Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joyless La Dance at The Paris Opera

'La Dance' expose of Paris Opera Ballet 2008/09 was a two and a half  hour joyless affair. Very long, four old ladies walked out, I nearly as old, nearly had to too as 'nature' was calling.

Not one moment of enjoyment by anyone. I am glad I didn't have to work there. The dancers up close looked old an sinewy and bored stiff, during rehearsals anyway. I mean what can you tell a ballerina who can 'do it'? A little more 'plie' sounds ridiculous.

The film lingered on rehearsing  the modern  ballets which is OK if the choreographer is Graham Murphy but not the choreography of the '1001 different ways to make the body move fast to music that has no time signature' variety. The dancers just had to do the intricate steps fast regardless of the music and it was boring without the lighting and costumes. Choreography these days is a very male affair which is not surprising since the Paris Opera Ballet was invented for the elite male to pick up little ballet dancers. The fantastic room in which they did this behind the stage was not shown.

The female dancers all look the same and I have no still idea who any of them were. Their dancing in rehearsal was rough. very rough. I and the other ladies remaining had to wait until the credits. It was like a guessing game. Spot the ballet. I did rather well with a couple of good guesses.

Two elderly dancers,  well into late thirties, danced in modern dress to a piece of music I felt was vaguely familiar. The set was abstract and moved and I suddenly realized it was Berlioz's  'Romeo & Juliet'.  The couple would have been OK from a distance but not up close.

The style of the film was slow and it badly needed re-editing. It was interesting to learn that bees are kept on the roof of the opera but not for two and a half minutes. Thirty seconds would have been ample. Most of the dance shoots were from the side as the rooms surprisingly small and of course ballet does not present well side on.

The artistic director, a woman, I could relate to, having had the experience myself. She was very like me. Her once concern was to please their  major sponsor and at least five minutes of the film was given up to ensuring that, wait for it, Lehemen Brothers got value for money. They were so proud of the bank. The dancers main worry and I can totally understand, was their governments  plan to diminish their pension rights. It seems that every dancer has to retire at 40 regardless.

No wonder Nureyev spelt Nureeve en francais hated the place and why he made nineteen year old Sylvie Guilleme an 'etoile' sooner than later.

That does not mean I think the film should not have been made. It is worthwhile as it demonstrates how an hierarchical institution can be artistically suffocating while producing work of the highest quality. For ballet to continue today The Paris Opera Ballet  has to remain as only a major state can fund such an organization and the past is worthy of preservation.

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