Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dancers and the Dance

Window flowers. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Thursday, July 12, 2012. Warm, sunny day in New York, but not too hot.

Dancers and the Dance. Last night at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was the opening night of the Paris Opera Ballet company as well as the Summer Soiree gala for the benefit of the American Friends of the Paris Opera Ballet. The dress code was “festive summer attire” which I took to mean: “make it comfortable for yourself.” This crowd will never run away with that. The Ballet, after all. And the Paris Opera.

The ballet company last performed here in New York in 1996 at Lincoln Center. I did not see it, and had never seen it before, although to balletomanes all over the world it is not only famous but has a history that can be traced back to the court of Louis XIV and the 17th century.

Last night's benefit program with a ballerina from Serge Lifar's "Suite en Blanc."
I know little about ballet as you may have learned here before but in the years we’ve been doing the NYSD, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many performances with both the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. So I’ve learned that I love to watch the ballet. I’m not knowledgeable about the material or dancers’ techniques, etc. For me it’s just brilliant human endeavor, by people (the dancers are deeply committed artists and often with the talent to amaze) accompanied by great symphonic music.

I knew this particular evening was special simply because it’s the Paris Opera Ballet. Olivia Flatto, a very warm and charming French woman married to an American here in New York, is chairman of the board of the “Friends.” The board of trustees is a rather glittering and distinguished list of thirty New Yorkers ranging from Anne Bass, Marina Couloucoundis, Michel David-Weill and James de Givenchy to Pablo Legorreta, Benjamin Millepied and Robert Wilson. It is a list which implies distinction in performances.

The ballet company delivered to the clamoring audience. It was an extraordinary performance. It’s too late in the evening to cover thoroughly --the dinner started about ten-thirty and they were serving dessert when I left at quarter to midnight. So I tell you more about it in another Diary. But I don’t think I’ve ever attended a ballet performance (and remember I am not a frequent ballet-goer, so my knowledge about such things is limited in more ways than one). But the audience last night sat in rapt attention, as did this guest, from the opening curtain to the thunderous ovation at the end.
Jean-Yves Kaced of the Paris Opera Ballet with Olivia Flatto and Gina de Givenchy. Ariane Bavelier, the dance critic for Le Figaro.
Susan Gutfreund and Olivia Flatto. Dominque Kirby, James de Givenchy, and Thierry Messionnier of the Paris Opera Ballet public relations.
The program opened with Serge Lifar’s “Suite en Blanc” followed by Roland Petit’s “L’Arlesienne”  with music of Georges Bizet, and Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” with the ballet created by Maurice Bejart. All of it was stunning. The final piece, “Bolero,” with a solo by Nicholas Le Riche, was as compelling to watch as it is to listen to, from the very first distant drumbeats. It is truly the music interpreted physically in what was a highly althletic and complex solo. On conclusion, the crowd went wild with many bravos, huzzahs and several minutes of applause. The entire program was sensational to watch. The company was sensational, including everyone in it. Sensational was the word for the night. Hyperbole is the only way to honestly convey the experience of watching. More details on tomorrow’s Diary.

The company will be giving three more performances – today, tomorrow and a Sunday matinee.
The lamps at the dinner tables were Calla Liilies underwater and lit by a single bulb.
The dinner dance's entertainment Jacques and Marie et leur Paris Swing Orchestra. Wonderful. After the speakers, they played "La Marseillaise" with many of the guests joining in, and then "The Star Spangled Banner."
Guests arriving at the Promenade for the dinner. That's Nancy Kissinger in black standing in the center of the photograph talking to Robert Wilson.
The tribute to the French flag.

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