress" Claude
Golovine-Bessy whose tireless work has brought the school to that level.
Take Aurore Cordellier, not yet fifteen, whose development I have
watched with fascination for several years. She danced Gourouli, the
heroine in the matinée performance of "The two Pigeons"
in the school's annual show at the Théatre des Champs - Elysées
and impressed by her lovely technique and beauty of expression; daunting
gifts in one so young. Seventeen year-old Juliette Gernez was
aesthetically even more striking, but will need careful nurturing should
she enter the company later this year.
Gourouli, a role
created at the Paris Opéra by Carlotta Zambelli in 1912, was
subsequently danced by her pupil, Christiane Vaussard who inherited the
original notes and score. More recent performances were interpreted by étoiles
Sylvie Guillem in 1981 and Agnès Letestu in 1987.
simple story of betrayal and forgiveness, it is based on La Fontaine's
"Deux pigeons s'aimaient d'amour tendre:
d'eux, s'ennuyant au logis,
Fut assez fou pour entreprendre
voyage en lointain pays". (1)
Combining the tradition of
the repertory with contemporary works, and again, how extraordinary are
Claude Bessy's instinctive choices, Aveline's ballet was followed by
John Neumeier's "Yondering". It was created for the National
Ballet School of Canada in 1996 before being danced by Neumeier's own
school in Hamburg.
Inspired by the wonderful songs of the
nineteenth century American composer Stephen "Beautiful Dreamer"
Foster, and recently recorded by the baritone Thomas Hampton, it is a
work which Neumeier thinks should only be interpreted by young dancers
who possess idealism and energy.
The school danced with such
enthusiasm and verve, they not only made you forget they were still
children, but demonstrated they were a whole company in themselves.
Their superlative training has encouraged them to express their
individual personality, and Neumeier's remarkable choreography, which
they felt in their guts, spoke directly to them.
The level of
the school has rarely been so high, and this was particularly noticeable
this year in the boys whose maturity and assurance surpassed the girls.
With such dancers as Florian Magnenet, Fabrice Calmels, and Sébastien
Bertaud to cite but three, the future of the Paris Opéra is
assured - but one can only wonder what will happen to the others if
places are not available to everyone.
Magnenet and Sébastien Bertaud
performance highlighted a problem facing the French National company.
These young pupils are being trained to extremely high standards (for
which Claude Bessy once told me she had been reproached), and they do
not only deserve but need to occupy the front of the stage. Will they
really be content with the back row in the classics?
with talent, and boundless energy, care must be taken so these promising
new artists do not drift away to other companies, to Kylian, Duarto, or
even Neumeier, who came to Paris himself to rehearse his ballet.
Although the Paris Opéra Ballet as a company may now be the
finest in the world, they no longer have the monopoly of strong male
Not all of these gifted teenagers can, will, or even
want to dance Siegfried, and it is to be hoped that despite the accent
justifiably placed on the classics, these youngsters will be given every
opportunity, as in Pina Bausch's "Rites of Spring", despite
the fact their fore-names seem to pre-destine them for the more romantic
The school will go on tour to Canada and the U.S.A. in
Music: André Messager
Albert Aveline, after Louis Mérante. Re-staged by Christiane
Music: Stephen Foster
Photos : Icare/Moatti
"There were once two pigeons who loved each other tenderly.
of them, bored at home,
Was fool enough to undertake
to a far away country".
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