With Massot's final performance this weekend, I wanted to take a few moments to post some of my remembrances of him.
I didn't see much of LuLu (as he is known) during my first trip to Denmark in 2004 as he was off after hurting a wrist during a performance (something Balanchine I seem to remember...?). But in my subsequent visits he was a vivid and friendly presence backstage and, as time went by, one of my favorite dancers to watch onstage.
Backstage, you knew when he was around because of the good cheer that seemed to accompany him on all but the rarest days. Even when he was struggling with injuries, he was there with a smile and some Gallic good humour. But a hard worker, and someone who continued to develop as a dancer and dancer-actor throughout his career. One of my favorite memories is of interviewing Kenneth Greve in one of the open atriums backstage and hearing Massot's not-entirely-in-key singing voice echoing throughout the backstage. It brought back quite the chuckle when I was transcribing my recording...
On stage, LuLu was a dancer who didn't at first catch my eye, but grew to be one of my favorite leading men in the company. Some of my lasting memories are of him as Edouard in Livjægerne pa Ameger - especially in the final hornpipe. He captured the rakish Edouard perfectly - and never failed to dance up a storm. It was at the same time that he gritted his way through 'Etudes' despite an injury - and did a fine job to boot. (Interestingly I can't find any of mention of seeing him in a performance of Livjægerne other than at the Bournonville Gala, so my memories must mostly be of rehearsal).
One of his best Bournonville roles though, had to be as the senor in 'La Ventana' - perfectly suited for his swagger. As I commented back in 2005:
""La Ventana", Bournonville’s unique combination of Spanish dance and classical ballet, is a brief tale about the flirtatious meeting of a Señor and Señorita. Restaged, by the last Señor, current artistic director, Frank Andersen, the ballet was a perfect showcase for the well matched Gitte Lindstrøm and Jean-Lucien Massot. They seemed to play off each other, enjoying the increasing challenges of choreography. She sparkled in the Señorita's solos, packed with tricky footwork and was well coordinated with Camilla R. Holst in the Mirror Dance. He flew across the stage in traveling beats and tour jetes, high but never heavy in the landings."
Massot was (and is) still one of the few non Danes to dance Gennaro in 'Napoli', and while I never saw him in the full length, I did have the delight of seeing him dance a fine Tarantella in the finale of the Bournonville Festival Gala. That brief glimpse made me sad that I never was able to see him do the full ballet.
But, for me, Massot finest role was Onegin in the ballet of the same name. I'd gone into that trip expecting to like Mads Blangstrup much more in the role, but after many a rehearsal and performance, I was blown away with Massot. It didn't hurt that he was perfectly paired with Yao Wei as Tatiana, but the production was really a gift to Massot. It showed his superb partnering skills - probably the finest in the company after the departure of Kenneth Greve - and an emotional depth outside of the 'flashy, swaggering' roles that he seemed to have spent much of his career in.
'Onegin' has a series of fiendish pas de deuxs for the lead couple, and it's a ballet where you need steel nerves to watch rehearsals. And then the ability to forget what you saw at rehearsals because if you know all the things that could go wrong, you'll end up with an ulcer watching a performance. But with Massot, I got none (well, very few of those nerves). I knew he was going to be there for Yao Wei, and help her achieve the performance of her career (a performance which, if the company had not been schedule to travel to China soon thereafter, would surely have been the occasion for her promotion to principal).
My comments (from 2008):
"The four main characters – Onegin, Tatiana, Lensky and Olga – are the heart and soul of the piece. Returning as Onegin, Jean-Lucien Massot brings a brooding maturity to the role. His Onegin is a contemplative man of many experiences, much more world-weary than the 26-year old of Pushkin's novel. Massot, a darkly handsome dancer, expresses a great deal through simple movement and poses. He invests himself in each step of the choreography, but the emotional power is subtly conveyed. It's very much a less-is-more approach. While his technique may be starting to fade ever so slightly with age, his partnering skills remain superb. And there was no doubt about the chemistry with his Tatiana, Yao Wei."
I am sorry not to have been able to see Massot perform since 2008 and sorrier still not to be able to attend his final performance. It is a TRUE shame that the current financial situation apparently has prevented the company from hiring him on as a character dancer (like Mogens Boesen and Peter Bendixen before him, Massot would have thrived as a character dancer who could still perform some 'regular' dancer roles). I hope the company is able to find money to support his talents (didn't Moeller Maersk die recently? After all the millions he spent on Operaen, you'd think he be able to give the ballet a couple hundred thousand in his will...).
So, I hope there are many glasses of good French wine - and many more of Tuborg - on Saturday to LuLu. I send my best for a happy career transition, wherever it may take him. Merci and Tak for many fine performances and good humour!