Manuel Legris & Guests (29/07/2012)-a comment on Kylian’s offering…

Kylian’s stimuls for the choreography: Jean Honore Fragonard’s ‘The Bolt’ c1778.


“Il faut qu’une porte …” gala of contemporary ballet

courtesy of the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris and the Vienna State Ballet with choreography by Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier, Angelin Preljocaj.


Jiri Kylian’s contribution to the Gala lifts its narrative from the image depicted in the eighteenth century painting, “Le Verrou” (The Bolt) by Jean-Honore Fragonard. The image, of a male figure securing (or unlocking?) the imposing wooden door to a bedroom characterised by the era it depicts. His right arm is outstretched and his upper body pressed against the imposing, dark wooden threshold whilst embraced by his female counterpart, echoing his silhouette. This tableau is a frequent reference within Kylian’s choreography and is developed through a series of momentary encounters or collisions between the couple which emulate the softer shades of their complex story.  The set frames the duo from a distance at first and then steadily travels forwards, bringing the audience closer to the scene in the same way that Fragonard positions the viewer closely to the bodies in the image. The stage and set design reiterate the flat planes that characterise the painting and have been meticulously constructed so as to imitate the setting in “Le Verrou”. “Il faut qu’une Porte” delves into the ambiguity of the subject matter of The Bolt in its dramatic portrayal of the antagonistic relationship between the couple. The movement is inherently balletic and playfully tender (a disappointing response for a painting which is filled with such dynamic contrast).  Whilst the action sustains a constant flow, whether a subtle glance or a denser balletic phrase, its texture fails to reflect the disparity between the soft pastel colours and the depth and danger of the crimson red curtain which envelops the scene. With such literal enactment of the image in the set and costume one would expect some of the drama that underlies this image to seep through into the movement vocabulary for greater effect.

The carefully choreographed moments of contact are filled with tactical touch and spirited momentum which takes a welcome departure from the otherwise voyeuristic nature of the pas de deux, which becomes repetitive and false as the work progresses. Legris and Dupont perform for one another taking swirling and circular pathways through the dark colours and connotations of the space in an energetic and committed manner. Their elevated steps are bird like and executed with beautiful and distinct discipline as they repeat their pathway from stage right to left passing the chair, the door and the imposing bed; re-living a memory.  To an extent this choreographic choice provides the viewer with detail of the lustful emotions and visceral connection between the pair in this scene, although a more virile and less mimetic performance would have endorsed this notion more successfully. The genre of the work lives up to  expectation and whilst this was not the most passionate interpretation of “Le Verrou” I would have imagined, the close of the curtain and the fading image of the wistful, charismatic transference of an apple between the duo leaves me satisfied that Kylian’s story is one of curiosity.


Il Faut Qu’une Porte…


May we leave the door ajar?

by Ori J. Lenkinski

Our mentor, Franz Anton Cramer, suggested that we make lists as a way to get our time together going. Lists, he expressed, are a good way to ease into writing. I couldn’t agree more. I love lists.

Our first task was to make a list of our references. Seated around a sunlit room in the Museumsquartier in Vienna, one of the most beautiful places in the city, the eleven of us scratched our heads, stared into space and tried to recollect the things in our lives that had made an impression on us. We made two other lists in that same session, which I will get to later perhaps.

My list included Louis Horst’s review of Paul Taylor’s 1957 work Dances, which consisted of several blank inches of space in the New York Times. Other highlights on my list were Gardenia by Alain Platel, Hot Pepper, Air Conditioning and the Farewell Speech by Toshiki Okada, More Than Enough by Doris Ulrich, House by Sharon Eyal and Sleep No More by Punch Drunk.

After the personal list making was finished, we began compiling a group list. The first item to make it onto the big list was Can We Talk About This by DV8 Physical Theater. In the next few minutes, twenty friends joined DV8 on the big sheet of white paper.

Looking at the list, a few major issues jumped out at me.

All of the references were dance pieces. They all fell loosely under the umbrella term “contemporary”. They were all choreographed in the last fifteen years. Each piece was either by a European or made in Europe. As the only non-European in the Critical Endeavour group, this last fact struck me the most furiously. And yet, I was equally to blame for not including any of my American, Japanese or Israeli references in the big list. It was as if we had all conformed very quickly to an unspoken set of criteria for what was acceptable to admit to liking or to divulge having been affected by.

Later that evening, I mentioned to a few dancers from the festival that I had tickets to a show by Manuel Legris called Il faut qu’une porte… One by one, they told me that once they had heard that it was “that ballet thing” they canceled their tickets. “Enjoy that,” said one dancer sarcastically.

The show was comprised of nine short pieces by choreographers like Jiri Kylian and Nacho Duato. The dancers were clearly ballet performers. The meeting of movement and music was obvious, harmonious and aesthetic in all of the works. And the bows… the bows were gorgeous. The crowd was so thrilled the performers were stuck bowing for half the total time of the performance. And the truth is that I really did enjoy the show.

My love of dance was born as a little girl in a big theater, watching girls in tiaras and diamonds being hoisted into the air by the cliché men in tights. My dance training began in a mini leotard and ballet slippers. It was ballet that introduced me to this world of dance and performance and thus, opened the doors for me to discover the rest. I will never forget that love and will never give in to the pressures to forsake ballet in order to fit in or be more contemporary.

Manuel Legris is something of a curiosity in the mix of this year’s program. He is far more classical than anyone else on the scene. That said, amongst the young, cutting-edge members of the festival community, the consensus seems to be that this show is irrelevant.

I believe strongly in the right of such programs to exist alongside the more shocking, contemporary works. I believe that the case against ballet (i.e. gender politics, objectification of women) can often be used for modern and contemporary dance as well. In some way, seeing this show, which essentially opened my experience at the festival, challenged me to remember to stay open. Similarly to the impact of studying our references list, sitting in the ornate, picture-perfect Burgtheater, I reminded myself that it’s a big world full of all kinds of people and thus, all kinds of art. To be open-minded means to walk into the theater and give each artist, each performance, a fair chance to move us.