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February 2, 2014 9:06 pm
One measure of a great choreographer is his ability to enhance his or her dancers’ natural talents; in other words, to make them look good on stage. In that respect, the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, in the vicinity of Paris for a very short tour, mounted a curiously disjointed double bill. One minute the 22-strong ensemble, known for its creative bent in the neoclassical vein, thrilled and moved; the next, they were tripped by a most unfortunate creation.
The evening started in wistful fashion with Ken Ossola’s Lux, created for the company four years ago. Its subject is Fauré’s Requiem, marvellously realised some years ago by Kenneth MacMillan as a tribute to John Cranko. Ossola’s take betrays his long career with Nederlands Dans Theater, where as a dancer he performed a number of Jiří Kylián’s works: the sculptural combination of classical lines and contemporary impulse, the fluidity of his low lifts are clearly reminiscent of the Czech master.
Lux still lacks the single, unerring thread of musicality that both MacMillan and Kylián so often display. The costumes, which show us blood running from a relief spine, are somewhat alarming, but the choreography hints at a world of possibilities for Ossola. His talent is particularly arresting in trio work (a less exhausted avenue than pas de deux), here imbued with symphonic, abstract resonance: a woman (the striking Sarawanee Tanatanit) gently drifting in the arms of two men, like a divine messenger, or a line of trios, each covering a dancer’s eyes.
Solos spring from a much more emphatic point than Fauré calls for, but much can be forgiven for another luminous image that occurs halfway through the piece. To the first notes of “Pie Jesu”, a woman, who is seemingly sleeping peacefully, extends one arm, her fingers tapping lightly on the floor, as if lost in an eerie maze. The moment heightens the delicate simplicity of Fauré’s music and etches itself in memory.
Andonis Foniadakis’s Glory offered no such restraint, however. This hodgepodge of dance clichés, first shown in 2012, barely scratches the surface of its score, a Handel medley. Frenzied, high-kicking sequences are punctuated by a sprinkling of manipulative partnering here, a dash of Pina Bausch there, with vague baroque dance references along the way; one pyramid even brought back dubious memories of synchronised swimming. The 20-strong cast navigates this muddle with manic energy, and 60 long minutes later we are none the wiser. There is no glory to be found in such choreographic shenanigans – let’s hope the Geneva dancers return with a stronger showcase.
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