Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

August 5, 2008

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal
Les Étés de la Danse

Grand Palais, Paris

August 5, 2008

Reviewed by Victor Swoboda


Some sunshine, some dark clouds, and then, after intermission, out came the peasant knives. The Mauro Bigonzetti double-bill that Les Grands Ballets presented in Paris was a study in contrasts. It was the third program in a three-week run at the Grand Palais, site of the annual series, Les Étés de la Danse.

    Created on the company last year, Four Seasons got balletic treatment appropriate to Vivaldi’s score—many grand battements and arabesque turns for the women on pointe, a healthy workout of jumps and lifts for the men. Lightness prevailed, but not always. Dancers abruptly stomped, bobbed heads, sat down. Uneasy juxtapositions at times, but never dull.

    The work portrayed men and women forming couples. Like urban crowds, the 30-strong ensemble swallowed individuals and then spat them out. You can be lonely in the big city, the work implied, but a mate is just a jeté away.

    Not that romancing was simple. In “Summer,” Jérémy Galdeano needed plenty of gentle coaxing before Mariko Kida finally loosened up and linked arms in a flowing circle of intertwining limbs (the work often used weaving ports de bras). “Autumn” tried for wacky humour in the Kylián vein, but fell timidly short despite vigorous efforts by Robin Mathes and Jean-Sébastien Couture.

    “Spring’s” Vanessa Garcia-Ribala Montoya made a wistful figure, all gentle arms and legs. Gabrielle Lamb sharply isolated her limbs and torso in “Summer,” a kind of beckoning to “Autumn,” in which Hervé Courtain stole the show with slow hops and steps ending in classical fifth. In “Winter,” Hokuto Kodama filled his cheeks and “blew” the preceding couple off stage, then deftly threw off some airy turns. This reviewer, who was a guest of the company, noticed a sense of solitude in the solo of each “season.”

    Light, toe-shoed Four Seasons was followed by earthy, barefoot Cantata, first danced by Gulbenkian Ballet in 2001 and retained by Bigonzetti’s Aterballetto. As the onstage quartet, Gruppo Musicale Assurd poured out Neapolitan folk songs, macho males threw women to the floor, peasant girls argued over males, bodies rolled on the ground. The rollicking ensemble finale—a calculated crowd-pleaser—drew prolonged enthusiastic applause.


Photo by Robert Etcheverry. Les Grands Ballets Canadies in Mauro Bigonzetti’s Four Seasons.