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Paris Conservatoire, Jan 22 (Balanchine/ Forsythe/ Fonte)

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Last week, between Jan 19 and Jan 22, the Ballet section of the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse

de Paris organized some students performances (free, but with phone booking). I had often heard of that institution,

especially because of some of its famous alumni such as Elisabeth

Platel, Isabelle Guerin, Jean-Yves Lormeau or Clairemarie Osta,

but it was the first time I could actually see its students.

It also was an opportunity to learn more about that school,

and, thanks to Leigh, I also had the privilege to attend a rehearsal

(on Jan 21).

The Conservatoire is one of the most prestigious French dance

schools (probably the most reputed one, just after the POB

dance school). There also are some Conservatoires municipaux

(city level) or Conservatoires nationaux regionaux (regional level),

and this one (Conservatoire National *Superieur*) is at the top

of the hierarchy; the students enter it between the ages of 13 and

17 approximately, and so generally have been trained earlier

in other schools. To enter it, the students have to take a very

difficult competitive exam, and only a very small proportion

of them succeed (probably no more than 20 students every year).

But, for those who succeed, all the classes are free (it's a public

institution), and they also can get scholarships. The normal complete

classes last 5 or 6 years: four years of classes, and then they take exams

about four subjects (dance, dance history, music and anatomy-

kinesiology), one year performing with the Junior Ballet (at the end they

get an interpretation certificate), and also one 6th year for some

training sessions with other companies. The students also attend normal

school classes in a high school just near the Conservatoire building, and

usually finish high school with a literature "baccalaureat" (national

French diploma at the end of high school, which enables one to go to any

French university). One year after leaving the Conservatoire, about

80% of the students have a job in a professional company.

So the students I saw on rehearsal on Jan 21 and performing on Jan 22

were those of the "Junior Ballet", the special company of the

Conservatoire for its students. Those of the "contemporary" section

(who also have some ballet classes as a minor) had already done

some performances in december, dancing some works by Lucinda Childs,

Alwin Nikolais, and a new work by Luc Petton.

The program I saw, danced by the "ballet" section, included Balanchine's

"Who Cares", Forsythe's "Steptext", and a new work by Nicolo Fonte,

"Accidental signals". Nine dancers were performing then (4 girls

and 5 boys), aged around 17-19.

The performance began with "Who cares", staged by Adam Luders.

It was the concert version, with no corps de ballet, and several

men in the main roles (in rehearsal they were four, but in the

performance one of them danced a pas de deux and the male solo).

Such a work must be very difficult for young, unexperienced dancers,

because one needs to master both the technique (and those female

solos are so difficult), and the style. I found their performance

very good, nearly at the same level as the big companies I had

already seen in this work (the Ballets de Monte-Carlo and the

Ballet de Marseille).

One could especially notice the graceful style and nice feet of Celine

Nunige (first duo and second solo), the beautiful port de bras

of Mehdi Walerski (first duo), the charming smile and great turnout

of Dorothee Delabie (second duo and third solo), the commited

partnership of Francois-Regis Rousseau (third duo), the

charm and liveliness of Sarah Zhiri (third duo and first solo),

and above all the boyish charm and perfect style of Yoannis

Stadler-Mandafounis (second duo and male solo).

The second work, Fostythe's "Steptext", was staged by Douglas Becker.

All the dancers were wonderful (Dorothee Delabie, Vidal Bini,

Mehdi Walerski, Franck Laizet), with an impressive speed

and coordination. But I'm feeeling more and more fed up with

this work (which the Lyon Opera Ballet danced last season),

and with its violent, dark, agressive mood, and also all the

silly "tricks" which might be surprising at first view, but

add really nothing to the piece (sudden silence, lights

switched off in the middle of a variation, etc.) Some

parts of this work really are interesting (for

example, the male duos, which include many games with

symmetries), but its whole atmosphere becomes quite

unpleasant to me- right after Balanchine's elegant

style, it's not especially nice to see a woman manipulated

as a bag of potatoes...

The last work of the program was created by Nicolo Fonte,

who is a dancer of Nacho Duato's company in Spain. It

featured the 8 dancers of the previous works and also another

girl (Florence Viennot). Its score was very pleasant (Britten's

"Simple Symphony" and "Serenade"), and Nicolas Fischtel's

lights were very impressive. Its choreographic style reminded

me, not surprisingly, of Duato, and also of Kylian. It was well-structured and fluid, but I'm afraid not much of it remains in my memory a few days later.

I hope that all these young performers will be hired by professional companies soon, they really deserve it!

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