A history lesson

The Ballet de Lorraine from France performs works by three masters of modern dance at Herzliya Performing Arts Center.

CCN Ballet de Lorraine (photo credit: Bernard Purdhomme)
CCN Ballet de Lorraine
(photo credit: Bernard Purdhomme)
Unlike most art forms, there is almost no viable way to preserve dance. That is to say, the experience of watching a dance performance, with the ethereal quality that dance so effortlessly possesses, is nearly impossible to substitute. Though the area of dance films has blossomed in recent years, with films like Pina providing thousands of viewers an opportunity to get closer to Bausch’s masterpieces than ever before, there is still no replacement for seeing the real thing live.
Because of the necessity for real-time recreation, many dance companies continue to perform pieces that were choreographed decades ago. Often, these works offer a glimpse into the artistic mindset prevalent during a specific time. And just as frequently, they bring the vision of a long-past genius back into the forefront of culture.
Thus the historic dance program remains a staple in many companies’ repertoires.
Next week, France’s Centre Choreographique National – Ballet de Lorraine will present a perfect example of such a program in Israel. This will be the troupe’s inaugural visit to the country. Led by a new artistic director, former dancer and choreographer Petter Jacobsson, Ballet de Lorraine’s three-part evening presents works by three modern dance masters – Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and Mathilde Monnier with Jean-Francois Duroure.
“When building this program, I had to take pieces that existed already in the repertoire,” explains Jacobsson, whose reign as artistic director of Ballet de Lorraine began in 2011. His appointment to this position marked a decided change in the direction of the 34-year-old company, taking it out of the classical and into the contemporary dance world.
“My goal is for the company to present and work with dance of today and to present pieces for the future. What would dance look like in the future?” he says. “It’s important to present historical pieces to put the new works in context and to give a reference point for the audience. Then you can have a discussion of why certain things changed in dance. I think it is important, at this time, to do historical modern dance. These are three very established choreographers. It’s not a risk-taking program.
Rather, it’s an evening of well-established choreographers and well-known, quality pieces.”
The oldest of the three pieces, “Sketches” from Chronicle by Martha Graham, premiered in 1936. Throughout her career, Graham used dance as a way to process the world events taking place around her. This work, which has been reconstructed in recent years, is a response to the European fascism that was rampant at the time.
Inventions was originally choreographed for the now disbanded Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The piece is a perfect example of Cunningham’s distinctive style, which helped to mold the landscape of American modern dance. With music by John Cage and simplistic, tight-fitting costumes, Inventions is clean, aesthetic and dazzling.
Last year, when the Cunningham Trust implemented its leader’s posthumous wishes to dismantle the longstanding troupe, the importance of the presence of such pieces in various repertoires of international companies became paramount.
The third piece, by Mathilde Monnier and Jean- Francois Duroure, is entitled Mama, Monday, Sunday Or Always (1986). Though he is new at his post, this is not Jacobsson’s first encounter with the French choreographers. In fact, Jacobsson was the first artistic director, then of the Royal Swedish Ballet, to invite Monnier to work with classical dancers.
“She is a very physical choreographer,” says Jacobsson.
“She questions physicality in terms of the space in the room. She is also questioning movement of today; how we move now, which I think is important.”
CCN Ballet de Lorraine will perform at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center from November 7 – 10. For tickets, visit www.hoh-herzliya.co.il.