Paris Opera Ballet to awake the sense of wonder

French Connections

Australian Print Workshop
Paris study tour
May – June 2018

French Connections, part 5

French Connections, part 1
French Connections, part 2
French Connections, part 3
French Connections, part 4
French Connections, part 5
French Connections, part 7

(Post) French Connections, part 1
(Post) French Connections, part 2
(Post) French Connections, part 3
(Post) French Connections, part 4

30th May:
“Sculpture and dance have much in common. A dancer works the human body like clay, shaping it into new forms, defying the laws of gravity and striving to express the whole range of human passions” (Rodin and Dance, Musée Rodin). A body in natural movement, and there flowed Isadora Duncan (on the screen, eternal), arms outstretched, embrace forthcoming. A body angular allurement and tactility, a Nijinsky-Faun. A body seated, Père Tanguy. A body mesmerised by Loïe Fuller’s swoop-sweep on repeat. Colour me splendid. Reflected in the mirror, behind Victor Hugo, a continuous rope of tourists, arms extended, phones and cameras in hand, the body is a spring, quite true, Rodin. Coil back, extend, ‘take the picture, take the picture’, store the visual memory. Pass by Mozart’s head, the Hand of God, the Burghers of Calais, and the cloakroom to your right. Assemble your own movements with the pieces you can almost touch. Arabesque, attitude, rond de jambe en l’air for you. A figure, a piece of clay, yet in that moment, light. From the Musée du Quai Branly to the Musée Rodin, the art of moment through collection and marble, sensory fuel, amassed, claimed, revealed, before the thunder and lightning of evening.

31st May:
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”
— Claude Monet

(“From 1886, Monet has focused on capturing the changing qualities of natural light in his garden. The eight panels presented .... evoke the passing of the hours from sunrise in the east to sunset in the west”. The “endless whole” of Monet’s Water Lilies, at the Musée de l’Orangerie.)


31st May (continued):
Much beauty can be squeezed into a morning and early afternoon and many chandeliers wrapped, revisiting the Musée des Arts décoratifs. By chance, it was the first museum we two mice went to when we arrived in Paris for the first time (in 2010), and it did not disappoint in 2018. With extra thanks to the guard who showed us his sketchbook, kept handy in his pocket, who made the experience that bit more cinematic.

(In addition to the permanent collection, De Calder à Koons, bijoux d’artists — La collection idéale de Diane Venet; Roman Cieslewicz — La fabrique des images; and Margiela les Années Hermès.)

* * *

Long have I waited to sit below Marc Chagall’s painted ceiling (1964) at the Palais Garnier, to “awake[n] the sense of wonder in the world”.


31st May (continued) / 1st June:
Yesterday, we began our day within Monet’s circle of Water Lilies, that “endless whole” you can dive into anywhere between sunrise and sunset, and we concluded our day, swimming through the seasons in Crystal Pite’s return to the Palais Garnier with The Seasons’ Canon, to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ as felt by Max Richter, once more in a circle with no beginning and no end. A timeless loop which tossed both the Paris Opera Ballet dancers on stage, and me in the audience, like a dandelion, that French “lion’s tooth” (‘dent-de-lion’), spinning, hurtling, untethered in the wind. The movements of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, rose, blew, rippled, and shook, and we took shelter beneath Chagall’s painted ceiling, on fold-down place in the Orchestra seats. On the stage, and in my chest, spring’s explosion of bird song and a downpour, a summer storm, the carpet of autumn, and the chatter and hush of winter. “So [concluded Vivaldi] it is the winter, but it also has great beauties”.

From James Thierrée’s sequinned, slithering, scaled dream, cascading through the public areas of the theatre with Frôlons, ruffling and beautifully uncertain, to the unsettling cry of abandonment torn from Hofesh Shechter’s (@hofeshco) The Art of Not Looking Back, and Iván Pérez’s (@ivanperezaviles) The Male Dancer, which began with Nijinsky momentarily incarnated as a faun capable of hovering mid-air, with infamous scarf, and a man like the spirit of a rose (Fokine’s Le Spectre de la rose). As bodies rippled en masse, made like machinery parts, a human engine gave way to a collage of all the paintings I had seen of late — cast out at sea, a tragedy, — I felt the prickle of goose-bumps on my skin, and a fish hook in my chest. Utterly submerged, from start to finish.

I look forward to taking you in my pocket to revisit these four pieces when I get a chance, but for now, after such a sublime thump, crash, rip to the senses, I must throw Versailles at Thursday.

“When i choreograph, it is the very act of creating and observing that connects me most deeply with the natural world, with the brutality and beauty it contains.”
Crystal Pite

1st June:
This time last night, we were at the Palais Garnier for Thierrée, Shechter, Pérez, and Pite, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. This time last night, we saw movements upon the stage passed from one to another like whispers and electrical currents. We saw all manner of forms evoked from the heavens and drawn from the earth, from the historical to a newly formed and forming language. This time last night, as we took pictures, jaws slackened in awe, Anne (@annelvirgo) captured the other side of the lens. Thank-you Anne, and APW, for this wonderful opportunity. It was lovely to share this with you, Megan (@nutmegandhoney) and Martin (@rocklord39).


Image credit: Paris Opera Ballet, Palais Garnier