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Paris Opera Ballet, Ek- Naharin program, June 10

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When going out of the "Opera" metro station in Paris, one

can only marvel at the renovated facade of the Opera

Garnier, after several months of work: the dark layer

of dirt brought by decades of pollution has been removed,

and now it looks much lighter; also the statues have

been added some new gold painting.

Before finishing its season with two classics, "Raymonda" and "Giselle",

the POB danced a contemporary bill, at the beginning of June, including

Ohad Naharin's "Perpetuum" and the world premiere of Mats Ek's

"Perpetuum", which was premiered in 1992 for the Ballet

du Grand Theatre de Geneve, is the first work of Ohad

Naharin in the repertory of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Naharin has been the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance

Company since 1990, but has also created works for several

other companies, such as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre or the

Nederlands Dans Theater. Naharin himself came to Paris

to stage his ballet, with his assistantMari Kajiwara.

"Perpetuum" is a plotless dance piece for about 30 dancers, on some music

by Johann Strauss (mostly waltzes and polkas). It is a light, fast,

amusing work, with a somewhat absurd sense of humor. I found it

entertaining and appreciated the choice of such a lively music, and also

the dancers seemed to enjoy dancing it very much, but I'm afraid most of

the details disappeared quite quickly from my memory... I also found that

some of the costumes, especially those of the women (bizarre greyish gowns

and very high crazy wigs) sometimes prevented one from really seeing the


The piece is divided into nine sequences. I especially liked the "entrance

of the men", on the "Egyptian March" op. 335, with thirteen men (lead by

Yann Bridard) wearing red clothes looking like uniforms (closer to the

uniforms of hotel people than military ones) doing a strange rythmical

defile on stage, a bit like in Naharin's "Axioma 7", and also a pas de

deux, somewhat acrobatic but very smooth, on a sort of square white carpet

at the center of the stage, danced by Yann Bridard and Aurelie Dupont,

while Sebastien Thill played some parts of "Neue Pizzicato Polka" on the

violin. There also was an amusing pas de deux at the beginning, danced by

Natacha Gilles and Vincent Cordier (Cordier was stuck to a wall by his

costumes) on "Fruhlingstimmen", a very energetic solo danced by Peggy

Grelat, a somewhat hysterical but funny sequence on the galop "Eljen

a Magyar" with all the dancers throwing old LPs across the stage,

a strange "quatuor de dames" with Delphine Baey, Mirentchu Battut,

Marie-Isabelle Peracchi and Alice Renavand... And the end of the

piece, on "Wiener Bonbons" and "Trisch-trasch polka", was

quite crazy and funny (including a dancer running and dancing

all over the stage during the bows).

The audience reacted with much enthusiasm, and the Orchestre Colonne,

lead by David Coleman, got its share of applauses.

The second work of the program, "Appartement", was the second

work of Mats Ek in the POB's repertory. It is very different

from his "Giselle", which had entered the repertory in 1993,

or from his versions of "Swan Lake" and "The Sleeping Beauty":

no real plot, a rather austere scenography (by Peder Freiij- but the end was quite original, with several copies of the stage curtain successively falling...),

and the music was created for this piece and played on

stage by the Swedish band FleshQuartet (one violin,

one viola, two cellos and some drums and computer


The piece included 11 sequences, more or less inspired by

"everyday life", with titles such as "the bathroom",

"the television" or "march of the vacuum cleaners".

As with "Perpetuum", it is a bit hard for me now to

clearly remember the details, and I think it needs

to be seen more than once. I found the whole piece

a bit cold, and sometimes lacking coherence

and characterization, but on the other hand some

parts really were excellent, and I find Ek's

choreographic style very interesting.

One of the most positive aspects of this piece was its cast, which

included many of the best dancers of the POB (there was only one cast for

all the performances, but the dancers danced several roles alternatively).

I especially admired the tall, statuesque Marie-Agnes Gillot in

her opening solo "the bathroom", the expressive Jose Martinez

in "the television" (Ek's role seem very well suited to Martinez,

his Hilarion in Ek's "Giselle" was wonderful), the "kitchen"

pas de deux with Kader Belarbi and Claire-Marie Osta

(one wonders why they aren't cast together more often),

the final "grand pas de deux" with Nicolas Le Riche

and Celine Talon... The other dancers had less important

roles (Alessio Carbone, Wilfrid Romoli, Lionel Delanoe,

Benjamin Pech, Herve Courtain, Stephane Phavorin,

Geraldine Wiart, Melanie Hurel, Muriel Zusperreguy),

but all were very talented and committed.

It is still hard to know whether these two pieces

will remain in the repertory for a long time,

and I'd need to see them again to have a more

precise opinion about it. But at least it was

an enthusiastic evening at the Palais Garnier, and in my opinion they were far less disappointing

than some recent other new works, such

as Duboc's "Rhapsody in Blue" or Montalvo's

"Le rire de la lyre".

[This message has been edited by Estelle (edited June 23, 2000).]

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Re Perpetuum - Which I was lucky enough to see that same evening (and through your good offices of providing me with the information to negotiate my way through getting tickets in Paris -- thanks Estelle) it's clearly a "tongue in cheek" piece, something of a jest by the choreographer and company, and can be an interesting part of the repertory as a counterpoint to more serious works. I would think a program consisting of this and something heavier, and not necessarily contemporary even, would be a good one.

I thought the end or mock ending, with the curtain call being structurally indistiguishable from the end of the piece, as the entire cast comes right to the foot of the stage, so that the foot-lights dramatically illuminate them from their very feet, very striking. This then wasn't the real end, as they did it all over again. I thought the strength of the ballet was the obvious fun the company had with it.

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Michael, it's a pity we couldn't met on that evening. I hope to have another opportunity to meet you at the Paris Opera (or at another dance venue) someday.

I agree that "Perpetuum" would be a good counterpart to something heavier. Well, I think that Ek's work was more "serious", but

also there were some similarities between the two pieces, mostly some kind of absurd sense of humor.

And yes indeed, the company had much fun dancing it. After the performance I chatted with a danced I know, and she said that the dancers had enjoyed very much working with Ms Kajiwara (and that it was a bit hard to go back to the strict, disciplined rehearsals of "Raymonda" after that...) By the way, I wonder how the attitude of choreographers towards the dancers influences their success. For example, I remember that Alexandra wrote once that one of the reasons so many dancers were very positive about Neumeier is that he seemed to be very nice and kind with them during the rehearsals. From what I've been told, it seems that the POB dancers would be much happier to work again with Naharin or Ek than with, say, Forsythe or Petit...

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Oh Paris would be just fine, Estelle. I'll settle for Paris.

By the way, was that Natacha Grilles who performed that very brief series of pirouettes, in the pas de deux near the beginning? -- whoever she was, she was amazing.

It was just something brief, but the woman pirouetted three or four times, with one arm very high, and her working leg frozen in an attitude-like pose (grande pirouette, actually, I think). But what was very special was how she powered each pirouette purely with the releve motion with which she began each turn. She held the rest of her body perfectly motionless, in a beautiful line. There was no fouette motion at all with the working leg. The turn was instead generated fully from the action of her supporting foot - and it was amazing.

Whoever she was, Brava.

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