Raising the barre

Thierry Malandain to tour Israel with his own magical ballet creation from three of Tchaikovsky’s quintessential works.

Schubertiade concert marathon (photo credit: OLIVIER HOUEIX)
Schubertiade concert marathon
(photo credit: OLIVIER HOUEIX)
The barre is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a classical dancers’ life. It is met each and every morning during warm up, a reliable friend to lean on while waking up the body and a base from which to spring forward into the day ahead. A simple structure consisting of a long rod, generally made of metal, wood, plastic or a combination; the barre can be found in any ballet studio around the world.
For Thierry Malandain, founder and artistic director of Malandain Ballet Biarritz, the barre is a graceful prop that allows his dancers to defy gravity. In Magifique: Tchaikovsky Suites, which is to be presented at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center starting on Thursday night, Malandain brings this rehearsal relic into the spotlight. This is Magifique’s second run in Israel, having toured throughout the country in February of last year. The performances were such great successes; Israeli presenters immediately offered the company a return engagement.
In Magifique, Malandain brings together the music of three great ballet compositions by Tchaikovsky.
The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty each stand on their own as compelling, time-tested ballets. In presenting excerpts from these three creations together, Malandain removes the narratives and creates a new story, one that is magical and haunting. Eighteen dancers clad in Véronique Murat’s stunning costumes perform the ballet. A large group, the cast functions like a unified organism, moving deftly and in perfect unison.
The ballet premiered in 2009 as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Fondation de France. The work was commissioned by the Opera Theater in Saint-Étienne and was originally performed with live music.
In regards to the ballet, Malandain writes, “It is furnished with that accessory, indispensable to fairies, that the gesture seeks to be enacted: Trying to eternalize childhood, an exile that can be reassuring, when the ‘world of adults’ dances around the edges of the precipice. To do so, the idea was to mingle memories, musical impressions, shades of feelings and remembrances of Tchaikovsky’s ballets. For it is at the age when life is invented, that I happened to discover them. Everything was there: joy, sadness and melancholy.
There were also princesses, princes, fairies, enchanted palaces and frightening forests in the middle of which malignant beings did even darker things.”
The title for the ballet was also inspired by Malandain’s childhood.
A free thinker from birth, he invented the word Magifique to describe his “wonderments.” A take on the French word for magnificent, Malandain removed the “n,” bringing the name closer to magic.
“This invented word, a sort of short-circuited language, fits well with the intentions of this creation: to create magic or else recycle life’s raw material through expressive and poetic forms,” he writes.
Malandain, 55, began his career as a dancer in renowned companies around France such as the Paris Opera Ballet and Ballet Theater Francais. During his years in these troupes, Malandain began cultivating his choreographic voice.
In 1986, he and eight dancers broke off and started their own ensemble in the suburbs of Paris called Compagnie Temps présent (“Present Times Company”). Some 11 years later, after distinguishing himself locally and internationally, Malandain was offered a chance to create the first National Choreographic Center in the coastal region of Biarritz. He packed up and settled in an abandoned train station, the Gare Du Midi, where his company continues to work to this day.
Over the years, Malandain has authored over 70 ballets for his company and others. His works have been performed by dozens of internationally renowned troupes including the Vienna State Opera, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Singapore Dance Theater. His ballets are often inspired by literature, incorporating strong narratives and virtuosic movement.
Malandain Ballet Biarritz will perform Magifique at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on February 4, 5, 6 and 7, in Beersheba on February 9, Petah Tikva on February 10, Modi’in on February 11 and Kibbutz Yagur on February 12. For more information, visit http:// malandainballet.com/en/