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Flash Review 1, 5-10: Table the
Preljocaj Brings it Home on Paris Opera Ballet...Again et Again
By Aimee Tsao
Copyright 2001 Aimee Tsao
SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite having heard
a less than glowing report from our own PBI (Paul Ben-Itzak) about "Le Parc,"
choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1994, I went
to the War Memorial Opera House last Friday with a certain optimism. I am a Preljocaj
fan. I loved his "Romeo and Juliet," danced here in Berkeley by the Lyon Opera
Ballet in 1995, and his Homage aux Ballets Russe ("Spectre de la Rose" and "Les
Noces") performed by his own company two years ago at Yerba Buena Center for the
Arts Theater. I did, however, have mixed feelings about "Le
Paysage apres la Bataille," seen a few months ago, though I found some sections
of it quite beautiful and evocative.
My main complaint, and it is a major
one, is that "Le Parc" is twice as long as it needs to be, especially irritating
since there is no intermission. I am perfectly capable of sitting through and
hour and a half of anything that is engaging, that constantly provokes and throws
my mind off balance. But Preljocaj, for some inexplicable reason, assumes that
the audience lacks that ability to understand his choreography without his drilling
it so deeply into their heads that the net effect is that of having had a lobotomy.
One is left completely numbed. I often found myself thinking, "Okay, enough already,
I got it the first time." Instead, why doesn't he develop the material in an unexpected
direction, or carefully lead me to have some expectations about where we're going
and then suddenly veer off course? And many portions of it are cliche and corny,
though as a friend pointed out, love, the subject of this ballet, is, after all,
sometimes corny. So I guess that makes it appropriate in a certain sense. The
cliche part is inexcusable for such an experienced choreographer. How many more
times in my life as a dance critic will I have to sit through a piece using chairs?
Pina Bausch did it brilliantly in "Nelken," but the partnering prop has been mined
to the point that the erosion on the choreographic mountain leaves a mere molehill.
To Preljocaj's credit, however, there
are a few sections of exquisite beauty. The pas de deux at the end of the third
act left me deeply moved and artistically satisfied. And in spite of the extreme
length of the piece, I found the formalism of structure exactly right for the
concept, an exploration of the nature of love based on 17th and 18th century literature.
The overall aesthetic is magnificent. The combination of the decor by Thierry
Leproust, costumes by Herve Pierre and lighting by Jacques Chatelet created an
atmosphere of true harmony on several levels. First simply as a feast for the
eyes and then as a contrasting background for the less than perfect human emotions
that lie beneath the surface.
The corps de ballet dancers looked
far more at ease than in "La Bayadere," and I found Manuel Legris as compelling
as he had been in the classical piece. I wonder if the POB has any other strong
male stars. Legris appeared in five of the seven performances here, though the
women rotated quite a bit in the principal roles for 'Bayadere.'
Certain friends and colleagues loved
"Le Parc," so I will not say that you should stay away. I would even probably
sit through it again to see the high points and savor the visual and musical aspects.
And I would say that you could sneak in to see the last act except that there
isn't an intermission to make that possible.
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