Abstract/Life Jean Christophe Maillot’s enigmatic new creation premiered in Monte-Carlo

A fantastic voyage to the day after the end of the world

The new mystifying creation by Jean-Christophe Maillot for his dancers at the Ballets of Monte-Carlo, entitled Abstract/Life, world premiered at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte-Carlo from April 26-29, 2018. Maillot’s new creation was part of a double program together with Balanchine’s remake of Violin Concerto.

From the very beginning, Abstract/Life invited the audience to enter an obscure world inhabited by strange creatures. Dancers had transformed into half human half animal, beautiful mysterious beasts, dancing, jumping and crawling, taking the audience to the day after the end of our world, and to the depth of their souls, confronting them to their darkest fears while giving infinite hope.

These fascinating somber creatures worked in tandem, and then were clinging to each other, remaining physically and emotionally so close they become one. They squirmed and scrabbled moving back and forth on all fours as animals do. They leaped high and with incredible force in a show of strength and infinite passion. The audience was in awe, engrossed in this intense, spectacular and esoteric ballet, with the music pounding in their chests. It was difficult to come back to reality when the lights went completely off and the curtain closed, leaving the audience kind of trapped on the stage, not able to escape.

A collaborative masterpiece

Abstract/Lifeis a collaborative masterpiece by the creative genius of extraordinary choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot coupled with the artistic collaboration of Bernice Coppieters and Gaetan Morlotti; innovative music by well known composer Bruno Mantovani and beautifully interpreted by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Pascal Rophe with soloist Cellist Marc Coppey; the magical staging imagined by Aimée Moreni with lights by celebrated Dominique Drillot.

Aimee Moreni’s first collaboration with Maillot is magical

This new Maillot’s creation Abstract/Life is truly spectacular, and fabulously interpreted by his gorgeous superb dancers, who invaded and became part of the somber cavernous stage imagined by artist Aimée Moreni in close collaboration with celebrated Dominique Drillot responsible for the lighting design in an interplay of gleaming shadows. Moreni, a young artist (b.1990 in Paris), created the sublime scenography and costumes, inspired by the day after the end of the world. Her work is built around an experimental and sensitive research about light and the magical universe it generates.

Mantovani’s music guided Maillot in his choreographic exploration

This enigmatic long ballet was developed from a violin and orchestra concert Abstract, created by Bruno Mantovani, whose 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 this music. The composer created an abstract, alternating dazzling speed, contrasts and expectations, then he submitted his piece to the choreographer who based his ballet on the basic idea of something detached from physical, or concrete, reality.

It was a clear departure from the way Maillot usually works, as he generally listens to the music to inspire him and guide him in his choreography exploration.   But in this case he proceeded in reverse, as he explained: “I sat down looking at the dancers, enveloped in this music and, rather than stand up and improvise movements with them in the studio, I drew from my bank of movements. I embarked on a meticulous plan of choreographic writing based on the choreographic vocabulary I developed over thirty years.”

When listening to Abstract, the score Bruno Mantovani composed for his new ballet, Jean- Christophe Maillot found that this conceptual music generated more images than suggested in the title. “Music cannot but trigger emotions in me, even complex contemporary music. For me, music represents art in its most absolute form. However invisible and elusive, it always relates to a perception of the world that engenders emotion, hence movement.”

Maillot found Mantovani’s music abundant bursting with life, so he decided to expand the original title given by its composer, renaming his ballet Abstract/Life. Maillot said: “I’m often amazed at the difference between our perception of things and their reality. For example, when you see people in the street, you imagine their lives, their joys and sorrows… You feel you understand them because they are like you. Yet, nothing is more abstract and undecipherable than a crowd in a public place. Life files by and thought actually has little to say about it.”

See the music, hear the dance  

The ballet Violin Concerto, with music composed by Igor Stravinsky, is the result of a fruitful partnership with the violinist Samuel Dushkin, and later interpreted for dance by Balanchine. He created a first choreographic version, titled Balustrade, in 1941 for the Original Ballets Russes, presented on 22 January in New York, conducted by Igor Stravinsky and Samuel Dushkin playing solo violin.

Thirty years later, when Balanchine returned to this score, his original choreography was forgotten. “What is created at a given time is valid for that time…” he said. Wishing to pay tribute to Stravinsky, who had passed away the previous year, at the Festival bearing his late friend’s name, Balanchine decided to recreate a ballet to the Violin Concerto’s music, focused entirely on the relationship between ballet and music, pursuing his great dream: “See the music, hear the dance.” In creating this completely fresh work, Balanchine produced an entirely new ballet that instantly became one of his masterpieces. The writer Nancy Goldner wrote that Violin Concerto was “the most visual music composition Balanchine ever choreographed.”

Igor Stravinsky had obviously sensed Balanchine’s exceptional gift: “Balustrade, the ballet that George Balanchine and Pavel Tchelitchew made of the Violin Concerto, was one of the most satisfactory visualizations of any of my works. Balanchine composed the choreography as he listened to my recording, and I could actually observe him conceiving gesture, movement, combination and composition. The result was a series of dialogues perfectly complementary to and coordinated with the dialogues of the music.”

Violin Concerto was premiered by New York City Ballet on June 18, 1972, Stravinsky Festival, New York State Theater, and was performed for the first time by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo on December 28th 1986, Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo and enchanted the audience once again this year.

Today’s Quote

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Martha Graham

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