Ballet Nice Méditerranée – under Artistic Director Éric Vu-An – presents a triple bill featuring a World Premiere – Julien Guérin’s Demons et merveilles. Also on the programme are Roland Petit’s Le Rendez-vous, and Vespertine by Liam Scarlett

Julien Guérin wrote Demons et merveilles on commission from Éric Vu-An, his first creation for Ballet Nice. A former member of English National Ballet, Guérin danced with Ballet of the National Opera of Bordeaux, and with Scottish Ballet before joining Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 2007. Other commissions for Guérin have come from the Académie Princesse Grace in Monaco, the Beijing Dance Academy in China, the Cannes Jeune Ballet Rosella Hightower for the festival le Printemps des Arts, and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. Last year, Julien Guérin – the only French applicant of the 14 finalists in the Emergent Choreographers Contest at the Opera National de Bordeaux – created les labilités amoureuses for the competition, and was given the Audience Award by the Fondation de la dance.

The inspiration for Guérin’s Demons et merveilles was the Marcel Carné film Les visiteurs du soir, shot in Nice in 1942 at the Studios de la Victorine which this year celebrates its centennial. In the film, set in medieval France, the Devil intervenes when one of the two envoys whom he sent to seduce and deceive mortals, falls for a victim. The title of the ballet comes from a song in the film, the score of which is credited to both French composer Maurice Thiriet and French-Hungarian Joseph Kosma. The music of both is used in the score for the ballet, along with that of Ernest Block and Max Richter. All four are well known for their work in the worlds of both film and classical music.

French dancer and choreographer, Roland Petit, was not only instrumental in creating Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées in 1945, but was also a principal dancer of the company, ballet master and choreographer until 1947. In 1948 he formed his own company, the Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit, which he took on tour in both Europe and the United States, and which produced stars such as Jean Babilée, Colette Marchand, Leslie Caron and Renée (‘Zizi’) Jeanmaire, who became his wife in 1954.

Petit created Le Rendez-vous in 1945. Set in bohemian Paris at the end of the Second World War, it evokes the atmosphere of the city at that time – a blend of the ecstasy of being alive with memories of the terror endured during the hostilities. The action takes place in the street outside a dance-hall, when a young man believes that he has arranged a rendezvous with “the most beautiful girl in the world”, but she turns out to be his undoing when she brings out a knife and stabs him. It’s a highly-charged and sensual work, with a haunting score written by Joseph Kosma, composer of film scores for directors such as Jean Renoir and Marcel Carné. Korma’s name will always be synonymous with the melody from the pas de deux — later made famous by Yves Montand in France as Les feuilles morte (Autumn Leaves) – lyrics by Jacques Prévert.

Choreographer Liam Scarlett, former dancer with The Royal Ballet and now Artist in Residence, has created a number of works for the Company – including Consolations and Liebestraum (nominated for a Critics’ Circle Award), Asphodel Meadows (nominated for a South Bank Award, an Olivier Award, and winner of a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award), The Age of Anxiety, Summertime and Symphonic Dances. Among the highlights of his career so far are his first full-length work for The Royal Ballet – Frankenstein (a 2016 co-production with San Francisco Ballet) – and his staging of a new production of Swan Lake for The Royal Ballet during the 2017-18 season.

Vespertine was choreographed for the Norwegian National Ballet in 2013. Part of a programme celebrating the Baroque era, Scarlett chose music by Italian violinist and composer of Baroque music, Arcangelo Corelli for his score, with arrangements by Bjarte Eike. It’s an abstract work, described by Scarlett as “nuanced and delicate”, reflecting the elegant, almost shimmering, quality of Corelli’s music. Scarlett is known for the musicality of his works, and who better than the choreographer himself to describe how he applies this to his work?

Ballet Nice Méditerranée performs Julien Guérin’s Demons et merveilles, Roland Petit’s Le Rendez-vous and Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine at Nice Opera from 18th to 27th October (6 performances). For tickets, call 04 92 17 40 79 or reserve online.

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Lead image by Dominique Jaussein

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