Sunday, July 24, 2016

American Ballet In Paris

Walpurgisnacht Ballet
Châtelet Theater
Hunting around for something to do one evening, we discovered tickets reserved months ago for the ballet. I was actually looking forward to a movie in the neighborhood.

My daughter expressed interest in seeing a ballet in January, something I’ve never done in Paris. But instead of booking to see a French ballet, she picked an evening with the New York City Ballet at the Châtelet Theater. Oh well.

I wanted to see French ballet in the country that made dance into an art form. (See “The King Who Invented Ballet.”)

That night, July 16, we were treated to four works—Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine, La Valse, and Symphony in C. These were all created by George Balanchine (1904-1983), who founded the company in 1948. The intention of the director of NYCB was to tell Paris: this is the way Balanchine does it, this is the way it’s done in America.

I didn't realize that where French ballet left off, the Russians took it to new dimensions. And one Russian, George Balanchine, took this dance form to the U.S. and made it American in the years after WWII. His influence led to the popularity of ballet in the U.S. and the founding of ballet schools and companies throughout the country--including the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 1969.

I told my daughter Balanchine was modern, but that's not right. It's certainly not classical ballet. You know something’s up when you see ballerinas wearing limp dresses rather than tutus. The stage is sparse. Compared with French ballerinas, the ones in this troupe take the stage rather than flutter across it. The dances tend to express abstract themes rather than tell stories. Balanchine is considered “neoclassical.”

Yet the last number, Symphony in C, was a classical crowd pleaser, a joyous romp with tutus and tiaras. The crowd roared with amazing applause, and wouldn’t let the troupe leave the stage. Did these American ballet slippers leave a mark on Paris?
Symphony in C
Châtelet Theater

Going out to see a live performance in Paris can be expensive, but I’ll give you a tip. At the Châtelet, buy the seats with an obstructed view. Our tickets were 35 euros each, and we don’t feel we missed a thing, even though we couldn’t see the left edge of the stage. To get a good deal, book in advance.