Friday, December 25, 2009

La Danse (Rhoades)

“La Danse’ Performs Ballet in Opulent Setting
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Here in Key West we’ve been dazzled by local ballet diva Joyce Stohl’s version of “The Nutcracker.” In fact, you can view her colorful dance costumes now on exhibit at the Key West Art & Historical Society’s Custom House.

Those of you who appreciate ballet will also want to see “La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet” – a beguiling new film that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Director Frederick Wiseman devotes his 38th documentary to a visually stunning display of beautiful young dancers performing inside the Palais Garnier, an opulent 19th-Century Parisian castle that houses the Paris Opéra.

You’ll follow such brilliant young dancers as Nicolas Le Riche, Marie-Agnès Gillot, and Agnès Letestu as they rehearse throughout the castle. Whirling beneath the sparkling crystal chandeliers, doing arabesques within the maze of its underground chambers, and pirouetting under the Chagall-painted ceiling of its 2,200-seat theater. Dancers like ethereal ghosts flitting before our eyes in this otherworldly setting.

Much of the credit must go to cinematographer John Davey. His camera allows us intimate access to the dancers and the grand milieu within which they perform.

The film follows the rehearsals and performances of seven ballets: “Genus” by Wayne McGregor, “Le Songe de Medée” by Angelin Preljocaj, “La Maison de Bernarda” by Mats Ek, “Paquita” by Pierre Lacotte, “Casse Noisette” by Rudolph Noureev, “Orphée and Eurydice” by Pina Bausch, and “Romeo and Juliette” by Sasha Waltz.

These choreographers take their dancers through each step of rehearsal, perfecting minute movements, the point of a toe, the placement of an arm. In the end, they achieve a degree of graceful perfection that’s played out on the stage.

Brigitte Lefèvre, the troupe’s artistic director, chatters on in a grand French manner, explaining the workings of the rehearsal (there are subtitles, of course). But ignore the dialogue and feast your eyes on the sumptuous castle and the elegant dancers.

If you’re a ballet afficinado, you’ll enjoy this night at the opera.
[from Solares Hill]

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