Call Board

September 20, 2012

Étoile at Work

Marie-Agnès Gillot makes her first piece for the Paris Opéra Ballet.

Though Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot has been experimenting with choreography for a few years, she was surprised when artistic director Brigitte Lefèvre proposed she make a work on the company. “It’s not something I dreamed of or expected,” Gillot says. “But immediately the ideas started coming.”

Her new ballet, Sous Apparence, will premiere at the Palais Garnier this October. It’s a collaboration with musical dramaturg Laurence Equilbey—who helped her choose the collaged score, which includes works by Anton Bruckner, Morton Feldman and György Ligeti—and visual artist Olivier Mosset. “One of my thoughts about the piece was that it would address the various wars we have in our lives; in dance especially, we have to fight so much,” Gillot says. “Olivier’s response was to create a big sculpture for the middle of the stage, like the barriers they put in the street to stop trucks during a war. We call it ‘The Toblerone,’ because it looks like one!”

The work’s title, which loosely translates to “A Semblance Of,” was another jumping-off point for Gillot. “It came from the phrase, ‘Les apparences sont innocent de nos erreurs,’ ” she says. “It means that we cannot tell, from peoples’ outer appearances, what mistakes they have made. We have the power to hide our errors. But in the ballet, the idea is to go underneath that mask.”

Gillot’s cast, which she and Lefèvre chose together, includes étoile Laëtitia Pujol and several promising soloists. “I want them to be completely androgynous,” Gillot says. “The men are wearing pointe shoes—they were all very excited about ordering their first pairs!—but they won’t be doing caricatures of women’s steps on pointe. My goal is to create a new language.”


Joffrey Revisits The Green Table

The Joffrey Ballet commemorates the 80th anniversary of Kurt Jooss’ antiwar masterpiece The Green Table this October, performing the ballet as part of its “Human Landscapes” program. “There are some ballets that don’t age well, but this is not one of them,” says the Joffrey’s Fabrice Calmels, who returns to the role of Death, which he danced when the company last mounted the piece five years ago. “It’s an iconic, powerful work of art.”

Eerie and macabre, The Green Table was inspired by the totentanz, a series of medieval images depicting people dancing with death. Jooss transformed it into a metaphor for the horrors of modern war. His Death is hypnotic and commanding, a robotic skeleton claiming victim after victim.

Calmels first learned the part from Jooss’ daughter Anna Markard, who set the ballet on companies around the world after her father’s death in 1979. “This ballet was in Anna’s heart—she lived it for years,” Calmels says. “I appreciate how meticulous she was with the details, because it is such a detailed ballet. The first time I danced Death, we worked on every finger, on the tiniest aspects of posture. The choreography is so distinctive that eventually it overtakes you. It becomes a part of you.”

In With the New at PNB

This year marks Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 40th anniversary. “It’s hard to know how to program that,” says artistic director Peter Boal. “Do you sit back and look again at the grandest achievements you’ve reached over time? Or do you roll the dice and do something completely new?”

Boal opted for new. This November, PNB presents an all-premiere program that includes works by Mark Morris and company members Andrew Bartee, Kiyon Gaines and Margaret Mullin. “It’s a bit of a risk, of course, and not just in the sense that it’s four world premieres—these are also the first works Andrew and Margaret have ever made for the main company,” Boal says. (Gaines choreographed his first mainstage work for PNB, M-Pulse, in 2008.) “But though they’re young, they’ve both made original, well-crafted pieces for our choreographer’s workshop. I think they’re ready for the big time.”

 All three of the company members choreographing for the program are also rehearsing Morris’ piece. “Mark is hilarious, and in rehearsals he’s constantly blurting out things like, ‘Oh, that was such an awful step I just made—you can have that for your ballet, Andrew!’” Boal says. “But he’s also been talking to the three of them about their music choices. It’s not a peer-to-peer relationship, but at the moment they are a team of choreographers sharing this company, and they’re making the most of that.”

Three’s Company in Las Vegas

Nevada Ballet Theatre opens its first season at the new Smith Center in Las Vegas this October with a little help from its friends. The company will collaborate with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Ballet West to perform Balanchine’s Jewels, with Ballet West dancing “Emeralds,” NBT, “Rubies” and PNB, “Diamonds.” In a nod to Jewels lore—legend has it that some dazzling Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry inspired Mr. B to create the ballet—Van Cleef & Arpels will sponsor the performances.

A Premiere by One of NYCB’s Own

New York City Ballet corps member Justin Peck will present his second work for NYCB—and his first ballet to premiere in the company’s home theater at Lincoln Center—this October. The work, a collaboration with popular singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, will build on Tales of a Chinese Zodiac, which Peck made for the New York Choreographic Institute in 2010.

Ratmansky’s Latest for ABT

A new work by resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, will highlight American Ballet Theatre’s fall season at New York City Center. The ballet is to be the first in a trio of abstract pieces, all set to Shostakovich, which will be presented together as an evening-length work during ABT’s spring 2013 season. It will join an extremely small group of abstract full-length ballets.