Jean-Claude Gallotta

May 21, 2004

Jean-Claude Gallotta
Théâtre National de Chaillot

Paris, France

May 21–23, 2004

Reviewed by Carol Pratl


You might think that French choreographer Jean-Claude Gallotta has a fascination for the number three and its symbolic combinations (like François Delsarte had more than 100 years ago); his 99 Duos (2003) and Trois Générations (2004), have been among the hits of Paris’ last two dance seasons.

In Générations, Gallotta gives the audience a utopian sense of unison and community that’s rare in a dance world often divided by age, race, aesthetics, and cultural politics. His message in this innovative work is one that all dancers would approve of: Dance is as ageless as it is timeless.

The work’s three parts each feature a different generation of eight movers who perform the same thirty-minute choreography to the same music by Groupe Strigall, with video extracts interspersed from the film Miracle in Milan. Gallotta’s musical choices never seem like mere background ornamentation. Here, the music transposes into movement with alternating rhythms and tempos, where fluid passages blend into angular ones. The video images—poignant scenes of the generations mingling (which never happens onstage)—serve as a counterpoint.

Layering abstract, contemporary movement onto the dancers’ strong ballet technique, Gallotta makes us meditate on our perception of expressiveness, stamina, aptitude, technique, and experience. Juxtaposing these age groups, from young to less young, Gallotta raises the polemical questions: Who decides when a dancer’s career begins and ends, and why must a dancer retire at 40 if he or she has reached a performance prime?

begins with youngsters ages 8 to 14 who are part of the Groupe Grenade, a professional-level children’s company. Their improvisational ability and technical prowess is riveting; many an adult pro could learn from their extraordinary stage presence, musicality, and sense of space.

Gallotta’s company of dancers at their peak, the Groupe Émile Dubois, represents the second generation; part three highlights the Groupe Mézall, professional and semi-professional senior dancers who perform this energetic work with grace and dignity. Theirs is a very different interpretation from the two preceding ones, which proves the choreographer’s points: Good movement is relative to the mover, and “once a dancer, always a dancer.” Now when will we get a sequel with toddlers dancing alongside their great-grandparents?