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En Sol/ Verse Us/ Petrushka, Ballet Nice Mediterranee

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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).


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