Director-Choreographer of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Jean-Christophe Maillot, has created something a little different for his Company’s next production which opens on April 28th. In a departure from full-length, narrative works, he has created five short, abstract pieces for a ballet entitled Choré – the French diminutive of ‘choreography’.
Jean-Christophe Maillot has never been one to shun controversy or to pass up the opportunity of delving into the inner meaning of life. This somewhat enigmatic choreographer is described as being “neither classical nor contemporary, not even between the two”, refusing to adhere to any one style. He designs dance, it is said, “like a dialogue where tradition on pointes and the avant-garde are no longer mutually exclusive”. Rosella Hightower referred to the life of her one-time student as “a union of opposites”.
Having initially studied dance and piano at the Conservatoire National de Région de Tours, Jean-Christophe Maillot then joined the Rosella Hightower International School of Dance in Cannes. He won the Prix de Lausanne in 1977, and was invited to join John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet where he danced principal roles for five years until his career was brought to an end by an accident. In 1983 he was appointed choreographer and director of the Ballet du Grand Théatre de Tours, founding the Dance Festival ‘Le Choréographique’ in 1985. He became Artistic Advisor for the 1992-93 season of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and was appointed to his present position by HRH the Princess of Hanover in September 1993.
For this next production, Maillot has collaborated with writer Jean Rouaud – winner of the 1990 Prix Goncourt for his novel, Fields of Glory – set designer, Dominique Drillot and costume designer, Philippe Guillotel, setting Choré against a backdrop of the emergence of musical theatre in the United States.
The view which the ballet presents of this period in American show business history is described as characteristic of both Maillot’s work and his thinking – his ever-enquiring mind posing a series of questions, this time about the evolution of dance, dealing with an obsession of his: the fight between the old and the new. “What does dance feed on?” he asks. “How far can it be liberated? At what point does it demand its share of beauty, humour and the past to still feel alive?” The world of musical theatre, he believes, offers an important insight into the answers to these questions, and he uses this theme as a basis for developing his own solutions.
Maillot reminds us that dance is primarily the response to an urge, leading him to contrast our desire to rise into the air against the force of gravity. He reasons that the dancer has to make a choice, whether to fight against this force or to embrace it – a dilemma which he believes has long provided the demarcation between the old and the new, particularly when one takes into account the use of pointes. To illustrate this view, Jean-Christophe Maillot compares “the light and elegant style of Fred Astaire to the furious and grounded pounding of Gene Kelly”.
To develop his theme, he uses the five sections of Choré, which he considers represent the “major, recurring antagonisms that trouble the world of dance”. He draws into the debate the role of music, its relationship with the story, connections with theatre, cinema and literature – but doesn’t attempt to either reconcile or remove these differences. Instead, Choré makes “the ironic observation that the constraints that we seek to shrug off are those that we will most surely find on our path. Pushing the boundaries of art only makes even those borders that we thought we had escaped more visible”.
True to the style of this highly creative choreographer, Choré looks certain to provide a thought-provoking experience.
The first section is set to music by J S Bach, and the second and third to pieces by contemporary French composers, Bertrand Maillot and Yan Maresz respectively. Contemporary American composer, John Cage, provides the music for the fourth section, and the accompaniment to the fifth is listed simply as “Improvised drum solo”.
Choré runs from April 25th to 28th at the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco. For further information, please visit the Ballets de Monte-Carlo website. For tickets, please visit the Cultural Events page of the Grimaldi Forum website