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Fred Wiseman's New Documentary of The Paris Opera Ballet

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Many thanks for the heads up.

The website isn't the most intuitive one ever, but the Yahoo checkout process is even worse and a graphical mess. Here are some tips to order:

1. From this page, click the film title. It's alphabetized under "La" in left-to-right order (not in column order).


2. In the box on the right hand side, click the price link for whatever category you're in (Educational, High School and Volunteer, Individual) to add to the Yahoo shopping cart. You can change quantity here.

3. If you use PayPal,

  • You'll be navigated to the PayPal site, where shipping and handling will be added. It's $6.95 for one DVD to the US. I'm not sure about higher quantities.
  • After you purchase on PayPal, you'll be navigated back to the site. Be sure to fill in the telephone number and accept the "Terms & Conditions" before you continue. The T&C's give them 30 days to ship the DVD, although for pre-orders, that is probably 30 days after 12 July to comply with FTC guidelines.

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I bought the British edition of the DVD. It's a region 2 PAL disc, so if you don't live in Europe, you need an all-region player. But it sells on British Amazon for £12, so I couldn't resist the price. (I have to admit to ordering several other items to make the shipping costs worth my while.) There are no extras on the DVD other than the trailer, and the subtitles are embedded.

Each time I watch the film, I keep thinking of the discussion about casting between Emanuel Gat and Brigitte Lefèvre in which she seems to imply that he shouldn't expect to get any étoiles for his piece. This is very interesting considering that Wayne McGregor got Marie-Agnès Gillot, Benjamin Pech, Agnès Letestu, Mathieu Ganio, Mathias Heymann, Jérémie Bélingard and Dorothée Gilbert for Genus. She also made a comment about the pointlessness of driving race cars at 6 m.p.h. Fast forward to Aurélie Dupont and Hervé Moreau in Sasha Waltz's piece.

I also found McGregor's practice of anglicizing his dancers' names quite amusing, particularly in the sequence where he rehearses Ganio and Heymann, both of whom he calls "Matt," which you'd think would make his instructions somewhat difficult to follow.

It was interesting to watch Pierre Lacotte drag Letestu over the coals, not that his criticisms weren't justified, particularly his observation about her spoon-like hands. But it was curious that his request that she gradually lower her raised leg in a supported turn was not heeded by Dorothée Gilbert once Paquita got to the stage. Did she not get any coaching from him?

It was also interesting to watch Laurent Hilaire coaching Sarah Kora Dayanova and asking for "more generous" couronnes, because what I really wanted was for someone to ask the same of Aurélie Dupont. (Honestly, her ports de bras are my greatest object to her dancing.)

I love the film up until about 20 minutes from the end. Once Wiseman shows an extended excerpt from Mats Ek's La casa de Bernarda Alba, he loses me, because I find myself thinking: all that talent, all that work, all those resources for this? After that I find myself deflated as a viewer, and things that would have fascinated me earlier, like the janitor cleaning up the opera house after a performance, no longer speak to me, and the sequence of Yann Bridard rehearsing the Pina Bausch piece just seems like too much of the same, choreographically speaking.

It's unfortunate that Wiseman chose to document that particular season. Back then we commented on the repertoire, too.


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I interpreted Lefevre's comments to Gat to mean, if you request an etoile, and I deign to give one to you, you better come up with choreography fit for a Ferrari. He was so cowed by her, I think he would have cast the cafeteria staff if she had insisted.

Many thanks for your comments! I keep watching "Dancing Bournonville" over and over, and falling in love with Hans Brenaa more each time, and ignoring "La Danse" on my shelf, and I need to see it again.

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I interpreted Lefevre's comments to Gat to mean, if you request an etoile, and I deign to give one to you, you better come up with choreography fit for a Ferrari. He was so cowed by her, I think he would have cast the cafeteria staff if she had insisted.

I think he looked a litle bit puzzled how to work in a big company like POB. I found Brigitte Lefevre quite open, just trying to give him a hint on how to manage the dancers, a each level of the hierachy... By the way, when she proposed to name few dancers, he didn't jump on that so he's probably not so flexible...

One thing puzzling me is, I don't really know when the filming was made but, she hesitates quite a few times to say "danseurs" and finally always uses "danseuses" and only once she introduced "and danseurs" .

But Hark! was presented as to conterbalance the fact that the other ballet on the same bill was Angelin Preljocaj MC14/22 which is a piece for 12 male dancers... And in fact, it ended Hark! was for 13 female dancers... So I wonder how the story was made, I mean at which stage...

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