Ballet artists from Opera de Paris, Frederic Fontan, Muriel Zusperreguy and Benjamin Pech talked about the evolution of its technique. By Kritika Dua
Ballet has come of age with the danseur not being restricted to the background or seen as a mere accessory, who comes to the fore to lift the Ballerina. Contemporary ballet allows him to be at the same level with the girl by providing the male dancer with a crucial role.
Muriel Zusperreguy, Premiere Danseuse, Opera de Paris said, “Contemporary ballet has revolutionised the way we view it as the male ballet dancers are given equal importance — the treatment and moves as ballerinas, encouraging more danseurs who are passionate for the craft to consider it as a fine career option.”
Paris Ballet Legend artfully presented eight performances based on histoire d’amour, all duets, to pay tribute to the city of love, along with celebrating the writers and artists who considered it as their muse. Frederic Fontan, artistic director exclaimed, “I am excited to bring classical and contemporary ballet from my homelandto India. I have tried to create a show which narrates the evolution of the ballet technique, coupled with Paris — be it the composers, choreographers or the saga from Marius Petipa to Édith Piaf, Georges Bizet to Jacques Prévert. We have picked diverse love stories encapsulating various moods of love — from dramatic to sensual to tragedy.” The alluring performance was staged at Siri Fort auditorium and was organised by Bonjour India.
Children Of Paradise, adapted from the film directed by Marcel Carné and Singer Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien were some of the inspirations for the pieces of narrative ballet. Added he, “We have tried to recreate the ambience of Opéra de Paris and used classical scores. But for the Indian audience we have brought certain fantasy tales from the European point of view which can seamlessly blend with their culture, sensibilities, vibrancy and costumes.”
One of the danse duo was performed by Muriel Zusperreguy and Benjamin Pech and is based on Petipa’s La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer). With India as the background, the story revolves around the tragic love story of temple dancer Nikiya and a Prince named Solor. Nikiya, a beautiful lady with a pure soul belongs to the lower class of the society. On the other hand, the prince is betrothal to marry someone he is not in love with. When the king of Golconda comes to know of the blooming love between the Prince and the dancer, he releases a snake during a social gathering where she gets bitten and dies. The Prince, unaware of the treacherous scheme goes in search of her, only to realise that she is gone forever.
Zusperreguy asserted, “Ballet allows me to be free, using my body to express myself in a way no other form allows. On stage, I tend to forget myself immersing into the character I am playing. Sadly, not many opt for this profession so I take pride in being one of the few.”
For Zusperreguy, ballet has always been a part of his life, a three decade old association.
“I was introduced to this dance form when I was 11-year-old, before which I was inclined towards jazz dance. But now Ballet is what defines me.”
The 43-year-old emphasised that it’s a difficult profession to be in, not everyone is gifted, it’s also physically draining at times, the very reason for a mass dropout from professional classes. “I have met some really talented dancers but they couldn’t keep up with the strenuous routine or serious injuries forcing them to quit. But it all depends on the kind of professional training one has been under and their physical as well as mental resistance.” Adding to it, Fontan said that there are some competent dancers but they remain as part of the ensemble due to the lack of motivation and thus, are unable to become a principal dancer.
Talking about the evolution of traditional ballet over time, he noted, “The dancers are the one who should been given credit for making the art appealing to the present-day audience. Elements like mimic and pantomime used during the earlier times are gradually fading away. But I strongly believe that we have to keep the traditional school alive along with modernising with the passage of time. Now, the onus lies on me to bring contemporarity to my performance.”
Benjamin Pech, Etoile, Opera de Paris said, “I am here to offer something different to the Indian audience which they are not used to. Such opportunities is a rare occurrence so we want to do our best.”
Said Etoile: “The challenge to do something different, offering something fresh to the audience by getting into the shoes of various characters is what keeps me motivated to continue being a ballerina.” She was attracted to ballet due to the beautiful costume, tutu at a young age.
The performance also had three duets, inspired by classic European tales and three pedido in ballet — seduction, resistance and abandon.
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