Scary to see how precipitously the level of the Paris Opera has dropped, in relation to the world's major troupes.
Although I would most certainly not say that I enjoyed the Bolshoi's reconstructed "Le Corsaire" - dull libretto, plodding score and, let's face it, a stultified, indeed petrified, choreographic vision that only the French press would dare call "inventive",
the Bolshoi, as a troupe, is in far, far better shape than the French National Theatre at this point, and, thanks to their commitment to THEATRE, they manage to make this trivial imperial entertainment if not stimulating, at least watchable.
The men have little to do in Le Corsaire, and last night, Serguei Filin as Conrad seemed either to be in pain or unwell, definitely under the weather in any event.
But the ladies! My oh my!
We have just had the Internal Promotion Concours at the Paris Opera, a fortnight ago. A number of problems that we have had occasion to discuss on this very forum, are, manifestly, dealt with at Moscow, if not entirely satisfactorily, at least rather more efficiently than we do.
For example, the foot. On pointe, the Moscow ladies do not go over the shoe, but rather draw the weight well back, so that the stresses be distributed down through the great bones of the hip and leg, not on the tiny, friable bones of the foot. That is why they appear to be at once lighter on their feet, and more grounded, than we do.
Secondly, the Moscow ladies, some of whom are positively gigantic (can one have too much of a good thing? Possibly!), nevertheless land soundlessly from the jump. Yes, they seem to have brought their own floor, and so on, and perhaps they have different shoes than we do, but that is not the reason. The reason, is that the weight is cast differently in the jump.
People tend to think that things are the way they are because they are the way they are.
Everything man does, is a subject for enquiry, for scientific experiment.
Why cast the weight forward in a grand jeté for example, and allow the full force to hit on landing? Which is what we do at Paris. The Russians do the battement, jump, and allow the weight to follow AFTER. Hence, silent landing. Hence, less damage to the foot and spine. A similar enquiry applies to the Russians' jeté à la seconde and to their grande cabriole, something we really do need to think about here.
Let us remember, everyone, that grand allegro technique is NOT a Soviet invention. Grand allegro technique was invented at Paris, at the Opera in point of fact, in the very early part of the Nineteenth Century. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost the thread.
There are, of course, other more intangible factors. It is no secret to anyone that demoralisation, and what the French call "sinistrose" is rife at the Paris Opera, and that over the past decade, the percentage of our corps de ballet off ill, injured or, to put it diplomatically "not entirely with it", has soared.
Then the Bolshoi rolls in, and despite all Russia's huge problems, here we have a corps de ballet that, instead of simply "mouthing" the steps dutifully as we do, trying not to get a "bad mark" at the Concours, is actually DANCING, and, if one look into their eyes and face, every man Jack of 'em is seen to be acting his part.
There's lessons to be learnt, I fear.
Footnotes to history (1): Has anyone troubled to compare Doug Fullington's reconstruction of Le Jardin Animé for PNB School at Seattle, that was recently seen at Munich, with that of Burlaka? And what of J.G. Bart's production for the State Theatre at Ekaterinburg last year?
Footnotes to history (2): The Bolshoi too, is losing its épaulement, and all the wealth of upper-body positions, under the impact of this leg- or rather tentacle-waving business. We had our fair share last night of ladies, utterly persuaded that accents in the musical score, invariably and under all circumstances, lie at precisely the point a développé à la seconde strikes 190 degrees. Comical.
Incidentally, Dansomanie publishes today a lengthy interview with Maria Allash (dating from 2006), the key lines in this precise context being,
"I'm not happy about these attempts at rapprochement with Western teaching. I should prefer that we keep our own Russian style ... I am now in a position to compare the lessons given by foreign teachers who have been working here with those of Marina Semionova, for example, and the latter's lessons are, to my mind, far more complex and interesting despite her great age (editor's note - Semionova is 96) or those of Svetlana Adyrkhaeva ... The Russian School is what we must teach !
"Foreigners are fascinated by our lessons, because our tradition stretches back over centuries. An excellent teaching method is of the essence, because that is what avoids injury. The Russian School enables us to dance classical ballets properly. Which simply cannot be said of all the Western Schools. Dancers trained for the most part in contemporary or neo-classical, can no longer do justice to the classical ballets."