MAILLOT TRIPLE BILL- Ballets de Monte-Carlo- October 2015

The Ballets de Monte-Carlo celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. Founded by Caroline, Princess of Hannover, and fulfilling the dream of her mother, Princess Grace, the new company was formed in 1985 under the directorship of Pierre Lacotte. Lacotte, renowned for his revivals and reconstructions of 19th century ballets, together with his ballerina wife, Ghislaine Thesmar, gave the company a strong classical base. Their successor from 1987, Jean-Yves Esquerre, invited contemporary choreographers including Kylian, Neumeier and Forsythe, giving the company a change of direction. Jean-Christophe Maillot was appointed director in 1993, and the highly prolific and creative choreographer finally gave the company its own very individual style.

The current season is a particularly busy one, adding workshops, open rehearsals and filming to the performance schedule while international tours take the company to New York, Cuba, France and Germany. To open the season, the company performed a Triple Bill of works by Maillot, two revivals and one new work in the ornate setting of the Opéra Garnier in Monte Carlo. Fighting for space among the golden nymphs and goddesses, the burgundy-red plush of the curtains, are decorate plaques paying homage to Mozart, Verdi, Verdi, Bizet and others, but it’s John Adams’ frenetic score and lean, athletic bodies which almost assault us when the curtain opens. Vers un Pays Sage (Towards a wiser world) was created in 1995, and is a tribute to his father, a painter and scenic artist. The choreography mirrors his exceptional zest and vitality and is danced with an almost frenetic energy, a mixture of contemporary and classical dance, hyper extensions, and undulating torsos, but with the women on pointe and the men impressing with strong high jumps. Half-way through the invention flags but the two central pas de deux which are driven by emotion rather by Adam’s strident music, keep one’s interest and are excellently danced, as is the whole ballet, particularly by Marianna Barbabas, Gabriele Corrado and George Oliveira.

Entrelacs (which can be a type of patchwork knitting and perhaps is what is meant) was first performed in 2000. In his programme notes Maillot quotes Balanchine’s concept of “making music visible and dance have sound”. Danced to a score by the Monaco-born composer Yan Maresz, Maillot’s aim is reflect the music with his choreography. In this I found he was only partially successful, the choreography was often similar to the preceding work, while the music was much more playful, if highly repetitive. A very long quartet with ever less choreographic invention comes near the end and the ballet, leaving the work to just fade out without reaching some sort of conclusion.

Presque Rien (practically nothing), the final ballet of the evening and a premiere, shows Maillot setting off on a completely new direction. This is a highly dramatic work, full of tension in exploring a highly charged personal relationship. The curtain opens on a darkened stage with a man seated on a stool, a woman’s body just visible behind him. They immediately start a violent fight, pushing, hitting, grappling and abusing each other. The choreography is strong and expressive and it becomes clear that the couple are locked into a relationship so violent, so close and so sexually charged that there is no way out. Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et La Mort and Béjart’s Huis Clos come to mind with similar themes. The sound track is made up of what used to be called ‘musique concrète’, a mixture of electronic sound, voices, birdsong and thunderclaps, against which the constant fight, interspersed with moments of love and affection, takes place. At one time a group of women enter, with bare legs, very small briefs and transparent black shirts, they look like a sort of soft-porn commando sent in to sort out the couple. However, they soon succumb to the man and like a hallucination, disappear. The fight between the couple continues but unexpectedly they leave the stage, the music changes to a soft croon when they re-enter in an amorous embrace. End of ballet. I could not help wondering how much better Tudor, Gore or MacMillan, all masters of drama of this type, would have done, but this is a new departure for Maillot, and his dancers, Maude Sabourin and Christian Tworzyanski, responded with powerful and touching performances.

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