Ironically, the greatest successes of the Benjamin Millepied era at the Paris Opera Ballet came after his resignation. The mixed poster that opened the season, programmed by Millepied but now piloted by its replacement, Aurélie Dupont, was the company’s best for some time, crowned by a very convincing creation by Crystal Pite.
With 154 dancers, depth is one of POB’s great strengths, and Pite has harnessed this asset like few others have. For The cannon of the seasons a third of the company transformed into an alien-like army dressed in baggy pants, throats and torsos painted blue. Together they swayed and swayed and beat their breasts as one organism; the groups briefly lined up, then rushed to split into new formations. Sometimes a solitary figure would stick its head out of the fray, only to be engulfed again.
Pite was inspired by natural phenomena, and she found a powerful musical vehicle for her concerns in Max Richter’s “recomposed” version of Vivaldi’s work. Four Seasons. Remarkably, Marie-Agnès Gillot enters with a procession of women linked by the elbows, who extend her lines of spiders and carry her like insects following their queen. Elsewhere, the men launched into full-power aerial turns, their feats combining to create a hurricane of movement.
The sculptural tableaus and mass effects are a far cry from today’s pas de deux work and practically a throwback to Maurice Béjart. Their musicality and grounded articulation demonstrate Pite’s craftsmanship; Jiří Kylián was one of the first influences, and this is still felt in a series of short duets. The POB responded to the job with wholehearted commitment, and hopefully Pite will be back to build on that first collaboration.
Two revivals from last season preceded The cannon of the seasons: short study by Justin Peck In the foldswhich seems to have lost its energy, and William Forsythe’s latest creation, Blake works I. Forsythe was among the first to deconstruct classical technique, and here he proves he’s still a master at it. The cast performed with even more abandon than when it premiered in July.
Millepied nurtured talent regardless of rank and young soloists dominated both works. Dupont, on the contrary, stressed the importance of hierarchy, and the Annual Parade gave priority to established stars. Sadly, the current crop isn’t inspiring the way POB directors did just a decade ago, but the new generation is showing world-class potential.
Until October 9, operadeparis.fr