sábado, junio 02, 2012

The world of dance from “La bayadère” to “3º Étage”

            Marius Petipa´s "La Bayadère", on music by Ludwig Minkus, is one of the great classic ballets, but it arrived quite late to our country. Only in the 1980s Natalia Makarova brought her version to the Colón. And the Teatro Argentino presented Luis Ortigoza´s revision in 2007, also offered in 2008 and 2009, and now again. It was curious that Eleonora Cassano, in her final year on the stage, danced only the first of four performances as Nikiya, the bayadere, but she will be doing several more at the Luna Park in June with the Argentino troupe, and in those she will be partnered by Thiago Soares, who –also curiously- danced twice the role of Solor at the Argentino, but with Julieta Paul as Nikiya. 
            Ortigoza makes in the hand programme a pretty big statement: " La Bayadère" is the most perfect classic ballet ever built, the greatest legacy of Marius Petipa´s genius. Others have concurred in this appreciation, on purely choreographic terms. I must admit I can´t enthuse quite so much. Not only the plot has weak patches but Minkus´ music is banal most of the time, though efficient in its adaptation to Petipa´s precise instructions. Some bits go beyond superficial attraction, but there´s too much of a sameness in this string of waltzes, other dances and "pas d´actions" (purely gestual music accompanying narrative passages).  It is arranged and orchestrated by Albena Dobreva.
            So what matters is Petipa. The bayaderes or devadasis were religious dancers of India´s brahmanic culture and a famous poem by Kalidasa inspired Occidental authors such as Thomas Moore ("Lalla Rookh") or Théophile Gautier; they in turn were the basis for ballets by Jules Perrot (on Moore) or Lucien Petipa (on Gautier: "Sakuntala", music by Reyer). Lucien, brother of Marius, brought to the latter´s attention the subject of the bayadere and her love story with Solor was developed. The plot also involves Gamzatti, the Raja´s daughter promised to marry Solor as a reward for the great exploits of the warrior ( similar to "Aida"). Gamzatti will finally kill Nikiya with a snake hid by a bunch of flowers (similar to "Adriana Lecouvreur"). And in an opium dream the enamoured Solor will see Nikiya in the reign of Shadows (as in "Giselle"). Finally, the angry gods will destroy the temple (as in "Samson and Delilah"). And the souls of Nikiya and Solor will be reunited (as in "The fleeing Hollander"). Oh well, Romantic times...
            And yes, the steps are beautiful. All the classical vocabulary is displayed brilliantly in solos, duos and ensembles. Especially famous is the stately Ballet of the Shadows, symmetry elevated to finest art. Ortigoza tells us that he added dances of warriors and priests but Petipa´s style is always preserved. His version was revived on this occasion by Sabina Streiff. I like their work even if I prefer Makarova.  
            I saw this presentation in other occasions and it is indeed handsome, proving again the quality of the Argentino´s workshops. Stage designs by Fabián Giménez and the costumes by Viviana Serafini, well-lit by Esteban Ivanec, give us an exotic India with Mogol features. The well-playing orchestra was led with much taste and style by Carlos Calleja.
            It was a great pleasure to appreciate the command and personality of the dancers. Eleonora Cassano is still admirable and will end her career in a few months when she hasn´t lost possession of her qualities, as intelligent artists do. Her partner, Bautista Parada, was dexterous and firm, and Aldana Bidegaray was an attractive Gamzatti. Esteban Schenone dazzled the audience as the Gold Idol, with fine physique and impeccable execution. A very well drilled Corps de Ballet and dancer-actors in roles such as the Rajah and the Grand Brahmin completed a fine evening.
            A new venture started at the Coliseo. It is called the "Abono Ars de Ballet" produced  by the Grupo Ars made up of Liliana Vinacur, Diego Radivoy and...Martín Boschet (yes, the controversial co-Director of the Colón during the Horacio Sanguinetti period). Boschet was known for his special interest in ballet back then.
            It started with 3e Étage, an ensemble of dancers of the Paris Opera directed by Samuel Murez, and the programme is called Nouvelles Virtuosités. Alas, one of its main points of interest was the "rentrée" of the brilliant Ludmila Pagliero, the Argentinian recently named "étoile" of the Paris Opera Ballet and fondly remembered by her Sleeping Beauty some years back at the Argentino;  an unfortunate lesion prevented her appearance and forced a change of programme. There were two performances and I saw the second, with a 25-minute wait due to lighting adjustments (announced by Murez).
            As the hand programme gave no inkling of who danced what, I can only say that apart from Pagliero ten dancers were listed (including Murez) and were uniformly excellent, "third floor" ("3e étage") ex corps de ballet members that are now stars. The music was all recorded. Murez was the author of all choreographies except one, under his own name or the pseudonym Raul Zeummes. We also saw an excerpt from William Forsythe´s "Limbs Theorem".  Murez states: "3e Étage expresses a line of work that is irreverent, entertaining and theatrical, with a sense of humor that includes making fun of ourselves".  So there´s a lot of mimics, offbeat humor, sheer theatre, along with very difficult and acrobatic dancing. The biggest clown is Murez himself.
 As  dancing I particularly enjoyed the frenetic first number, "Dance infernale" on Meyerbeer as transcribed by Liszt (not as the hand programme said, "Liszt interpreted by Meyerbeer). If you go for crazy humor you will enjoy 3e Étage, but you might find it as I did too redundant and limited. In fact, I preferred the Zeummes pieces where the idea is to parody the classical style to the freewheeling surrealistic zaniness of Murez. For the record the eliminated pieces were "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" by Balanchine, and "Chaconne", music by Vitali, choreographed by Murez. The Forsythe piece, surrounded by Murez and Zeummes, seemed austere in its deconstructed-bodies technique. Brilliant dancing throughout.
For Buenos Aires Herald

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