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Jewels by the POB, Dec 29-30


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#1 Estelle

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Posted 17 January 2001 - 12:28 PM

This is a copy of a review I have posted to the newsgroup alt.arts.ballet.

Some other reviews of that program have been posted on that site, by Francoise (Catherine) and Jean-Luc:

[url="http://"http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000415.html"]http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum13/HTM...TML/000415.html[/url]

[url="http://"http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000419.html"]http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum13/HTM...TML/000419.html[/url]

[url="http://"http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000847.html"]http://www.balletalert.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000847.html[/url]

There also were some reviews on ballet.co.uk,
some of them in French, and some English ones by Ann Williams and Kevin Ng.
Balanchine's full-length ballet "Jewels" was supposed to have its much
anticipated Paris Opera premiere on December 15. But, as several other
ballet and opera performances, it was cancelled because of a strike of
some of the technicians. It finally was premiered on December 19, and
about 7 or the originally planned 11 performances actually took place.
After spending more time that what I'd have wished queuing at the box
office, I finally managed to get some seats for the performances of
Dec 29 and Dec 30.

The Paris Opera had commissionned some new sets and costumes to the
fashion designer Christian Lacroix for that production, and most of the
French media paid far more attention to that rather than to the
choreography. It probably had the advantage that the costumes were not
affected by the strike, but I couldn't help feeling a bit irritated that
the choreography itself received so little attention, while it was in fact
the real "jewel" of the program...

The first part of "Jewels", "Emeralds", is on some music by Gabriel Faure,
from "Pelleas and Melisande" and "Shylock". It is supposed to be a tribute
to the French school of ballet, and it was the part of the evening that I
loved the most, with its lovely music and its romantic atmosphere. Also,
after seeing several half-satistfying modern dance performances, what a
relief to see real ballet arms, expressive and graceful! In the first
cast, it was Elisabeth Maurin who danced the first female role; I have
sometimes found that Maurin was a bit miscast in some Balanchine ballets,
but in that role she was very beautiful and moving (and there is something
in her silhouette which is not so different from Violette Verdy, who
created the role). In the second cast, I had the joy to see Isabelle
Guerin, back on stage after a one-year absence (she gave birth to a baby
girl last summer), as gorgeous and lyrical as ever. Both were partnered by
Jean-Guillaume Bart, supremely elegant in everything he did. The second
main couple was danced by another of the senior ballerinas of the company,
Fanny Gaida, lyrical and graceful, and Kader Belarbi (one could only
regret his role was not a bit more substantial). Gaida and Guerin will
leave the company at the end of the season, and surely it will be hard to
replace them. In the pas de trois, Clairemarie Osta, Laetitia Pujol and
Stephane Phavorin (first cast) and Christophe Duquenne (second cast)
showed much vivaciousness combined with elegant classicism. Lacroix's
costumes looked nice to me, but his sets (a kind of photograph of emerald
stones) were quite cold and uninteresting.

The second part, "Rubies", on Stravinsky's Capriccio for piano and
orchestra, already was in the repertory of the Paris Opera (under the
title "Capriccio") since the mid-70s. I had already seen it several times,
and found it more interesting in the context of the whole work than when
presented alone; I'm likely to find it a bit "too light" sometimes, but
it provided an interesting contrast with the other two parts. The main
roles were danced by Delphine Moussin, Lionel Delanoë (replacing Carole
Arbo and Eric Quilleré) and Marie-Agnès Gillot on Dec 29 and Delphine
Moussin, Manuel Legris and Delphine Baey on Dec 30. The change of cast
showed me the difference between a very good male dancer (Delanoë) and an
excellent one: Manuel Legris was at his best in such a role, and, as in
Robbins'"Suite of dances" last fall, I was in awe at his lightness, speed,
wit and purity of style (and also his perfect partnering). In the soloist
role, Marie-Agnes Gillot displayed much authority and stage presence.
Lacroix's sets were mostly a big red diamond shape on a grey background,
I didn't find it especially nice, and the costumes were a bit too
agressively bright for my taste.

The last part of the ballet, "Diamonds", is a homage to the Russian
school and St-Petersburg, one some music from Tchaikovsky's "Symphony
n.3". While many elements of "Emeralds" remind one of the Romantic
period and of ballets such as "Giselle" or "La sylphide", that part
makes one think of "Swan Lake". In the first cast, Agnes Letestu
and Jose Martinez showed much style and elegance, and their
usual good partnership. I was a bit disappointed by the second
cast: Marie-Agnes Gillot didn't look completely at ease (but
she's far less experienced than Letestu in such roles, and probably
she will improve with time), while Nicolas Le Riche looked a bit
too interested in showing his virtuosity and jumping as high
as he could, at the detriment of style. It seemed that some
part of the audience liked it, as they applauded vigorously
at the end of most of his variations (and also Gillot's),
which I found quite annoying- one almost had the feeling to
be at a sports event. There even was a moment which made
the audience giggle: at the end of a big jump at the left
end of the stage, Le Riche disappeared backstage and a big
"BOOM" was heard. People couldn't help laughing... I learnt
later that his knee had hit some hard prop and that his fellow
dancers had been worried for a few minutes that he might not
dance the end of the ballet because of the pain, but of course
the audience couldn't know that. Lacroix' sets were a silver
shape above the dancers- it probably was supposed to have something
to do with stars, but I couldn't help thinking about a giant
fishbone...

On the whole, that was a very pleasant program, and I really
wish that the POB will perform it again in the next seasons
(especially as part of its potential audience couldn't see it
because of the strike).

#2 Giannina

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Posted 17 January 2001 - 06:23 PM

Your review is so welcome, Estelle. You are a much appreciated window to the world of POB. I have seen Guerin once or twice (once on tape) and have always been impressed by her; such a loss that I couldn't have witnessed more of her career. Or, for that matter, the careers of so many POB dancers.

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#3 CygneDanois

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Posted 17 January 2001 - 10:31 PM

I can't believe Isabelle Guérin has to retire! The only consolation for me will be if she guests in the USA, and that would be a loss for France, so I am very conflicted.

Estelle, can you tell me the age of Elisabeth Maurin? I have a tape of her dancing "Casse-Noisette," and she looks very young (but also very good) on it.

Also, I have only seen Kader Belarbi on tape dancing "Giselle" pas de deux and the pas de deux from "Don Quichotte." He isn't really impressive on either of these, and I'm wondering if he was just having an off night. Is he really very good in person?

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#4 Estelle

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 06:44 AM

Originally posted by CygneDanois:
I can't believe Isabelle Guérin has to retire!  The only consolation for me will be if she guests in the USA, and that would be a loss for France, so I am very conflicted.


She's born in 1961, and POB female dancers officially have to retire when they turn 40. So it is the last official season for Guérin, Gaïda and Arbo. Retired principals sometimes are invited as guests, for example Elisabeth Platel, who officially retired in 1999, was invited a few times for "Raymonda", but it doesn't seem to happen often- for example, from what I've been told, Monique Loudières (now 44) still takes company class every day, but she hasn't been invited since 1997 (she premiered Neumeier's "Sylvia" then).

Such a fixed age for retirement has always been criticized, because there are many dancers who still are in good shape at 40, and who are artistically excellent. There have been plans to postpone the age at 42 (the retirement age for male dancers is 45, it dates back from a period when the company was lacking male dancers) but no measures seem to have been taken... Probably it's quite a complicated subject, as the Paris Opera has many administrative rules.

I have no idea about the plans of Guérin after her official retirement (I don't even know when she will retire in the season). Among the former POB dancers who retired recently, some continued to dance for a while (like Platel or Loudières), some became involved in teaching or coaching (like Claude de Vulpian or Clotilde Vayer), some directed companies (like Jude, Lormeau or Pietragalla) and some disappeared more or less, probably taking care of their families (like Legree).

Estelle, can you tell me the age of Elisabeth Maurin?  I have a tape of her dancing "Casse-Noisette," and she looks very young (but also very good) on it.


Elisabeth Maurin is born at the beginning of 1963, so she will retire within two seasons. I think that that "Casse-Noisette" was filmed in 1988 (she became a principal then), so she was not so young (or perhaps it was another video?) Actually, she's said to still be very good in "little girls" roles such as Clara in "The Nutcracker" (there were reviews about her recently on ballet.co.uk).

People are expecting new principals to be chosen soon, as after the retirements of Arbo, Guérin and Gaïda there will only be three female principals: Maurin (38), Letestu (30), and Dupont (28). There have been lengthy discussions about it among French fans on ballet.o.uk, and a lot of hypotheses... The most likely candidate now seems to be Gillot.


Also, I have only seen Kader Belarbi on tape dancing "Giselle" pas de deux and the pas de deux from "Don Quichotte."  He isn't really impressive on either of these, and I'm wondering if he was just having an off night.  Is he really very good in person?  


Well, I think that purely classical roles probably aren't his best ones (and now he rarely dances such roles). He's more at ease with demicaractere roles: for example he danced most of Roland Petit's ballets in the POB repertory ("Carmen", "Le jeune homme et la mort", "Le Loup", "Notre-Dame de Paris",
"Le rendez-vous"...). I have good memories of him in roles such as Fokine's "Petrouchka", De Mille's "Fall River Legend" or in Balanchine's "The Prodigal Son". Sometimes he has a wonderful stage presence- I remember that in Taylor's "Speaking in tongues", when he was on stage I hardly saw anybody else. Also he often dances in contemporary works (Forsythe, Ek...) and was chosen by Robbins for the POB premiere of several of this works (for example the second pas de deux of "In the night"). There aren't many videos of him, but he can be seen in "Les Noces" as the bridegroom in the "Paris dances Diaghilev" video, and also I found him really great as the Miller in a video of Massine's "Le Tricorne". There also is a video of the contemporary trio "Aunis" by Jacques Garnier with him and two other POB dancers, which I find really nice (and it's filmed very well).

#5 CygneDanois

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 11:31 AM

Thank you, Estelle! You are such a wealth of information.

Yes, my copy of "Casse-Noisette" is copyrighted 1988. Maurin reminds me of Larissa Lezhnina--they look similar and both seem to be tiny and perfect, like small diamonds.

I wish I could see more of Belarbi, as the costume he has to wear on that tape is not flattering. He dances Giselle with Arbo, and the music seems to be too fast for her...well, I'll just have to keep my eye out for other tapes of them.

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#6 Estelle

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 12:27 PM

Originally posted by CygneDanois:
Yes, my copy of "Casse-Noisette" is copyrighted 1988.  Maurin reminds me of Larissa Lezhnina--they look similar and both seem to be tiny and perfect, like small diamonds.


Unfortunately, I've never seen Larissa Lezhnina (but remember seeing some very positive reviews about her on this site by Marc Haegeman). And I haven't seen that "Nutcracker" video either...

There seem to be contrasted opinions about Maurin. Her silhouette is a bit unusual (well, she has a bigger bust than many ballerinas), and it seems to put off some people... I haven't seen her very often, but have found her interesting in many roles, she has both a good technique (even if it's probably not as good now as it used to be) and great acting talents.


I wish I could see more of Belarbi, as the costume he has to wear on that tape is not flattering.  He dances Giselle with Arbo, and the music seems to be too fast for her...well, I'll just have to keep my eye out for other tapes of them.  


Do you know when and where it was filmed? I vaguely remember reading about a tape of a Russian gala with Belarbi and Arbo, is it that? It must have been filmed quite a long time ago. Unfortunately, as far as I know there are no interesting videos with Arbo (she became a principal in 1993 when she was already 32, and anyway there are not many available videos of the POB); all what I remember is that she probably has a secondary role in the "Cinderella" video (Nureyev's bizarre production). "Le Tricorne" isn't available as a commercial tape here, it was part of a "Picasso and dance" program which was shown a few times on TV (it also included Nijinska's "Le train bleu" with Maurin and Le Riche). "Paris dances Diaghilev" is a tape which seems to be available on amazon.com, and I think it's worth seeing.

#7 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 01:09 PM

When I interviewed Isabelle Guérin last December she mentioned she will be going to the USA (her husband is American) after her retirement, although she doesn't have any definite engagements yet. She said she lives a bit from day to day and didn’t conceal her regret of having to leave the Opera at 40. Of course she will continue performing. The idea of becoming a full-time teacher doesn't exactly appeal to her.

At that time there still wasn't anything planned for her official adieux (!!). The "Romeo and Juliets" at the end of this season would be the obvious choice for her farewell performance, but she doesn't like the idea of having to bow out in the Bastille opera.

I agree, Estelle, re Kader Belarbi. He was also very impressive as Lescaut in "l'Histoire de Manon". Videos can be rather cruel, that's true.

#8 Estelle

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 01:21 PM

Originally posted by Marc Haegeman:
When I interviewed Isabelle Guérin last December she mentioned she will be going to the USA (her husband is American) after her retirement, although she doesn't have any definite engagements yet. She said she lives a bit from day to day and didn?t conceal her regret of having to leave the Opera at 40. Of course she will continue performing. The idea of becoming a full-time teacher doesn't exactly appeal to her.


I really hope that she will have opportunities to perform as a guest dancer with the Paris Opera. She's such a wonderful dancer... And also the company probably will be lacking experienced dancers for some roles- for example, the only "remaining" principals who have danced "Giselle" are Letestu and Maurin (and I think it is a role which gets better with experience).


At that time there still wasn't anything planned for her official adieux (!!).


That doesn't surprise me much... I remember calling the Paris Opera and asking about the "adieux" of some other principals, and in general the people I got at the end of the line seemed surprised that I was interested in such a silly detail. The POB administration doesn't seem very interested in such things.


The "Romeo and Juliets" at the end of this season would be the obvious choice for her farewell performance, but she doesn't like the idea of having to bow out in the Bastille opera.


Surely Garnier would be a nicer place. But then she'd have to retire earlier... By the way, some people posted on ballet.co.uk that Carole Arbo might retire after the Robbins program.


I agree, Estelle, re Kader Belarbi. He was also very impressive as Lescaut in "l'Histoire de Manon". Videos can be rather cruel, that's true.


I think that's especially true for videos of galas (sometimes the rehearsal conditions and filming conditions are not as good as those of bigger productions). I had forgotten to write in my answer to CygneDanois that I do find Kader Belarbi quite handsome and sexy (but of course that is subjective! Posted Image )

#9 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 01:41 PM

Estelle, the pas de deux with Arbo/Belarbi and Ananiashvili/Belarbi were filmed in 1992 in an open air Gala performance on the Red Square in Moscow. As performances they are indeed quite appalling, but considering the venue one has to be somewhat lenient, I guess.

I’m sorry, but I really don’t see much resemblance between Larissa Lezhnina and Elisabeth Maurin, not in physical appearance, even less in performance style.

#10 CygneDanois

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 05:00 PM

The open-air gala that Marc mentions is the one I was referring to. I have the "Paris Dances Diaghilev" tape as well, and it is one of my treasures, though I don't see Maurin's name mentioned anywhere. I did not notice a heavy bust on her in the "Casse-Noisette" tape, but maybe I was too busy watching her immaculate footwork and triple pirouettes.

As for similarities/differences between Lezhnina and Maurin, I've only seen Lezhnina dance "Diana & Actaeon" pas de deux, "Fairy Doll" pas de trois, and a variation from "Paquita" (all on tapes), and I've only seen Maurin in that one "Casse-Noisette," so I am not really qualified to judge; that's merely how it seemed to me from seeing them those few times.

I also think Belarbi really looks authentically Spanish in "Don Q." He has that "inner fire" going. It's wonderful to watch, and I think that if Ananiashvili had used a similar interpretation, the pas de deux would have looked pretty good, but of course she has to do what works best for her. It's also unfortunate that the black costume on Belarbi makes most of him fade into the black background, while the contrast between Ananiashvili's pink tights and the background makes her look...a bit large. At any rate, her technical fireworks more than make up for it.

I still don't know what they were thinking when they decided to film an open-air performance. It makes me wonder how Arbo would look in Giselle at the Paris Opéra, because from what I can tell, she'd be very good at it, with her dark, reddish hair, pale skin, and long, long arms. She looks as though she was trying to create the proper atmosphere for the pas de deux, but the venue simply was not conducive, and the music seems to be much too fast.


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#11 Estelle

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Posted 19 January 2001 - 06:14 AM

Originally posted by CygneDanois:
I have the "Paris Dances Diaghilev" tape as well, and it is one of my treasures, though I don't see Maurin's name mentioned anywhere.


Oh, I'm sorry I wasn't clear: Maurin doesn't appear on that tape, it is Belarbi who is in one of its videos (in "Les Noces").


It makes me wonder how Arbo would look in Giselle at the Paris Opéra, because from what I can tell, she'd be very good at it, with her dark, reddish hair, pale skin, and long, long arms.  She looks as though she was trying to create the proper atmosphere for the pas de deux, but the venue simply was not conducive, and the music seems to be much too fast.


Unfortunatelym I have never seen Arbo in "Giselle" (I wish I could go to Paris more often!) but have read good reviews about her in that role. I saw her once as Myrtha (in 1993, it was the day when she became a principal dancer) and she was very good. By the way, I think that she's a dancer who hasn't had the career she'd have deserved: she was in a generation with many excellent female dancers (Platel, Guerin, Gaida, Pietragalla...), and so there was much competition, and she became a principal a bit late. Moreover, soon after becoming a principal she had a child, and so danced less for a while (of course I don't criticize her for that, I'm happy for her that she has a busy family life).


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