PARIS, 18 September 2006—Since 1981, when the short-lived Groupe de Recherches
Chorégraphiques was founded, members of the Paris Opera Ballet have been
encouraged to create ballets and have done so with differing degrees of
success. In recent years, while José Martinez triumphed at the Paris Opera
School with his light-hearted Scaramouche, a work commissioned by
director Brigitte Lefevre, Kader Belarbi had problems convincing with his
Wuthering Heights . And if Nicolas Le Riche fell flat on his
nose with Caligula, all research but
little inspiration, Yann Bridard
, currently working on a commission for National
Ballet of Nancy, has already created several interesting short pieces.
Every two or three years company members and not only the
étoiles are given the opportunity to stage their creations, and
these evenings are invariably a huge success, helped along by the fact
that they are interpreted by some of the world's finest dancers. This
year's programme, which presented ten works in the amphitheatre of the
Opera Bastille, was no exception.
Of particular note was the beautiful pas de deux by Nicolas Paul,
Entre d et e…, set to Hildegard von Bingen's, O vis
aeternitatis, and interpreted by Charline Giezendanner and Charlotte
Entre d et
Charline Giezendanner and Charlotte Ranson
Photo courtesy of
Paris Opera Ballet
After the promising Explicite Artifice, his first creation a
few years ago, Nuit des sens by Sébastien Bertaud also deserves
special mention, but more for the exceptional cast of Marie-Agnès Gillot,
Cyril Atanassoff, and Jean-Marie Didière, than for the work's
choreographic qualities. Enjoyable also was
Saint-Germain-des-Prés by Béatrice Martel and Chemin de
traverse by Mallory Gaudion.
However, the revelation of the evening was the ballet
Epiphénomènes by 23 year-old Samuel Murez, a young
dancer/choreographer who has already several works to his credit and who
shows real potential. Murez possesses a true creative identity; his ballet
was inventive, imaginative and full of intelligence and humour.
Murez, of French and American origin, studied at the Paris Opera
School and joined the company in 2001 at the age of 19. He'd already begun
to choreograph, creating pieces for himself when a knee injury forced him
to quit dance temporarily; it gave him the opportunity to concentrate and
develop his own choreographic style.
"My aim is to make a movie on stage", he told me. "If you think back to
when The Sylphide was created in 1932 and put it into the context
of the time, it's comparable to Matrix today. Incredible special effects
were created, with girls flying through the air, appearing from chimneys
as if by magic and then disappearing. Reality was constantly being mixed
with the imaginary. Even the girl's low necklines were daring for the
period. It was hot stuff! Not
everyone goes to the theatre or to see ballet; they go
to the cinema to have fun. I want people to have
a good time when they see my ballets and to leave the
theatre in a happy frame of mind."
Murez told me it was a hat he found which inspired his piece,
created at Vieux-Boucau in the South of France earlier this year. He had
several ideas turning around in his head and the hat triggered off the
invention of a Trickster, a manipulator / magician figure who was bored and
began looking around for mischief.
Samuel Murez: Epiphénomènes
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet
"He's a weird character who appears on stage in a purple velvet coat, a
cane, and this hat, and hangs around waiting for something to happen. He
conjures up a boy and girl, Jack and Jill, and plays with them, leading
them to believe they were acting of their own free will when they were
obviously not. The music, an original composition from the group,
The Misters, starts up and the girl and boy cross in the street, look back
at one another, and go on their way. The rendez-vous is missed. So I
rewound the music, gave the girl a handkerchief to drop to give the guy a
chance to pick it up and speak to her, and started the piece again.
When he hands it to her, he's tongue-tied, and the rendezvous missed
again. Back to square one. The music starts up again, and this time round
the boy is carrying a bunch of flowers, but when the girl shows her
delight, he kisses her and gets his face slapped........"
"Things finally work out and everyone gets it right, but when the
Trickster has had his fun, he kills them. Then he feels hungry, goes to
the corner of the stage and eats a banana that has popped up from nowhere.
He drinks a glass of something before deciding the bodies are in the way
and calls on a couple of helpers to clean up the place. He's not even
nasty; he treats the people the same way as the banana."
"I also had the cooperation of some extraordinary dancers. Alice
Renavand and Josua Hoffalt who interpret the young couple use real
emotions, and I was able to bring out the special brand of humour that
already exists in everyday life between Stéphane Bullion and Alexandre
Carniato, the two henchmen, both superb interpreters."
He said that he was influenced, not by the actual choreography of
William Forsythe, but by the principles that generate his movement, and
added that he also admired the work of Russell Maliphant and the
theatricality of Matthew Bourne. But as far as the work of Murez himself
is concerned, his style is unique, owing allegiance to none. Once he finds
his story, he seems to know instinctively the right vocabulary, lighting
and music to translate what he has to say, bringing a sense of fun to his
work, mostly absent from ballet these days.
Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at