By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 7 SEPTEMBER 2008 As
Belarbi, the last of Rudolf Nureyev's great
étoiles takes his final bow, a new generation of dancers is
emerging, all of whom are little known outside the company. One of the
most promising, Hervé Moreau, was nominated étoile after a performance of
La Bayadère in 2006, when, at the age of 28, he danced the role
of Solor for the first time. I spoke to him during a break in rehearsals
for John Neumeier's La Dame aux camélias , when he was partnering
Agnès Letestu prior to appearing with her in the filmed version of the
If in an abstract work by Forsythe or Balanchine one
of Moreau's greatest qualities has proved to be his ability to merge into
the background, people who saw his sensitive and credible interpretation
of Siegfried in Nureyev's Swan Lake back in 2002 began to follow
his career seriously. They ran to see his impassioned performance as the
young man in Serge Lifar's Mirages and
queued to see him in early performances of La Dame aux camélias
because he is different. Romantic, poetic, and refined, Moreau has that
rare gift of becoming the character he is portraying. You believe in him
and enter completely into the story unfolding on stage.
"I have always had a great respect for the
choreography of John Neumeier since I first danced in his Midsummer
Night's Dream shortly after I joined the company", the dancer told
me, "but it wasn't until I was cast as Aminta, the ill-fated hero of
Sylvia, that I got to know the man personally. And then when I
heard that La Dame aux camélias was being programmed at the
Palais Garnier, I immediately re-read the book through several times to
absorb all the small details of Armand's character and to understand his
reactions to events. I identified completely with him. I watched all the
videos of existing works and soon realized that Neumeier's version was not
so easy as all that. The lifts are quite acrobatic and the large
crinolines made them a little perilous; it's a ballet in which you really
have to know your partner well."
Agnès Letestu and Hervé Moreau in La Dame aux camélias
Photo: Sebastien Mathé
Tall and romantic-looking with light brown floppy
hair, it is easy to picture Moreau as the ardent young man who hopes to
save the doomed heroine. He cannot praise his partner, Agnès Letestu, more
highly; "She is completely Marguerite", he said. "So much so that for the
moment I find it inconceivable to ever dance the ballet with anyone else.
We truly live the story together. There is a complete fusion between us on
stage; something magical happens. I feel what she feels and it seems so
easy and natural to communicate that to an audience."
However, it was not to be, and those who saw the 2006
performances of Moreau and Letestu can count themselves lucky, for on the
night of the première, the dancer, now 30, hurtled offstage and collided
with a projector causing a knee injury and putting an end to his dreams of
the film. But there will be more ballets and other films for this unique
dancer who began dance quite by chance at the age of six.
"Although I was born in Paris, I grew up in Bordeaux,
and it was after being taken to a show for children that I wanted to learn
to dance and act as they did. My two brothers were keen on tennis and judo
which didn't appeal, but I was happy with my dance lessons and might have
continued with it as just a hobby excepting that my parents took me to see
Béjart's Ballet of the 20th Century. Jorge Donn
dancing Boléro was a revelation, and
he has been a point of reference for me ever since. Until then, I hadn't
realized that I could dance for a living, and so at the age of 11, I
auditioned for the Paris Opéra school, entering the company when I was
Slow to distinguish himself, Moreau spoke degradingly
of the yearly competition in which dancers gain promotion, and which
Rudolf Nureyev tried so hard to dismantle.
"I have the most dreadful memories of finding myself
before a panel of judges and having to show them how well I could do a
pirouette", he recalled. "I was always very bad because it's an
examination which gives a very small place to artistic interpretation, and
it wasn't until I danced Swan Lake while still in the corps
de ballet (he held the rank of Sujet at the time) that I was
given the chance to express what I wanted."
However, it was not only in the role of Seigfried that
Hervé Moreau drew attention to himself. As Romeo in Sasha Waltz'
version of Romeo and Juliet set to
the Berlioz score, and programmed last year, Moreau was outstanding. He
drew emotion and feeling out of what could otherwise have been little
short of a catastrophe with a lesser dancer. If his technique is both
elegant and impeccable, in keeping with most of the higher ranking male
dancers of the French company, Hervé Moreau adds depth to his roles by the
intensity of his dramatic gifts.
Gentle and softly spoken he was at risk of being
type-cast in the role of a prince, which he most definitely is, but there
is no trace of arrogance in him. His princes are human beings rather than
figures from a fairy tale which is one of the reasons he venerates
Nureyev's versions of the classics because the Russian star gave a meaning
to and revolutionized the great traditional ballets. Indeed, one of his
greatest regrets is that he joined the company in 1995, too late to know
and work with Rudolf Nureyev.
"I dislike other versions of the classics intensely
because they seem so empty after Nureyev's, with, perhaps the exception of
John Neumeier's Swan Lake. I'd love to dance that one day, as I
would MacMillan's Manon. I have
to be motivated and share my emotions with the public."
Next season will see him fulfilling at least one of
his dreams, that of dancing Boléro in February in a programme
dedicated to Lifar, Petit, and Béjart. Although he is a very different
dancer than Jorge Donn, Moreau assured me that there were several ways of
interpreting Boléro, and he would find the right one. He added
that it was something that he just had to do; but for that particular
ballet he would not be where he is today. He also acknowledged that it was
an enormous challenge, for to this day no dancer, from Nicolas Le Riche to
Maia Plisetskaya has ever equaled the charismatic, magnificent Donn.
Rendez-vous in six months!
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe.
She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and
was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms.
Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com
Coming Soon to DVD: John Neumeier's Lady of
Promising Young Dancers in