By Ryan Wallace
Last night for the American premiere of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s newest ballet entitled Choré, audiences at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts had the opportunity to fall down a rabbit hole of brilliant choreography, amazing music, and subtle allusions to the emergence of musical theatre in the United States. But it wasn’t just the creative brilliance of the piece that shone so brightly, there were many technical successes as well. For a contemporary ballet of this caliber all of the moving pieces have to work just perfectly, and because there were so many standouts from this show, we thought we’d highlight a few of our favorites.
#5—Fast Music and Fast Feet
Firstly, it’s not just the choreography that will stand out at this show, the music is also a huge player for Choré. With musical numbers composed by Danny Elfman, John Cage and Yan Maresz, just to name a few, this ballet is fast-paced with nods to virtually every era you can think of. And with such diversity, stylistically this ballet is a formidable endeavor for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.Fast-changing music, an expanse of genres, and very different styles of dance faced the ballet company in creating Choré, but we found that the brilliant choreography and talented dancers were up to the challenge.
#4—Vignettes & Modern Story-Telling
Looking to tell the story of how musical theatre emerged in the U.S., director and choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot had to cover decades worth of history and dance. Traditional constraints of an average ballet did not lend themselves well to the task at hand, so Maillot decided to change the presentation we’re used to seeing. Fragmented into five separate sequences, each with its own storyline and music, the ballet showcases unique ideas and the true talents of its company with an unusually perfect form of modern story-telling.
#3—A New Perspective: Viewing Dance from a Different Vantage Point
This one will definitely take watching Choré to fully understand, but even from a snapshot it’s easy to see that this ballet has plenty of ingenuity. Contemporary ballet often gives us a new perspective, something different than the classics have to offer. But with Choré, Maillot literally decided to change the perspective the audience has on the dancers. Making use of simple props, mirrors and even some harnesses, the company changes the traditional theatre experience with something entirely brilliant on its own. Like a dream, you’ll find yourself captivated by the limitless possibilities Choré seems to offer, and when you’ve had a sample of every bit we’re certain that you’ll see things from a different point of view.
#2—Surprises At Every Corner
One of the greatest things about this ballet is that even when you’re reading the bill, you never know exactly what you’re going to get. The interpretation, the choreography, and the characters that this company develops are a perfect fit for the piece. But just because you know that they fit Choré perfectly, don’t expect that you’re going to know what lies just around the corner.
#1—Choré’s Characters & Stephan Bourgond
I would venture to say that Choré’s characters may be its greatest asset. The dancers portray these characters with an artistic depth, insomuch that even without a face, you can feel every emotion, every tense moment that they bring to the stage. But no one does this job greater than Stephan Bourgond.
A surprising element to this ballet, Bourgond was the clear breakout star for us when watching Choré. And with a theatrical range that is only exceeded by his technical abilities, you’ll easily agree. In comedic roles, such as the star in sequence 2, his clever and funny character is just slightly over the top enough that audiences are not afraid to laugh, even though it is a ballet. He breaks expectations and pushes audience-goers out of their comfort zone, into a whole new form of theatre. And whenever else you happen to find Bourgond on the stage, you’ll find the scene captivated by his extensions and expressions, as your eyes just gravitate towards the brightest light in the room.