Like Dom Juan by Molière or Berenice by Racine in classical theatre, Giselle is the reference of romantic ballet. Created in 1841 at the Opéra de Paris, it brings together all the elements of the new aesthetical and philosophical trend that ran through the first half of the 19th century: at this time, dreams and fantasy abounded in literature, theatre, opera and dance contrasting the real world, which was too materialistic. And as earthly happiness turned out to be an inaccessible ideal, love – like art – had the power to transcend death.
So the poor Giselle, charmed by a grand seigneur, who was more thoughtless than nasty, died of heartache when she discovered the lies that he had told her. Now a supernatural spirit haunting the hereafter, she forgave and defended her Duke against all opposition and saved his life. The traditional choreography of Giselle still surprises as, through dance, it manages to express the psychological movements of its characters as if inner feelings guided their steps.
The Swedish choreographer Mats Ek, in his reworking of Giselle – in 1982 for the Cullberg Ballet, in Stockholm – had the nerve to push to the paroxysm a subject that was already latent. Keeping the original scenario (the booklet written by Théophile Gautier) and the music of Adolphe Adam, Mats Ek highlighted the drama of the situation, turning Giselle into the simpleton of the village, abused by a Don Juan from the town who had come to have a good time with his friends. Totally devastated, she lost her mind.
Josseline Le Bourhis
“What fascinated me most the first time I saw the classical ballet Giselle, was the contrasts: between the realism of the first act and the fantasizing of the second, between the castle and the cottage, the individual and the group… behind the fable lies a host of complex relationships of a social and spiritual nature: I wished to reproduce this with my own words”. Mats Ek
Source: Opéra de Lyon
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Mats Ek began his career by studying theatre, whilst taking part in Donya Feuer's (an American who practiced the Martha Graham technique and who was based in Stockholm) dance classes at the same time. He joined the Dusseldorf Ballet for a season (1974-75), then integrated the Cullberg Ballet, directed by his mother Birgit Cullberg, the following year. In 1980, Mats Ek became co-artistic director for the company, along with Birgit Cullberg, and in 1985, when she took her retirement, he became the sole director.
His audacious and mordant revisions of “La Maison de Bernarda” (The House of Bernarda) (1978), “Giselle” (1982), “Le sacre du printemps” (The Rite of Spring) (1984), “Le lac des cygnes” (Swan Lake) (1987), “Carmen” (1992) and “La belle au bois dormant” (Sleeping Beauty) (1996) confirmed his talent to dig deep into appearances to bring out the tormented psychology of the characters and to defy ballet conventions. His surrealist fables such as “Vieux Enfants” (1989) and “Etres Lumineux” (1991) transpose, through the bizarre, the complex relationships that can be developed between people.
Since leaving his position as director of the Cullberg Ballet (1993) and becoming a freelancer, Mats Ek has strived to denounce the ills of society through the difficulties encountered by couples and through the small everyday dramas of life. “A Sort of...” (1997) for the Nederlands Dans Theater, “Appartement” for the Opéra de Paris, “Fluke” (2002) for the repertoire of the Ballet de l'Opéra de Lyon, “Aluminium” for the Compañia Nacional de Danza / Nacho Duato (2005), “Place” for Ana Laguna and Mikhail Baryshnikov (2007), “Radis noir” (2008) for the Ballet of the Royal Opera of Sweden. More than ever, Mats Ek strived to “dance for a reason… I want to reflect the image of reality”.
He also made his comeback in the theatre where he produced “Dans Med Nätsan” / “Danse avec ton prochain” (Dance with your neighbour) (1995), “Johanna sur Jeanne d'Arc” (1998) and directed works by Molière, Racine, Shakespeare, Strindberg, and the Gluck opera “Orphée et Eurydice” (Orpheus and Eurydice).
In twenty years, he has imposed his poignant vision of human behaviour, in a personal style that exacerbates the movement and fills the body with the distresses of the soul. In his psychoanalytical reinterpretations of the “classics”, just like in his sharp observation of the frustrations of individuals, he dares to display the essential.
Source : Opéra de Lyon (Josseline le Bourhis)
Ballet creation : 1967
Founder : Birgit Cullberg
Cullbergbaletten is the leading repertoire company for contemporary dance in Sweden. The company is an important contributor to the international presentation of dance and choreography with tours all over the world. Cullbergbaletten works with a range of international choreographers and artists. The company currently has 16 dancers from nearly as many countries, and guest dancers are continuously invited to various projects. Since its inception the individual quality of each dancer has been Cullbergbaletten’s defining characteristic.
By collaborating with choreographers and directors who are rooted in the contemporary field, Cullbergbaletten contributes strongly to the development of performing arts and dance as an art form. Cullbergbaletten’s activities encompass different projects and productions including workshops, conferences, seminars, and lectures. The directors are Gabriel Smeets and Stina Dahlström. Cullbergbaletten was founded in 1967 by Birgit Cullberg under the auspices of Riksteatern, the Swedish National Touring Theatre, of which it is still part.
Source : Ballet Website
More information : https://cullbergbaletten.se
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