Dallas — Those legs!
About the legs, later. First, some background. Ballet Biarritz was scheduled to perform Cinderella at Dallas City Performance Hall last weekend, but the sets and costumes remained somewhere in the Atlantic. Instead, we got three shorter works, all by artistic director Thierry Malandain. Even so, the company had to scramble to find props and costumes—Texas Ballet Theater and Home Depot to the rescue!
Even though each work differed in style and mood, they all displayed the most exquisite, shapely, strong legs, legs that telegraph their own code.
The opening work, Estro, set to Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico, Op. 3, called more attention to the abdomen than legs, mainly because the main figure appears in the pose of Michelango’s Pietà, and Arnaud Mahouy supports himself by his abs alone. Later, he will be cradled by Mary, or lie on his other side, but that pose is the ballet’s chief motif. According to the program notes, the ballet is about “the desire to uplift and to arrive at a summit,” but the Christ image is so striking it is impossible to ignore.
Twenty five-gallon tin cans stationed close together serve as resting places/obstacle course/summit. The ballet switches direction and mood frequently, for the Christ figure joins nine other men—all bare-chested in black pants—for jaunty, swift movement. Ten women in black dress surge forward, sometimes as a group, sometimes joining the men. The work has a geometric clarity, emphasized by V-shape arms and piston-sharp legs. In one striking section, dancers lie in a row, legs forming an upside-down V and Christ rolls over each one. It ends on a joyous note as the entire group steps up on the cans, daylight turns to night, and all lift their faces skyward.
Une Dernière Chanson (A Last Song), set to a collection of ballads and laments, is quirky, tender and endearing. The beginning has a folk dance feel, with five couples in everyday dress bouncing, rocking and hopping. At the back, clothes lie in a heap, waiting for the dancers to put on jackets. They trade them, drop them to the floor and slide their feet into them. Clothes, it seems, will be a subplot, for in each duet dancers will drape scarves over their partner, drop handkerchiefs on the floor as a gesture of delicate surrender or exchange long robes. The pas de deux are beautiful and unhurried, dancers often lying on their back, legs shooting skyward.
When the group reunites, everyone begins to disrobe. The men play a joke on us by pulling off their underpants, only to reveal there is yet another set.
The same white skivvies turns out to be the costumes for Bolero, the pale peach-colored pleated leotards designed for Bolero had been left behind. There are many versions of Bolero, and Mr. Malandain capitalizes on the repetitive, driving force of the music by creating a dance just as repetitive and with the same small variations. It is unison dancing at its most straightforward, 12 dancers moving in tandem in diagonal rows, turning one direction and then the next.
They would have looked even more contained had the glass panels designed for the purpose been used. Even so, we see how the dancers are restricted until the finale, when they explode in all directions.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
» Photos by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. To see more photos, click on the "View the Slideshow" button in the floating menu at the bottom left of your screen.