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Encounters

Three Masters in the Ballet School Repertoire

Musical Emotion through Movement — By Aliénor de Foucaud

After their Demonstrations in December, from the 13th to the 18th April the pupils of the Ballet School return to the stage at the Palais Garnier with their annual production, which this season brings together three great 20th century choreographers. Alongside Ivan Clustine’s Suite de Danses - a tribute to the French School, two ballets will be enriching the School’s repertoire: Un Ballo by Jiří Kylián, with its gracious and harmonious gestures, and John Neumeier’s Spring and Fall, a work tinged with folk idiom – all elegance and emotion. Elisabeth Platel, the school’s director, explains this choice of programme and comments on photographs taken in the rehearsal studios in Nanterre.


Suite de Danses
Suite de Danses 3 images

Suite de danses

I designed this programme around three master choreographers. Suite de danses is an extension of Michel Fokine’s Sylphides, the first ballet without a narrative. In echo to this choreographic modernity, I wanted to present two other ballets without narratives. This production celebrates the translation of musical emotion through movement.

I was also keen to juxtapose Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier, both of whom trained with John Cranko at Stuttgart Ballet. This affiliation with the Stuttgart school seemed to me to be essential. It’s also a sidelong reference to Onegin, recently on the bill at the Paris Opera Ballet.   

Un Ballo
Un Ballo 3 images

Un Ballo

Jiří Kylián has already offered the Ballet School his Suite Kylián, a series of three extracts from one work. I wanted to bring an entire ballet into the repertoire. Un Ballo is a rather emblematic work since it was created for the Nederlands Dans Theatre II: the NDT company that brings together young adolescents at a pivotal moment in their careers, not yet professionals but already very advanced. This is a ballet that one can pass on to five, six or seven couples, which gave me a certain amount of leeway when casting it.

It entirely captures the Kylián spirit: the hypersensitive quality of the almost ineffable relationship between man and woman. It is extremely interesting to pass on a ballet like this to young dancers. They don’t necessarily realise what they are doing but, in the end, their bodies inhabit that intention. It’s very subtle.

Ravel’s score is marvellous, a beautiful listening experience. The demi-pointe work is interesting for the young girls. Similarly, the relationship between the partners, the diversity of the pas de deux, pirouettes and promenades with attitudes is part of their training. The pupils have been very motivated in the studio and particularly receptive. It’s not a recent ballet but its gestures speak to the dancers.    

Spring and Fall
Spring and Fall 3 images

Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall is a protean work that originally began with the boy’s variation, then the pas de deux followed by an essentially masculine finale. John Neumeier then extended it. This is a tribute to the link between Neumeier and the Paris Opera. It’s also a tribute to Manuel Legris, for whom the ballet was created, and who remains one of my favourite partners. (Spring and Fall was performed by Manuel Legris and Gigi Hyatt at the Gala of the Paris Opera Etoiles and Guest Artistes in October 1991). Finally, it’s a masculine ballet, in contrast with the more feminine Suite de danses. I chose them to counterbalance each other within the structure of the programme. Spring and Fall is typical of Neumeier’s approach to gesture: portées between boys, the use of both folk idiom and modern dance on Dvorak’s beautiful music, and a spirituality that is really all his own. It is a more adult ballet that Yonderling, which entered the School’s repertoire a few years ago. Technically, it’s a difficult piece, particularly the pas de deux. Ultimately, Un Ballo, like Spring and Fall, requires a certain level of professionalism. My aim here is to prepare the pupils of the 1st and 2nd divisions for their future careers in major companies like the Paris Opera Corps de Ballet.    

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