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Program of two Paris Conservatoires, Apr 1- 2

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There are several music and dance schools called "Conservatoire"

in Paris, and it is quite complicated to know how they're organized.

In January, I had attended a program by the Conservatoire National

Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMD), which is a very

selective school with students from all France; its dance section

generally is considered as the second best dance school in France after

the POB dance school. There are only two such "Conservatoires Nationaux

Superieurs" in France, the other one being in Lyon.

More recently, I discovered that in Paris there was another rather big

Conservatoire, called "Conservatoire Superieur de Paris" (CSP). Unlike the

previous one, it is a "conservatoire national de region", which means that

its students primarily come from the region of Paris; its level seems to

be a bit lower and less professional-aimed. Both schools are public (the

CNSDM seems to be financed mostly by the ministery of culture, while the

CSP seems to be financed by the city of Paris) and the studies there are

free (but one has to take competitive exams to enter it). Both offer

ballet and contemporary dance classes, and also classes of character

dancing and dance history. The teaching staff at the CNSMP is a bit

more prestigious, with several former POB principals, but several

teachers teach in both schools, and one of the ballet teachers

of the CSP is Christiane Vlassi (former POB principal, teaching

the most advanced girls class at the POB school).

This week-end, I attended two galas of these Conservatoires in Paris.

The first one, on April 1, by the CSP, took place at the

Theatre des Abbesses (a rather big theater in Paris,

associated to the Theatre de la Ville, and scheduling mostly

music and contemporary dance). It was one of the yearly performances

of the students (there will be a more classical one in May).

The evening included 7 short pieces (between 9 and 16 minutes

each), only one of which was classical. No information was given

about the level or age of the students (who all were girls,

except one boy in the last piece).

The first piece was an excerpt of Dominique Bagouet's contemporary work

"Les petites pieces de Berlin", created in 1988. It was staged by two

former dancers of Bagouet's company, Priscilla Danton (now teaching at the

CSP) and Annabelle Pulcini. Bagouet, who died in 1992 in his early 40s,

was a very influential character of French contemporary dance, and many

choregraphers (such as Angelin Preljocaj or Michel Kelemenis) used to

dance with his company.

This piece was for 8 female dancers, wearing blue costumes which looked

like old-fashioned swim suits. I'm afraid I always have the same feeling

when looking at Bagouet's pieces: I like the vocabulary (the delicate

and precise steps, the little hand movements) but I'm totally lost

with the grammar, and generally hate the music. This time was no


The three next works, "Volatiles", "Bzh" and "Parade", were contemporary

works created especially for the students by some of theit teachers,

Sabine Ricou (the first two works) and Priscilla Danton. "Volatiles", for

12 female dancers (about 15-16 years old) was a short and rather pleasant

work with a lot of ensemble movements on some rather repetitive piano

music by Thierry Faure, with rather ugly costumes too likely to show the

students' underwear at every movement. "Bzh" was about the French region

of Brittany ("Bzh" is an abbreviation for it), on some traditional Breton

music; it featured 8 girls (about 13-14 years old) in rather humoristic

movements (with many allusions to the sea, diving, etc.) "Parade" was for

15 younger girls (about 9-12 probably), and was closer to a traditional

dance school recital, without much originality, but the enthusiasm

of the students was a pleasure to see.

The next piece, "Le petit atelier" (The small workshop), was the only

classical work of the program. It was choreographed for the students by

Wilfride Piollet (former POB principal, now about 56 but still performing

contemporary works, and teaching at the CNSMD). It was a really nice

abstract exercice de style for 6 female students (about 15-18), with

pointes. Actually I paid more attention to the students' dancing than to

the choreography itself, so I'd need to see it again to have a better view

of it, but I was striked by the elegance of the young dancers, and by the

quality of their ports de bras, hand movements, and ports de tete. The

costumes (long brown dresses by Catherine Garnier) were absolutely lovely,

and made all the dancers look great. Maybe it's just my imagination,

but some steps reminded me of Balanchine's "Rubies" and "Agon"

(especially of the second pas de trois- perhaps not a coincidence,

since Piollet premiered that role at the Paris Opera...)

The following work, "Entre zig et zag" a creation by Didier Silhol

for 8 dancers (the same cast as in "Petites pieces de Berlin"),

was all the opposite: dull costumes (greyish shapeless things

needing some serious ironing), unpleasant music (played on stage

by a violin, a clarinet and an oboe), and a totally boring choreography

(dancers running around the stage, bumping in each other and

collapsing on the floor). It clearly was the less interesting

part of the program.

The last work, "Etudes ethnographiques des supinus matinus"

was a creation of Blandine Courel (one of the CSP's teachers)

for 10 female dancers and 1 male dancer. It was at least as much

theatrical than choreographic, but in my opinion very funny

and entertaining. It depicted a strange new animal, the "supinus

matinus" (in fact, it was supposed to be inspired by the "sup'

un du matin", i.e. the "superior one" class, which studies

in the morning at the dance studios of the Theatre des Abbesses).

It included some recorded texts explaining the behavior

of the "supinus matinus" (sleep, hunting, different subspecies)

and also a strange "counting machine" (with many wheels) on stage.

Its style was very close to "Les Shadoks", a comical cartoon

which was shown on the French TV in the late 60s, causing

some scandals at first because of its absurd humor, but quite

popular now. The dancers were very convincing, and the whole

audience was very enthusiastic.

The CSP is supposed to do a more classical program in Paris in May.

(To be continued later)

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Oops: the title should be "Programs" with an "s"...

The second program took place at the Conservatoire National

Superieur, a big building on the Jean Jaures avenue. This week-end,

the CNSMD had organized two "open-doors" days, with public classes

every day (I only could attend the end of a boys ballet class

by Jocelyn Bosser, former POB dancer). On April 2, I attended

an "event" (sic): a program of short works choreographed and

danced by the students of the Conservatoire.

It included 20 works, lasting between 2 and 10 minutes each,

with no intermission. The works were choreographed during

the classes of improvisation and composition of the students,

and they also chose the musics, sets, costumes, etc.

I especially admired the beautiful lightings by Bruno

Bescheron, which really helped all the program look


The room was full, and the audience (presumably including

quite a lot of friends and parents of the students) was

wildly enthusiastic. The students seemed to be between

15 and 18 in general.

Reviewing all the pieces would be a bit long ( ;-) ), but

I especially liked the fluid, poetic, collective work "Ephemeres" of the

2nd year ballet students, the nice "Tango" choreographed and

performed by Isabelle Brusson (on pointe) and Julien Guerin,

the humorous collective work "Pigments" by the 2nd year

contemporary dance students, Marina Robert's original solo

"Louise", and Mehdi Walerski wonderful speed and precision

in Vidal Bini's "Le coeur de nous".

On the other hand, the end of the program was plagues by 7 successive

contemporary solos (6 girls and 1 boy) which all looked the same and left

me plenty of time to examine what I didn't like at all in that style of

contemporary dance (a monotonous syncopated rhythm having nothing to do

with the music, a tendancy to fall on the floor every 30 seconds,

unexpressive faces...)

But in general, the whole program was danced with much talent

and dedication, and I think it was a good idea to enable the students

to show their works to a larger audience.

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Thank you, Estelle. A lot of fine dancers have graduated from these programs, so it's good to know about them. (The reviews on this forum stay up, here, and don't go in the archives.)

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Guest Intuviel

Julien Guerin wouldn't be related to the famous Isabelle, would he?



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Intuviel, I don't know if Julien Guerin is from the same family as Isabelle

Guerin (Guerin is a rather common name in France). But I think he's a promising dancer (with very nice hands) anyway!

I've just learnt that their "classical" program will take place at the Theatre de la Ville

on May 6, and that they will dance "Le Petit Atelier" again there. I won't be able to attend it, but am trying to convince some friends to go there and tell me what it looked like (and also am wondering about calling the Conservatoire

and asking if they have public rehearsals...)

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