Visit to Les Ballets de Monte Carlo

March 31, 2009

A brief visit to the Beausoleil studios of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo today suggested a professional environment that many dancers can only dream of—in the magnificent, spacious studios, called “L’Atelier” (an area adjacent to Monte Carlo, proper). The name itself is revealing (“The Workshop”), and here artistic director Jean-Christophe Maillot choreographs new works and dancers train to hone their technique.

Today “L’Atelier” was quiet—as all the dancers were on tour in Germany. Nonetheless, the director’s motto of “Living well” fills the space, from the dancers’ spa (saunas and jacuzzi), chaise lounge area on the roof (with full sea view), and laundry facilities, to the in-house café exclusively for the dancers. Four Rolex clocks had just been donated to the studios, one of which hung prominently in the café.

The company has serious funding from the Monegasque government—no donor dinners or parties with the paparazzi needed—this is a company beholden to no one. Except Jean-Christophe Maillot, and of course their patron, HRH the Princess of Hanover (Princess Caroline).

What looks to me as the downside of the company is the huge amount of touring—this season (October 08 through July 09) the company toured throughout France, and in Tokyo, Serbia, Spain, UK, Israel, and Italy. All dancers go on tour, even though just a handful may be dancing at any one time. Nevertheless, the company has flourished under the 10 year-plus reign of Jean- Christophe Maillot, and next year, the touring will slow down some as the company prepares for Ballets Russes heritage festivals (in December–January 2010, March–April, and in July).

Enter Noelani Pantastico, who is finding her way in Monte Carlo. Pantastico, who’s been with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo for seven months, has joined the ranks of a growing list of American dancers emigrating to companies abroad (see Dance Magazine, “From Dance to Danse,” January 2009, or online as European Dreamin’). Other Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers have preceded her—Lisa Apple and Anne Derieux, for example.

Pantastico had a dream of a season last year with PNB. But with Monte Carlo, she’s getting her wish—to dive into the choreography of one master dance maker—Maillot. So far, she’s performed La Belle (Maillot’s Sleeping Beauty), in Japan in February and Juliette in Italy in December. More recently, Ms. Pantastico has worked with Nicolo Fonte and Matjash Mrozewski for their new premieres this July in Monte Carlo. That’s a lot for the new girl on the block.

In a telephone conversation last week, Pantastico mentioned that, early on, some of the dancers in the company would come up to her and ask how she felt about performing less (referring to her season with Pacific Northwest Ballet last year, with a lot of exposure in new roles). But for the ballerina, this is just part of “starting over.” In Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, there is some rank and hierarchy, but the lines are often blurred with ensemble work. Apparently, it’s a big team effort to make Jean-Christophe happy, and there is little room for ego. What is clear, from even casual conversations at the studios today, is that the coaching, mentoring, and especially the creative process of dance-making is alive and well with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Even Diaghilev himself would be proud.