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Jo Tomalin

Jiri Kylian Evening: Ballet de l’Opera Paris

By January 3, 2024January 17th, 2024No Comments

The Ballet de l’Opera, Paris, presents a new production with work by renowned choreographer Jiří Kylián at the Palais Garnier, 8-31 December, 2023. The production, Jiri Kylián Evening, comprises three sections of four pieces performed by this company at the Opera national de Paris. 

Kylián, from Prague, started his career in the Czech capital as a dancer and later became an acclaimed award-winning choreographer after moving to Europe. Kylián’s works have been performed worldwide and are known for their musicality, imagery and dry wit.

In the first piece, Gods and Dogs, with Kylián’s choreography, set design, costume design with Joke Visser, and music design, the choreography ranges from angular to lyrical motifs, beautifully danced. Deep echos and sounds of the music by Dirk P. Haubrich and Ludwig van Beethoven fill the large, storied Palais Garnier auditorium. There’s an edgy air of what’s going to happen, and suddenly a strange monster appears up high. The choreography is often low gravity muscular movement in ever changing combinations, including trios and solos with surprises in the movement from changes of direction and jumps. There is a dramatic moment when a curtain comes down centre stage, which seems to be metallic and shimmery – due to the beautiful lighting by Kees Tjebbes, which is a highlight of this intriguing piece. The wide curtain is very effective as it changes levels and sways, giving a lot of visual movement behind the dancers. Costumes are modern with long wide pants for the male dancers and short sleeve tops and shorts for the female dancers. 

The second piece, Stepping Stones, choreographed by Kylián is very dramatic looking with black costumes, black backdrop, and a huge black triangle above the stage, which moves up and down and tilts. The other side of the triangle is an intricate wooden structure beautifully lit and adds to the atmosphere, with set and lighting design by Michael Simon. Costume design by Joke Visser is interesting, the male dancers in black shorts with narrow additions of red and green and female dancers’ black leotards include stylish front sections and straps with narrow, purple and teal stripes. Kylián’s choreography shows a traditional balletic foundation with modern extensions interspersed with quirky moments that complement the music choices of John Cage and Anton Webern very well. Several themes are expressed in this piece including mythology and ritual. A small group of dancers balance trays on their feet and move adeptly in unison in one part of the imaginative mise en scène across the stage, replete with a group of three large foreboding gold cats upstage. A section with a trio of three women is utterly glorious! The entire piece is on the music, quirky, and fascinating.   

The third and final part of the evening comprises two notable contrasting pieces, Petite Mort and Secus Tänze, both choreographed by Kylián. Petite Mort is set to beautiful music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when the starting image is of six male dancers holding large swords, and then dancing with them! This piece is moving and visceral in both dance quality and choreography, with highlight sections of six athletic duets and an outstanding section with five female dancers. Romantic but not sentimental with costumes by Joke Visser and set and light design by Kylián, yet another exceptional duet later in the piece dazzles with sublime muscularity and extensions. Wow!

Secus Tänze is a wild and delicious visual storytelling of a time gone by filled with wit, joy and vibrant choreography set to glorious music by Mozart, with set and costume design by Kylián and lighting design by Joop Caboort. The bizarre and charming sections are supported by the large hair and powdered make up design with pink cheeks together with white calf length dresses and ethereal expressive costumes. Choreography includes unusual lifts, twirls, skirt flourishes and fast movement. What really shows through in this piece is the quality of this large company of Etoiles, Premieres Danseuses, Premieres Danseurs and the Corps de Ballet of the Opera national de Paris. They relate to each other so well with facial reactions and their physicality in this piece that it adds another dimension to the performance. Don’t miss this program or the glorious end moments of the evening! Highly Recommended!!!

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