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Robbins mixed bill at the Paris Opera, Dec 25 and 28

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Here is a copy of a message I posted in the newsgroup alt.arts.ballet.

Forgive the error on the dates in the title of the thread- I can't edit that! frown.gif


On February 24 and 28, I attended two performances of a Robbins

mixed bill at the Paris Opera.

Between 1974 and 1996, twelve works of Jerome Robbins entered the

repertory of the Paris Opera. Some of them, like "Circus Polka", "Scherzo

Fantastique", or "In memory of", were not danced in the seasons after

their respective premieres, but many of them were very successful and now

have an important place in the POB's repertory. In 1999, "Other dances"

also entered the repertory, but it was danced only once, in a special

homage to Jerome Robbins).

The program I saw included four works: "In the Night", "The Cage",

"Other dances", and "The Concert". All of them were staged by Jean-Pierre


"In the Night" had entered the POB's repertory in 1989, at the end of

Rudolf Nureyev's directorship. It mades me feel a bit nostalgic to realize

that four of the six dancers of the original cast (Monique Loudieres,

Jean-Yves Lormeau, Elisabeth Platel, Jean Guizerix) have retired, and that

Isabelle Guerin is going to leave the company at the end of the season.

The only remaining member of the original cast will be Laurent Hilaire. I

was supposed to see Guerin and Hilaire in the third pas de deux, but

unfortunately Isabelle Guerin was injured and couldn't dance. The casts I

saw were a mix of "old" and "new" dancers: Fanny Gaida and Laurent Novis

(first pas de deux) and Wilfried Romoli (3rd) had already danced the roles

shortly after it entered the repertory, Jean-Guillaume Bart (2nd) had

danced it two seasonswhile Clairemarie Osta and Benjamin Pech (1st),

Agnes Letestu (2nd) and Aurelie Dupont (3rd) were new to the roles.

The first pas de deux never was my favorite, I find it a bit too

acrobatic (however, it might be a problem of interpretation, a dancer

told me that in her opinion the interpretation had lost some details

since the company premiere, and so lost some of its magic). Both Fanny

Gaida and Clairemarie Osta were superb, very musical and flowing.

It made me regret that Gaida is going to retire soon- and made me wish

to see Osta more often in the Robbins repertory. It was nice to see

Benjamin Pech back on stage after a long injury, but I find the male role

not very rewarding in that pas de deux. In the second pas de deux, Agnes

Letestu and Jean-Guillaume Bart were supremely handsome and elegant

(and their beautiful lines were emphasized by the costumes), but

I found that they were a little bit too cold, some chemistry was lacking

when compared to the previous casts I saw (Arbo- Belarbi, Platel- Bart).

I had been used to see mature female dancers in the third pas de deux

(Arbo, Guerin, Vayer) and so it had a different tone with Dupont, who is

quite younger. But she was quite effective in that role, especially in the

second performance, and Wilfrid Romoli was great; the last moment of the

pas de deux was very moving.

"The Cage" was the only non-Chopin work of the program, and the contrast

with the other works was quite striking. After the romanticism of "In the

Night", I almost had the feeling I was seeing a Martha Graham version of

"Giselle" act II, from the same period as "Errand into the maze", "Cave of

the heart" or "Night journey": the Wilis have given up the tutus and the

buns and become amazons, Myrtha really isn't happy, and this time Albrecht

won't save his life! Am I right in assuming that the similarities (for

example, the novice having a veil on her face at the beginning of the

ballet) are not a coincidence? There were some aspects of the work which

looked a bit outdated to me (especially the costumes), but on the whole

in was an interesting work. Laetitia Pujol danced the Novice both times,

and though she looked very tiny next to the Queen of amazons (Delphine

Baey on the 24th, Agnes Letestu on the 28th), she managed to have some

great stage presence. She often is cast in roles requiring a strong

technique but little interpretation, and it was interesting to see her in

a different kind of role. The two men were danced by Jean-Christophe

Guerri, and Wilfrid Romoli- Nicolas Le Riche. Romoli was impressively

strong and virile, while Le Riche was more juvenile and soft. One of the

strongest point of the ballet was the excellence of the corps de ballet,

which was perfect from the beginning to the end; all 12 dancers deserved

to be praised.

"Other Dances" was for me the best moment of the program. I had planned to

see two casts (Hilaire- Guerin, Legris- Arbo) but, because of Guerin's

injury, saw only one. However, Legris and Arbo were so perfect that it

would be unfair to complain. I think that Robbins' works are among the

ballets which suit them the best: Arbo was wonderful when I saw her in "In

the Night" (third pas de trois) and "The concert" two seasons ago, and

Legris' "Suite of dances" last fall was one of the most enjoyable moments

of the season for me. (The more I see Legris, the more I like his dance.

I'd probably even enjoy seeing him just brushing his teeth...) Both were

wonderfully musical in "Other dances"; I especially admired Arbo's precise

feet and flowing arms, and Legris's joyful presence. Since then, Carole

Arbo has made her farewell performance (she'll turn 40 next fall). While I

find the direction has been very mean in not allowing her to make her

farewell performance in a full-length ballet, I think that her beautiful

performances in "Other dances" were a last proof of her qualities- and

given the very long applauses she received, I was not alone in thinking


"The Concert" was very successful, as usual. It was an opportunity to

see two new dancers in the "ballerina" role: Delphine Moussin, and

Eleonora Abbagnato (who has just become a premiere danseuse). I enjoyed

very much Moussin's performance, but wasn't really satisfied with

Abbagnato's: she danced well, but she is and looks very young, and

her "baby doll" look seemed somewhat unsuited to the role. I especially

appreciated Nathalie Aubin as the wife on Feb 24, and Lionel Delanoe

as the husband on Feb 28. Muriel Halle did a fine job in the role of

the "girl with glasses", which had been danced only by Laure Muret

(now on maternity leave) so far, and Eric Quillere was very funny

as the "shy student".

Much of the success of that program was due to the excellent pianist

Henri Barda, and to the Paris Opera orchestra lead by Hugo Fiorato.

[This message has been edited by Estelle (edited March 15, 2001).]

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Thanks as always for the thoughtful review, Estelle. It must have been ironic for Froelich to set the works the company his wife (Guerin) works for only to have her sidelined by injury!

Jerome Robbins quoted in Repertory in Review:

I don't see why some people are so shocked by The Cage.  If you observe closely you must realize that it is actually not more than the second act of Giselle in a contemporary visualization.

Even if some dancers I like very much (especially Romoli) will most probably never go beyond their present position, it is at least good to see them cast.


Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Oh, Estelle; what a beautiful review. I must say again what a loss it is that POB doesn't come to California more often (we get only La B. this year). So many careers gone without being seen; a history passed without our participation. Thank you so much for letting us see it through your eyes.



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Leigh, Isabelle Guérin was injured for all the last performances (and unfortunately, she has also cancelled all her "Manons" so far and it is not sure she'll be able to dance her last performance next Saturday), but she danced some of the first performances, fortunately for her and for the audience who had the luck to see her. She did the company premiere of the role of the novice in "The Cage", and also danced the third pas de deux of "In the Night" and "Other dances". I don't remember if she also danced the ballerina role in "The Concert" (she had danced it in the previous seasons).

Thanks for the Robbins quote about "The Cage", so the similarities weren't a coincidence! Well, I think I prefer the usual Giselle. smile.gif

Romoli won't become a principal dancer, but he still dances quite a lot. He danced Des Grieux in "Manon" a few days ago (there were some comments on ballet.co.uk).

Giannina, I understand your feelings- all the more as I feel the same when reading reviews about companies such as the NYCB, the Kirov... It's a bit depressing to know that Peter Boal is at the end of his career and that I will only have seen him a few times (in Edinburgh last summer).

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