Paris Opera Ballet

March 31, 1999

Paris Opera Ballet

Palais Garnier
Paris, France

March 31-April 14, 1999

Reviewed by Karyn Bauer

“A triumph.” “Prodigious.” “Forsythe at his best!” These were some of the comments that could be heard in the halls of the Palais Garnier following Paris Opéra Ballet’s performance of Woundwork I and Pas./parts, the product of William Forsythe’s first collaboration with the POB dancers in twelve years. At the evening’s close, the crowd exploded with joy.

A revival of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, a twelve-year-old piece that has lost none of its edge, opened the evening. This was one of the rare occasions when spectators could actually feel the dancers’ efforts as they struggled through the violence of the piece. Performed on a barren stage to the grating, repetitious industrial sounds of Forsythe’s longtime music coordinator, Thom Willems, the dancers fought their way through a trying series of movements like well-oiled machines in motion.

Woundwork I, a twelve-minute quartet featuring Carole Arbo, Isabelle Guérin, Manuel Legris, and Laurent Hilaire, was a test of technical strength–a slow change after In the Middle, but no less dizzying. The tight, intertwined movements performed by the quartet gave meaning to the piece’s evocative title.

The evening came to a majestic close with what many spectators considered Forsythe’s most complete and fully developed piece, Pas./parts. Rarely have spectators and dancers been fused in such a state of tension as here, where twenty of POB’s best-known and least-known names rushed through a pachinko -like series of fast-paced pastiches.

Piece by piece, the dancers constructed a study in movement and color. The integration of pointe shoes with the contemporary stage was vertiginous as the dancers rocked between the security of the earth and the vastness of the void. Wrapped in and around themselves and each other, the choreography shuttled from solos to duets and back to solos before culminating in a group celebration.

Forsythe not only worked with the ballet’s well-known soloists, he also gave the spotlight to lesser-known dancers such as Peggy Grelat, Ghyslaine Reichert, and Nathalie Ziegler, who dazzled a captivated crowd. A most memorable performance came from lauded etoile Kader Belarbi, who wore the Forsythe style choreography like a glove, and proved the scope of his talent.