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  1. After a year’s absence, I was back in Nice last week for the current triple bill by Ballet Nice Mediterranee – Jerome Robbins’ En Sol, Dwight Rhoden’s Verse Us and Oscar Araiz’s Petrushka. An exciting programme and performance by dancers who had been with the company already a year ago and by those who have joined since, including following the company’s audition in February 2018. It was great to meet Aileen on Friday night, too. The lead couple in En Sol was danced by two new recruits, Marlen Fuerte Castro, previously with Victor Ullate Ballet in Madrid, and Luis Valle, who had danced with Acosta Danza last year. I hadn’t seen En Sol previously so am lacking comparison but the whole piece looked very smooth. The ensemble work provided a sunny display (I just loved Giacomo Auletta’s beaming smile) and the long PDD in the middle was of dreamlike/ ethereal quality. Verse Us by Dwight Rhoden had been created on the company in 2014 and nominated for the Benois Prize at the time. The current bill included a shortened version of his creation. To contemporary music by Philip Glass and others, dancers perform solos and various combinations of PDD and larger groups. They dance in light shafts and with the whole stage brightly lit. The movements are based on classical technique e.g., arabesques, female dancers on pointe, and combined with curving spines and other contemporary elements. I particularly enjoyed those parts of the choreography that brought everyone together in vivacious, pulsating and uplifting dance. Great team work, with Maxime Quiroga and Alex Cuadros Joglar standing out for me with their fluidity in curving and bending movements. The latter trained at the Royal Ballet School, so that’s now two former students from the RBS in Nice, the other dancer being Alessandro Audisio. Araiz’s Petrushka uses the story of Petrushka to depict the triangle between Nijinsky (Petrushka), Diaghilev (magician and moor) and Romola (ballerina) among the Ballets Russes. Nijinsky being attracted to Romola, just to be pulled back by Diaghilev time and again like a marionette, and also illustrating Diaghilev’s desire for Nijinsky. Zhani Lukaj whom I had seen in a number of very technical roles previously was very good as Diaghilev. Loved Zaloa Fabbrini in the role of Romola whose affection for Nijinsky is first met and then rejected, and her facial expressions and body language, moving from love to sadness to worry for Nijinsky’s health were great acting. The dancer in the role of Nijinsky though, wow, just wow, Stefano Sacco who danced with Balleto del Sud in Southern Italy previously. Utterly convincing in his acting and dancing, portraying the changes from Nijinsky's love of Romola to rejection as and when Diaghilev intervened, his contemporary solo during which he destroys a portrait of Diaghilev, and the deterioration of Nijinsky's mental health. A great addition to the company. Other members of the Ballets Russes also feature. Another great team performance, the piece an exciting addition to the company’s repertoire. The applause on Friday (opening night) was rather muted and however far more enthusiastic on Saturday and Sunday. Eric Vu-An has put video extracts of all three works on his public Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Eric-Vu-An-383731904998106/?fref=nf. Oscar Araiz has provided the full recording of a performance of his Petrushka at the Teatro Colon on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Iqf5bY_yHw (the stage in Nice was lit a lot more brightly than seen in the recording from the Teatro Colon).
  2. A collation of announcements of the forthcoming 2016/17 season at various companies in France. Please feel free to add others to the list. Théâtre du Capitole (Toulouse) http://www.theatreducapitole.fr/1/saison-2016-2017/saison-2016-2017-2093.html?lang=fr A million kisses to my skin by David Dawson. Kader Belarbi’s version of Don Quixote. Etc. Ballet Nice Méditerranée http://www.opera-nice.org/fr/calendrier# Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta. Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine, created for Norwegian Ballet. A new Firebird. Eric Vu-An’s version of Don Quixote. Etc. Opéra National du Rhin (Strasbourg, Colmar, Mulhouse) http://www.operanationaldurhin.eu/en--dance.html A full-length narrative ballet by Uwe Scholz that was created for Zuerich Ballet. A number of modern creations. Opéra de Lyon http://www.opera-lyon.com/spectacles/danse Various ballets by Jiri Kylian, et al. Paris Opera Ballet – this link was shared and discussed previously as part of another thread and has been added here for ease of reference https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-16-17/ballet
  3. I was back in Nice at the weekend for the current triple bill of Ballet Nice Mediterranee, which included the premiere in France of Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine. I saw the performances on Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon. The programme started with Sinfonietta by Jiri Kylian. Sinfonietta was part of the first programme that I ever attended at the ROH, back in 2006, and it was a joy to see it again. In particular the entry of the men at the beginning, one by one, and each then performing the same choreography, the duets of grands jetes in rectangles across the stage, and the closing section with couples performing higher and higher lifts diagonally across the stage. It’s that energetic, joyful, celebratory atmosphere that captivated me, and also the backcloth which reminded me of a rural coastal area in the UK or in Ireland. In watching the duets with their grands jetes, I was thunderstruck by a dancer whom I hadn’t seen before. His lines, his precision, the clarity of his dancing, the way he moved between the jumps and turns completely got me. I was properly awestruck. A check in the programme book during the interval showed Alessandro Audisio as name. A search on the web later that night showed that he graduated from the RBS in 2014 and then joined the Romanian National Ballet. So no wonder! He did the RBS proud, he will be a great asset for the company in Nice (yes, I am still awestruck!), and I look forward to seeing more of him in future seasons. Scarlett created Vespertine with music by Arcangelo Corelli for Norwegian National Ballet in 2013. With the exception of a PDD for two dancers at POB last summer, I understand that Nice is also the first company in France that shows any piece by Liam Scarlett. The stage is lit by (up to) 9 chandelier-like groupings of around 25 bare light bulbs each. 4 lead dancers and a further 8 dancers perform in 17th century-style clothes – high-waisted culottes and knee-length coats for the men, long dresses with an extremely wide skirt, a tight top and a shoulder cover for the woman, all in burgundy. Plus nude trunks & bodies underneath, as the choreography later shows. An introductory male solo is followed by a long and sensual PDD (trunks and full dress), superbly danced by Zaloa Fabbrini and Zhani Lukaj, both promoted to soloist level only at the end of last season. Various lifts upside down, including with shivering of legs by the woman and one very high lift upside down where the female dancer does what looks like a one-armed handstand on the man’s shoulder; he holds on to her thigh and then walks across stage in that position rather fast. Various group sections with a female solo and a male duet in between follow, sometimes in full clothes, sometimes in underwear for the men and/ or the women. Some group movements look like court dancing, some like playing a string instrument, all are highly musical. The male duet seems to be about relationships and male rivalry. The programme booklet doesn’t indicate a story for the ballet, and yet I’ve taken this piece as couples at a 17th-century court and what happens on stage - and more importantly, what happens behind the scenes. Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature, to music by Duke Ellington, comes with the atmosphere of a NY jazz/ night club. 1920s style dresses and headbands for the female dancers, lots of hip shaking, some ballroom dancing, some jazz dance, and intermittently overhead lifts, arabesques, pas de bourree, pas de chat and jetes. This was not my piece as there was too much hip shaking for my taste. The audience on Saturday however truly adored it (I didn’t stay for it on Sunday as I was heading to a local cinema to see the new documentary about the Opera de Paris, see my post in the Opera & Music section), and the music proved to be an earworm – on the way back to my place, I was shaking my hips, too. Eric Vu-An has published two videos with extracts of stage rehearsals on his public Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Eric-Vu-An-383731904998106/?fref=nf. There’ll be further performances of the triple bill later this week. Sinfonietta will also be performed by the company in Antibes in June as part of another mixed programme. The programme booklet shows 28 dancers, up from 26 dancers when I saw the company last autumn and 25 last spring. This growth in size (well, I hope it is growth rather than filling vacancies that happened to exist just when I saw the company last year), the addition of Alessandro Audisio and the entry of Scholz’ Oktett into their repertoire last year/ Scarlett’s Vespertine this year makes me excited about the future development of the company. I really look forward to the announcement of the coming season (and as an aside, I do hope that the flight connections from Stuttgart will have improved by then as getting there from London seemed to be somewhat easier & cheaper).
  4. Just when I wasn’t going to post about all the performances I am seeing abroad … the list of dance links on Friday included a review of the mixed programme in Nice that finished yesterday (thank you, Ian Macmillan). The review on DanceTabs is very detailed, and I am thus keeping it to some comments about the performance that I saw last night. Le grand pas classique from Raymonda. Compared to the version in the ROH repertoire, Vu-An’s version is a little shorter, adjusted in the number of variations to the much smaller company, and equally adapted to the smaller stage in Nice. This is a wedding of pride, prestige and honour - love didn’t seem to feature, not for the bride and groom (Gaëla Pujol and Théodore Nelson, as on the opening night) nor for any of the wedding guests. Dance wise not really my style as too classical and inviting applause after every solo. I preferred most a male quartet with double tours en l’air followed by entrechats followed by double tours en l’air and entrechats and … Gnawa. This was hypnotising in music and movement. Two group sections with a long sensual PDD in between. The music included drums and the sounds of birds, and invited moving to the rhythm of the music in one’s seat. Veronica Colombo and Mikhail Soloviev in the lead roles were superb. The review on DanceTabs mentions that Mikhail Soloviev is new to the company in Nice. This may be relatively new as he was already there when I first saw the company in April, and a search for his name on the web also shows him with the company in 2013. L’Arlésienne. This is new to the company in Nice. Wow. Fabulous. Magnificient. Splendid. I was watching in utter disbelief at how marvellous the performance by the lead couple - Zaloa Fabbrini and Alessio Passaquindici - was; both in acting and dancing. They made the story to truly believable. I sat there open mouthed and with baited breath, and I felt so incredibly sorry for the two of them. Eric Vu-An has published extracts from a general rehearsal on his public facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Eric-Vu-An-383731904998106/?fref=nf Last night confirmed that this is one of my favourite companies in France. I really like how Vu-An expands the repertoire and develops dancers from within the company, and how much he is able to achieve with a company of just 26 dancers. The new soloists were all promoted from within the company at the end of last season, and the new dancers all joined at corps de ballet level. I do hope that the success that he is able to generate will allow him to grow the company in size at some stage in the future and in doing so, add a few more performances across the year. I can’t wait to be back in April for the next mixed programme, which will include Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta and Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine.
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