Dance Festival Brings Contemporary French Ballet to BAM

As part of a three-week festival organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy highlighting the work of French choreographers and dancers, the Lyon Opera Ballet will perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music May 7-9. But if you’re thinking of pas de chats in pink tutus, think again: the glamorous and haunting work  “ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang” by Christian Rizzo is a cutting edge contemporary ballet.

“It was the first time I was invited for a commission and specifically for a ballet hosted by an opera house,” Rizzo told French Morning. As accomplished in choreography as he is in the fine arts and fashion, here he blends fantasy, mystery and beautiful design to take audiences on a journey to a riveting imaginary world. The piece is set to music by Gerome Nox, a composer that Rizzo has often worked with throughout his career. Rizzo says he asked for music that would mirror the tension and drama in the work, like the feeling “before or after a tempest.” The question asked by the narrative is, he says, “could we still dance on the ruins, at the end of the world?” adding, “I see the stage as a space of ritual passages, a transformative place.”

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Being asked to choreograph for the Lyon Opera Ballet is an honor reserved for some of the biggest names in contemporary dance. Led by Yorgos Loukos since 1991, the company has long distinguished itself for commissioning and staging contemporary work by major choreographers from France like Rachid Ouramdane, Jérôme Bel, and Benjamin Millepied, as well as from around the world, including William Forsythe, Jiří Kylían, Maguy Marin, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunnigham, Ohad Naharin, Bill T. Jones, Stephen Petronio and Lucinda Childs.

While many ballet companies present contemporary work, the Lyon Opera Ballet out-paces them all in that regard, and Loukos is proud of his company’s reputation for championing modern ballet. He describes his corps as “classically trained dancers who are also even more interested in contemporary repertory.” Of the contemporary dance scene today, Loukos says that whereas American post-modernism heavily influenced French choreography in the 70’s and other major artists that followed, like Pina Bausch, have emphasized theatricality, choreographers today are approaching dance almost as a visual art. “But actually,” he says, “no matter what the inspiration or origin, what really matters is how real the final work looks.”

DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance and Ideas is a three-week festival organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to highlight the work of French choreographers and dancers. For more information, please visit the festival website.