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EVOLUTION: BALANCHINE, NUREYEV, FORSYTHE

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 28 JULY 2008-The idea of a Balanchine/Nureyev/Forsythe evening to demonstrate the evolution of classical ballet was an interesting one. The audience was invited to rediscover the styles of three great names of dance who have pushed classical dance forward over the past one hundred years. There was Rudolf Nureyev, after Petipa, who revitalized the great 19th century classics, Balanchine, who redefined the classical ballet of his Saint Petersburg days into a different, plotless context, and William Forsythe who "attacked" the line of classical ballet, sending his dancers almost off-balance, stretching their bodies in all directions and whamming their movements from one position into another. The source of all these visions is the Franco-Russian heritage of Marius Petipa.

The evening at the Paris Opera Ballet opened with The Four Temperaments, a one-act ballet set to music by Hindemith and first performed in New York in 1946. Considered as one of Balanchine's most outstanding pieces, it is an abstract, 'neoclassical' work composed of four variations based on the four moods, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric. The traditions of Imperial Russia have been fused with those of a more modern world where movement and music combine in a perfect whole. The work was well-danced by a cast which included several promising young members of the company. Mathias Heymann distinguished himself in Mélancolique, together with Sara Kora Dayanova, while étoile Emilie Cozette was beautiful to watch in Colérique, in what proved to be one of the highlights of the evening. It was also perhaps one of the last occasions to see 45-year-old Wilfried Romoli, in Flegmatique, alas not one of his more memorable roles.


Wilfried Romoli in Flegmatique
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet

Extracts from Raymonda, set to a score by Minkus followed, a work which showed off the corps de ballet to perfection, and which gave a foretaste of the full-length ballet which is being programmed next season. The dancing of the ensembles was good, but the bravura pieces were disappointing being under-cast. Isabelle Ciaravola and Christophe Duquenne are fine in supporting roles, but possess neither the technique nor the charisma required for the central roles. Raymonda needs stars of the quality of Elisabeth Platel and Charles Jude who created the ballet. The two dancers programmed the evening I was present fell far short.

The evening ended with William Forsythes brilliant Artifact Suite, where academic vocabulary combines with postmodern philosophy and Bach's music. The use of the corps de ballet is particularly outstanding and they had been very well-drilled, but here again the lack of étoiles made itself felt. The work itself, despite the annoying first half where the curtain descends abruptly on several occasions , amply demonstrates the evolution of classical dance, and for that reason alone, more than merits its place in such a programme. This was an evening of star choreographers without alas, an all-star cast.

Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.

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Book Review: Nureyev: Everything He Ever Said or Did

Reader Comment: 10 December 2007
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