TRIPLE BILL & CHORE- La Compagnie des Ballets de Monte-Carlo – JULY 2014

Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo

La Petite Morte – Jiri Kylian / New Sleep – William Forsythe  / Sigh – Marco Goecke – 16 July 2014

Choré- Jean-Christophe Maillot – 27 July 2014


Among the final performances given this season by the Compagnie des Ballets de Monte-Carlo was a triple bill of works by leading contemporary choreographers which included a world premiere by the youngest, the German Marco Goecke.Following a season packed with international tours including seasons in London, New York and Paris, director Jean-Christophe Maillot was invited to mount a new version of The Taming of the Shrew for the Bolshoi Ballet. His absence allowed the company to work with outside choreographers in what promised to be an interesting programme, one which could be seen as charting the development of contemporary ballet from Jiri Kylian’s lyrical and theatrical works by way of William Forsythe’s almost revolutionary changes with his love of speed, repetition and disregard for the rules of classical dance to the extremely acrobatic physical style of today.

On entering the Opera House’s sumptuous, gilded and highly decorated auditorium, with the curtains drawn to expose a view of the calm, blue Mediterranean, one is almost overcome with the glitter of gold, and the abundance of nymphs, goddesses and other-worldly creatures. This makes the first view of Kylian’s La Petite Mort appear almost indecent with the raw nakedness of the six male dancers standing boldly on the empty stage. They are dressed in flesh coloured briefs and to a deep rumbling sound they menacingly swish the long swords they are carrying before dropping them and lifting them again with their feet. To Mozart’s Adagio from the A Major Piano Concerto they commence a slow-motion ritual-like dance, the swords obviously symbols of their masculinity. From under a huge wave of black silk material six women appear in flesh coloured leotards and the ballet continues with a series of six pas de deux. These are love duets, gentle and loving, but after the third one they are interrupted by a further rumbling sound and the entrance of women who appear to be wearing long black baroque-style dresses. To the still more romantic Adagio in C Major they playfully form images while scuttling back and forth across the stage only to show that the dresses are props and can be left standing on their own. The total seems quite inconsequential but the duets become more and more sensual leading to a series of orgasmic entanglements and the ballet finishes with the final duet. La Petite Mort was created as a ‘pièce d’occasion’ for the bi-centenary of Mozart’s death at the Salzburg Festival in 1991 by Nederlands Dans Theater and has been taken into the repertoire of a number of companies. The Monte-Carlo company performed the fluid, lyrical choreography with great style.

William Forsythe’s New Sleep is an early work (1987) and belongs to the choreographer’s ‘classical’ period; it is even a light-weight piece in comparison to later works, with the curtain opening on a large flowerpot and a trio of black-clad carnival characters, one with a conical Pierrot hat, another with a mortar-board and a woman in a long black dress carrying a black and white measuring stick. A voice announces “warning, countdown 1-2-3” followed by a deafening crash introducing Thom Willems’ raucous electronic soundtrack. The twelve dancers are in gleaming black lycra, the women on pointe and the choreography is fast, very precise and very demanding. The tempo builds up into repetitive almost robotic dance, couples meet but there are no relationships between these obsessive ‘movers’. There is enough choreography for a couple of ballets and images of Chaplin’s Modern Times or Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis come to mind where workers become de-humanised, moving and behaving like automated machines. The trio of carnival characters constantly interrupt the action, even to play a game of bowls, and the significance of the title remains a mystery, as is often the case with Forsythe, but the whole could be seen as a nightmare of surreal images. The ballet was enthusiastically received, mainly for the dancers’ powerful performance, but even more surreal was the curtain call taken by Forsythe’s repetiteur, a cross-dresser sparkling in outsize sequins, including those on his hat, his dress and his stilettos.

Marco Goecke won the Nijinsky Prize for choreography at the Monaco Dance Forum in 2006. A one-time resident choreographer for the Stuttgart Ballet, Goecke also works for a number of companies in Germany and The Netherlands and Sigh is his third ballet for the Monte-Carlo company. Goecke’s works are usually performed in almost total obscurity, something which has become almost a trademark, so it was a relief to see the curtain open on a white dance floor, white cyclorama and the stage bathed in misty white light. To a solo ‘cello accompaniment Jeroen Verbruggen, currently the most impressive dancer in the company, proved again to master Goecke’s insistently twitchy, gyratory movements but all eleven dancers in the cast gave every ounce of energy to the often contorted and even grotesque choreography. The ballet ended with another solo by Verbruggen, incongruously wearing a long cardigan, where the movements slowed down, and there was pathos and expressivity in a final, deep sigh.

Nothing could be more different than Jean-Christophe Maillot’s full-length production Choré, created in 2013 to celebrate his 20 years in Monte-Carlo. This extremely theatrical work explores not only the role of dance in our times, but also its place in a period of American history to include the Wall Street Crash, Hollywood musicals and the atomic bomb. Maillot is essentially a neo-classical choreographer who has produced new versions of the classics as well as short, abstract works, and Choré is his first attempt to tackle serious themes, political and social, and it is one of the best ballets he has made. There is a problem collaborating as he does regularly with the Prix Goncourt author and playwright, Jean Rouaud, which I felt encumbered his full-length Lac, performed recently in London. The very detailed and elaborate scenarios are simply not possible to translate into dance and Choré, while full of inventive, emotional and entertaining scenes struggles to include those major happenings.

The ballet begins with a lyrical duet in the style of Rogers and Astaire, but they are shadowed by a black-costumed couple already intimating the darker side of the era. They are joined by more couples, a Gene Kelly character and a chorus of all-American Rockettes. A distraught film-director takes over, his stars a Charles Lindbergh-type aviator and a Jean-Harlow blonde with a huge King Kong fist wrapped around her shoulders as a fur. There follows an effective illusionary scene with a giant mirror reflecting a Hollywood staircase and New York skyscrapers. However, it all becomes rather too long and muddled as does the play by the dancers manipulating huge white feather wings, however these finally form a mushroom shape and, with an enormous explosion, the Hiroshima bomb. Maillot seems more at ease with the following scenes, a long but very powerful and emotional solo for Mimosa Koike as a traumatised survivor and the 4th scene entitled Landscape of Ashes to music by John Cage includes some stunning images of dancers suspended above the stage and a long and beautiful pas de deux with Bernice Coppieters and Jeroen Verbruggen. The final scene, After the Dance, There is yet more Dance, is perhaps too facile in bringing about a happy end. To drum beats Verbruggen starts by tapping his feet, soon followed by the entire cast building to a feverish explosion of dance, rock, pop, ethnic of every kind all performed with relish by the company looking at the top of their form.

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