By now we’re deep in our second week of performances at the Chatelet Theater in the heart of Paris, and we’re as busy as ever with rehearsals and performances. It’s a beautiful theater to work at every day, and although I do love the War Memorial Opera House back home, there’s something majestic about looking out from the stage at the archways and ornate decorations on the walls and ceilings here. The rings climb upwards to a fifth level and create almost a “wall” of audience that makes the public feel very close. From the house it feels like an intimate venue even though it seats 2,500. The acoustics are amazing and the orchestra sounds so clear and vibrant, maybe it has something to do with the bare wood floor. One also feels intimate with history here, in the theater and in all of Paris for that matter. The Ballets Russes premiered Stravinsky and Fokine’s Petroushka at the Chatelet in 1911, and Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Mahler, Strauss, and Debussy all conducted their own work here as well. We are just across the street from Notre Dame cathedral, and we are literally steps away from the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was imprisioned before she met the guillotine. Its something remarkable to dance in a theater and a city like this, where you feel a part of the history of art and human existence!
The only challenge about dancing at the Chatelet, however, is the fact that the stage is raked! Like many other theaters around the world, the stage is angled toward the audience, thankfully here at only a 1% grade. I remember dancing at the Palais Garnier 14 years ago, where the rake must be at least 5%, and it was so difficult to dance, especially to pirouette! Pirouetting on a rake is definitely more difficult, but not impossible, we just have to adapt and hold our weight in a different way. This week I finally feel a little more secure, compared to the first few days where I felt like I was on a moving ship every time I would turn!
Last night we opened Hummingbird for the Parisian audience, Liam Scarlett’s beautiful new ballet that we premiered in San Francisco last season. I think its safe to say it went over very well as we bowed for what felt like 10 minutes! Its a favorite piece of mine to dance, it combines classical technique with contemporary sensibilities in a way that makes sense to me. And the choreography is very musical, which makes it such a pleasure to dance (and watch!). Liam was here for rehearsals and the performance (London is only a train ride away), so the evening felt special, almost like a second world premiere.
Tonight for me is another performance of Mark Morris’ Maelstrom, and the company also performs Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour, and Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces, which brought the house down two days ago. Let’s hope it has the same effect tonight!
A tout a l’heure!