I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing friends in the world and while planning this study abroad they decided to join me for a week in Paris. I can’t believe that this is my life! Erica and Alex, I miss you already and I’m so so so thankful for the two of you!
During their stay I again was able to take class with Nina Dipla at Menagerie de Verre. I was and am so thankful for her generosity and spirit! The class was incredible and the choreography in the last portion of class expressed a push and pull so intrinsic and visceral it has stayed with me since. There was also a heat wave in Paris so it obviously followed us to Lyon but that didn’t stop me from taking class. Nina gave us plenty of breaks for water and while the skylights may have contributed to a small burn on the bottom of my right foot the class was worth it! Thank you again for your passion in teaching and beautiful dancing! I do hope, as you said, I can make it to Greece next summer!
Of all the activities we did on this trip back to Paris, there were a few that stood out. One of my favorite places in Paris is Montmartre and while incredibly touristy I love that you can still feel the palpable artistic fever. At the turn of the century, the impressionists sat and discussed their feelings about L’Academie des Beaux Arts. Le Chat Noir, Le Moulin de la Gallette, Le Lapin Agile, and Le Moulin Rouge were bustling nightspots where the French Can Can was born. Writers wrote and composers composed. It had such a vibrant scene and for me it is still nestled in the hills and the cobblestones. We ended up at the Musée de Montmartre where I had actually never been. It is also the spot where Renoir painted and where a few artists of the time had their studios. I loved walking though the gardens and old house. For me it was a step back in time where the images of the past still hung like the paintings on the walls.
Another favorite from this trip was the Centre Pompidou. I had never been there either despite my many times being in Paris and I loved the two visiting exhibits. Le Corbusier: Mesures de L’homme was fascinating! I never knew that he was an urban planner, architect, painter, furniture-maker, and studied Delcroze Eurhythmics. A jack-of-all trades or post Renaissance man because the Renaissance had since long ended, Le Corbusier was a man of many talents and cared about ergonomics before they were ever a thing. The other exhibit was Mona Hatoum, a performance and visual artist whose career has spanned from the 1970s until now. Her work was interactive and evocative. Her medium not singular; but instead multifaceted, with marbles, human hair, paint, metal, video, audio, and light bulbs to name a few. This was the most comprehensive exhibit of her work to date and the result was absolutely immersing. I found myself resisting the urge to break out into movement phrases amidst her work. Note to self for future reference I’ve been inspired to perhaps create a few things of my own!
And the Yves St Laurent exhibit La Collection du Scandal was a great find! I had no idea that at the height of his career Yves St Laurent would go against all fashion forward thinking and create a collection rooted in the garments from the 1940s. But he did and he did it in 1971. Some saw it as a huge step back from the Women’s Liberation movement and others were unforgiving calling the collection, “Vraiment hideuse.” But having been inspired by Paloma Picasso the famous painter’s daughter he sought to shift his collection and his vision. I stood in the small exhibit and marveled at the courage it would have taken to completely change a path and do it without worry of consequences or attention to the negative press. It was an uplifting moment for me. I stood thinking, “At some point, we all relinquish to failure but what if that failure is actually a success? What if the world simply wasn’t ready but is now fully on board? What courage it takes to showcase your art without regard for success.” And then the words of Doug Nielsen rang in my head, “Just make a dance. Don’t mind if it’s good or bad. Just make a dance.” Thanks for illuminating the path even from way over there!
And still another performance (that makes 9 performances so far) was in order being that the season for dance pauses for the summer in Paris. So while Erica and Alex were able to see Crazy Horse, which they raved about and I’m now jealous that I myself did not attend, Alex and I saw L’Anatomie de la Sensation choreographed by Wayne McGregor. It was performed at the Opéra Bastille where I had taken class a little over a month ago so I was happy to have the chance to see a performance on the stage. It was incredible! I think it was even more so because I had recently attended the back stage tour of the Palais Garnier where Nathalie mentioned that while the Paris Opera Ballet has its classical repertoire they also have their contemporary one. We also learned that if the show is set to perform on a raked stage the dancers rehearse in a raked studio and when they perform on a flat stage they rehearse in a flat studio. We also learned that guest choreographers do not necessarily have to adhere to the rankings of the ballerinas when casting their shows. Instead, they are allowed to hold auditions. It has happened where a choreographer chooses a corps de ballet member over a soloist or étoile. This I found so interesting. There is something to be said about seniority and the rankings but there is also something about witnessing a spirit, an essence that may not have the best technique or may simply not have been promoted. I liked that concept and I fully support it!
I enjoyed having the privilege of seeing the Paris Opera Ballet perform a classical ballet and a contemporary one. I was impressed with their ability to mold themselves and articulate their spines when performing contemporary ballet and was equally impressed by the traditional bravura steps that come with classical ballet. My favorite movement was Elegy for Andy performed by Aurélie Dupont and Alexandre Gasse although each movement really pushed the contemporary ballet vocabulary and forced the dancers to adopt a new way of moving. I thoroughly enjoyed the chameleon-like quality of the Paris Opera Ballet dancers and would return in a heartbeat to see either a classical or contemporary performance.
Here’s an excerpt from L’Anatomie de la Sensation, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet:
And Paquita, also performed by the Paris Opera Ballet: