POB U.S. Tour – Chicago French Masterpieces

Giselle one night and then the Epic French Masterpieces mixed bill the next night. It can be summed up in one word – glorious. I can honestly say that this was some of the best ballet I have ever seen – evah!

The night opened with Suite en blanc If you are not familiar with this piece you have my deepest pity and sympathies. Suite was created by Serge Lifar for Paris Opera Ballet in 1943. The piece was conceived as a work of pure neoclassical dance and is composed of eight variations. The most beautiful music was composed by Edouard Lalo and it is sublime. It’s actually music for a little known ballet called Namouna but I shall always think of it as the music to Suite en blanc.

The ballet starts with the curtain closed and a long introduction of the most wonderful music, energetic and climbing, it builds the excitement and like a perfect appetizer prepares the palate for the main course. By the time the curtain rises, I am on the very edge of my seat and I was rewarded with the entire ensemble posed in white costumes against an entirely black background. The audience literally gasps as one.

The variations:

La Sieste danced by Marie-Solène Boulet, Sarah Kora Dayanova, and Laura Hecquet

Theme Varie danced by Emilie Cozette, Karl Paquette, and Stéphane Bullion

Serenade danced by Nolwen Daniel

Pas de Cinq danced by Alice Renavand, Cyril Mitilian, Fabien Révillion, Daniel Stokes, and Sébastien Bertaud

La Cigarette danced by Marie-Agnès Gillot (AAAAHHHHHH!!!!)

Mazurka danced by Mathieu Ganio

Adage danced by Aurélie Dupont and Benjamin Pech

and La Flute danced by Dorothée Gilbert

Of special note was Marie-Agnès Gillot (who is on the cover of Dance Magazine this month looking unreal and glamorous) whose dancing is ravenous – she positively eats the floor. I adore her. There is an innate power, an authority that just rings through her every movement.

Aurélie Dupont and Benjamin Pech were perfection – PER-FECT-ION. They would look into each other eyes and smile with pure joy and that joy absolutely radiated through their movement, their dancing elevated from steps to art.

This piece was a special treat as well because Paris Opera Ballet offers us a glimpse of the défilé by wearing their défilé “costumes” for this number and beginning the piece with the company staging that is similar (on a whole lot smaller scale of course). What an amazing and special evening. If you are unfamiliar with the Paris Opera Ballet défilé it is the presentation of the entire school and company in a sort of ballet parade. It’s done on special occasions and it’s very beautiful and moving and special to POB.

After an intermission, L’Arlésienne was danced by Isabelle Ciaravola and Jérémie Bélingard. This was my first experience with the ballet as a whole, I’ve only previously seen pieces on YouTube. It’s a gorgeous, emotional dance. But I will note that although technically perfect, Jérémie Belingard’s acting left a bit to be desired. This is a Roland Petit piece and I have to say Petit choreography is usually filled with opportunities for dancers to act, but I was left not sure if Jérémie was having a migraine or heartbroken for Vivette, his unfaithful Arlésienne. The minimalist sets were wonderful though, not too much, perfectly enough.

The last offering was Boléro. Boléro… ballet porn. Holy crap – Boléro. If you are not familiar with Boléro, sell a kid or a kidney and get yourself to NYC in a couple of weeks to see this program while you can. I saw Nicolas Le Riche dance the principal role. I love Nicolas Le Riche. I love him even more now. Boléro is a Maurice Béjart dance to music by Maurice Ravel. The basic gist – principal dancer on a table, tons of shirtless men sitting on chairs around the table. Principal dancer starts dancing, shirtless men join in. Tribal, sensual, heady, energetic, erotic, Boléro has it all. For the principal dancer, Boléro is fifteen minutes of non-stop movement… non-stop. If you don’t realize how LONG fifteen minutes can be, try it, I dare you. And as the music builds the dance gets harder and more extreme. Just when Nicolas should be ready to lie down and pant from exhaustion, a smile brights up his entire face and he bounds into jumps and drops into splits. If it weren’t amazing enough, he makes you understand that he is having FUN! I love those moments, when a dancers’ face and body say “yeah, baby!” The audience ate it up and cried for more, the ovation was almost as long as the dance. We simply didn’t want to let him go.

What a brilliant night, so beautiful, so electrifying, so satisfying! Ballet at it’s best. Thank you, Paris Opera Ballet for coming to America, Merci beaucoup!

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