This is what I love about the world of ballet and every other artform for that matter: there is always more to discover.
Last week, a fellow dancer and I were swapping YouTube ballet video suggestions, and she asked me, “have you seen The Concert by Jerome Robbins?” As someone who prides themselves on watching many, many ballets, I was loathe to admit that no, I had not yet seen The Concert. Truth be told, I had not even heard of this ballet. (What kind of a ballet dancer AM I?! ) After much self-berating, I went home and looked it up on YouTube.
Within the first minute, I giggled. Then, I laughed. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face as I guffawed with unabashed joy.
WHERE THE HECK HAS THIS BALLET BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!
Dearest readers, this ballet is proof positive that ballet can be funny AND beautiful at the same time. This ballet combines comedic timing with impeccable technique, exquisite lines, and a great cast of dancers.
The leading lady, aka “Ballerina” danced by Dorothee´Gilbert (this woman has incredible talent), makes no bones about flexing her foot and spreading her arms as wide as a gangly eagle as she charges forward into a huge, hilarious lift with her partner, and yet every move is carefully designed. Her line is not sacrificed in the name of entertainment, and this is what really blew me away as I watched The Concert unfold. Each and every dancer was on point, no pun intended, and the effect was remarkable.
The storyline is comprised of various short scenes reminiscent of Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Paul Signac. The music is familiar to me, as my mother used to practice Chopin every day on the piano. I loved watching this unique interpretation of his famous pieces, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to separate the memory of this dance from the music. The pianist herself is actually on the stage, playing an active role in the storytelling. I won’t spoil the ending, but be sure to watch to the very last minute – it is well worth it!
For dancers and balletomanes alike, there are so many wonderful moments of “inside jokes” representing the best and worst of what people perceive to be the World of Ballet. Also, as a dancer myself, I cannot tell you how many times I put Palm To Face recalling similar situations from my own dance memories. Those moments when the dancer forgets a step, or the male partner does not quite have the aptitude to successfully lift his ballerina.
The best part of this whole experience is that Mr. Robbins shines a light on human nature. The Concert is a microcosm of our ballet society. He gives us the hard-core fan, the angry critic, the wealthy couple, the disenfranchised theatre-goer, and the people-pleasing opportunist, to name a few. You will see yourself and/or others in these caricatures, and you will love it.
We all know Jerome Robbins is one of the great geniuses in the world of dance, but now that he is gone, there are new generations of dancers and dance enthusiasts who have missed out on his gift. For me, it is moments like this, when I am presented the opportunity to experience one of his ballets for the first time, that I can discover his brilliance on my own. I wish with all my heart that more great ballets like this one were regularly offered out here in L.A. – and we do have a lot of wonderful dance here. However, for those of us who do not hold season passes to Lincoln Center or The Paris Opera House or (insert your favorite ballet establishment/theatre-going experience here), I am grateful to have the internet. I know it is not the same as seeing a show live, but hey: I now know that this fantastic ballet exists. Which means, the next chance I get to see it in the flesh, you better believe I’ll be willing to pay whatever is necessary to get a ticket. You can’t put a price on laughter.
The Concert or The Perils of Everybody
Choreography: Jerome Robbins (1956) adjusted by Jean-Pierre Frohlich
Music: Frédéric Chopin pieces pour piano
Opéra national de Paris (2008)
La pianiste: Vessela Pelovska
Un homme: Stéphane Phavorin
2 demoiselles: Alexandra Cardinale, Clara Delfino
Ballerina: Dorothée Gilbert
Une fille en colére: Laure Muret
La femme: Laurence Laffon
Le mari: Alessio Carbone
L’étudiant timide: Emmanuel Thibault
Le controleur: Grégory Dominiak
Une homme: Jean-Christophe Guerri