It’s raining cats and dogs in Paris. No matter the marbled steps are slippery, some adventurers hurry up and rush into the dazzling Palais Garnier of which lights are reflected on the drenched floor.
On the menu tonight, prestige, starting with Agon, a piece by choreographer George Balanchine created in 1957 about Sputnik has just been located in a low Earth orbit. Igor Stravinsky’s score adds a total modernity to the strangeness of the piece. Steps are unorganized, abstract and plastic. Two pas de deux and one pas de trois, flawlessly executed by dancers voluntarily unstable. Then follows the night’s creation, Grand Miroir by Tokyo choreographer Saburo Teshigawara. The piece is animal, primitive, organic. Color monsters, dancers embody Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto with a peculiar and disturbing wildness.
The curtain is down.
It leaves me time to talk about the following monument.
Back in 1997, 20 years ago, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), Pina Bausch’s ballet and Stravinsky’s score (and heir to Nijinsky’s scandalous ballet performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in 1913), made its entrance into Paris Opera repertoire. With three dancers from her company, Hans Pop, Josephine-Ann Endicott and Dominique Mercy, German female choreographer came to recreate her masterpiece from 1977 and give the keys of her famous and spectacular Tanztheater to the Corps de Ballet of the French Institution. It was the first time Pina Bausch worked with dancers that are not from her Wuppertal-based dance company.
Since then, Paris Opera regularly performs this mythical ballet and this year, 40 years after its creation, 20 years after its entrance into the repertoire, The Rite is performed at the Palais Garnier. Today, Pina’s gone. The dancer passed away in 2009 and yet, her soul still flies over us. When the thirty technicians take over the stage to set the several kilograms of soil used in the background, they’re cheered with great pomp. This décor is no detail, not at all. It’s the spirit of the piece.
When the first notes of Stravinsky’s score start, directed tonight by Esa-Pekka Salonen, we can’t even here a fly in the Palais Garnier. People’s eyes follow the dancers’ movements who progressively come on stage. Women in their nude dresses, men wearing plain pants. No fuss, no hairdos, no pointe shoes nor tights. Skin, muscles only.
Tempo speeds up, so do bodies. The rite is not far. Bodies shiver in fear and because they’re tired. Chests are rising, hairs get tangled. Women dresses that used to be immaculate are almost covered in soil. We fear that this red dress that chooses out of the blue. Prima ballerina and Rome Opera head Eleonora Abbagnato comes closer. The red dress is for her, she plays the persistent and overwhelming role of the Elected. Steps are ravaging, of an unparalleled strength. It’s dark again. The public takes a while to realize what has just happened. We never leave The Rite of Spring unharmed.
Balanchine / Teshigawara / Pina Bausch at the Palais Garnier
From October 24 to November 16, 2017
Photo: ©Julien Benhamou / OnP
From 24 October 2017 to 16 November 2017
Opéra de Paris - Palais Garnier
8 Rue Scribe
75009 Paris 9