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Flashback, 9-19: Table the Chairs!
Preljocaj Brings it Home on Paris Opera Ballet...Again et Again
Copyright 2001, 2005 Aimee Ts'ao
Editor's Note: To
celebrate its fifth anniversary of being online, the Dance Insider
is revisiting its Flash Review Archives. This Flash Review originally
appeared on May 10, 2001. The Paris Opera Ballet opens its 2005-2006
season tomorrow night at the Opera Garnier with Laurent Hilaire
reprising the lead role created on him in Angelin Preljocaj's 1994
"Le Parc." The POB is also touring China this month, as that country
celebrates "The Year of France" following the 2004 "Year of China"
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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