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Paris Opéra Ballet

Jean-Claude Gallotta's "Nosferatu"

Opéra-Bastille, Paris, France
May 2, 2001

By Catherine Schemm

Tonight was the first performance of Gallotta's "Nosferatu." This performance for 40 dancers is not based on the true story of Nosferatu. In this case it's not the bloody spectacle of the vampire but rather, a spectacle of dance. And as intriguing as the performance was, it is difficult to summarize "Nosferatu." It should be said that this rendition was not very readable aside from the fact that Nosferatu made the people dance when he passed through them: duets, trios and groups following one another, until they were finally desiccated.

As I said, it is very difficult to critique this performance but let's start with the set, which consisted of a tall piece of scenery, curved and raised with the result that the first rows of the orchestra were not seen. It was a timber structure, with an immense cone of light on the top.

The First Act was primarily female with the corps de ballet wearing little skirts, or trousers, open shirts, jackets, or t-shirts. In contrast, the Second Act only displayed the men. The Third Act consisted of pas de deux for the five principal characters. A pas de deux for Isoart and Martinez was splendid, just as the pas de deux for Osta and Baey was. This was followed by a more conventional pas de deux for Juliette Gernez (a new coryphée) and Phavorin. All the corps de ballet and the soloists met at the end in a dance which finished with them seeming to "fall dead," except for Nosferatu and a young woman danced by Juliette Gernez, who is succeeded by Clairemarie Osta, the last to succumb to Nosferatu.

The contemporary technique is very traditional in its performance, the choreography made me think of moments in "West Side Story" -- undoubtedly the trousers and the tennis shoes -- and also of a particular ballet from a long time ago: the GRCOP, Massacre on MacDougal Street. There was nothing really outstanding in this choreography, but if the performance was just meant to show, choreographically speaking, the repetitiveness of the music of Dusapin, it did not have any big problems. Noteworthy from the corps de ballet were from the men: Francesco Vantaggio, Nicolas Paul, Vincent Cordier, and from the women: Mirentchu Battut, Myriam Kamionka, Nathalie Vandard.

José Martinez is a superb Nosferatu with his undulating gestures, whether he danced through the crowd or whether he could be seen from the side on the stage. He moves like a snake. He has an amazing command of contemporary movement, just as Gil Isoart and Stéphane Phavorin did. Gil Isoart is splendid in the pas de deux. Their partners, Clairemarie Osta, Delphine Baey and Juliette Gernez made up the three female heroines. The links between the various characters were difficult to understand. At one time Clairemarie Osta seemed close to suicide, but then Nosferatu saved her. Baey appeared to be charmed by Osta, just as Isoart was by Martinez. Baey had a look close to that of Nosferatu (Martinez, has a wig with long hair) and seemed to be his female follower.

There is a homosexual aspect to some of the pas de deux, particularly the first pas de deux in the Third Act between Nosferatu/Martinez and Isoart, which repeats the same choreography of Osta/Baey again (the same movements, etc.), which is finished by a heterosexual pas de deux danced between Gernez and Phavorin. At the end, perhaps it's normal that just Gernez was "alive" again because she was the first in the First Act to be contaminated by Nosferatu.

Also, this work is the opposite of the other Gallotta piece in the POB repertory. In this case, here is Nosferatu in Darkness, set up very dark, like the underground area in "West Side Story," with dark costumes. And on the other hand there is Gallota's light "Variations d'Ulysse," with a blue set and white costumes -- a Mediterranean mood evocated by Ulysse's name.

Finally in short, a very complex ballet with mitigated success, undoubtedly more of a result of the talent of the dancers, which is immense. How many troupes are able to dance Paquita and a month after, such a contemporary creation? Some traditional whistles resounded when Gallotta greeted the audience, but they were sporadic. The room seemed attentive to what occurred on stage. The Ballet of the Opera of Paris proved the vastness of its talents and its capacity to dance to all.


Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.



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