Thursday, February 24, 2011: Generous Gestures
When it comes to choreography, Jean-Christophe Maillot does not skimp on gestures.
That’s what dancers at the National Theatre Ballet are learning in detail right now, as they rehearse for the mid-April Czech premiere of Mr Maillot’s Cinderella. The renown choreographer of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo created this Cinderella to Sergei Prokofiev’s score in 1999.
Here in the National Theatre’s practice studio, three ballerinas repeat the same 43 seconds of the dance again and again. Every hand movement, every point of the index finger, every tilt of the chin expresses emotion and story.
“Poom! Doom–down. Push-push-push and you’re going to come around and go ‘What did you do?!’” Mr Maillot’s artistic assistant Giovanna Lorenzoni, a former dancer with The English National Ballet, instructs the trio of Prague ballerinas. She’ll be in Prague perfecting the performance mostly from now until the first opening night, April 14. Mr Maillot is expected to be in Prague to oversee the final touches during the last week before the premiere.
“It’s the gesture, always the support of the gesture,” Mrs Lorenzoni tells Opus Osm. “The gesture of Jean-Christophe gives the sense of the ballet. Simplicity and pureness of the gesture is important. Then I have the support, the emotion,” she explains.
Mr Maillot’s choreographies are “really like acting,” she continues. They have a cinematic quality, she believes, and are famous for their story-within-a-story quality.
Mr Maillot’s vision of Cinderella — a story whose foundations were laid with an ancient Chinese myth, retold by a 3rd century Roman writer — doesn’t focus on Cinderella as the poor, powerless victim. Instead, this Cinderella is a completely natural, ordinary girl. The ballet begins with Cinderella looking fondly at a dress left by her mother, who has recently died; and now Cinderella finds herself a part of a new, “blended family.” Mr Maillot’s Cinderella emphasizes the eternal, supportive quality of love rising above all circumstances.
“And of course we have this Fairy,” Mrs Lorenzoni explains. “It’s not like this fairy that comes in, crazy all the time. She’s got a very warm dimension, reminding us that love is there all the time. When we lose somebody we love, whether through death or by changes in the family, we always still feel their presence, the representation of love. The big support is love. It makes life possible. Otherwise we would — just stop,” she says.
It’s the role of the Fairy that the three young dancers — Sylva Nečasová, Aya Watanabe, and Nicole Delacretaz — are rehearsing today. Of these dancers, Mrs Lorenzoni says, “I can ask them [to do] very precise things. Here they understand things very well, the marriage of precision training and their own personality.”
She reassures anyone who may be hesitant about attending a ballet performance because they’re afraid they won’t understand it.
“You have the freedom to come [to the performance] and read it like a fairy tale — or a psychology text — or to enjoy the emotions, the musicality, the beautiful visuals.”
On the other hand, she adds, “What is important is for us to [do the] work, with the dimensions of sensation, movement, gesture, musicality, reality.”
A generous gesture, indeed.
The National Theatre Ballet premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cinderella will be held two nights, April 14 and 15.
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnicka