The Vienna State Opera ballet has a new Artistic Director.
He is a familiar name to connaisseurs of European ballet, Manuel Legris. Manuel Legris has been one of the top men at the Paris Opéra since the 1980’s.
He has danced everything from all the classics, through George Balanchine, John Cranko (Onegin), Sir Kenneth MacMillan (Manon’s Story), Twyla Tharp, John Neumeier (La Dame aux Camélias), William Forsythe Juri Kylian (Il ne faut q’une porte), Trisha Brown (O zlozony / O composite: Legris came to Vienna’s ImPulsTanz with this), Angelin Preljocaj (Le Parc) even to Vienna Statsoper’s own Renato Zanella (Angel, Alles Waltz).
I cite all these choreographers names – most of them worked with Manuel Legris at the Paris Opéra – as this amazing cross-section of dance makers is exactly what Monsieur Legris brings to the Staatsoper: a first hand familiarity with the best choreographers of the last forty years.
As a classically trained dancer in a classical company, Monsieur Legris knows how to integrate contemporary choreography into the heart of a classical company. The Paris Opéra should be the model for all classical companies today: a vibrant classical repertoire combined with the very pinnacle of contemporary choreographry.
In the Netherlands they were always too much a one-man show (Juri Kylian), as in William Forsythe’s company. In Bruxelles, Anna-Terese de Keersmaeker and her Rosas are also too specific for an enormous classical theatre like Paris Opéra, the Marinsky or Vienna’s Staatsoper.
Curiously enough the choice of Manuel Legris is something of a revindication for Renato Zanella. Manuel Legris is much more an international statesaman on Mr. Zanella’s model than an advocate of the classics and corps-de-ballet discipline of Gyula Harangozó. While Mr. Harangozó’s demands for discipline have improved the corps-de-ballet no end, his soloists while technically good have sometimes lacked personality. The flat performances are also partly a function of youth, but there are almost no experienced dancers in the company to inspire the new principals to fuller emotional expression.
Manuel Legris – photo by David Elofer
Monsieur Legris is something of a risk taker,
Unlike Mr. Zanella, Manuel Legris has not worked as a choreographer however, but only as a principal dancer and a ballet director (his own small touring company Manuel Legris et ses Étoiles). So Monsieur Legris will be choosing ballets and choreographers rather than making them like Mr. Zanella.
In some ways this is a healthier situation: if Monsieur Legris does his job properly the Vienna State Opera ballet will get a much wider repertoire much faster. They should only be getting fresh ballets as
The one danger is that Monsieur Legris will stick to the old standbys of the Paris Opéra like William Forsythe and Juri Kylian. Despite all the esteem I have for both of those gentlemen, Vienna State Opera ballet needs something new.
During the last three years Mr. Harangozó’s choices of production have been rather safe to the point of boring (Onegin, Coppelia, Mayerlink): whenever he has gone off the reservation the results have been nigh catastrophic (Ivan Cavallari’s Tschaikowski Impressionen).
It’s gotten dull enough that the Vienna State Opera ballet are having trouble filling the house and the dancers themselves are exasperated with the creative stagnation. Dancers are often exasperated so one is tempted to pay them no mind. On the other hand, when exasperation comes from strife within a theater on both sides of a creative question (are you for or against Zanella, Grigorovich, Forsythe) it is much better than when it comes from boredom. A certain amount of tension can be useful. But not the dull painful feeling of remaining in eternal ballet school tapping out interminable classes until retirement.
Manuel Legris – photo by David Elofer
I’m having trouble imagining Gyula Harangozó in a tutu:
as far as dance is concerned, a willingness
to sometimes cross boundaries is a good thing
Let’s hope Monsieur Legris fulfills his promise of technical excellence and exciting choreographic choices to both Vienna State Opera dancers and Vienna dance audiences. Heaven knows we need it, with the degeneration of Tanzquartier into a performance workshop and a moribund classical repertoire at the Staatsoper.
Dance is exciting and beautiful and rich – bring the spirit of the Paris Opéra with you when you come, Monsieur Legris.