C’est la Vie: French Ballet Troupe Performs Alternate Program Due to Cargo Delay

Things happen. The show must go on.  That’s life. Those phrases and a few that we won’t print rolled off the tongue this week.

The renowned Malandain Ballet Biarritz performs at the Civic Theatre tonight, May 3rd, but will not be breathing new life into Roméo et Juliette as planned. Due to unforeseen weather issues, cargo containing sets and costumes for R&J was delayed in getting to the Port of Miami in time for the weekend performance.malandain_romeoetjuliette_09

()*& #$it! Are you kidding me? A last minute announcement caused more than a few people to scramble and swear like sailors.

Still, La Jolla Music Society is thrilled to present three ballets by Thierry Malandain as an alternate program:  Estro to music by Vivaldi, Nocturnes to music by Chopin, and Bolero to music by Ravel.  Watch for a Sandiegostory.com review by Janice Steinberg.

The Malandain company had to change its program in Dallas on Friday and Saturday as well. The cargo containing the sets and costumes for its production of Cinderella before the stop in San Diego was also delayed.

Let your mind swirl with thoughts of dancers practicing their alternate programs while strapped in their airplane seats.  Pity the stressed out travel director, pulling hair out, hoping containers are not washing up on the shores of Key West.

In my recent interview with choreographer Thierry Malandain via an interpreter, he describes his motivation and inspiration for the Roméo et Juliette that San Diegans won’t see.  C’est dommage.  C’est la vie.

It would have been an American premiere, testing the timeless tragedy by mixing contemporary ballet and Hector Berlioz’s hallucinatory “Symphonie Dramatique” from 1830.

Enough whining. Watch a video clip of Malandain’s R&J.  Let’s salvage some of that interview to learn what makes the noted French choreographer tick, and what to expect tonight.

“I like the romantic passion of Berlioz’s music,” Malandain said through an interpreter.  “I never had the opportunity to compose choreographies on this score before. It was a way to stand out from other choreographers, as most of them use the score of Prokofiev ballet.”

Based in the Basque coastal resort of Biarritz, Malandain has created 80 classical works with a contemporary twist.  His Roméo et Juliet starts at the end, with the young lovers’ death.

“That is partly due to the score which is divided in three parts,” Malandain said. “Normally, the piece begins with the battle between the Capulets and the Montagues. I started from the end like some sort of flashback, then with the battle. There is a final happy note for Friar Lawrence, who imagines Romeo and Juliet in Heaven before being alone…”

The tragic narrative has inspired many modern versions, such as the musical “West Side Story” about race and gangs in New York.  Malandain’s “Roméo et Juliette” is minimalist. Classically trained dancers leap from metal crates and wear contemporary clothes. (Remember those crates and clothes are the delayed cargo off Miami).

“The setting was inspired by the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo in Italy,” Malandain said. “They contain 8,000 mummies displayed in the open air in metallic crates. In their wills, people asked to be preserved with a peculiar type of clothing, even to have their clothes regularly changed. That inspired me.”

Created for 18 dancers, Malandain created multiple roles of Romeo and Juliet to give the story universal character.

“That’s also because the love scene is nearly 20 minutes long. It is possible to create a pas de deux of such length, but I divide it in several duets in order to represent different amorous aspects.”

Malandain says it’s tradition to revisit the great classics and myths, and to mix original ballet technique with innovations. He does not use pointe shoes. He admires the intelligence of Mark Morris.

How timely.  Mark Morris Dance Company performs Dido & Aeneas at the Barkley Theatre in Irvine May 15. You’ll find reviews of that show here at Sandiegostory.com.

Malandain plans to attend and mingle with viewers before the program tonight at the Civic Theatre.  Merde to him and his dancers in their alternate program.


Malandain Ballet Biarritz presents Estro to music by Vivaldi, Nocturnes to music by Chopin, and Bolero to music by Ravel.  8 p.m. Sunday. San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown. $20 to $75. (619) 570-1100 or sandiegotheatres.org

La Jolla Music Society.  www.Ljms.org



Leave a Comment