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Ballet de Toulouse: Balanchine triple bill near Paris, March 18


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On March 18, the Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse performed

a Balanchine triple bill en matinee at the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas

of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a western suburb of Paris (Dumas lived

there for several years).

The Ballet du Capitole has a long history, but in the early 1990s, it

performed mostly in operas and operettas, plus a few ballet performances

with POB guests in the soloist roles. In 1994, Nicolas Joel, the new

director of the Théâtre du Capitole (which has its own orchestra and

stages operas, concerts and ballets) chose Nanette Glushak (former NYCB

and ABT dancer) to be the new director od the company, and she still is in

charge (which is something quite rare in the French regional companies).

Her husband, Michel Rahn, is the ballet master of the company (which has

now 35 dancers).

Glushak has added quite a lot of works to the repertory of the company,

and especially a lot of Balanchine works. The mixed bill I saw included

"Rubies", "The Prodigal Son" and "Who Cares?", which had respectively

entered the company's repertory in 1996, 1994 and 1996.

Having read many positive reviews of the company, I was looking forward to

finally seeing one of their performances (they don't tour much in France),

and was not disappointed by what I saw. The whole program was very well

danced, with a corps de ballet in excellent shape and with much

enthusiasm, and I especially admired the petite, joyful Magali Guerry in

"Rubies" and "Who Cares", and two young male soloists, Breno Bittencourt

as the Prodigal Son and Luca Masala (Sonja, I saw that he was listed on

the Munich Ballet web site?) in "Who Cares?". "Rubies" was an opportunity

for the female corps de ballet to shine, while the males were featured as

the strange companions of the "Prodigal Son", and the ten couples in "Who

Cares" all were praiseworthy. I regret that only the soloists were listed

in the program notes, as it would have been interesting to know a bit more

about the rest of the company.

The only negative point of the evening was that there were some technical

problems with the taped music, so that for the first part of the evening,

the music came from the left part of the room only.

The theater was full (with quite a lot of children) and the program was

very successful, especially "Who Cares?" (and I heard a lot of

enthusiastic comments when going out). I do hope that the Ballet

du Capitole de Toulouse will perform more often in the region of Paris,

and that Nanette Glushak will continue her good work with the company.

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I'm glad you got to see this, Estelle -- and very glad for your review. The company was in Washington a few years ago when I was out of town and I missed them -- to my great regret, as many of my friends went and had only positive things to say. Balanchine lives in strange corners smile.gif

It's interesting that Glushak has staged so much Balanchine, as she was primarily an ABT dancer (although I believe she attended SAB). She was dancing roles like Zulma (or was it Moyna?) when I first started going to ABT.

What was the audience reaction?

[ March 17, 2002, 10:53 PM: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I've read that Glushak danced with NYCB too, in the corps de ballet. Also, from the program notes, she staged "Rubies" and "Who Cares" herself (nobody is listed as the stager of "The Prodigal Son").

The list of Balanchine works she staged in Toulouse includes at least the three above plus, as far as I know, "Scotch Symphony", "Allegro Brillante", "Raymonda variations", "Liebeslieder Walzer", "Stars and stripes" (I wonder how that one was received by the audience...), and "Tarantella pas de deux". So it's more the tutu ballets than the black-and-white leotard ones. She also staged some works from the ABT repertory like Tudor's "Lilac garden" and "Dark elegies", Agnès De Mille's "Rodéo" and Enrique Martinez's "Coppélia".

It's a bit curious to have such a American-flavored repertory (they also danced Tanner's "Ancient airs and dances" and Martins' "Fearful symmetries") in Toulouse, but as there was no indigenous repertory to start with, it probably was a wise choice to start with what she knew well.

The audience was positive, especially for "Who Cares".

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Nanette Glushak most certainly did dance in the corps with NYCB, and was a soloist with ABT. In fact, when they did their first "Kingdom of Shades", ABT had her leading off the long parade of ghosts, as the one person they had then who would be able to walk after all those arabesques! wink.gif

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This is just an addendum to this thread to say that I have seen the Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse again, at the Opera of Massy (a southern suburb of Paris) this time, with the same Balanchine mixed bill.

I decided to go there at the last minute, wasn't even sure that there still were some tickets, spent more than one hour in the metro and RER and bus to go there, got a bit lost when trying to find the opera, arrived a bit late and breathless, finally managed to get a cheap ticket for the highest seats (the rest was full)... and as soon as I was seated, I forgot all that, and just tremendously enjoyed that program! The cast was almost exactly the same as what I had seen in Saint-Germain en Laye; I realize that I had forgotten to mention Paola Pagano, who danced brilliantly both the soloist role in "Rubies", and the Siren in "The Prodigal Son". The audience reaction was positive, though a few people seemed to complain at the intermission about the scores of "Capriccio" and "The prodigal son", and there were some too young children in the audience who were quite noisy (and had badly-behaved parents). The most successful work of the evening was "Who Cares?"- a pure delight indeed, and I really wonder why Brigitte Lefèvre hasn't decided to add it to the POB's repertory (a few years ago they did a homage to Gershwin- and frankly it would have been much better than the very dull and quickly forgotten new work by Odile Duboc on "Rhapsody in blue" they commissioned...)

The home season of the Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse doesn't seem terribly exciting (Michel Rahn's production of "The Nutcracker" and "The Sleeping beauty",

a new production of "A midsummer night's dream" by the modern choreographer Jean-Christophe Blavier, and a Scholz-Jacquin mixed bill, but at least touring enables them to perform a more diverse repertory, and the dancers all seemed in top shape. Now I just wish they would tour with a program including some other works of their Balanchine repertory, including some like "Liebeslieder Walzer" or "Raymonda variations" which are in the repertory of no other French company. Nanette Glushak really has done an excellent job with the company, transforming them from a second-rate company performing mostly in operas and operettes and needing to invite guest soloists for their ballet programs to a very good company with a solid repertory. Unlike many other directors, she was not chosen because she was a famous dancer or because she was well-known to the French audience (I think almost nobody in France had heard about her before, and even now she is very discrete, seldom giving interviews), and indeed it was a wise choice. I hope that she will stay there for many more years, and that the company will continue to grow.

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I saw them dance at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia about five years ago, which may have been the performance Alexandra missed. Too bad, Alexandra! I had a good time. I recall they danced "Rubies" and other Balanchine, and compared, for example, to the American companies we saw at the Kennedy Center Balanchine Festival a couple of years ago, their attack was a bit soft and their flow-through was a little bit weak, but in general they did a lot of justice to the ballets. I'm glad to read that Glushak is still there. Thanks, Estelle.

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You're welcome! And it's interesting to read the point of view of someone who's much more familiar than me with Balanchine works.

Actually, the Ballet de Toulouse is one of the only things in French ballet which make me feel optimistic now- it shows that with a good leadership, much progress can be done in a few years...

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I have seen this company dance a Balanchine triple bill recently in France and I have to say I was less than impressed by the quality of the performance. This thread is quite old so it's possible the company has gone downhill in the meantime... They started the evening with "Theme and Variations". It is one of Balanchine's most brilliant ballets, technically very difficult, and I was looking forward to see it. Unfortunately it turned out to be an ill-advised choice for them: the principal dancers looked uncomfortable while the corps lacked discipline and style. Next came a poor rendition of "Apollo" with a dancer looking nothing like a greek God, obviously struggling to get through the piece. "Who Cares?" was definitely the best moment of the night. Overall I was left expecting much more from the Toulouse Ballet. It looked very provincial to me and there was little presence or artistry on stage. A big disappointment.

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Welcome on Ballet Talk, Joel, and thanks for your comments about that performance ! If you'd like to introduce yourself, there is the "Welcome" forum for it.

May I ask in which city you saw the company ? My mother saw the same program in April in Issy-les-Moulineaux (a suburb of Paris). She told me that she had loved that program, however her expectations might have been different from yours (especially as where she lives there are very few opportunities to see classical ballets, and if I remember correctly she had never seen "Theme and variations" before...).

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