Balanchine at Garnier
Balanchine Program at
Review by Christophe de Jouvancourt,
Costume photos: © Christophe Pelé / OnP, Production Photos: Sebastian Mathé
PARIS/FRANCE: The Balanchine program pays a tribute to the late Violette Verdy deceased on February 8th 2016. Premiere 22th October at Palais Garner, Paris.
Violette Verdy was one of the greatest dancers of her time, admired for her brilliant technique, her musicality and style. For eighteen years she was Balanchine’s favorite dancer and created a lot of ballets for the choreographer at the New York City Ballet. Between 1977 and 1980, she was director of the Ballet of the Opera de Paris and then continued to teach and be a reference of Balanchine’s ballets. Thus the program opens with a short and very moving film showing Violette Verdy in some of her emblematic roles and working with students and dancers of the Opera de Paris.
Then the curtain opens on Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, a ballet in four movements on Brahms music, in the Arnold Schönberg’s orchestration, created in 1966, only a year before the famous Jewels. Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet was the first abstract work Balanchine designed for the stage of the New York State Theater, which replaced the smaller City Center of Music and Drama as the home of New York City Ballet in 1964.
It entered at the repertoire of the Opera de Paris on July 2016 and for the occasion the famous designer Karl Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel, designed magnificent costumes and sets.
In the first movement one can admire the virtuosity of two brilliant Etoiles, the wonderful Dorothée Gilbert and the magnificent Matthieu Ganio dancing a very beautiful pas de trois with Ida Viikinkosky, a very young and promising Sujet. The “corps de ballet” is also highlighted and shows the elegance of the French institution. For the second movement, Laëtita Pujol and her partner Mathieu Ganio form a very sensitive couple.
The 3rd movement is highlighted by the couple formed by Mathias Heymann and Myriam Ould Braham. This couple is really a must see: their musicality and lightness in the execution of very demanding movements is impressive. Mathias Heymann excels in the jump parts and seems really hanging in the air for a second, while the gracious Myriam Ould Braham is exquisite in the pas-de-deux, as her movements seem to last forever.
The last movement ends the ballet with a character dance, inspired by the gypsy traditional dances. Karl Paquette is brilliant in this part, as well as his partner Laura Hecquet. They both have an expressive and communicative pleasure to dance.
The second ballet at the program is Sonatine, on the music by Ravel. This ballet will only be played on October 22nd, 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th.
Sonatine was first presented as the opening ballet of the New York City Ballet for the Ravel Festival during the 1975 Spring Season, which marked the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
The polished simplicity and emotional interplay of the rarely-seen Sonatine evokes the elegance of the French artists on which it was made. Perhaps as a nod to the composer’s country, Balanchine created this ballet — a pas de deux with an onstage pianist — on Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, two principal dancers with New York City Ballet who were both born in France. Thus it is quite an evidence to see it during a tribute to Violette Verdy.
The ballet is danced with sensitivity and elegance by Mathias Heymann and the gifted Myriam Ould Braham. Their partnership works perfectly as they are very complementary and enhance the natural beauty of this pas de deux.
The third ballet of this Balanchine program is Mozartiana which is a new entry at the repertoire of the Opera de Paris, as a last gift from the former director of the Parisian company, Benjamin Millepied.
Mozartiana is set to the Suite No. 4, Tschaikovsky’s arrangement and orchestration of several short works by Mozart.
Balanchine first choreographed to this music at the start of his career in 1933, and nearly 50 years later, he returned to the score to create a new ballet, one of his last works.
It is very simple in its form, choreographed for three soloists, a feminine “corps de ballet” and four young students (the famous “petits rats” of the Opera de Paris). Josua Hofalt and Laura Hecquet is a very elegant couple and dance perfectly this typical Balanchine’s choreography. Arthus Raveau, First dancer, is a spirited artist, remarkable in a part of semi-character dancing.
With Violin Concerto, the last ballet of this program, the company presents another style of the American choreographer. The scenography consists only in a blue background and the costumes of the dancers are as simple and academic as possible: white shirt, black tights and white socks for the men and a black unitard for the women. Like the music, the choreography is a masterpiece of symmetry and reveals two of Balanchine’s most ingenious and unique pas de deux.
Stravinsky Violin Concerto was composed in 1931 and was first used by Balanchine for Balustrade with the Original Ballets Russes in 1941. When Balanchine returned to this score three decades later, he could no longer remember his original choreography. Stravinsky Violin Concerto was premiered on the opening night of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival, which also included the premiere of Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements.
Karl Paquette is absolutely wonderful partnering the delightful Alice Renavand in this very challenging choreography, requiring balance and flexibility. Stephane Bullion and Amandine Albisson are also very convincing and energetic in their part.
Karl Lagerfeld Sketches for the Balanchine program: