Palais Garnier, Paris, France; May 9, 2013

Grace Milandou

A 15 minute soft continuous dive into a black and white trance. Star choreographic duo Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jallet along with the collaboration of iconic art performer Marina Abramovic brought the famous Ravel “Bolero” to a new sphere.

Forget the Spanish-Arabic gypsy influences, the tempting sensuality, forget the red; the new “Bolero” is of black capes and white veils.

In silence, the 11 dancers descended in a horizontal line, stamping their feet loudly on the ground like a strong tribal army. Then, as the music began, they started spinning softly and endlessly; individually at first, followed by groups and ensembles. No soloists really emerged; the mass was the primary entity. Thanks to a huge mirror bent above the stage, the dancing forces were doubled and the audience’s perception of front and back was inversed.

Like many Cherkaoui/Jallet pieces and Abramovic performances, this piece is infused with a strong spirituality (Cherkaoui and Abramovic took their inspiration from different forms of trance – Aboriginal Australian, Brazilian Shaman and Shaolin Monk) and is extremely appealing to senses, though it could have been better served by modern dancers more familiar with the kind of physicality required by Cherkaoui.

In the circular cycle of danced Boleros, as much as we cannot dismiss Bejart, Abramovic has also proved unforgettable.  As she says: “every work of art has many lives”. We will see how this newborn “Bolero” will fit in the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire.

This year being the anniversary of the Russian Ballet residency in Paris, the rest of the program was articulated around that legacy. Alongside Bejart’s version of “Firebird”, another sensation was the encounter between Vaslav Nijinsky and Jerome Robbins’ in Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun”. Unlike the 1970 “Firebird”, Robbins’ 1954 piece hasn’t aged a bit.

(Bolero spoilers this way! with Aurélie Dupont, Marie-Agnès Gillot, Alice Renavand, Muriel Zusperreguy, Letizia Galloni, Jérémie Bélingard, Vincent Chaillet, Marc Moreau, Alexandre Gasse, Daniel Stokes and Adrien Couvrez)