Old is the new new

Ballet de Lorraine’s Petter Jacobsson rejuvenates dance pieces by three masters.

June 25, 2014 17:00
3 minute read.
Ballet de Lorraine

Ballet de Lorraine’s Petter Jacobsson rejuvenates dance pieces by three masters. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe have a lot in common. All American choreographers, these three contemporaries forged paths in the dance world alongside one another for many years; however, their works never met on the same stage until now. On his second visit to Israel as artistic director of CCN Ballet de Lorraine of Nancy, France, Petter Jacobsson will present the first platform in which Tharp, Cunningham and Forsythe share the spotlight at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.

During its premier visit to Israel in 2012, Ballet de Lorraine unveiled an evening of historic dance including works by Cunningham, Martha Graham and Mathilde Monnier at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center.

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Jacobsson, who had taken over the position of artistic director not long before, put the program together. The success of the program prompted TAPAC’s directors to invite them back as part of the 2013/14-dance season.

Their request was made very clear to Jacobsson.

“Historic dance is what the presenters wanted,” he said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Though he usually curates his evenings to include both old and new works, he made an exception for the Israeli audience.

Jacobsson’s fervor for older works comes from a desire to contextualize choreography, movement and musicality, he explained.

“Our company is built up on the fact that the dancers have quite a large repertory, they switch between different style of dance,” he said. “One of the ideas is to understand why movement looks the way it looks today in comparison to what it looked like in the past. If you have a Merce Cunningham piece with a specific style and musicality, and you present alongside a modern piece you can say how is it different from what is going on now. The pieces that we are presenting are almost modern classics.”

Over the past two years, Jacobsson has handpicked two historic works to add to the company’s repertory, In The Upper Room by Tharp and Sounddance by Cunningham. Both pieces hark back to Jacobsson’s personal history as a dancer.

Born in Sweden, he received his training at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg with Cunningham and Susan Kline. He then spent 10 years as a principle dancer in London’s Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet.

Towards the end of his performing career, he traveled to New York, where he danced as a member of Tharp’s company.

However, it is not for this reason that he chose In The Upper Room and Sounddance for the ballet’s repertory.

In The Upper Room premiered in New York City in 1986 and marked a definitive progression in Tharp’s aesthetic.

“I like it because it’s the first time that a choreographer mixed or put ballet and contemporary dancers in a piece on stage. There are pointe shoes and running shoes. I thought that was an interesting historic point. Here’s someone who is trying to mix two genres of dance.”

Sounddance was created by Cunningham as a kind of welcome home party after spending time in Paris in 1975.

“He did it after having spent time at the Paris Opera,” said Jacobsson. “Cunningham came back to New York after being frustrated with the dancers in Paris and felt very free with his dancers. He created this extremely energetic piece that lasts 17 minutes with an original score by David Tudor.”

The third piece in the evening, The Vile Parody of Address by Forsythe, was created in 1988.

“Forsythe is one of our most important choreographers of the time, so it fits perfectly in the program,” said Jacobsson.

CCN Ballet de Lorraine will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on July 16, 17, 18 and 19. For tickets, visit www.israelopera.co.il.

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