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Body and Soul at the Palais Garnier: vibrant

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Paris. Palace garnish. 30-I-2022. Body and Soul, ballet in three acts. Choreography and text: Crystal Pite. Original recorded music: Owen Belton. Additional music: Frédéric Chopin, Preludes. Voice: Marina Hands. Costumes: Nancy Bryant. With the Corps de Ballet of the Opéra National de Paris

Created in 2019, body and soul is Crystal Pite’s second ballet for the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. Its recovery is the opportunity to position the company in the current choreographic landscape.

Indeed, this piece reflects the identity taken by the company after the effects of the health crisis. The predominance of contemporary ballet in the programming is now to the detriment of the classical repertoire which paradoxically constitutes the heart of this troupe. However, it seems appropriate to resume this piece, because the work was designed to last an entire evening, through three acts well delimited by distinguishable characteristics. However, the subject chosen remains a little too nebulous to really seek to illustrate the title of the piece.

The first part is supported by a few descriptions of movements by Marina Hands on a musical canvas which deforms throughout the first act, until it becomes unintelligible. The two dancers on stage are gradually replaced by other dancers who evolve on the same text and groups of other dancers come to flesh out the ensemble to gradually structure several interdependent ensembles lit by a disturbing zenithal light. The language of Crystal Pite is then such as we know it: fascinating, imbued with a certain mechanicalness and under which point a fragile and worried humanity.

The second part is also very similar to previous works by Crystal Pite, where couples respond to a few solo on a selection of Nocturnes of Chopin by Martha Argerich with a search for fluidity in energy. The light is then multiplied over the entire stage, emitted in a grazing way and facing the public. Bodies smash and personalities emerge: the lyricism of Eléonore Guérineau with the massiveness of Adrien Couvez, the ductility of Léonore Baulac with the gravity of Hugo Marchand. With this ability to make crowds work like a musical score, like a fugue or a canon, Crystal Pire cleverly uses a now well-established science of dance step construction.

The third and last part is ultimately more radical. Based on a desire for strangeness and amazement, the third act (which only lasts a quarter of an hour) reveals dancers (until then dressed very simply, in white t-shirts and black trousers) dressed of a vinyl garment covering the whole body, bristling with spikes and decked out with insect legs, dancing on a golden background in crumpled aluminum effect. This last part is disappointing because it certainly seeks to please by giving the viewer the impression of participating in this debauchery of dancing in a discotheque at the end of the evening, between hallucination and perspiration. Seemingly unrelated to the first two acts, this break in rhythm is unexpected, seductive and ultimately incoherent.

In a season still marked by certain evening cancellations, attending a show is always a renewed joy. This revival is certainly part of a pleasant evening but in a chilly program of the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris.

Photographic credit: © Yonathan Kellerman/ Opéra National de Paris

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Paris. Palace garnish. 30-I-2022. Body and Soul, ballet in three acts. Choreography and text: Crystal Pite. Original recorded music: Owen Belton. Additional music: Frédéric Chopin, Preludes. Voice: Marina Hands. Costumes: Nancy Bryant. With the Corps de Ballet of the Opéra National de Paris

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