English Review –
This seventy-one-minute bill provides the audience with an unusual experience, says ALESSANDRO BIZZOTTO
Conceived as an homage to Maurice Ravel, this diptych composed of Benjamin Millepied’s “Daphnis et Chloé” and Maurice Béjart’s “Bolero” is probably intended to explore different faces of love – passion, desire, constancy, seduction. Set to what are considered Ravel’s best known works, the ballets are both, somehow, colourful and look slightly over the top. On stage at the Opéra Bastille until March 24, the Millepied/Béjart evening provides Parisian audience and ballet fans with an unusual experience.
Created in 2014 for the Paris Opera Ballet, Millepied’s “Daphnis et Chloé” is based on the only known work by ancient Greek novelist Longus. What’s probably most impressive about this ballet is French artist Daniel Buren’s décor – a striped front drop and enormous, brightly coloured shapes that descend from the flies, framed by stripes again. It looks as if these geometric forms (descendig, overlapping, reascending) aim to create a choreography of shapes and colours as well. The effect is odd and bizarre, in some ways. There is no reference to ancient Greece in Millepied’s adaptation of Longus’ novel, after all, and the choreography itself doesn’t look that interested in the story. Millepied, who directed the Paris Opera Ballet with innovative attitude from October 2014 to the end of the 2015/2016 season, makes Parisian dancers float bringing their best up.
On the opening night Dorothée Gilbert dances the role of Chloé wowing the audience with her twinkling, airy technique. The night before she was on stage at Garnier as a quite impressive Tatjana in Cranko’s “Onegin”, but she doesn’t seem overworked at all. In spite of not looking as marvelously involved in the role as when I saw her dancing Giselle eighteen months ago, nor wholly invested in the story, Gilbert is still an eye-catching presence on stage. As the seductive and disturbing Lycenion, Eleonora Abbagnato is vividly musical. The audience’s favourite seems to be François Alu in the virtuoso role of the villain, the pirate leader Bryaxis. He is still a First Soloist (not an Étoile) and current director of the Paris Opera Ballet Aurélie Dupont doesn’t appear to appreciate his excessively exuberant dancing that much, but the loudest and most ebullient applause is for him tonight. It is just a sin that this “Daphnis et Chloé”, ending up as a semi-abstract ballet, struggles in keeping the attention high for fifty-five minutes as, instead of deeply exploring and analyzing the relationships between the characters, it confines itself to merely reflect them.
The world-famous “Bolero” created by Maurice Béjart in 1961 needs no introduction. A soloist, a large table, a sensuous crescendo – everything has been already said. Let’s just add that, with its sixteen minutes, this ballet looks slighly too short to be the second act of a program made up of two ballets. Nevertheless, as a former Italian Étoile told me some years ago, whoever jumps on that red table is successfull and well received. Tonight it is Marie-Agnès Gillot who dances the principal role in Béjart’s creation. A true ballet star, she is someone who needs no red table in order to reach success – whatever Gillot dances, she does so in a unique manner. At 42, she is about to retire (she will very soon bid farewell to the stage dancing Pina Bausch’s “Orphée et Eurydice”), her body looks worn-out in a way and she seems fatigued as she moves forward through the choreography. But what an artist she is! She breathes passionate beauty and she mesmerizes her audience. No wonder a lavish standing ovation salutes her performance.