Review: The Paris Opera Ballet’s Bowl debut is a balletic feat

The Paris Opera Ballet has been one of the most important ballet companies in the world for more than three centuries. The history of ballet would not be what it is without her.

The company is a national treasure for France. His home is in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world in what is probably the most beautiful capital in the world. And on Wednesday night, the Parisian ballet beauty wowed the Hollywood Bowl, where the company performed for the first time in Southern California since 2001.

No step of the mostly French dancers lacked in elegance. No set of the exquisite 18thth and 19th In the 19th century, French music in particular was anything but elegant in performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. The same goes for the elegant soloists: pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and LA Phil principal cellist Robert deMaine. The lighting made everything look wonderful. The bowl shell, lit up an irresistible midnight blue during a sunset for the evening’s opening dance, was a sight to behold.

Parisians have their fashion quirks — which have given way to so-called baggy ethnic yoga pants that open at the front, or rigid, lime-green tutus with an open back. But every dance looked fabulous. It all felt very, very French. It also seemed like an advertisement for an idealized LA on this moderately fine evening. In addition, the programme, a colorful program of short dances, offered contentment instead of strife without apology, amorous sensuality and irresistible virtuosity. When it is brought to a sharing place like the bowl, it is a rare and blessed thing to preserve it.

As long as it doesn’t become too precious, too self-confident, too exclusive. This program, which is repeated on Thursdays, is followed on Friday and Saturday by a program at LA Phil devoted to contemporary Latin American classics, along with a performance by Ricky Martin conducted by Dudamel. Sunday is Bollywood night at the Bowl.

The Paris Opera Ballet comes to LA through the favor of Dudamel, who is the new music director of the Paris Opera and takes his dance company seriously. For example, he will conduct performances of Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project in Paris next season, to the Thomas Adès score commissioned by the LA Phil. We can indeed expect to see the Paris Opera Ballet in LA with some regularity

But there are ironies in the French company’s Bowl appearance. Three years ago, Dudamel conducted excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite with sensational gender-biased and bowl-centric choreography by Benjamin Millepied and his LA Dance Project. Millepied happened to have been director of the Paris Opera Ballet for two short years, 2014 to 2016, and his attempts at modernization proved too controversial for the company.

None of his dances were on Wednesday’s programme, which included famous choreographies from the company’s past, including Mikhail Fokine’s La Mort du Cygne (danced to The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals) and Rudolf Nureyev’s Act II pas de deux from Swan Lake. Some popular scores, such as Sharon Eyal’s Faunes danced to Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, were old favorites with updated choreography. But little felt quite contemporary in this swan-and-faun lollipop program that, musically at least, could have been one of those old-fashioned Hollywood Bowl Rhapsody Under the Stars.

The setting was traditional, with the dancers on the stage in front of the orchestra. The video screens provided close-ups. This worked well for the solos and pas de deux, but the colors washed out on the long takes of the ensemble dances that ended each half of the program.

Still, it was a seductive evening of dancing, no more so than in Angelin Preljocaj’s pas de deux from ‘Le Parc’, set to the slow movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, with Thibaudet as the soloist. Preljocaj is perhaps the most extraordinary of the choreographers to have worked with the company recently, and Laura Hecquet and Germain Louvet were gentle as night for this quiet, lovely Mozart pas de deux. They slid lazily past each other, kissed, rocked passionately, and fell into loving embraces.

A woman hangs from a man's neck with her feet up as they kiss

Laura Hecquet and Germain Louvet of the Paris Opera Ballet in “Le Parc” with Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Louvet was also the powerful, shirtless and yoga-pants solo dancer in Alastair Marriott’s “Clair de Lune,” looking like a creature that had just emerged from the sea, elated to be on land and being pulled from the moon to the night sky .

In the classical works, Valentine Colasante and Marc Moreau demonstrated the joy of virtuoso dancing in Victor Gsovsky’s bespoke 1949 ‘Grand Pas Classique’, created for a post-war Paris ready to come alive again. Sae Eun Park and Paul Marque may not have evoked memories of Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in the pas de deux “Swan Lake,” but their grace felt timeless. Ludmila Pagliero and Florian Magnetenet were the impressively cool soloists in Hans van Manen’s abstract “Trois Gnossiennes”. Dorothée Gilbert was the swan of yore expected and needed for Fokine’s La Mort du Cygne.

For the first of the ensemble’s two modern pieces, Eyal’s Faunes, a male Antonin Monié placed seven snuggly swans in front of a brilliant orange bowl. William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude closed the program with Colasante, Marine Ganio and Hannah O’Neill floating around the stage like water lilies in their green tutus. Less classic but with no less accuracy, they also highlight the dizzying thrills of the men Pablo Legasa and Paul Marque.

This exalt, spurred on by Dudamel conducting the final movement of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, proved a clever ending, a meeting of old and new that perhaps promised more than it delivered, but keeping the promise alive is the most important thing.

Dudamel and Paris Opera Ballet

Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $20-$152
The information: (323) 850-2000, Review: The Paris Opera Ballet’s Bowl debut is a balletic feat

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