Love triumphs in La Belle by Jean-Christophe Maillot

Unconventional twist of a child’s tale

The current version of La Belle, the story of an impossible love where Maillot does not pretend to follow the traditional story, is a mix of classical and contemporary dance, set to Tchaikovsky’s score interpreted by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo, with a contemporary and luminous decor by Ernest Oignon-Ernest who recreates the universe of the Prince in a stark aseptic black and white, in contrast with the sensual and soft world of Belle.

Olga Smirnova, La Belle @Alice Blangeto, 2023
Olga Smirnova and Alexis Oliveira. La Belle @Alice Blangero, 2023

The superb lighting effects by Dominique Drillot complete the different atmospheres, enhanced by the videos of Matthieu Stefani & Remi Lesterle, while the beautiful extravagant costumes by Philippe Guillolet and Jerome Kaplan, does the rest. Colors, lights, shadows, and contrasting stark and colorful costumes interplay with the traditional Tchaikovski’s tunes creating a magic faraway world.

Choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot with The Ballets of Monte-Carlo and the participation of Russian dancer Olga Smirnova Formerly a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, currently with the Dutch National, in the Netherlands. La Belle premiered in Monaco December 27, 2001, fantastically performed by now retired pima ballerina Bernice Coppieters, Maillot’s muse.

With « La Belle », Jean-Christophe Maillot brings us an aesthetically-pleasing and ferocious psychoanalytical interpretation of this famous fairy-tale, tapping into the stories that blended with our childhood memories, fears and desires. The result is a rather unconventional and unique version of the known child’s tale.

From Perrault to Maillot

The strong feature that marks Sleeping Beauty’s story mirror the rites each woman withstand throughout her life. Perrault understood this only too well, and in turn, Maillot, the unconventional creative choreographer, has managed to break through the various tantalizing versions previously used in the remake of this tale.

Yin and Yang

The lesser-known second half of Perrault’s story is brought to the fore, in which Sleeping Beauty awakens from her slumber and her marriage to the Prince leads on to further exploits. This part of the fairy-tale is dark and terrifying: now Queen, the Princess and her children are threatened by her Wicked Step-Mother, the Ogress Maleficent.

Maillot conceived Maleficent as a symbol of pure evil, and is one of the most emblematic characters of his repertoire, the perfect embodiment of the sheer terror contained within this story. “Maleficent is like a magnet, sucking in all of our fears and taboos. I created an androgynous, ambiguous being that is far from a straightforward symbol, and that might be a potential partner for Sleeping Beauty. Although the character embodies evil, evil is nevertheless difficult to define. My ballets always reject Manichaeism, the concept of evil versus good.”

Joat Benoot as Maleficent. La Belle @Alice Blangeto, 2023

The original plot is a barely camouflaged allegory of lustful desire in which “the sleeping beauty” retains her virginity until her one true love finds her. Maillot, who always operates outside the box, pushed the limits further to explore into the deep emotional aspects of the fairytale and opposes the protected world of La Belle which is all so ethereal, to that of the Prince fantastically played by Alexis Oliveira, a sad, solitary, but pensive youngster living in a world of grief and penumbra, who has grown up castrated by his mother portrayed as a dark villain figure.

La Belle’s arrival sliding down inside a huge transparent ethereal bubble, dressed in glimmering golden dress, is truly spectacular. But bubbles can be pierced as she sadly finds out when she is assaulted.

La Belle appears lovely and mysterious, innocent and vulnerable. The ultra fine dress is ripped off with violence, leaving a skin-tight costume that seemed painted on the slim body of Olga Smirnova giving the impression of being naked while still appearing so virginal.

La Belle @Alice Blangeto, 2023
La Belle @Alice Blangeto, 2023

Multicolored playful characters, with ladies bearing a transparent balloon on their bellies, possibly suggesting fecundity, take over as the opening festivities begin and where the fairy becomes the symbol of transition between the past and present. The humorous characters exude an assortment of sentiments, from love and sensuality to jealousy, avarice and yearning.

La Belle @Alice Blangeto, 2023

As Perrault intended there is a happy ending, as the lovers finally reunite and the beasts devour the wicked mother.

Today’s Quote

The purpose of art is higher than art. What we are really interested in are masterpieces of humanity. Alonzo King.


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