At the Easter, are hens not wont to lay bejewelled Eggs?
Accordingly, a new and very glamorous Easter Egg, painted over with Stars, is hatched - and out leapt M. Jérémie Bélingard. Last night, as the curtain fell on “Don Quixote” and midnight struck, he became our latest Etoile.
Would I were a Christian – this year I should give up eggs for Lent!
In any event, only in the domain of statistics does one find effects without cause, which leads one to surmise that, if not an Easter Egg, M. Bélingard may, in another life, have been a statistic.
Because for this latest appointment, there is no readily-apparent cause.
Clumsy witticisms aside, few reading this page will have heard of M. Bélingard, 'et pour cause': he is a very capable if not extremely distinguished dancer, about whom little excitement has been expressed abroad. Through no fault of his own, and having himself suffered an unending and most unfortunate spate of injuries over the past few years, Bélingard has danced but rarely, and then, almost invariably in the briefest of modern works – and often in the briefest of attire, as the gentleman's personal beauties are quite remarkable, as invited choreographers have not failed to note.
Like his feminine counterpart Mlle. Abbagnato, these beauties have led M. Belingard to be greatly in demand for photographic work and fashion shots.
But let that be! For the crux of the matter lies elsewhere.
The Paris Opera and its School has been with us for nigh on four centuries.
Foreign dancers see the troupe as concert-pitch to the world, the world’s Great A, and many would give their eye-tooth to join, under any terms.
Other than in the statistical domain, though, what is concert-pitch in this branch of trade?
By consensus in the trade, the criteria for étoilat are these:
- a brilliant technique, i.e. mastery of the full classical vocabulary, honed and sustained in a constant manner over time,
- utter mastery of classical mime gesture, stagecraft, and a presence sufficiently commanding to hold a Two or Three Act classical work on the boards,
- a deep respect for the corps de ballet, empathetic teamwork,
- high intelligence, originality, and emotional depth, such as to give from the heart to the public, ideas and affects that never were before, in quite that way,
- a cultivated knowledge of music and art history, so as to lift the ballet into the more universal sphere of ideas.
This writer has watched M. Bélingard dancing for a number of years, and although one would most certainly describe his dancing as energetic, and engaged, I do not believe that any of the above criteria be truly met. What is more, the strongly erotic tone found in much of his work tends to confuse the elevated message peculiar to this art form, an erotic fascination that will in any event wear off, as he loses - as one always does with time – one’s animal spirits.
As it happens, in this very run of 'Don Quixote', a performance of the finest water was given on the Monday night, 26th March, with M. Thibault as Basilio and Mlle. Ould Braham as his Kitri (Cf. the relevant reports on balletto.net and www.dansomanie
). Management, though, did not attend on the Monday, while it did - needless to say - attend the evening with M. Bélingard.
I turn now to the matter of the recent appointments to Etoile in this theatre. These are:
- Marie-Agnès Gillot, appointed in 2004. Mlle. Gillot, being just under six foot tall, has suffered back pain since her schooldays, and has almost entirely withdrawn from the classical repertory since that appointment.
- Clairemarie Osta (Mme. Nicolas LeRiche), appointed in December 2003. Mlle. Osta, though charming, was never a particularly strong or charismatic dancer. Since her appointment, she has borne two children, and has withdrawn from most of her scheduled appearances.
- Delphine Moussin. Appointed étoile in 2005, Mlle. Moussin was, at that time, thirty-seven years old, four months into pregnancy and dancing, on the night, with a broken arm in plaster (information strictly in the public domain, and not, in any way, gossip). She is a lovely, sensitive and intelligent dancer, but perhaps not étoile. In any event, she too has had to withdraw from most of her scheduled appearances since bearing a child.
- Hervé Moreau, appointed in 2006. M. Moreau, being tall and very lax, has a technique weaker still than that of M. Bélingard. Having regrettably suffered a constant string of injuries, little has been seen of him since the appointment.
- Matthew Ganio, appointed in 2004 at the age of nineteenth on the strength of a single performance in a leading role. M. Ganio, a talented and most amiable youth, has laboured since his late teens under a double knee injury, for which he has been operated. He could dance neither Albrecht nor Basilio this year, although the ostensible reason for his appointment was to replace Messrs. Belarbi and Legris, who are about to retire.
- Wilfrid Romoli, also appointed in 2006. M. Romoli was aged forty-one at the time of appointment. Over a decade ago, he virtually ceased to dance in the classical repertory, an emploi in which he never truly excelled. Very popular in the troupe owing to his agreeable personality, he has focused almost exclusively on modern dance. Although an argument might be made for this appointment, on the basis of services rendered to the company, whether it cuts the mustard is a moot point.
That leaves us with only three or four étoiles free of chronic injury, and still at an age where they can physically sustain a major classical work.
In order not to further vex matters, today, let us not tarry over why Mlles. Ciarovola, Romberg and Abbagnato, delightful women but of middling talent, have been promoted première danseuse, over the head of Fanny Fiat, one of the foremost technicians – and artists – on either side of the Urals.
What, precisely, is going on here? What has become of standards? Why is the theatre’s pre-eminent artistic personality – Thibault – being ignored and passed over?
To all this, I have no answer, really, and open the floor to the better-informed and advised.