The famous staircase leading to the largest venue in Cannes, Palais des Festivals, was covered with a red carpet, only this time not for the glittering stars of the film industry, or the local diamond-studded French Riviera clientele, but rather for the hundreds of teenagers in pursuit of their favorite B-Boys troupe, the Pockemon Crew. They raised the roof with high-pitched screams, yells and whistles as they greeted their idols, the guys of this popular Hip-Hop company.
The group, which used to hang around and practice its moves on the steps of Lyon Opera house, soon got the chance to walk in and rehearse in the posh studios inside. Multiculturalism is high on France's political agenda and those who implement the policy are habitually rewarded with public funds. As a result, the hip-hop street culture - also referred to as breakdance - has spun smoothly from the streets to respected dance stages. This, in turn, changed the perceptions of many breakdance companies, who used to aim only for the perfect virtuoso routine, and now pursue respect and recognition as a legitimate art form. So the Pockemon Crew's "bad boys" invited a classical dancer, an actress and a singer to join in. Perhaps next they'll be replacing rap music with Vivaldi.
So the Pockemons blasted the Palais, but the Lyon Opera Ballet, which performed Mats Ek's important adaptation of Giselle, did well too with the more solid crowds. No screams there, but plenty of curtain calls and a standing ovation.
The renowned Swedish choreographer had tailored the principal role for his wife, the inimitable Ana Laguna in 1982, kick-starting a trend of rewriting classical ballets. Giselle, like the rest of his works, has clear layers of narrative, psychological analysis and social commentary, but remains at the same time a brilliant art product - still relevant and pungent. Caelyn Knight as the simple minded Giselle was sheer purity in a heart-wrenching way and was supported by one of the best repertoire companies in Europe.
THE FESTIVAL offered yet another reconstruction, the wild concoction called Zoopsie Comedy, a product of several talents from various fields, among them the hilarious choreographer Dominique Boivin, his friend Dominique Rebaud, artists such as Philip Decoufle, designers, musicians, and, topping them all, high fashion icon Christian Lacroix, who designed a whopping 85 costumes for the show, each a world of fantasy in itself. It was all the rage in the '80s, constantly playing all over Europe, and is even today a visual heaven, executed by a gifted bunch of dancers. Still, it had lost some of its poignancy.
Another collective that strayed somewhat was the leading Japanese cutting-edge group Dumb Type. The multidisciplinary troupe, whose members live and create together in a commune, had lost some of its key dancers in recent years - some of them to AIDS - which proves that, sometimes, the avant-garde of yesterday can run on a tank filled with reputation alone.
Judging by the slower flow of holiday shoppers at top end prestigious shops, the City of Cannes, whose only industry is tourism, is still under the influence of the recession.
Ultimately, even with the presence of Ballet de Lorraine, System Castafiore and the exquisite dancers of the New York City Ballet, the results of a reduced budget were readily apparent, deeply affecting a festival that was once an attractive, lively and lavish affair.