The Ballet Nice Méditerranée opens its 2014-15 season on Friday, 17th October with a triple bill of works by contemporary choreographers.
Under the artistic direction of Eric Vu-An, the new programme for the ballet opens with the first performance of VERSES US by American choreogralpher, Dwight Rhoden. A former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey Company, Rhoden is co-founder and one of the two artistic directors (with Desmond Richardson), of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York. Complexions is characterised by an innovative blend of methods, styles and cultures, and Rhoden – the Company’s Resident Choreographer – is credited with having created a completely new and thrilling vision of human movement, an open and evolving form of dance which “reflects the movement of our world”.
The score of VERSES US brings together a fascinating mix of artists, which includes Philip Glass – regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century – and contemporary German composers, Nils Frahm and Sven Helbig. Also included in the musical credits are Estonian-born American conductor, Kristjan Järvi – a member of the renowned family of Järvi conductors, the others being his father, Neeme and brother, Paavo – and American jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader, Theo Croker. And, in a nod to tradition, the score also features the work of Claude Debussy, one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music.
Nacho Duato is regarded as one of the most important international artists in contemporary Spanish dance. Having trained at the Rambert School in London and continued his studies at Maurice Béjart’s Mudra School in Brussels and Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Centre in New York, he first came to prominence in 1981 at the Nederlands Dans Theater, under the direction of Jirí Kylián. With his work in the repertoire of some of the world’s major ballet companies, Nacho Duato is currently Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St.Petersburg.
His ballet POR VOS MUERO, is based on a poem by Garcilaso de la Vega and set to Spanish music of the 15th and 16th centuries, a golden age in which music accompanied a variety of dance forms. In this work, Duato celebrates the wide cultural influences on Spain at the time. “You have the Arab influence,” he says, “and the influence of the Sefarditas [Sephardi Jews], before the Jews were expelled from Spain. Our culture has Greek and Roman roots, and Moorish, and Egyptian – it’s what I love about it.”
The final work on the programme, also by Nacho Duato, is entitled GNAWA, a tribe believed to have originated from the West and Central regions of Africa. The ballet was inspired by the Gnawa culture, which combines ritual poetry, traditional music, and dancing. Set on a darkened stage, illuminated by a row of candles, Duato’s atmospheric ballet is performed to a score – evocative of the music of the North African coast – which is traditionally practised in Morocco and the Béchar Province of South-western Algeria.
Opéra de Nice Côte d’Azur
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Lead image GNAWA by Nacho Duato; © Dominique Jaussein