II. The period of experimentation (1973 - 1980)

© Daniel Cande / BnF

The 1970s would see the arrival of contemporary American dance at the Paris Opera and the revival of a Ballet company that had fallen into stagnation. Rolf Liebermann, the new director of the institution, modified the post of the ballet master, who until then had assured the role of the Opera’s principal choreographer, and replaced it with a Director of Dance: Raymond Franchetti (1973-1977), then Violette Verdy (1977-1980). Liebermann would also hire an American disciple of Alwin Nikolaïs, Carolyn Carlson, first as “étoile-chorégraphe”, then as director of the Paris Opera’s theatre research group (the G.R.T.O.P.). Autonomous from the Ballet and a true testing ground for new ideas, the G.R.T.O.P. created among other things L’Or des fous / Les Fous d’or (1975) and The Architects (1980).
Merce Cunningham was commissioned to create Un jour ou deux, set to music by John Cage with sets and costumes by Jasper Johns. In 1974, the Ballet performed Paul Taylor’s emblematic work Auréole. The forward march of American (neo)classical ballet did not stop there. As part of a Stravinsky programme in 1974, George Balanchine presented Agon, one of the choreographer's masterpieces. The ballet was performed without sets and in costumes pared down to simple tunics and black and white leotards. He was accompanied by the other great name from New York City Ballet, the choreographer of West Side Story, Jerome Robbins, who in turn entered the Paris Opera’s repertoire with Scherzo Fantastique and Circus Polka. 


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