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Leigh Witchel

Emmanuel Thibault and the POB competition

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Patricia Boccodoro has a passionate editorial in culturekiosque:

http://www.culturekiosque.com/dance/news/r...hethibault.html

I found it interesting, as I have only had a single viewing of Thibault. I found him perfectly cast as the Bluebird but I saw him as a dancer with only a limited repertory, albeit a brilliant one of the exotic divertissements of the repertory (Bluebird, Golden Idol, et al.) I couldn't see him assuming a leading role in a classical ballet because of his stature, looks and temperament. Referencing back to our threads on miscasting, is this perhaps the reason that Thibault has not been promoted?

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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I read the article (lovely photos) and wondered the same thing, that they thought he had too limited an employ to be promoted. If so, it's a pity, I think. "etoile" doesn't mean "danseur noble," or "danseur classique," and there have always been great danseurs de demicaracteres. I would think they could still promote him and still cast him appropriately.

Nice to see passion in a critic smile.gif

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This episode is a real shame. Most of my friends who attended the Concours agree that Thibault "wuz robbed." I've seen Thibault in Robbins FOUR SEASONS (Faun) & PAQUITA Pas de Trois, in addition to several films from Varna & other competitions. He is a true virtuoso & has quite beautiful 'line' (not stocky proportions as do a few equally skilled demi-caractere virtuosi, such as Eric Quillere and Kirov/RDB's Andrei Batalov). Perhaps not an Etoile but he's certainly capable of being a Premier Danseur and, as Alexandra wrote, there is no logic to keeping a non-danseur-noble from the PD ranks. Isn't Eric Quillere in the PD ranks, after all? - Jeannie

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Well, first of all, Patricia Boccadoro is someone very rarely agree with, so I'm likely to be quite cautious with what she writes. (I think I haven't forgiven yet the way she wrote that Jean-Guillaume Bart was a boring dancer "as exciting as day-old custard", for example).

I haven't seen Thibault much, and when I saw him it always was in such virtuoso roles. However, from some discussions on ballet.co.uk, it seems tmany people consider that he is not a good partner (while admitting he had done the bestvariations at the POB competition)... If it is true, it might explain why he hasn't become a premier danseur (he's been a sujet for about 7 years)... There surely are premiers danseurs who are not "danseurs nobles", like Eric Quillere

(perhaps not a good example, as the present direction doesn't like him and gives him very very few roles), Yann Bridard (with a nice lineoften cast in "villain" roles and contemporary works) and the new premier danseur Jeremie Belingard. But I think that partnering really is an essential quality for a premier danseur- they're supposed to dance quite a lot of pas de deux, and also to be ready to replace the principals to partner the female etoiles...

By the way, I think that shows one of the drawbacks of the POB competition: it shows nothing about the dancers' partnering skills. And while partnering might not be essential for a coryphee, it's necessary for a premier danseur.

By the way, I realize that I don't know if any of the psent premiers danseurs could be considered as real "danseurs nobles". Jeannie, Leigh, Marc, what do you think of it? (The present premiers danseurs are Romoli, Quillere, Delanoe, Belingard, Pech, Bridard, and Paquette).

[This message has been edited by Estelle (edited March 12, 2001).]

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I've only seen Karl Paquette twice, but I think he has the potential to be a danseur noble. If I remember rightly, he was just promoted in the Concours this time.

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I've never seen Emmanuel Thibault before, so I cannot comment about his qualities as a dancer...but regarding the "danseur noble" issue, doesn't it take quite some time for the dancer to actually become a "danseur noble"... ? I'm sure that some dancers like Manuel Legris had the "danseur noble" quality inherent in him from the beginning, but don't some dancers actually develop into "danseur nobles" as they grow older? [Or what truly makes a dancer a real "danseur noble" -- this might be an interesting question that could be open for discussion.] I'm not sure if my questions are valid, but this is just my personal opinion. I also think that the POB is one of the most "limiting" companies in the sense that the company doesn't offer a lot of promotions to those who most deserve it. But again, this is part of the reasons why the company maintains its prestige. I can't help thinking that dansers like Melanie Hurel, Yann Saiz, Herve Courtain, or Yann Bridard would definitely be first soloists or even principals, if they were to engage in other companies like ABT, RB, SFB, etc. (not that I'm underestimating the level of these companies). It's really too bad for the dancers!

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I agree that there are many POB dancers who could dance better roles that what they are given to dance now. Well, that ensures a good level of the corps de ballet and soloists- but perhaps it would be better to give them opportunities to dance bigger roles from time to time, else they might lose courage and be tempted to go elsewhere (as Pierre-Francois Vilanoba did, and now he's a principal with SFB).

What makes me smile a little bit is the way Patricia Boccadoro seems to think that Thibault's non-nomination is th worst scandal ever in the long history of the POB competition. Actually, there have been scandals nearly every year... Often it has been ultimately corrected (Legris didn't become a premier danseur at a controversial competition but was chosen as an etoile while being still a sujet, for example), but sometimes not. And Eleonora Abbagnato's promotion seems to have caused at least as many discussions among POB fans as Thibault's case.

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Terry -

I'm hoping Alexandra will elaborate on the definition of a danseur noble, since the classifications developed early in ballet's history are one of her specialties. Put simply, the danseur (and danseuse) noble were tall, well-proportioned dancers who performed primarily adagio.

Because of the obvious sense that the classification would be the most elevated of ballet, as time has gone by people have used it to define whatever they want in a good dancer. But it is a classification based on physical type (and temperament? Alexandra?) not on technical ability or virtuosity. Baryshnikov was never a danseur noble.

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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About "danseurs nobles": I had forgotten to add in my previous post that I thought that Manuel Legris was not really a danseur noble in my opinion, but rather a "demicaractere classique" (one of the definitions that was posted long ago). But well, are there any present dancers who would really be considered as "danseurs nobles" in the original meaning?

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Is there a list of definitions, somewhere ? I've always wondered why some are classified as "demi-character", etc. etc. ...- is it a "height" criteria ?

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Estelle - You asked me about the current male Premieres Danseurs at POB & whether I think that any of them are 'danseurs noble'? I've seen glimmers of the 'danseur noble look' in Wilfred Romoli above all, although several of the other men are also capable partners.

- Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited March 14, 2001).]

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This is going to sound heartless, but my one view of Thibault made me think there was no reason to promote him. Not because he wasn't a virtuoso (he was) but because he had already acheived his niche as a soloist. He looked too reedy to be partnered with a ballerina except in "exotic" roles like Bluebird, and he was doing them already as a sujet. Agreed that there is a vast portion of the repertory that I didn't see Thibault in, so I could be way off base about him personally (and wouldn't mind being corrected) but isn't the reason to promote a dancer to expand their repertory to larger roles? If the judges did not see Thibault's repertory as enlarging, why promote him?

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Thibault has been both excellent partner & virtuoso soloist in many roles. He is definitely PD-rank material. *However - and this is a big 'however' - I believe that he is being kept at the Sujet level because of his face which is piquant (funny, in a nice way) and with an aquiline nose. Not because of his line, partnering skills or soloist skills. I believe that it is his face, plain & simple. Just my two-cents worth. - Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited March 14, 2001).]

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Originally posted by Estelle:

By the way, I realize that I don't know if any of the psent premiers danseurs could be considered as real "danseurs nobles". Jeannie, Leigh, Marc, what do you think of it? (The present premiers danseurs are Romoli, Quillere, Delanoe, Belingard, Pech, Bridard, and Paquette).

Estelle - I really don't see any of them as a "danseur noble" either (which doesn't say anything about the artistic qualities of these gentlemen, of course, excellent dancers all).

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liebs, there are definitions. I've finally found the most complete one I've ever seen (by Joan Lawson) and will post it later, I hope this evening (I'm on deadline now).

I don't think a dancer has to be a good partner, nor able to dance every role, to be a premier danseur. I'd much prefer a roster of premiere danseurs where each one was a specialist than this all-purpose-principal now.

Danseurs nobles were always rare. They were the rooster in the hen house, as it were. Kenneth Greve, currently dancing, is one. I can't believe there aren't at least three in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I think the danseur noble was pretty well drummed out of Paris in the late 18th century, and the semicaractere classical (sometimes called classique) became the "hero" -- Albrecht, James. When the Petipa ballets were imported (which do have real danseur noble roles, Siegfried, Florimund, Jean de Brienne) the classiques moved into that repertory.

I also agree with those who have said that the term is so abused now that it hardly has any meaning, and most people think it simply means "star dancer" or "good dancer" -- or, as Marc did, apologize when they use it correctly.

I cannot claim to have decoded all of it, especially with women; there are subspecies that I can group, but cannot name (like lyric sopranos and dramatic sopranos, etc., in opera). More later (not that that anyone will be sitting by the net, panting for the "official" classifications smile.gif )

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Originally posted by alexandra:

I don't think a dancer has to be a good partner, nor able to dance every

role, to be a premier danseur.  

I agree about the "nor able to dance every role" part of your sentence. Actually, I think it's true for principal dancers too...

But I'm not really convinced about the "good partner" part: it seems to me that the premiers danseurs have a lot of pas de deux and pas de trois to dance, and also principal roles with much partnering, and so a premier danseur with bad partnering skills would have a much reduced repertory...

I realize that it's not easy to define the status of a premier danseur or premiere danseuse (and also I wonder if it has changed much during the century). Presently, there are 8 premieres danseuses and 6 premiers danseurs (while there are 6 female principals and 6 females principals); actually the number of premieres danseuses is not really significative as two of them (Ghislaine Fallou and Nathalie Rique) have been absent for health reasons for at least two seasons.

There were periods with more premiers danseurs than principals, and periods with less. Brigitte Lefevre always says in her interviews that she wants to reduce the number of principals, so it's likely that they will become more numerous than the principals...

Some people become premiers danseurs as a step before becoming an etoile, and for some others it is the last step of their careers.

Sometimes it is clear from the start that someone won't become a principal (I think it was the case with Quillere, for example- but I'm not sure, as I became interested in dance after he was promoted to premier danseur), but often it seems to be at least as much a question of bad luck, lack of positions or inner politics than a question of abilities of the dancer... For example, Karin Averty (now 38) has danced most of the great roles of the repertory, and I think a promotion would have been deserved, but she was in a generation with so many other bright dancers that she never was promoted. I think that among the present premiers danseurs, Delanoe and Romoli also are in that "almost principals" category- and that Moussin (now 32) might be there too, unfortunately (and perhaps Osta). From the point of view of the direction, the requirements probably are not the same for a young dancer who is considered as promising and "potential principal material", and for a dancer who will end his/her career as a premier danseur.

One difference between the premiers danseurs and the sujets is that the premiers danseurs never dance corps de ballet roles. But the direction has no obligation to cast them- it seems to be what is happening to Quillere... Most premiers danseurs dance quite a lot of principal roles (this season, Osta and Gillot surely danced more big roles that Elisabeth Maurin, for example), but rarely in the first cast (the big difference at the POB between the first cast and the other ones is something I don't understand well...) and also some less important roles (for example, in "Paquita" Osta danced the main role and also the pas de trois in the first act, which was also danced by some sujets; Delanoe and Romoli danced the role of the husband in "The concert" and also some of the pas de trois of "In the night" in alternance with some principals...)

Among the other differences between the principals and the premiers danseurs, there is the salary (the premiers danseurs, as all the other non-principal dancers, have a fixed salary, the principals have a contract negotiated every season), and also the fame. I think I could list by memory all the POB principals since the 1960s, but listing the premiers danseurs would be far more difficult.

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As a post-scriptum to my previous message: among the present premiers danseurs, it's hard to say if some of them will ever become a principal. I'd say that the answer is very likely to be yes for Gillot (and I'd find it really deserved- the only problem for Gillot might be her tall height, which makes it more difficult for her to find suitable partners),

and for Abbagnato (the direction likes her very much, I've yet to understand why), and very very likely to be "no" for Romoli (38), Delanoe (34), Averty (38), Quillere (35), Rique (36), and perhaps Moussin (32).

I don't know about the others: Fallou was considered as a very very promising dancer, but personal problems seem to have broken her career (if only she could recover!), Osta (30 or 31) as proved her qualities in many roles but might be considered as a bit too old, Pech (27- sometimes cast in prince roles, but I think he's better in demicaratere roles) unfortunately has been injured most of the time since he became a premier danseur), Bridard (30) isn't cast often, and Pujol, Belingard and Paquette (all 25) became premiers danseurs too recently for me to know what to think...

Jeannie, I agree about Delanoe and Romoli's partnering skills. Actually, both are very versatile dancers, and dance prince roles as well as demi-caractere ones. I don't think they are "danseurs nobles" in the original meaning of the word- but in fact, even among the principals, I doubt there is a real "danseur noble" in that sense... I think you're right about Pech dancing the Bluebird in the "Sleeping Beauty" video (by the way, I hope it will be released too, as my parents forgot to record the Prologue frown.gif and I missed my friend Delphine as the sixth Fairy). I saw him as Desire, he was not bad, but not very well suited to Elisabeth Maurin's Aurore, and

I think that he'd be better in dark demicaractere roles. You didn't mention Bridard- is it because you never saw him? His line could be good for prince roles, but he's cast mostly in roles like Rothbart, Lescaut, the Roland Petit repertory...

Really I haven't seen Thibault enough to say anything about his partnering skills... But you might be right about the fact that his face might a reason why he wsn't promoted; I remember some people mentioned it on ballet.co.uk. It might have been a problem for Romoli too.

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Estelle - Sorry to have forgotten Bridard. I don't remember ever seeing him doing true "partnering" BUT he was a fantastic Abderakhman in RAYMONDA a couple of years ago. Tall & handsome and with sinewy, sexy solos in Act II! wink.gif Also, wasn't he one of the Inigos during the first few performances of PAQUITA (which I attended)? He seems to always be cast as the 'demi-caractere' or 'bad guy' despite his height and handsome looks. This situation reminds me of ABT's Victor Barbee - tall, handsome, great dancer...but always in the villanous or comic roles. I always used to think of Barbee: 'What a waste! There's a handsome Basil behind the mask of Gamache!' But, of course, it's not really a 'waste' if he's fantastic in what he does.

- Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited March 14, 2001).]

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Estelle, thank you for that very thorough listing and analysis of the current POB roster. When I said that I didn't think good partnering skills were necessarily important for promotion, of course, they would be if the dancer were cast in roles that required partnering. But there are roles that don't. I also meant that, IMO, principals shouldn't all be danseurs nobles, or classiques; there needs to be a mix, and a first-rate demicaractere dancer could just as well be a principal -- and remain in his "line" of repertory. Being a principal shouldn't mean doing every star, or Prince, role.

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Perhaps the closest thing to the noble type POB has right now is one of the newest etoiles, Jean-Guillaume Bart? He's got the proportions and look, but those more familiar could argue him as a classique rather than a noble. In either case he's a very talented dancer and certainly easy on the eyes!

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Jeannie: find Bridard handsome too smile.gif I wonder why he's cast so often in "villain" roles (or dull contemporary new works), is it that the direction finds that he's especially good at it, or that he might have weaknesses in prince roles? I don't know.

My best memory of him is in Petit's "Le jeune homme et la mort", he was especially moving.

Alexandra: I understand what you mean. But it seems that so far, the premiers danseurs often are cast in roles requiring partnering, and it doesn't seem likely to change...

I agree that not all principals dance prince roles, and that there could be demicaractere principals. Actually, among the present principals, the closest one to a demicaractere one is Kader Belarbi: he seems to have given up most prince roles now, and dances mostly roles like Rothbart, Lescaut, Tybalt, the Roland Petit repertory... And also contemporary works. (I realize also that when you have only 6 male principals and a lot of prince roles in the repertory, nearly all the principals have to dance prince roles...) I also think that Pietragalla mostly was a demicaractere dancer, and got most of her early successes in demicaractere roles, but later she insisted on dancing more roles such as Giselle, Nikyia, etc. (and most critics didn't find her very successful in that repertory).

Leigh: at least there are two people disagreeing with Patricia Boccadoro's unfair statement "hearts do not beat faster when Jean-Guillaume Bart arrives on stage"... He's got great proportions, and so far his repertory includes mostly prince roles and abstract works (while dancers such as Hilaire, Legris or Martinez dance demicaractere roles too). By the way, I wonder if "Jewels" could be a way to characterize the dancers (whether they'd be cast in Emeralds, Rubies or Diamonds. Bart definitely wouldn't be cast in Rubies, for example).

Some critics (and some people on ballet.co) sometimes blame Bart from looking a bit too much like a "nice boy", but that really isn't a problem for me.

By the way, there is now a thread in French on ballet.co on "danseurs nobles" (in the "naive" sense of the word). For example, Catherine categorizes Bart, Legris and Martinez as "noble", and Hilaire, Belarbi and Le riche as demi-caractere.

[This message has been edited by Estelle (edited March 15, 2001).]

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Estelle -

Sadly, I'd have to agree with Ms Boccadoro's conclusions on Jean-Guillaume Bart. I saw his des Grieux in POB's 'Manon' last Friday 9 March and was almost shocked by his lack of passion and sexuality in this role, which by definition demands a great deal of both qualities. Worse, at least in the crucial Act I, he appeared to be dancing for his own rather than the audience's benefit.

I thought his dancing was pure and clean but, devoid of emotional input, it made little impact (on me at least).

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Thank you, Estelle, for those threads. They were very, very interesting. I find that I have already been sensitive to the way people are cast... because while there are those who can dance everything, there are also those dancers who really onl;y look their best in certain roles. Anyway, sorry to go off- topic...

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Still about the POB competition: there's an article about Eleonora Abbagnato and Jeremie Belingard in the latest issue of "Pont de vue- Images du Monde" (a weekly magazine dealing mostly with royal families). It is the usual "they're nice and beautiful and successful and happy" kind of article, but something striked me. The journalist wrote that unexpected things could happen in the competition, and that before the competition everybody expected the "wonder kid" Emmanuel Thibault to get promoted, while he ranked only 3rd and Belingard ranked 1st. Well, perhaps the journalist is misinformed, or the balletomanes he know have opinions very different from the other ones, but I think that everybody paying attention to the POB knew far before the competition that Abbagnato and Belingard would get promoted whatever they would do, and that Thibault was not at all among the favorites of the direction. This is not meant to criticize Abbagnato and Belingard (anyway, I haven't seen them often enough), but I find the way the journalist wrote that was somewhat biased, and that it was unfair towards Thibault.

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