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katharine kanter

Results of the Annual POB Concours (2002)

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The results have just been posted up on another Website. With excuses to CriticalDance - they will be made public in any event here they are :

Coryphées :

1- Mathieu Ganyo

2- Alexis Renaud

3- Yong Geol Kim

4- Simon Vallastro

5- Florian Magnenet

1- Dorothée Gilbert

2- Eve Grinsztajn

3- Séverine Westermann

Sont nommés Sujets :

1- Bruno Bouché

2- Stéphane Bullion

3- Jean-Christophe Guerri

4- Nicolas Paul

1- Myriam Kamionka

2- Caroline Bance

3- Myriam Ould-Braham

Sont nommés premiers Danseurs :

1- Alessio Carbone

2- Hervé Moreau

1- Stéphanie Romberg

2- Mélanie Hurel

Owing to a ghastly snafu with the tickets, I missed all the men, and half of the female quadrilles.

The promotion to coryphée among the men, so far as I can see from this year's work, makes sense. Ganio and Valastro - exciting dancers. The promotion to sujet among the men was a dullish class to follow, and I rather suspect that those who missed it, like myself, did not miss much.

The promotion to sujet among the ladies was a little more interesting. Myriam Kamionka is about 28 years old, I would imagine this was probably her best concours so far. A pretty dancer, "sans plus". Myriam Ould-Braham who is 20, was, I think, promoted to sujet on her extraordinary potential, rather than on the Concours as such, as she was manifestly shaking with nerves. She and Miteki Kudo are the only two ladies in the troupe, so far as I can see, who do not look like battle-axe swinging members of some Woman's Empowerment Group. The Girl is exquisite, and God Speed to her !

The promotion to premier danseur among the men I would prefer not to elaborate on, as I failed to see the dancing. I had heard that Hervé Moreau has been excellent throughout the year. Alessio Carbone is a very good dancer, not nearly as good as M. Thibault, but since there would appear to be some sort of a Decision From Above that the latter gentleman will never be promoted, it serves little purpose to even mention that slight hitch to the proceedings.

Promotion to première danseuse, again, highly controversial, at least as controversial as the appointment of Mlle. Osta as étoile yesterday.

Neither the Concours of Mlles Romberg, nor most certainly that of Mlle Hurel, were a patch on that of Mlle. Fiat. The latter is a very strong dancer, technically, but she also happens to be possessed of a strange beauty, and an almost hypnotic magnetism over the public. There is not a lot of that about in the POB at the moment. How in heaven's name Mlle. Hurel has reached the rank of première danseuse, and over the head of Mlle Fiat, is an utter mystery.

The problem I see with these appointments to premier danseur/première danseuse, is that the Jury judging them is top-heavy with premiers danseurs and étoiles still on active duty. May I suggest, impertinently, that the latter might tend not to be overly thrilled to promote certain able people with extremely sharp pointy teeth, to share their particular little kale patch, as the Scots would say. This leads me to the further impertinent suggestion, that the Jury may a little out of touch with what the general public thinks: the general public goes to the ballet to see people who can dance.

But what the public gets, is a fresh round of "enfants sages" (obedient children).

Ergo, cast sheets which one reads, and sighs, and says "Oh God No, not him/her again..."

Otherwise, the ladies' side of the Concours gave one an opportunity to contemplate some truly appalling bad taste in the choice of free variations. I mean, Roland Petit's Carmen, in about twelve different permutations, or Béjart's Rite of Spring ? Neumeier's "Sylvia" ? Crikieeee !!!! That lot makes William Forsythe look gifted, which, in some ways, he probably is.

It also makes one reflect on the decline in female technique, owing to the last century's pointe fetish. There is too much goddam pointe work. I thought I was in a pointe class at times, not in the Concours of the world's leading troupe. Pointework is an utter bore, at best, but it's now the be-all and end-all, no steps, no jumps, no beats, rows of women, no matter how beautiful, jerking up and down on pointe all day. Makes the head spin and the gorge rise. Give us steps ! Bring back Bournonville !

Lastly, but not leastly, where was the beautiful Miteki Kudo when we needed her ? Have then pulled a "Thibault " on her ? She did not stand for promotion to première danseuse at this Concours, more's the pity.

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Miteki Kudo is too old to hope become a premiere danseuse and doesn't pass the concours this year as well as Laure Muret or Nathalie Aubin.

Against Myriam Ould Braham is a very good classical dancer but it's all she is unable to dance other ballets than classical. And her choice for her free variation is really bad, always classical variation as Giselle, Grand pas classique, Aurore, Kitri (dream). it's always very classical variation and POB needs complete artist.

To my eyes the two best ballerinas of the company are Fanny Fiat, who has high potential and Dorothée Gilbert who became coryphée and is really more good than Myriam !

And the choice of variation as Carmen, Manon (Mac Millan), Sylvia and so on is the princip of POB, choose variation in his wide repertory.

We don't forget that POb is an alive troup and don't must live in past and must live in present and future presenting variation from Forsythe, Neumeier, Béjart, Petit and not only Petipa and this kind of variation.

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Thanks for another point of view, Francoise. I can't recollect Braham or the others from my few visits to the POB, but I'd have to disagree that the idea that someone who is more suited as Aurora than in contemporary ballet is an incomplete artist or that that repertory is dead or irrelevant. The backbone of the POB repertory seems to be the Nureyev productions of the classics and the company's size and stature as an institution make them the only company in France that can do the classics on that scale. Their reputation is based on their abilities as classical dancers. They might as well have a few scattered among the ranks, n'est-ce pas?

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Basis of repertory was Nureyev, it's not true now.

This season, they just give Swan Lake, and take Bayadère for the Japan Tour. This year you have creation by Edouard Lock, Maurice Béjart, Tetsuyo Shebigawara, Patrice Bart, it's not really classical ballets and you have Kylian and Ek's work again. We don't forget that POB is not only classical troup and is really open to contemporary, last season was also a complete contemporary season, and classical dancer can really show their qualities in ballets like Notre-Dame de Paris, Ek's Giselle, Preljocaj's Parc, Blanca Li's Sheherazade. I think we must have dancer for all taste, but we don't forget that if you want be ranked more high in hierarchy and arrive etoile or premier danseur you must be a complete talent :rolleyes:

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So good to see you again, Francoise :)

According to the director and the artistic staff, it is a classical troupe, Francoise. We published an interview with Patrice Bart last season in DanceView, and he said that the company's position was that ballet required excellence, that only a large company with a school and sufficient resources (i.e., POB) should be dancing classical ballets, and that doing so was the company's mission; contemporary dance, which does not require the same level of training nor a large number of dancers, was left to the smaller companies. The public wants novelty, so doing Mats Ek and the rest is fine, but that is not what gives the POB its reputation; the big classical ballets do that.

If the company is going to remain a classical company -- which is its mission, its place in France's artistic scheme -- it has to dance the classics and dance them on the highest level or it loses its international reputation. And to do that, it needs classical dancers.

That is what Leigh meant. The idea that someone "only" can dance classical ballet, and that this is somehow a limitation, seems very odd indeed. That's their job. That's what they're supposed to be good at.

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I think all the POB dancers are good in classical, as it's a classical troup, but the best dancer of the company are the one who have this something more in modern dance and are able to all dance.

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Well, not really...

How do we explain Elizabeth Platel then? Or Monique Loudieres? They didn't particularly excel in modern pieces at all...and yet, Platel was a wonderful ballerina!! Someone like Myriam Ould Braham is so rare today; I haven't really seen any young dancer who can dance the classics at THAT level, especially for her age? Plus, Myriam hasn't really been given a chance yet to perform soloist roles in neo-classical or contemporary pieces. I don't think there's anything wrong with just being a "classical" dancer in a troupe that contains so many varied dancers -- it doesn't make her a less complete dancer, maybe perhaps less versatile?

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Thank you, Terry. When the day comes that it's "wrong" to be a classical dancer at a company like POB, then we're really in trouble!

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I just want say something about Monique Loudieres, she was completely contemporary dancer too, she made her farewell performance with Mats Ek's Giselle and she was alternating on the cast with Pietragalla, she was wonderful and was able to dance some works of Ailey, Forsythe, Kylian as well as Coralli's Giselle and for me she was the greatest etoile of this twenty last years !

I never say it was wrong to be a classical dancer in POB corps, but if you want make a real career and especially become an etoile actually you must be "versatile", for example, Emmanuel Thibault never will become premier danseur and he is a perfect classical dancer.

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Paris, Saint Petersburg and Copenhagen are the capitals of Terpsichore, and that is why an event like the Concours, and its implications, will be discussed all over the world.

When someone, in this concrete case, M. Thibault, decides to uphold principles in a world of shredding standards, I think that deserves one's respect. And when he does so, not for six months, or one year, but for TEN YEARS, even on those evenings when relegated to Row 19, twelfth from the left, well - that shews greatness.

That's leadership, and one wouldn't want to make snide little remarks about it.

Classical ballet has been beaten back into a corner, because it carries a message about the soul and eternal things, at a time when we are all supposed to become a lot of drooling, grovelling slaves to instinct with our head stuck up some videogame.

Everyone, in a great theatre like the Paris Opera, takes their work seriously. They are all real troupers, and professional to the tips of their fingers. I take off my hat to them. Fine.

Some go further than that. They are able to summon up in their soul, absolute concentration on the principles underlying classical dance, and to get that across to the public, in the form of pure ideas. That is the highest level that the classical dance can reach, and that is what is going on in the mind of a Thibault, a Cojocaru, or a Thomas Lund. I find that extremely moving, and I cannot but feel sorry for people who laugh and point the finger at it.

Now, were you ever, God Forbid, to be forced to watch a murder, or a rape, you will be "moved" - you may fall to the ground, you may vomit, you may sh.... in your p......s. But is it the same type of emotion ? Is that the emotion a classical art form, with its thousands of years of history, should present to the people ?

During the Concours, a poor girl came out and danced a thing from Mats Ek, Giselle in an Asylum I think it was. She exhibited her undies, or whatever, and they call that choreography ! And the audience, mostly dancers themselves, tittered, because they cannot help but say it is ridiculous. But that girl was promoted.

That sort of choreography is perverse. Some dancers stand up and reject it. They have guts, and, take it from the little old lady that I am, history will be grateful to them.

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I think I have met Mathieu Ganyo from a summer program here in the states. if it is the same guy I remember him as a very nice dancer and young also. He was I think 17 when I met him. All the guys were in awe at how clean he was at such a young age.

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Katherine - for what it's worth when I saw Thibault dance in Paris, my first thought was "Extremely capable dancer. Extremely limited repertory." Besides Bluebird, which I saw him in, and he was exemplary in the part (he's an exotic in type) what do you think his repertory is? Is it possible the reason Thibault isn't moving ahead because he is so specialized in type?

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At firt, Happy new year to all :)

You have completely right Leigh, Emmanuel Thibault is sure a brilliant technician, but he just can dance pdd divertissement and never dance other thing, the only few "modern" thing where I see him it's Neumeier Midsummer Night's dream where he danced Puck part. He has two problem the first is his repertory really limited can dance only divertissement (bluebird, peasant pdd from Giselle, Scottish pdd from Sylphide or Swan Lake pas de trois...) but he never dance contemporary works as Forsythe, Kylian and so on.

His second and more big problem, he is not a partner, and since some years premier danseur are considerated as "little" etoile without title, they must dance all the parts as Solor, Frantz (Coppelia), Siegfried, Albrecht Romeo but they need to be partner, Emmanuel unfortunately is not a partner, every time I saw him in pdd, I'm always surprise by his high jumps, but every time I see problem of partnership, I think it's for that he can't be promoted.

Considering Ek's Giselle, if I don't love Caroline Bance interpretation of this role, it's the name of the promoted dance, it's choreography, Giselle is a contemporary masterwork. Against we can ask a question about variation choice, some free variation (each dancer must dance one imposed variation and one free variation) seem more easy than others. But it's choreography, I think we must say "I don't love this sort of dance", but it's dance. The greatest etoile of this last 20 years, Monique Loudieres choosed this ballet for her farewell performance. It's a wonderful ballet.

Mathieu Ganio is 18 years old now and it's really a brilliant dancer, till he began to dance his imposed variation, you look some boy different of the other, tall, technically better, and smiling which is not often the case unfortunately, especially in this competition, where they are all on nerves ;) !

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Everyone, please !

I'd rather avoid - at any cost - getting drawn into a slanging match over this or that individual dancer. As for E. Thibault, he is already the most controversial figure in the Opera, and has been for several years, so I'll refrain from adding fuel to the fire... It's not doing the fellow any favours.

The point I've been trying to make - and I would imagine it's very much the same in all major theatres now - is that we've slid into a James-Thurber-like Corporate Bureaucracy mentality. The smooth, the slick, the handsome, the predictable. All within, of course, the high level of competency that one would expect of a great institution like the Paris Opera.

Being competent and getting along nicely with everyone, does not, necessarily, make one an artist.

For those who did not know The New Yorker Magazine in the 1950s, James Thurber was an amazingly droll, if somewhat down-beat, cartoonist, who tried to ring the alarm bell on the drift in post-War USA towards a bland, milquetoast, suburban existence. Corporate Man was constantly kow-towing to a towering Wife Figure. I guess that was meant to be a symbol for the Corporation, or whatever.

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Actually, James Thurber was legally blind, and the proportions of his cartoons and their soft-edged silhouettes may have been an indirect result of this condition, as it was with Monet. And, from the texts of his short stories, the Towering Wife probably is a symbol for a Towering Wife. Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.

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Le Figaro's January 15th pull-out on the Arts, has a double-page spread on the Concours, the editorial being signed by Ariane Bavelier, one of their two dance writers.

Below, how she concludes, under the sub-head "Favouritism":

"The Concours does have meaning (joue son plein effet) for the hierarchy's lower ranks...Things become less effective, however, when one moves up to compete for the rank of premier danseur. Here, well before the run-off at the Concours itself takes place, Management sorts out those dancers it wishes to allow to rise, from those who, for reasons of concern to Management alone - reasons quite outwith the public's grasp - are of no interest to Management.

"Last year, Celine Talon, an outstanding artist, pulled off a stunning Concours. Not promoted. The same sanction was meted out to Emmanuel Thibault, dismissed yet again after an astonishing Concours, the more so, as he has done that every time (this must be the third, or the fourth Concours), and just as he has been doing these past evenings in the Theatre, in the "Paquita" pas de trois, where he has unleashed quite an uproar.

"If this sort of behaviour goes on, one is entitled to wonder whether the annual Concours, instituted in 1860 on the advice of Marie Taglioni, still enjoys any credibility whatsoever ?"

Ariane Bavelier "

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Thanks for posting (and translating!) that, Katharine.

From my limited reading about Paris, I think there has been persistent questioning of the concours for years (I don't dare guess at how many). One defense of them that I've read is that they really don't bear on the promotion process, but they give an opportunity, especially for the corps dancers, to dance a big, classical variation and that is good, both the learning of it, and that it lets the company direction see the dancer in such a role. Otherwise, there would be no such opportunity.

What do you (and all of you here) think of that argument?

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I think we must see two things in Annual concours,

- which are the jury's choice ?

- which are the audience choice ?

and why their choice are often not the same.

I think we need to see what need a true post of premier danseur or première danseuse. They are actually "étoile" without title, they must be able to dance leading part and to dance classical and modern ballet.

Ariane Bavelier is right in her view about "trucage" but not in the choice of the named dancers in her article. She choosed two dancers who have not the premier danseur profile if we considerate what POB dance direction wait from them. They are loved from audience, Emmanuel for his high jump, and virtuosity, Celine for her personnality especially in contemporary works.

Emmanuel Thibault is an exciting "virtuose", a brilliant technician, but he is not a partner and can't dance this famous leading part than all the premier danseur dance now as Solor (Romoli, Paquette and Pech danced it), Siegfried (Moreau and Pech danced it), Lucien in Paquita (Paquette, Pech, Bélingard danced or must dance it), Albrecht (Pech, and Romoli danced it), Romeo (just Duquenne who is sujet was able to replace all the injuried dancer two years ago). And more he can't dance all the contemporary work, it's not his part. I think it's an important thing to see, and we must not say "It's not normal, he is not promoted", because we love him, we must see that he doesn't correspond to the actual physical and abilities criters to be premier danseur !

Celine Talon is a true modern dancer, but you need to be a complete artist in POB and must be able to dance big part in classical ballets, if Celine danced Mats Ek Giselle, and all the contemporary works with too many talent. I adore her ! I think she is not for the same reason imposed by POB criters a première danseuse.

It's for that I spoke of two sort of judgement, the audience judgement who don't know all the other views to judge to become premier danseur and the jury who knows it. Now it's true that in this case, they don't choose the best too ! For exemple, a dancer as Fanny Fiat is more a premiere danseuse than Mélanie Hurel, I must say I appreciate Mélanie, but she has not this something "more" who makes from her a premiere danseuse.

I think the article of Ariane Bavelier will be more true if they choose dancer as Fanny Fiat, as Christophe Duquenne, or as Delphine Baey or Pierre-François Vilanoba. These two last dancer must become premier(e) danseur(se) because they have all the necessary qualities to be it. Delphine was so good as classical than in contemporary. She was depreciated after a wonderful concours, two years ago. Two place was free, the first goes to Eleonora Abbagnato, it was normal, she is an artist, she has something more, but what say about Delphine, she makes wonderful seasons and makes an incredible competition, she was the best. She was not ranked and left POB for Marseille where she stayed. For Vilanoba it's the same thing, he was a magnificent dancer, good partner, good as well in classical as in modern, they don't promote him and promote nobody. He prefered leave POB and is now Principal at SFB !

All this speech, sorry for the long way and my bad english, to say we must considerate all what is important for premier danseur category and not say "we love him, he is good, he must be..."

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Thank you very much for that, Francoise. It's quite clear :mad: I think in any company there will always be questions about promotions. There is always one dancer that no one but the direction seems to think is a principal, and often dancers who are audience favorites but don't get promoted, that's true.

I wanted to make one comment about the rank of premier danseur in general, though, and that is that there have been many dancers who were promoted to principal who were not Albrechts, or Auroras -- this used to be the norm. There were danseurs nobles and danseurs de demicaractere, and a company needed, and rewarded, both. She's retired now, but Kathleen Moore was one of the most exciting principals at ABT, and she never danced a leading classical role. She was that rarest of creatures, a character ballerina. The Royal Ballet had a star for years, Wayne Sleep, who was tiny -- much too small to dance the "Prince roles," and there wasn't much of a repertory for him, but the direction (several directions) either created or acquired roles for him because he was a virtuoso. So there are precedents for this.

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At the present time, neither Denmark, nor Russia, nor even the USA, those heavy-weights in the dancing world, are turning out, consistently, people on the level that one finds rather "commonly", if that is the word, in France. And hats off to our professors here !

Therefore, for the time being - that may of course change - France is "tuning fork" to the world's orchestra of dancers.

The question of who is premier danseur is thus one of some little importance.

Dispute over this or that individual is highly counter-productive. Everyone and his kid brother reads these Websites. Even ADs read these Websites. One does not wish to stir the waters.

But, certain dancers represent a principle. Erik Bruhn, though I was never partial to his acting or mime, most certainly does represent a principle. His dancing was always to the highest standards. His work on technique, for himself and others, was incessant, throughout his life. He wrote books on technique, and here is one person who knew what he was talking about. No-one could see dancing to that standard, and then utter some triviality like "don't like it when men dance".

Galina Ulanova represents a principle, the principle of beauty and love. Her actual dancing may have had flaws, but who would ever have seen it ?

Things becomes rather tetchier when one talks about people on active duty in the armed services, so to speak. And speaking of armed services, there IS a sort of war on at the moment, between those who think that ballet is some sort of IN YOUR FACE thing, where you LET IT ALL HANG OUT, spray them with bullets, or ballets, or whatever, stick that LEG RIGHT IN THEIR FACE, and people who quietly go out there, and dance to the music, with taste, elegance, and inspiration.

The Thibault case has been debated in the daily newspapers, in the trade press, on the Web, and every evening in the theatre. Were the fellow a buffoon, playing for effect to the gallery, fine. Hats off to Management. But, despite an occasional bezerker episode as the Bronze Idol (man, was that bad !) he is NOT a buffoon.

In recent years, as dancing has become a branch of Olympic Gymnastics, the joy has been knocked out of it.

Some resist. There are a few, very few dancers, who, when they go down on stage, the public has to be restrained from bounding up on stage to dance alongside. There is joy in their steps. Thomas Lund is that sort of dancer, Lis Jeppesen was that sort of dancer, the Oaks/Edur lot are that sort of dancer, and perhaps there be some today in Russia or the USA, who dance like that. And M. Thibault is that sort of dancer. Inspirational.

I don't think the classical ballet can survive without it, and it's hard to fathom why that particular quality unleashes such frenetic hostility amongst others in the trade, whom one might refer to as "sad sacks". The photos Alexandra put up recently of the Royal album from 1946 shew us a time when being a ballet dancer did not mean being a sad sack.

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Alexandra, the problem in POB is that just the soloist (premier danseur and étoile) can dance the leading part on the POB stage actually and all the soloist want dance and have actually the leading parts in all the ballets.

Too many dancers of the class of the sujet dance some of the leading parts in gala in foreign countries, as Giselle, or Aurora, or Odette/Odile. For example, Clairemarie Osta has never again dance Giselle part at POB but she dance it in Japan.

The dancer who are not premier danseur or etoile can dance leading parts in creation, in modern ballets, they could dance also parts as Gamzatti, Nikya, Dryad Queen but they never dance leading parts. It's for that hierarchy in POB is so hard, and internal concours is each year very important ! All the POB etoile dance the leading part. Even if they dance it just one season, actually they all danced Albrecht, Aurora, Giselle, Odette/Odile (Aurélie Dupont should dance this year but how she is injuried, she was replaced by the new etoile Laetitia Pujol).

I think POB is very special actually. Before when a premier danseur or a premiere danseuse had the leading part, they was very often ranked as etoile, now it's not the case. And they had just ONE performance, and often ONE big part in a season. Now premier danseur dance several performance in several big ballets. It's that POB actually :) !

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