Behind the scenes of Abstract Life, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s newest creation

A new ballet is born from partition by Bruno Mantovani

This past Tuesday, March 27, 2018, I was at the Ballets de Monte-Carlo state-of-the-art Studio, and had the privilege to preview the working rehearsal of the new creation by Jean-Christophe Maillot entitled Abstract Life, before the performance’s opening at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco from April 26-29, 2018.

The piece was developed from a violin and orchestra concert. Bruno Mantovani’s score was commissioned by Marc Monnet, Artistic Advisor of the Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo, for Jean-Christophe Maillot to create a ballet from the music. Sensitive to the way Maillot appropriates all types of music, the composer created an abstract, alternating dazzling speed, contrasts and expectations, then he submitted his piece to the choreographer with whom he had already collaborated in 2004 in the occasion of the superb ballet Miniatures.

This new Maillot’s creation is a tour de force, where the dancers took the studio’s stage by storm during rehearsal, they worked in tandem, and then were clinging to each other, remaining physically and emotionally so close they become one. They took the floor on all fours moving back and forth transforming themselves into members of the animal kingdom. They jumped high and with force in a show of strength and passion. For an instant I became part of their unique universe when they came running furiously towards me, we could almost touch!

The privilege of being like a fly on the wall

Watching a rehearsal offers a remarkable insight into the way productions are prepared for performance. No one notices an additional body, because the room is always busy, with dancers on the floor repeating their parts, and others working on the barre, or stretching elsewhere. Jean-Christophe Maillot and ballet master Bernice Coppieters by his side, meticulously focused on the details of just about everything, the position of the arms, location of the hips and posture of the shoulders, the tempo, to jump with force and very high but land softly, and most importantly constantly reminding the dancers to express their emotions! They do have to perfect their technique but they are encouraged to feel the dance, and connect with the music, to reach the audience and touch their soul.

Being in the Studio, so close to the dancers and choreographer, is both an educational and inspiring experience, a unique chance to observe the work that goes into the performance that we see onstage. It is revealing to see a dancer make an effort to figure out what the choreographer wants, and try again and again to get it just right. You get to discover what a choreographer wants from their piece and from his or her dancers. The final production is the result of the time that ballet dancers dedicate to perfecting ballet, from the basics to the complicated choreography, but being present when they practice and put the final touches is a totally different experience, exhilarating!

As fantastic as it is to sit in the theater in darkness, watching dancers put a big show in costumes and makeup, I confess I prefer watching classes and rehearsals, because you enter their private territory, and have the chance to learn what it takes to truly be a dancer. The pirouettes and jumps look wonderful onstage under the lights, but for me it is even more gratifying to be at their studio, in close contact with the dancers, listening to their heavy breathing, seeing the drops of perspiration run through their perfectly toned bodies, watching them repeat over and over again without showing the pain, in their search for excellence. Priceless!

Today’s Quote

“You need to make mistakes in rehearsal because that’s how you find out what works and what doesn’t.” Clark Peters


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