Juliette

POB Season 2007-2008

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It's not impressive, alas.

Still, I miss Paris and want to go back and see the company. I'm keeping my eye on mid-April for the School performances and the Nureyev/Balanchine/Forsythe program. If the Royal is doing something worth traveling to London for in April as well, that would close the deal.

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Sasha Waltz, Angelin Preljocaj, Wayne McGregor, Pina Bausch, Mats Ek, Carolyn Carlson... This is a ballet company? There is one reconstructed classic, a quasi-classic to a classic score and a divertissement from a bona fide classic. (Why not stage a complete Raymonda?) I wonder, was the company ordered to cut back on its pointe shoe budget for next season?

:flowers: There has been a lot of consternation about this season on French discussion boards already, and now I can really understand those people who've been wanting to see Brigitte Lefèvre tarred and feathered for the past few years. Wouldn't now be a good time for the Opéra's dancers to participate in that time-honoured French tradition of striking in protest against this season?

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Volcanohunter, POB dancers don't seem to protest, some of them because they like contemporary dance (well, it shows off the soloists who can't pull a full-length ballet off, and this has become quite usual), others because they feel stuck in the corps and being chosen by a choreographer is much more likely to happen than being cast in a soloist part in the classics. I don't think the POB is a happy company right now, and that's a huge shame given the depth of talent it is wasting. What on earth will the dancers who don't care for contemporary dance, such as Emmanuel Thibault, Myriam Ould-Braham or Laura Hecquet do next season ?

Now if only the audience could go on strike...

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By the way, here is a summary of the season, posted elsewhere :

- Wuthering Heights (Kader Belarbi)

- Romeo & Juliet (Berlioz/new choreography by Sasha Waltz)

- Mixed Bill : Le songe de Médée (Preljocaj)/Genus (McGregor, premiere)

- Nutcracker (Noureev)

- Paquita (Lacotte)

- Orphée & Eurydice (Pina Bausch)

- Caligula (Nicolas Le Riche)

- Mixed Bill : Raymonda digest (Noureev)/Four Temperaments (Balanchine)/Artifact Suite (Forsythe)

- Mats Ek Bill : La maison de Bernarda/Une sorte de... (company premieres)

- Lady of the Camellias (Neumeier)

- Signes (Carolyn Carlson)

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:flowers: I can only hope that this season will be Lefèvre's last, and that once Manuel Legris' mandatory retirement rolls around, he'll come in as her replacement. (On the other hand, making Sylvie Guillem directrice would probably be a disaster since she's clearly lost interest in classical ballet and this sort of season would probably become typical.)

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What a really disappointing season indeed ! I'm not especially surprised, as Brigitte Lefèvre clearly has shown for years that she isn't especially interested in the company's classical repertory, but well, really there isn't much to be excited about. Two of the full-length works are opera-ballets with choreographies by modern choreographers (Waltz's "Romeo and Juliet" and Bausch's "Orphée et Eurydice"), two others are works by company dancers which don't use much ballet vocabulary (Belarbi's "Wuthering heights" and Le Riche's "Caligula"), Neumeier's "Lady of the camellias" will be scheduled for the *third* season in a row, Carlson's "Signes" has already been shown again and again... And only one Balanchine work, no Robbins, no Ballets Russes works, no Lifar, no Petit, no Tudor, no Ashton, etc. :huh:

Patrick Dupond was sometimes criticized as a director, but from what I've read the criticism focused mostly about casting decisions (and the fact that he was both the director and an étoile with the company, with a tendancy to cast himself much) and not much about the repertory (also, in that period the administrateurs de la danse- I believe Jean-Albert Cartier had that job for a while- probably had an influence too... Now, as far as I know, that position doesn't exist any longer- the last "administrateur de la danse" was Brigitte Lefèvre herself, and the job was suppressed when she became "directrice de la danse" so she has all powers...)

It seems that only the direction of the POB school is interested in showing the classical repertory (the school's performance will include Staats' "Soir de fête", Petit's "Les Forains" and a work by Nils Christe)- by the way, what an absurdity that for example the school performed in recent years works like "Divertimento n.15", excerpts from "Napoli", "Western Symphony", some Lifar works, etc. while the company itself, who should be dancing it, completely ignored that repertory.

volcanohunter, you mention Manuel Legris as a potential director for the company after Lefèvre's retirement (but so far we have no idea about when she'll retire- she's 60 now and could still hold that job for several years, alas). While I admire him immensely as a dancer, I really know too little about his skills as a director to know what kind of job he'd do. He has no experience as a company director (and I think that directing a small touring group of dancers has little to do with being the director of a big company) and I don't know much about what his choices of repertory would be.

Also, the previous experiences of former POB dancers turned directors hasn't be very positive in some cases (see the Pietragalla affair in Marseille, which ended quite sourly, also Jean-Yves Lormeau didn't stay much in Rio de Janeiro- Charles Jude seems to do a better job in Bordeaux- except that perhaps at his age he should consider casting himself less-, however a problem of moral harrassment one or two years ago with a soloist who was his former girlfriend didn't exactly cas a positive light on the company) and so I wonder if the officials making such decisions might be a bit cautious about choosing a POB dancer. (Now, most of them seem to know so little about ballet that one might fear any bizarre decision, e.g. choosing a modern dance choreographer to lead the company or something like that... Who knows ? :tomato: )

One thing that made me smile is that the only tour announced in the company season is to... Créteil, a close suburb of Paris which actually has several metro stations on the line 8, which is a line which also goes to both Paris operas, so that's not as if seeing POB performances was terribly difficult for its inhabitants ! Well, perhaps they'll tour elsewhere and it hasn't been announced yet, but I wish the company's direction would think more about all the French cities which have no ballet company and where opportunities to see some ballet are about zero (and whose inhabitants subsidize as much the POB as Paris people, as the subsidies are national)...

[Edited to add]: Also among the season's absurdities, there will be:

-the Défilé in Bastille (it had already been done in the Dupond era, but if I remember correctly, back then there were some works done in Garnier which wasn't available... And also back then, the evenings with the Défilé were at a normal price.)

-the fact that the only two classical full-length works ("Paquita" and "The Nutcracker") will be scheduled at the same period (in december), which might lead to a lot of injuries and casting problems as it already happened in previous seasons, and which will leave the ballet audience hungry for the rest of the season :(

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Wouldn't it be nice if a group of classically-minded dancers could form a mini-POB and take actual ballet on the road?

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I wish the company's direction would think more about all the French cities which have no ballet company and where opportunities to see some ballet are about zero (and whose inhabitants subsidize as much the POB as Paris people, as the subsidies are national)...
I'm amazed that this hasn't become a big issue when arts funding is debated. Instead of seeing to it that audiences throughout France have the chance to see their highly-subsidized national company perform world-class ballet, various smaller cities have been reduced to presenting low-cost, and somewhat provincial modern companies, with relaitvely few dancers, that -- whether you like them or not -- provide a very different level of performance in a much more limited repertoire. Isn't anyone in the French government concerned about this?

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To some extent reaching the non-Parisian taxpayer is accomplished through the POB's annual broadcasts on state-subsidized television, as is the case in many European states.

It's a pity we North Americans can't swing a similar arrangement.

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I'm amazed that this hasn't become a big issue when arts funding is debated. Instead of seeing to it that audiences throughout France have the chance to see their highly-subsidized national company perform world-class ballet, various smaller cities have been reduced to presenting low-cost, and somewhat provincial modern companies, with relaitvely few dancers, that -- whether you like them or not -- provide a very different level of performance in a much more limited repertoire. Isn't anyone in the French government concerned about this?

Well, "parisianism" has been a problem in France for decades, or actually centuries (a trace of the Paris-center monarchy ?), as nearly all of the main cultural institutions are based in Paris. There have been some progress since the "decentralization" laws in the 1980s, but more on the administrative side than on the cultural side... and I don't think politicians pay much attention to such a topic.

As volcanohunter wrote, there are some TV performances which are broadcasted on public TV (but it is a relatively recent phenomenon), however in my opinion that should be in addition to tours, not seen as a replacement (especially as such broadcasts generally are shown at such a late hour that they can only reach a tiny audience.

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