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POB Bejart Programme

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Has anyone seen the programme? I was there, luckily able to catch the performance on the 14th - as to the aftermath of the strike - no pain in exchanging the ticket for the cancelled first night, to which I'm very grateful. (Thanks Parisian friends for a kind advice on French strike!)

The programme consisted of 4 pieces: "L'Oiseau de feu"; "Webern, opus V"; "Phrases de Quatuor" (world premiere); "Le Mandarin merveilleux" (new repertoire to POB)

Here're my quick thoughts - in a nutshell, it was, essentially a 'Legris' evening'. I'm afraid I have to skip the first two as I didn't get any strong impressions from them except an obscure thought crossed my mind that the concept of using Partisans in Firebird seemed to have lost its momentum; it rather looked aged. The third piece, a world-premiere and presumably choreographed solely to Legris, turned a hightlight of the evening.

Without a copy of the programme at hand, I cannot tell you what's the conept behind the piece, or indeed what was all about - I must admit I couldn't comprehend very much! In the space of 14 minutes Legris danced, danced and danced in between an occasional screaming and speaking (he uttered some words on 'dance' which I couldn't make out) with 4 female dancers serving as a background (or a wall-paper really). Interestingly these 4 ladies appeared on stage with their knitting kit handy and most of the time they were so into it - knitting. From the title of the piece ("Phrases of Quartet") it might look as if they were centre of things - but not. You can tell they bore a far less importance in the piece as no substantial choreography was given to them. At one stage Legris tried to disturb the knitting ladies by pulling down from their chairs yet they never ceased to do the habit... I may be able to interpret that 4 knitting ladies a symbol of "usualness (or boredom)" and a man in the shape of Legris a rebel, but hmm.... I may be wrong.

Watching the piece reminded me of one reason I've been attracted by Bejart's ballets so much - that in essence his dance vocabulary is purely classical (please do correct me if I'm wrong!). So even with some bizzare/odd movements central parts stay classical, intact - as seen in this piece. It provided a great showcase for Legris; he displayed his more-than-perfect classical techniques to which all I could do was gasp, sigh and watch - intensely.

The other thing I never previously saw in Legris, but apparent and very moving in the evening was a sort of "power of will" or his strong intentions to dance. Dance is fragile art in that all the beautiful movements dissappear almost as soon as they are done. But in this piece Legris appeared to attempt to seize the moment THEN let it live as long as it could - literally every movement of it although of course it's impossible. His intentions, passions to dance was very visibly present there, and it was incredible.

Lastly, here's what I found very fascinating - towards the end of the performance Legris appeared to be increasingly liberated, his facial expressions lighten up as if getting freedom by dancing. That reminded me of the feeling I got when I saw Bejart's masterpiece (so I believe!), "Seven Greek Dances". As the piece went on it gave enormous pleasures to my senses that I had this strange feeling, liberation - the experience totally new to me and has not happened ever since. If it actually happened that Legris got a freedom by dancing the piece, it would be fantastic....

The last piece of the evening, "Le Mandarin merveilleux" or "Astonishing Chinese Beaurocrat (?)", a new repertoire to POB, was somewhat a marriage between agressive play and violent musical or, more precisly a rock video-clip (the beginning of the piece almost reminded me of Michael Jackson's "Bad" !), but no space for memorable balletic moments. My frustration largely was on a lack of substantial choreography for the leading role danced by Hilaire. As a Mandarin he repeated Ta-i-Chi like movements most of the time whilst his counterpart, la fille danced by Alessio Carbonne (a male dancer looking like a drag queen!), fared little better.

To me the night turned a typical Bajart experience; a mixture of something terribly absurd and amazingly beautiful, and I loved it. One thing's for sure Bejart never fail to bore us audience. As a Londoner, my chances for seeing Bajart's ballets are very limited - you may remember the famous myth that London doesn't love Bejart - well, in my views it's not audience but critics, in general, who hate Bajart! But having seen his works this time round I am now convinced that I need to see this more often - "something different" in London.

More Bejart, please!

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Thank you for the report, Naoko. It's always interesting to hear an audience eye view of Bejart, especially given Gottlieb's report discussed elsewhere.

Being me, I want to know WHAT the ladies were knitting. Straight needles or circulars? Wool or cotton? :D Imagine knitting being considered usual or boring. We knitters know better!

Le Mandarin Merveilleux is usually translated into English as "The Miraculous Mandarin".

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Originally posted by Leigh Witchel

Being me, I want to know WHAT the ladies were knitting.  Straight needles or circulars?  Wool or cotton? :D  Imagine knitting being considered usual or boring.  We knitters know better!

I'll say!


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Thanks Naoko! I'm glad you finally managed to get your ticket exchanged! I hope you didn't have too much trouble with transport and other stuff also. I haven't seen it yet, but I'll try to (if my exams give me enough time to). Who else danced? Were the first two that bad? I don't like too much the music of Webern opus V (I heard it in another ballet), but I haven't seen it, so...

About "Phrases de Quatuor", I think it's meant to be about being a dancer and the fears a dancer has, like injury, age, etc, which is probably why Legris seemed to have a lot of "power of will and strong intentions to dance", because the dancer doesn't want to stop to dance.

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Thanks for your review, Naoko. I hope to be able to see that program- mostly for Legris, because he generally manages to be excellent whatever he has to dance, and from what you wrote that piece sounds quite interesting! But now the problem will be to be sure about the casts, as there often are last-minute changes, and I'd be disappointed to see someone else in that role...

In general, women don't seem to be dancing much in that program: the only "big" female role seems to be the female role of "Webern Opus V".

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**Attentions all knitters**

No disrespect to anyone of you - I described it as 'usual or boring' as it was the way the ladies were depicted with the attribute in the ballet (or at least that's how I took it). Leigh, for your reference, I could tell it surely was wool, yes, of paprika red!


Thank YOU for your kind help some time ago - I hope to read your thoughts when you manage to see a performance. Please note I didn't mean at all the first two pieces were 'bad' - it's only that they did not leave strong impressions on me. Please tell me how you think when you see them with your own eyes! For the record, main casts for the evening were:

* "L'Oiseau de Feu": Le Riche (title role); Paquette (Phenix)

* "Webern, Opus V": Gillot; Bart

* "Phrases de Quatuor": Legris; Cozette; Cordellier; Grinsztanj; Mallem

* "Le Mandarin Merveilleux": Hilaire (title role); Romoli (le chef des truands); Carbonne (la fille); Cordier (Siefried); Palacio (un jeune homme)


I just hope your concerns will not turn realities.... I must admit if it had not been Legris things would have been very much different. About the female role in Bejart's ballets - it's just typical Bejart, isn't it? As we all know in essence he's a choreographer for male dancers.....

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Well, from what I've read Jérémie Bélingard is supposed to dance "Phrases de Quatuor" a few times too. He's a good dancer, but very different from Legris (in style, physically, and also much younger) so I wonder what a role created specifically for Legris would look like on him.

Yes indeed, Béjart seems more interested in creating roles for male dancers. He did a few big female roles though, for example the original version of his "Bolero" featured a female dancer surrounded with male dancers (and for example some older works like his "Rite of Spring" or "9th Symphony" have big roles more equally shared between males and females).

I'm a bit curious about "Webern opus V", as it sounds a bit different from the typical Béjart works, more abstract (I've only seen some photographs of it). I had seen "L'Oiseau de Feu" and "Le Mandarin Merveilleux" by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne some years ago (in two different programs) by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne, I have a good memory of "L'Oiseau de Feu" but found that "Le Mandarin merveilleux" was quite a bore (and the work which was danced with it, some stuff more or less inspired by Pasolini, was even worse- lots of texts, pictures, etc. and very little dance).

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Well, I finally saw that program yesterday evening, and found it a bit disappointing.

"The Firebird" was the work that I enjoyed the most, in spite of its dated aspects (one would have almost expected a portrait of Che Guevara to appear at the back of the stage at the end ;) ). I admit that it probably is partly because I enjoyed Stravinsky's beautiful score far better than the other scores of the program... But also I found it more coherent and well-structured that the other works. Karl Paquette was dancing the main role, he's not exactly my favorite POB dancer in general but was quite good in that role, even though his arm movements could have been better sometimes (and, having seen that work only once previously, it's hard for me to know if the fact that some moments looked a bit unmusical is a problem of the choreography or the dancer); Stéphane Bullion was quite good as the Phenix.

"Webern Opus V", which had been created for the POB principals Jacqueline Rayet and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous in 1966 (but eventually was premiered by two other dancers, because Jean-Pierre Bonnefous got injured) looks quite different from most typical Béjart works, as it is a plotless pas de deux for two dancers wearing unitards (usually both white, but this time Marie-Agnès Gillot was in black while Jean-Guillaume Bart was in white). I didn't enjoy much Anton Webern's score, but the pas de deux itself was interesting, with some interesting steps and partnering, even though sometimes a bit cold. Curiously, some moments made me think of "Agon" or "Stravinsky Violin Concerto". Both dancers were excellent.

I'm afraid I found "Phrases de Quatuor" extremely boring and disappointing: lots of running around and crawling, Pierre Henry's score looked like some random samples of radio stations, and the female roles were totally uninteresting. I could spot some references to earlier works by Béjart (the Firebird, Symphonie pour un homme seul...) here or there- well, isn't it a bit typical of the self-centered aspect of many recent Béjart works? Even Manuel Legris's magical stage presence couldn't save it for me.

I found the plot of the "Miraculous Mandarin"

somewhat unappealing (well, Béjart can't be blamed for it as it is the original plot of the pantomime, except that what he added didn't improve it... Basically, it's the story of a prostitute attracting men in order for some robbers to kill them and take their belongings, except that the last customer is a Chinese mandarin who is so attracted to the woman that he survives several killings, but finally dies after sleeping with the woman. But Béjart also chose to add Wagner's Siegfried as the first customer, the second customer is danced by a female dancer, and the prostitute is danced by a male dancer). The main dancers were very good, Kader Belarbi being a moving Mandarin (with a little something of "Pétrouchka") while Hervé Courtain danced the role of the prostitute (I'm glad to see that

he finally gets interesting roles, but that was probably the ugliest male costume I've ever seen...)

Oops, I've got to go.

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