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Childs/ Tetley/ Scholz mixed programme, Ballet Nice Méditerranée

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My thoughts of possibly adding a ballet performance to a walking holiday in Nice last December didn’t work out as there was no performance scheduled for that time however I identified the mixed programme that I saw both on Friday and yesterday evening: Oceana by Childs, Voluntaries by Tetley, Oktett by Scholz. And I loved it (and the long hikes that I did during daytime)!! Apologies for the long post, I guess this is testimony of how much I liked what I saw.

Eric Vu-An has been Artistic Director of Ballet Nice Méditerranée since 2009, a small company of about 30 dancers. From what I can see, they perform only a few ballets each season however these come with a wide variety of styles. A mixed programme last autumn included George Balanchine, Oscar Araiz and Robert North (Troy Game, how much would I have liked to see this again!), Christmas time had Vu-An’s version of Coppélia, they also did Jerome Robbins’ En Sol in a previous season, Vu-An’s versions of Don Quixotte, Raymonda, Sylvia, etc.

Lucinda Childs’ Oceana was choreographed for Ballet Nice Méditerranée in 2011. Dancers in shades of pale blue dance in 2 PDD and groups of 4/ 7/ 12 in front of a video projection of gently ebbing water and later a blue sky to a series of melodious non choral and choral music pieces. Childs uses the movement of a dancer to build on it, have it repeated by the same dancer and by groups of dancers within the same piece and equally later pieces. A septet of dancers allows for intriguing variations of different sets of movements by varying numbers of dancers. The recurring patterns of steps invite reflection and meditation. I wasn’t sure what to make it of on Friday evening however liked it much more on Saturday.

Thinking of a three-course meal - if Oceana was a nice starter, the meaty main course came with Tetley’s Voluntaries – and my main reason for seeing this programme. Voluntaries has already been in the repertoire in Nice. I haven’t seen this in Covent Garden for a few years now so my memory is probably playing tricks and I guess the way I watch ballets may be evolving over time however I don’t remember having seen the atmosphere of loss and desolation at someone’s death so clearly previously. Standout for me on both nights were Claude Gamba and Zaloa Fabbrini as the lead couple as their PDDs with their intricate lifts were assured and fluid and looked effortless, just as those of the dancers in the pas de trois on Saturday evening. However everyone else was really good as well.

Oktett by Uwe Scholz is new to the repertoire in Nice. The choreography is highly musical, also here movements by a dancer are repeated by other dancers and appear a few more times later in the ballet as and when a theme of the music is repeated. The fluidity in steps is matched by fluid yellow dresses for the women, tailored jackets and white tights for the men, and a copper-coloured backcloth that is reminiscent of long draped curtains. A first section for 12 dancers is followed by a long PDD and a male quartet, before a closing group section for 14 dancers. Again Claude Gamba as lead, here dancing with a serene smile throughout on both nights. The other standout for me on both nights was Théodore Nelson as lead in the male quartet with a series of a variety of pirouettes, chainées, jumps … and he finishes the ballet by going on demi point in 4th position and then moving into arabesque, all while staying on demi point on the other foot. My eyes nearly popped out when I saw this. In particular on Saturday, he received the loudest cheers of all for their performances in Oktett, and fully deserved so.

Eric Vu-An has published extracts of all three ballets on his - public - Facebook page https://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Eric-Vu-An/383731904998106.

Top price tickets for the ballet came at €23, and this included a 20-page programme booklet. What a treat!

I hadn’t seen Ballet Nice Méditerranée previously and wasn’t sure what to expect from the two nights however I am hugely impressed by Vu-An’s work, and I am really looking forward to the announcement of next season’s programme which should be coming soon I hope.

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Thanks for the review Duck.  You are making me really jealous now!


Apologies Janet - definitely not intended! :)    ... and with my choice of dates for Nice, I missed Mariinsky in Cardiff, She Said in London, and the multiple debuts in The Winter's Tale yesterday!

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When Voluntaries was first seen in London not long after Cranko's death it carried a real emotional charge in performance. When it entered the Royal Ballet's repertory not long afterwards it still carried that charge because although Cranko had been working in Stuttgart for some years there were still plenty of people in the company who had known and worked with him. His sudden death came as a shock to everyone and while it was most strongly felt by his own company I don't think that the sense of loss was much less palpable at Covent Garden. The last Covent Garden revival was very disappointing because it was so prosaic. It could have been the revival of any abstract ballet rather than an expression of aching grief which is how I remember it first being danced.

Edited by FLOSS
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