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Emmanuel Thibault and the POB competition


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 12 March 2001 - 04:24 PM

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 Posted Image )

#17 Estelle

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 07:55 AM

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.

#18 Estelle

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 08:21 AM

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 Posted Image 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.

#19 Natalia

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 09:52 AM

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! Posted Image 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).]

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 10:43 AM

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.

#21 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 12:14 PM

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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#22 Estelle

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 05:56 PM

Jeannie: find Bridard handsome too Posted Image 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).]

#23 Ann

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 06:37 PM

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).

#24 leibling

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Posted 15 March 2001 - 12:44 PM

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...

#25 Estelle

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Posted 16 March 2001 - 06:23 AM

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.

#26 Françoise

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Posted 17 March 2001 - 06:06 AM

You must see that in POB now, premier danseurs must dance as etoile, must be able to replace etoile at every moment, they must be partner they are etoile without title elsewhere the true name of Etoile is Premier danseur Etoile which prove the imbrication of the both category. A premier danseur must be a partner it's not the case of Emmanuel Thibault.
He dances very well, it's sure but not too to be premier danseur. You could compare it to Quilleré, but Quilleré is a good partner and his career with Miami City ballet prove it. In a other company as POB, he will be soloist but I can't believe he will be etoile, he couldn't dance all the important rules as Siegfried, Albrecht, he can just dance little pdd as bluebird, peasants pdd, scottisch pdd in Sylphide.
POB is very different in their hierarchy and the employment of dancer. Sujet is the equivalent of Solist in other troup. All the premier danseur will be étoiles in other troup.
For me POB ballet lovers, it's not a shame that Thibault was not promoted. It's more a shame that Paquette go up he was young and could wait some years, and never we saw him in big rule, we just know it's a good partner. For Bélingard, the case is different, considering that other things than dance could be promote dancer in POB as well as in other companies but a few too much this year.
It's sure that they promoted premiers danseurs who are most caractère than noble but as Kevin said Paquette could be a noble not as in the good old time but he could dance the prince' rule. Pech too even his physical is a few typed.
POB has rules and laws for each category, quadrille make simple "corps de ballet", coryphée begin to have semi-solist rolls (they replace sujets) or caracter rolls as Father, and so on, rolls who just necessit play. The sujet dance all the variation and make the "Big" corps de ballet as Aurora's friends, and could sometime have premier danseur or etoile rolls in contemporary ballet. Premier danseur replace completely etoiles now, they dance the same rolls just less than them. And now since Nureyev isn't alive, they gave all the parts of soloist as Henriette and Clemence (Raymonda), Cinderella sisters, Midsummer night dream's Helena, Hermia and so on to the premier danseur instead of Danseurs etoiles which creates the rolls.

Concerning Bart, Jean-Guillaume is an excellent dancer, it's the best dancer in the POB company now and his Des Grieux, was absolutely wonderful, he just not dancing, he plays too, evidently not for the amphitheâtre but his dance and his playing is wonderful. His partenership with Aurelie Dupont was brilliant. And I think he dance the rule as Dowell or Legris. I'm not the lonely person to think that, someone else compare him to Dowell.

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2001 - 11:19 PM

Thanks for all the comments.

The British critic John Percival has written an article, not about Thibault, but about the POB competition:

[url="http://"http://www.independent.co.uk/enjoyment/Theatre/Dance/2001-03/ballet230301.shtml"]http://www.independent.co.uk/enjoyment/The...let230301.shtml[/url]

#28 innopac

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 04:25 AM

A youtube comment dated 3 months ago says about Thibault "So glad he has FINALLY become an etoile.I shall look to following his progress." Is this correct -- has Emmanuel Thibault become an etoile?

#29 Estelle

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 04:38 AM

A youtube comment dated 3 months ago says about Thibault "So glad he has FINALLY become an etoile.I shall look to following his progress." Is this correct -- has Emmanuel Thibault become an etoile?


I don't think so. On the POB web site, he's listed as a premier danseur:

http://www.operadepa.../...hp?&lang=fr

#30 Mashinka

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 05:01 AM

No, he isn't an etoile, though he has progressed to the official rank of premiere danseur; many lesser talents have been promoted ahead of him.

M. Thibault is something of an enigma in the world of ballet with a massive following throughout Europe but little recognition by the management of his own company. He occasionally gets a leading role and I've gone over to Paris to see him dance in Don Q. and Ashton's Fille, nowadays he guests abroad a lot and recently performed Colas with the Bolshoi in Moscow.

It isn't just audiences that are in awe of Thibault: dancers are too, and Nikolai Tsiskaridze once described him to me as "a genius", a description with which I totally concur. Emmanuel Thibault's career has been blighted by the short-sightedness of the Parisian management that has conspired to rob international audiences of one of the finest dancers France has ever produced.

The first full length role he got to dance was Don Q. and both fans and critics from all over Europe converged on Paris for the event (Clement Crisp and John Percival were sitting together in the front row) I came away hoping that I had witnessed a turning point in his career and that the big roles would all follow in quick succession - but it wasn't to be. I suppose there is still a chance that at this late stage in his career he may still be made etoile as some sort of consolation prize, but I won't be holding my breath.


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