This double bill evening by the Staatsballett Berlin is an attempt to reveal the so-called French ballet tradition through the works of two contemporary French choreographers – Jean-Christophe Maillot’s "Altro Canto" and Benjamin Millepied’s "Daphnis et Chloé". Though they originate from the same source, they stand in opposition to each other as regards the dance language used. While Maillot derives his inspiration from the early baroque period and its solemn aesthetics, Millepied deals with rococo charms focusing on its lightness, unpretentiousness and natural pastorality.
“Altro Canto” is a highly spiritual, albeit sensual, work. It reminds you of the epoch of gothic cathedrals with its enigmatic immersion into religion and forbidden love obsessions. Whimsical movements of dancers, quaint twists of their fused bodies and imitation of candle light evoke a feeling of recognition of your inner self hidden from the outer world. The choreographer considers both men and women children of nature who long for affection and intimacy of eternal “togetherness”, thus he does not differentiate them by gender. In his ballet men wear skirts, while women wear trousers, but they feel rather comfortable in their outfits. What is really important, it is the idea of “enlightening” that takes its root in philosophical concepts of immortality and soul transmigration. A sentence from Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” immediately comes to your mind when you see the flickering of flame produced either by tapers or by the dancers’ hands – “A million candles burnt in him without his being at the trouble of lighting a single one”.
The choice of music for this ballet is outstanding. Monteverdi’s, Marini’s and Kapsberger’s pieces sound intimately delicate, in unison with your breathing and heartbeat. Being mostly of an adagio tempo, they pose a real challenge for dancers, as it is essential for them not to ruin the ideal harmonical unity of the idea, sound and motion. They should pay attention to producing legato, unspoilt by any loud or unpredictable steps. It must be mentioned, the dancers by the Staatsballett Berlin did it perfectly. Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, Vladislav Marinov, Alexej Orlenco and Weronika Frodyma definitely stood out among others. It is funny but male dancers were far better in smoothness of moving if compared to female ones. All in all, this ballet by Jean-Christophe Maillot is an obvious masterpiece and a pleasure to watch.
I would have enjoyed “Daphnis et Chloé” more, I believe, if I had not seen “Altro Canto” before. However, the ballet by Benjamin Millepied came after, so it seemed rather monotonous and even boring at times. Despite the original scenography design by the French artist Daniel Buren and the colourful costumes by Hollye Hynes, the performance did not give me much inspiration and food for thought, as Millepied’s choreography for this piece turned out to be too repetitious and straightforward. Yet, the nymphs played by the corps de ballet of the Staatsballett Berlin did steal the show: they danced in synchrony, emerging from the wings like true celestial creatures and transmitting the ethereal atmosphere. The audience was deeply impressed by Denis Vieira’s wild charisma: he portrayed Dorcon, overwhelmed with passion and blinded by his strong feelings to Chloé. Besides, he followed the storming rhythms of Ravel’s music without a hitch, and showed a great number of excellent high jumps.
Having works by French contemporary choreographers is always a rare delight on stage of German theatres, thus they are extremely welcome at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. They add a lot to the repertoire diversity of the Staatsballett Berlin and give artists a golden opportunity to realize themselves in various dance styles.
Photos by Yan Revazov, the Staatsballett Berlin