TOBI TOBIAS on dance et al…
THE FRENCH HAVE A SCHOOL FOR IT
Demonstrations of the école de Danse of the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris (School of the Paris Opera Ballet) / Opéra National de Paris: Palais Garnier, Paris / December 5, 2004
The Paris Opera Ballet School, founded by Louis XIV in 1713–it’s the world’s oldest academy for producing classical dancers–is now located in a utilitarian complex specifically built for it in Nanterre, on the bleak outskirts of the City of Light. But for more than a century it was located in the bowels of the lavish Palais Garnier, at the hub of urban elegance. It was there–cocooned in that opera house’s imposing Second Empire decorative excesses of varicolored marble offset by gilt and bronze; of statues, bas-reliefs, frescos, and mosaics; of deep red plush and heavy figured and tasseled drapery; of an infinity of mirrors and chandeliers–that I saw the daylong program this extraordinary school, the oldest and arguably the greatest of its kind, modestly calls its “Demonstrations.”
The program, nearly six hours long, with a break midway in which valiant spectators went out to revive themselves with shots of strong black coffee, comprised separate mini-classes for boys and girls from Level 6 (ages 12 to 13) up to Level 1 (18 and under). (You work your way up in this system, those who stay the rigorous course graduating into the parent company or a life in dance elsewhere, at the age of 18, though the precocious may join POB earlier.)
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