Part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season this latest dance offering featured a brilliantly danced triple bill from the Paris Opera Ballet.
This was Benjamin Millepied’s premiere programme, coming in his first season as the Artistic Director of the Palace Opera Ballet. The performance filmed took place on Thursday 1st October.
Millepied introduced each of the three works and the film also showed short interviews also with a couple of the dancers. The works were performed in reverse chronological order. All three pieces were plotless, with very demanding and revealing choreography and very little set to speak of. The predominant colour throughout was blue, the dancing dazzling…
Millipied’s piece Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward was the opening work, an abstract work which featured sixteen members of the corps de ballet, rather than the usual soloists or etoiles (stars/principals).
The demanding choreography required laser sharpness and a very clean ‘line’. It was starkly, sparsely, ominously lit with just a couple of swinging overhead lamps. There was an eerie use of shadows and some snappy, controlled blackouts. The lighting and set design were jointly credited to United Visual Artists and Lucy Carter.
A bench stage right provided a resting place when needed for the performers who all stayed on stage for the duration of the performance. always on stage. Millepied’s choreography included posed sculptural group tableaux as well as some astonishing entwining pas de deux. At one point the men were like rocks, on the floor, anchoring the standing women, who displayed elegantly undulating, seaweed like arms .
One could see the Balanchine influence, (Millepied openly acknowledges his work has been influenced by both Balanchine and Robbins), as well as inspirations from Forsythe and McGregor.
There were some breath taking pas de deux. The women, in metallic mesh leotards, had incredibly steely pointes and exhibited wonderful control. The men were in bluey- grey outfits. A long, fluid line was also demanded.
There was no emotion, the dancers were neutrally cool. The score by Nico Muhly crashed and pulsated and like the work of the dancers was driven, relentless, and almost other worldly.
The next work performed was Opus 19/The Dreamer, a work originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride in 1979. The piece opened with a lovely sculptural tableaux of a chorus of six ladies in blue and a single male dancer in white. This was a poetic, dreamlike work about a male dancer searching for his beloved.
Mathieu Ganio had a sensational opening solo. The main ballerina, Amandine Albisson for this performance, wore blue, but a slightly different shade to the other ladies.
Interestingly, in this work I was reminded of Balanchine’s style – there were allusions to his Prodigal Son and Apollo, and also traditional Petipa works such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty .
The dancers performed to Prokofiev’s glorious music. The choreography, at times, was sharp and spiky, at other times lyrical. There were some extraordinary pas de deux and some “Russian” style lifts. One pas de deux in particular was sort of Orpheus and Eurydice like as Ganio refused to look at Albisson’s face.
In another hypnotic pas de deux embodying ‘The Idealised Woman’ there was extensive use of pas de bouree on pointe around the male. In one segment there was a strong, challenging dance for the seven men and a slinky, emphatic duet for the main couple.
The final work was Balanchine’s 1947 work Theme and Variations performed to Tchaikovsky music. This work represented the choreographer’s nostalgic return to his Russian Imperial Ballet heritage and featured plenty of tutus, tiaras and the like.
The work featured allusions to works such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker, both musically and choreographically. There were echoes of the Grand pas de deux at the end of Sleeping Beauty as well as its final polonaise.
Theme and Variations was full of Balanchine’s trademark fast, fleet footwork yet it also demanded extreme control especially in the adage. There was an intricate interweaving/folding in/out for the corps de ballet of women and the ballerina.
Leading lady, Valentine Colasante, was dazzling, cool, elegant yet also refined and regal. Simply glorious! François Alu, in the Prince role, featured in some tremendous, showy solos, and displayed ease and grace in his numerous spectacular turns and jumps. What a terrific, fluid line and glorious soft ballon! What a splendid way to end this all American yet made in France evening!
The Palace Opera and Ballet season presentation of ROBBINS, MILLEPIED, BALANCHINE screened in cinemas between the 13th and 18th November. Running time 2 hours and 30 minutes including one interval.