Posts Tagged ‘Roland Petit’

Ecstasy and Death, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, April 2013

19 April, 2013

This intriguing triple bill is the first programme artistic director Tamara Rojo has put together for the Company, and she even dances in it herself.

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

The second item Le Jeune Homme et la Mort is worth the whole programme, and on the first night Rojo was the coolly callous young woman, with Nicolas le Riche, star of the Paris Opéra Ballet, as the young painter driven to madness by her strangely cold attraction. Roland Petit’s gloriously expressive choreography shows him to be in a state of nervous tension and exhaustion, and le Riche gave a riveting portrayal of his emotional despair. Two other performers will dance the role in the present run of performances, guest artist Ivan Putrov and Company member Fabian Reimair. As the girl, Tamara Rojo in her yellow dress, and later the mask of death, showed superb manipulation and indifference.

This extraordinary 1946 work, to a libretto by Jean Cocteau, formed an electrifyingly creative collaboration in post-Liberation Paris. For the music, he and Petit finally settled on Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor — at the dress rehearsal! The Bach was very strongly played under principal conductor Gavin Sutherland who gave fine musical direction to the evening, with Chris Swithinbank at the piano in Mozart’s Concertos K488 and K467 for the first item Petite Mort.

Petite Mort

Petite Mort

The French term la petite mort is an idiomatic euphemism for sexual orgasm, and the rapiers in Jiří Kylián’s choreography suggest a dichotomy between assertiveness and oblivion for the six couples. The men performed superbly with their rapiers, setting them in motion on the stage as if moving in unison of their own accord. Excellent rehearsal preparation must have led to this precision, and the unusual and very physical choreography was crisply and energetically performed by the twelve dancers.

Etudes

Etudes

The Company is at the top of its game, and the final Etudes was beautifully danced. Choreography is by Harald Lander, director of the Royal Danish Ballet, who created this work in 1948 to orchestral music by Knudåge Riisager, based on Czerny’s renowned piano exercises. It reveals a ballet class with a difference, as it starts with twelve girls in black tutus at the barre forming four sets of three, then three sets of four, each set in unison but different from the others. It then slowly opens out to other dancers, ending with nearly forty on stage. As the leading girl, Erina Takahashi showed lovely gentle movements, and her partners James Forbat, Esteban Berlanga and Vadim Muntagirov danced with fine precision. Muntagirov in particular showed a relaxed nobility of posture and line that was very attractive.

This  triple bill shows the Company to perfection, and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

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Petit Triple Bill: L’Arlésienne, Le jeune homme et la mort, Carmen, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, July 2011

23 July, 2011

Roland Petit died less than two weeks ago, and the remarkable timing of this triple bill made it a wonderful tribute to his choreography. That I happened to go on July 22, rather than the first night was entirely fortuitous, and we were rewarded by an incredible performance of Le jeune homme brilliantly danced by guest artist Ivan Vasiliev, shown in the photo below and making his debut with the company.

Ivan Vasiliev in Jeune Homme, photo by Laurent Liotardo

I’ll come back to this wholly unexpected treat later, but things started more gently with L’Arlésienne, based on a short story and play by Alphonse Daudet. It expresses the anguish and eventual suicide of a young man who cannot forget a woman in Arles. Despite having a lovely fiancée and a group of peasant friends who try to support him, he descends into madness and ends up throwing himself out of a window. The choreography is intriguing, and reminiscent of that wonderful Ballets Russes work Les Noces, showing a wedding ceremony in a tightly knit peasant society. The music for L’Arlésienne was written by Bizet for the original play, and will be familiar from two orchestral suites that are often played. The ensemble dancing was excellent, and Erina Takehashi gave a lovely portrayal of the girl, so full of life. By contrast the young man is heading for death, and although Esteban Berlanga danced it with huge energy, warming to the agony as the ballet progressed, his emotion seemed unconvincing.

Esteban Berlanga in L'Arlésienne, photo by Simon Tomkinson

Carmen, the last item on the programme, is great fun, but to those who know Bizet’s opera the music is not always used for the same scenes in the ballet, and the characterisation is confusing. Don Jose with his cape looks more like a toreador than a simple soldier, and the Toreador himself, who comes in towards the end, is rather too camp. But Adela Ramirez as the Bandit girl was sexy, sassy and adorable, very well supported by Juan Rodriguez and Joshua McSherry-Gray as the bandits. Fabian Reimair was a stylish Don Jose, proudly assertive at the start yet showing a slow descent to desperation, and Begoña Cao was a fiercely cold Carmen. More warmth and emotion from the two main characters would have been welcome, but that had already come in bucketfuls from Ivan Vasiliev in the second item of the programme.

Begoña Cao and Fabian Reimair in Carmen, photo by Patrick Baldwin

Vasiliev was quite extraordinary, and apparently wanted to dance  Jeune Homme as a tribute to Roland Petit’s widow Zizi Jeanmaire. He gave it everything: enormous feeling, terrifying acrobatics, and hugely suppressed desire and emotion. His nemesis was Jia Zhang as the girl — the femme fatale who takes him to his death. She was superbly controlled and manipulative, and immensely desirable in her yellow dress. As he grasped her wrist he gave her a look of quiet desperation, and the two of them together created a glorious effect. In the final minute and a half the room vanishes and we see rooftops. It’s a fabulous set, costing an arm and a leg, but worth every penny, and this was a truly memorable occasion. Wonderful conducting by Benjamin Pope, particularly of the Bach music for Jeune Homme.

We don’t see enough of Roland Petit’s work in this country so go to this if you have the chance. Performances continue until July 24 — for details click here.