A very special emotion for the Parade, which sees the 154 dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet parade by rank to mark the start of the season. Still, this ritual is starting to feel like an awkward reminder of classical glories past.
This season was one of only two opportunities to catch company in tutus, the other being Swan Lake. While tutus are not the alpha and omega of ballet, the contrast between the strict hierarchy of the Défilé and the creation of the company that followed, the contemporary and collective style of Ohad Naharin decadencewas austere.
Not one of about 25 stars and soloists leading the Parade were on stage in decadence, a series of the greatest hits from Naharin’s repertoire. The Israeli choreographer first compiled it in 2000 for his Batsheva Dance Company, and there have been a number of incarnations since; the one presented in Paris is presented as a “new version” for 31 dancers, instead of Batsheva’s current 16.
decadence features brilliant sequences – that’s a given, since Naharin has been one of the most impressive choreographers of recent decades. His technique is a marvel of kinetic articulation, deeply rooted but full of limbs thrusting out at acute, impossible angles. After several months of work, the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera can approach it effectively, and in some cases with admirable speed.
“Echad Mi Yodea”, first seen in the 1990s Kir and 1993 Anaphase, is perhaps Naharin’s signature creation, and the 22 costumed POB dancers sitting on his semi-circle of chairs did justice to his sense of community and menace. An extract of Naharin virus featured young company members in frenetic solos; at the opening night benefit gala, decadence also attracted some audience members, who were enlisted for cha-cha on stage.
Still, there was nothing new from Naharin, and it’s hard to see why this one-night production was essential to a ballet season so light on serious classical fare. Most of its components are reinforced by Batsheva’s fearless set, which is seen frequently in Paris; at least one mixed beak pairing a shorter one decadence with other works would have allowed some POB directors to stretch their legs too.
In this case, the only star on stage, the director of POB Aurélie Dupont, who interpreted the musical of Naharin Bolero with Russian guest Diana Vishneva (extraordinarily sensitive to style). Bolero was a special addition for the gala, featuring costumes by one of the evening’s sponsors, Chanel. It was already Dupont’s second appearance on stage at the Palais Garnier this season, after a guest appearance with the Martha Graham Dance Company; the PR optics alone should have convinced her to feature some of her stars instead.