There are so many other experiences that I have had that I feel it is imperative to share. We took a beautiful trip to Giverny to Monet’s Gardens, a place I hadn’t visited since I was 16. I was asked, “has it changed?” And… we’ll to be honest I replied, “no.” However, to me this isn’t a bad thing. I like constants, I like knowing that despite the many years that have elapsed since my last trip to Giverny, the place seems timeless, precious, and as beautiful as I remember it. The lily pond and the boat placed just so in the water. I assume, and know in my rational brain, that flowers have bloomed and died in the time gap; but to me that concept is not acceptable or permissible in a world were the only constant is change. Perhaps this is because we all need to hold on to those constants, those unchanging memories in our lives and breath life into them once again by simply remembering them the way they were. I’m not oblivious to the fact that I have certainly changed in the time span but I like to think that perhaps the perennials are the same ones that were there when I was an adolescent smelling their sweet aroma.
We also had the opportunity to go on a backstage tour of the Palais Garnier. Our tour guide, Nathalie was amazing! Probably the most surreal moment was when we were able to go through the Entrée des Artistes, the Stage Door! Clearly not performing at the Palais Garnier it inevitably brought back vivid memories of walking through the Seoul Opéra House’s stage door many, many years ago! Immediately I smiled at the spontaneous ignition of that memory.
Nathalie gave us handouts, one an architectural plan of the building, and another the history of the Palais Garnier, this was in French and completely worth the read!!! She took us first to the basement. Showed us where the horses would bring in scenery which was made at another location, Atelier Vertier. There were what looked like old horse stalls. She also showed us the old pulley system that used to haul the sets, which has since been digitized and modernized. Probably the most interesting part of the history was the fact the the Palais Garnier was built on swampy ground and thus a water table had to be built in order to stabilize the groud for the foundation of the building. Charles Garnier won a courtly competition among architects and thus was the one chosen to plan the building. He signed the building at the center location on the ceiling. She also discussed how there were many references to Greece and Geek mythology due to their influence on the arts. There is homage to them with the many lyras about the theater as well as Hints of Apollo throughout. Another interesting aspect of the Palais Garnier was that Garnier painted a self portrait within one of the paintings.
My other most favorite aspect of the Palais Garnier was the library! To know the history in that room! I would love to sit back kick up my feet with a glass of wine and read all about Louis le XIV and his development of L’Academie Royale de la Danse! I wonder if there is any reference to the first La Fille Mal Gardée? The original has been lost of course and only newer choreography exists.
We’ve also had the opportunity to be invited into the home of an art historian. He spoke to us about Dance and Art in Paris. It was an incredible home filled with books on art and photographs, paintings, and artwork strewn about. It was fantastic! His talk was first on Degas and his relationship with the Paris Opéra. Whether he was allowed to attend rehearsals and paint or not is still a discussion but somehow we know that he was able to penetrate the classrooms in order to paint the beautiful canvases that he did. I learned a great deal about Degas that I had not already known. Having grown up a dancer many, many of us have some kind of depiction of Degas’ work. But I did not know that he died blind and that is why his work towards the end of his life uses many color ranges and less precise brush strokes. We also learned a great deal about the advertisements, prints, and other works for the Moulin Rouge and other projects painted by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. We learned about La Goulue who was frequently painted by Lautrec as was Valentin le Désossé. Lautrec also painted Loie Fuller which was equally as impressive to learn. We got an insight into the underbelly of Paris and the Moulin Rouge and this made me want to re-watch the Baz Luhrmann and older version of Moulin Rouge (1952). The visit ended with our host telling us to take a look at the view from his place. Here it is! It was so unbelievably generous of him to invite us into his home. His passion for art is equal to mine for dance and I was so pleased to meet someone with such vigor for the study of his chosen subject!
We have also not slowed down on the class train! We took class at both L’Academie Americaine de Danse and at The Paris Opéra Ballet School. The one at the Paris Opéra was a mixed class of ballet, taught by two different teachers, and a contemporary portion. We took class with students from the Paris Opéra school and it was simply inspiring. The students were so happy to be there and so were we! The elements of poids de la tête were discussed in the contemporary portion of the class and it was so nice to see the adaptive nature of the students. Not to mention take class with supportive and invigorating teachers at the Paris Opéra! Can’t believe I took class in a room named, Salle Najinski!