Ballet Nice Mediterranee perform Lucinda Childs & Oscar Ariaz- Ecole de danse de Cannes – April 2013

BALLET NICE MEDITERRANEE perform Oceana, Adagietto & Rhapsody – Opéra Nice Cote d’Azur – 7. April 2013



Theatre Croisette Cannes, 20 April 2013


In his desire to expose both his company, and the home audience in Nice, to a large and eclectic selection of choreography, director Eric Vu An has already presented ballets by Balanchine, Lifar, Limon and Tetley. His most recent programme, performed at the Opéra Nice Cote d’Azur in April, is made up of works by two choreographers who emerged during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the American, Lucinda Childs and the Argentinian, Oscar Araiz. Lucinda Childs burst on to the 1970’s scene as a collaborator of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass in the now legendary production Einstein on the Beach.  She choreographed, besides performing, in a minimalist contemporary style, often in multi-media productions, collaborating with composers Philip Glass and Robert Adams. She was soon in demand internationally, choreographing for opera productions in Salzburg and Brussels, and ballets for the Paris Opera Ballet, Rambert Dance Company and for companies across Europe and the United States.

Based in France for some years, she has mounted ballets for several regional companies and created Oceana for the Ballet Nice Mediterranée in 2011. Surprisingly, she has produced a pretty ‘pointe’ ballet against a watery backdrop of moving waves and the sea. The choreography, if classically based, is relentlessly repetitive, interspersed with clumsy lifts and duets leaving the dancers clambering on and over each other, after which they walk solemnly, with finely stretched insteps, into the wings. There is little in this to associate with the movement of the water or of life below the waves, and the score by Osvaldo Golijov, reminiscent of the 1960’s Swingle Singers, does little to help.

Oscar Araiz has directed companies in his native Buenos Aires and in Geneva as well as choreographing for a number of international dance companies. He contributed two ballets to the performance including the duet Adagietto to the slow movement of Gustave Mahler’s 5th symphony. Created in 1971 in Buenos Aires, it has been performed extensively all over the world, even at the Paris Opera. However, the very earth-bound and uninventive slow-motion choreography, seemed to move just from one pose to the other, without any particular reason or momentum. The final ballet Rhapsody, did finally bring some interesting movement and a sense of theatre to the performance. Dramatically costumed in black, gold and silver, the dancers could be from a classy tango dance hall or even gamblers in a casino. Araiz says in his programme notes that he wishes the audience to use their own imagination to identify the characters and the situations. It is a series of meetings and confrontations, slickly South American but danced to Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on the Theme by Paganini. Some scenes do succeed in capturing one’s interest, but others such as the pas de deux to the very well-known romantic theme of the music brings forth another bland, posturing pas de deux. However a more energetic pas de deux was very well performed by Veronica Colombo and Gabriel Barrenengoa, and Victor Escoffier was especially impressive as a sort of Master of Ceremonies, or jester, rare moments when the dancers were able to shine.

The company is now greatly strengthened since Eric Vu An’s arrival in 2009, and his own productions, versions of the 19th century classics, are important additions to the repertoire. However, the present system of a pot-pourri of more contemporary works from different eras and in different styles makes it difficult to develop a company with a strongly individual style, or allow the dancers to mature and develop interestingly as artists and performers. The company could benefit from a resident choreographer, or from one or two working regularly with them.

Among the many dance events taking place on the Cote d’Azur this April was the annual performance given by the Ecole Supérieure de Danse de Cannes-Rosella Hightower. The school founded by the American ballerina in the 1960’s is now a national dance academy with students from 11 to 23 years of age. Now directed by Paola Cantalupo, former principal dancer with the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the school gave a thoroughly enjoyable performance, showing a strong technical standard and a great feeling of joy in their work. The first part of the evening was made up of short ballets arranged by the resident teachers and the second half dedicated to the centenary of The Rite of Spring. Excerpts from four different contemporary versions were given, including those by Angelin Preljocaj and Jean-Claude Galotta, leading choreographers directing French companies. In her pre-performance speech Paola Cantalupo spoke of the electrifying experience it had been for the students to work on and study this exceptional work, to which they gave every drop of their energy and commitment.


©Christina Gallea Roy, April 2013