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Ballet du Rhin, Mixed Programme “Dancing Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky …”

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This programme premiered in Mulhouse at the end of October, and I got attracted to it when I saw a review that included a video extract of the works shown. Luckily, train fares to Strasbourg were still fine at the time of booking, and so I saw the matinee performance on Sunday. .... This being the 3rd time in France within the space of a month, the trouble is, however, that the more often I am there, the more time I’d like to spend there :huh:


Pagliaccio by Mattia Russo & Antonio de Rosa to Shostakovich. Bells are ringing, and the curtain opens to show members of an ancient circus mourning Auguste who has passed away. A despotic clown in white with a whip directs and torments the members of the circus – a juggling acrobat in a shiny silver unitard, a Marylin-Monroe lookalike on a unicycle, a ventriloquist, a harlequin, and others more. There is a short passage whereby the artists worship the white clown (gymnastic clubs are used to celebrate the clown in white) but the artists retreat, it seemed in fear, just to then reappear and laugh at the despotic clown. A whistle is blown, military music is played, and the artists illustrate the carrying of guns and marching to the tune of the music. What looked like a battle scene left some artists injured/ dead. A strongman overpowers the clown (symbol of a fight for power, of resistance or an uprising against the despot?), and they leave the stage.

Russo & de Rosa got inspired by Shostakovich’s experiences and the environment that he lived in (though I think that this work could equally be applied to other events and circumstances elsewhere and at different times).

Magnificent costumes. Dance theatre, with the performers superbly in character throughout, including during the curtain calls. Stunning performances by all involved, thought-provoking, memorable.


Bruno Bouche’s 40D to Rachmaninov and Scriabin. Bouche dedicated this work to Eva Kleinitz, Director General of the Opera du Rhin who sadly passed away, far too young, earlier this year. 40D – the title is intentionally enigmatic – is a beautiful, poetic and melancholic homage to Kleinitz. Dancers in black-ish leotards and tights/ vests, women on pointe. Bodies stretching upwards, bending forwards/ backwards and being close to a breakdown, full of despair and non-acceptance of fate; consoling hugs; dancers carrying others in pieta-like movements; a scene that reminded me very much of Gericault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa with a huddle of dancers lifting their arms in desperation in the midst of a tumultuous situation.

I found 40D incredibly moving, and it triggered an intense and deep emotional response in me, comparable to Tetley’s Voluntaries.


Helene Blackburn’s Les Beaux Dormants to a remastered version of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Initially created for children and now reworked to turn it into a piece for all age groups. Les Beaux Dormants will be shown at the Lynbury next week.

The piece is based on the story of The Sleeping Beauty. I guess the emphasis is “based on”; this relates to the story (Blackburn’s piece is about the transition of individuals from childhood through adolescence into adulthood), the movements (including a virtuoso solo that made think that it was inspired by Bluebird’s solo), the music (a collage of what has been remastered, quite a lot of this did sound really beautiful, like an electronic rhythm laid over minimal piano music, plus a few clips that I think were the original musical score), the scenery (partitions that resemble stone walls/ overgrown bushes and trees); the costumes (no tutus in sight, women in heels/ in flats/ on pointe, Carabosse in the form of a man wearing a skirt on top of a pair of trousers and with one foot in a ballet flat and the other on pointe) and those on stage (dancers portraying young people, without there being someone identifiable as the other fairies, at least not for me, unless they were a group of men who were sitting on a bench at one point in time).

A video shows children playing and hopping across the stage. They talk about how they imagine a prince to be (e.g., “intelligent”, “elegant”, “rich”, “lives in a castle”). Tall grey moveable partitions illustrate the walls of a castle. Dancers in black suits and white shirts appear between the partitions, they look for others and disappear again, some of them encounter others, they look at them, there is a kiss, and still others are pushed back as if to show that contact has been rejected – there is a plethora of human interaction being evoked. A dancer briefly tells the story of Sleeping Beauty (I presume there’ll be surtitles at the Linbury for this part just as for the initial video?). Balletic movements come to the fore e.g., pas the chat, assemblees, arabesques; solos turn to a number of PDD (male/ female and also a male duet). The tone of the PDD changes from tender encounters to women throwing themselves into men’s arms and kissing them, to interaction reminiscent of mature relationships – and with different individuals going through these transitional steps into adulthood at different points in time and in different ways. A woman in a white shirt wakes up (the Sleeping Beauty?) and hugs a man (the Prince I presume?) … adulthood has been reached?

I found the retelling of the story very catching and loved the minimal piano music with electronic sounds on top. As this piece will be performed at the ROH next week, it'd be great to read thoughts by other forum members about Les Beaux Dormants. :)


 Video extract as part of a review https://www.francetvinfo.fr/culture/spectacles/danse/le-ballet-du-rhin-sonde-l-ame-russe-avec-chostakovitch-tchaikovski-rachmaninov-et-scriabine_3675057.html

Video of rehearsals https://www.dna.fr/culture-loisirs/2019/10/21/video-mulhouse-soiree-russe-pour-le-ballet-du-rhin

A number of stage pictures https://www.lalsace.fr/haut-rhin/2019/10/26/sous-le-grand-chapiteau-du-ballet-du-rhin


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Wow, thanks so much for this wonderful and detailed review, Duck.  I am going to read it again over the weekend and look at the links you kindly provided.  I wish I could see the companies that you write about, but since I usually can’t, your reviews are a great substitute. Thanks so much! 👏❤️

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