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New Year's ballet captures many hearts

New Year's ballet captures many hearts

A udiences were enthralled by the Jeune Ballet de France at the Chatomuk Theatre

April 14-16. Invited by the French Centre Culturel et de Cooperation

Linguistique, the company joined forces with dancers from the Royal University

of Fine Arts to produce several pieces which wittily and thoughtfully juxtaposed

western and Khmer dance.

The pivotal piece was Duel, a special creation

for the occasion by Prince Norodom Sihamoni, a choreographer and dancer. His

father, King Sihanouk, attending the gala premiere, was so enthusiastic that he

bought 200 seats for the two following evenings and gave them away. The

theatre's 600 seats overflowed into the aisles with spectators who cried out for

encores.

Duel opened with an exquisite Khmer dancer, Sam Sadhia,

performing ritualised movements by candlelight. She pauses to witness a combat

between two men, symbols of a prehistoric social and religious duality of her

civilisation. Boyd Lau and David Rodrigo Balsalobre, clothed only in a Khmer

sampot ching kben, performed a dramatic symbiosis of western and Khmer

dance.

Prince Sihamoni was requested by JBF's president, Robert Berthier,

to choreograph a dance for their visit. He created Duel in his head, inspired by

the recurrent theme of his work, the tension between two cultures.

It

resonates with the tension of duality, as east meets west. "All my ballets

reflect these themes," he said. "I am a child of two cultures, I can never

dissociate myself from that. So it is always the theme of my work."

There was only two weeks to prepare the programme. "We had only five

days of rehearsals for Duel," lamented Sihamoni. "It still needed more

work."

The program included eight other dances each evening which changed

nightly, providing a panorama of classical and contemporary dance from

Bournonville to Balanchine to Garnier.

Notable among the 14 gifted

dancers, aged between 16-20, was Cuban Joan Boada, 20. He performed a

spectacular contemporary solo, created for him by the French choreographer Redha

in 1994, which won the Bronze Medal in the Varna Dance Competition, one of the

world's most important.

Boada combined leaps of dazzling agility with a

series of rapid, writhing movements across the floor. Every move expressed

profound feeling, heightened by a rendition of the prayer Kyrie Eleison ('Lord,

have mercy') by I Muvrini, which transformed into a jungle rhythm by Dead Can

Dance.

Feux Interdits, a pensive, modern piece expressed a relationship

between a brother and sister, full of innovative steps and understated costumes.

Dancing in silence, then to Wagner, Cyrille Jegou and Charlotte Seguin revealed

youthful sentiments and the passage into adulthood with their subtle

performances.

Brazilian Fernanda Tavares Diniz, 18, displayed her

elegance and graceful style in Le Corsaire, lithe technique in Diane et Acteon,

and sheer joy in the Finale. The Finale, and the penultimate La Follia, featured

little Cambodian dancers who wove their way through the ensemble, doing

pastiches of their own movements. They also performed the Coconut Dance each

night - "because we loved it so much," declared Berthier.

Berthier and

ballet master Alain Fourgeaux enthused about working with Cambodians. The only

problem, they claimed, was teaching rhythm. "They had never heard Western music,

such as Vivaldi," said Fourgeaux. "They had no idea how to follow

it."

Chinese-Canadian dancer Boyd Lau who, with the rest of the troupe,

helped to pace them, said: "I learned to count in Khmer."

Learning dance

movements from Cambodians was not easy, he said, especially moving constantly on

bended knees. "The men were better than women at that. But we can never turn our

hands back like them."

Khmer ballet, which dates from the 9th century,

consists of endlessly perfecting ancient movements, and is religious in origin.

Western dance, on the other hand, which originated, according to Berthier, in

France in the 16th century (although it emerged in Italy as a distinctive form

before then), is a performing art, constantly evolving and changing.

JBF

was formed by Berthier in 1983 to prepare young dancers for one year in touring

with a repertoire of 26 ballets.

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