One of the few benefits of lockdown has been the proliferation of dance teaching material online.  The ability to watch and sample ballet classes from all over the world has enabled comparison and reflection on the characteristics and relative merits of different methods of schooling, which one would normally have little opportunity either to observe or experience.  Recent trawling for fresh ideas for my Zoom teaching lead me to look closely at films documenting the classes and pedagogic approaches of two established and respected teachers from the Paris Opera Ballet and its school, Alexandre Kalioujny and Raymond Franchetti.  Of Russian origin but born and brought up in Prague, Kalioujny had a long association with the company, initially as a dancer, but later after a distinguished performing career as a teacher of its leading dancers, forging a close relationship with Rudolf Nureyev who greatly respected his work.  His alumni include luminaries Elisabeth Platel and Charles Jude, who for the film La Classe d’ Alexandre Kalioujny teach a class demonstrating and explaining some of the principles and concerns which informed his teaching, shaping future generations of French ballet dancers. 

Discussion about this prompted a colleague to point me to a documentary about the teaching of Raymond Franchetti, himself a pupil of the renowned French teacher Gustave Ricaux, and dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, before becoming a hugely respected teacher in his own right and subsequently Director of Dance at the Paris Opera in the 1970s.  A short but very informative documentary follows a class taught by Franchetti, interspersed with his own forthright observations on ballet technique and pedagogy, interview material, and reminiscences of historic dance studios. On 27th January the Paris Opera Ballet staged its grand opening Gala in the Palais Garnier; having studied these classes I was very keen to watch this programme, to see how the ethos and technique of the dancing visible in the studio translated into performance. 

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Can ballet ever claim to be an apolitical art form, especially in such extreme conditions as the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War? What should be our response to a dancer, choreographer and ballet director who appears to have collaborated with the Third Reich and its ethos? Can he ever be ‘rehabilitated’ and should his works created under these conditions be performed? These were some of the questions arising for Professor Mark Franko in his intriguing DANSOX talk The Fascist Legs of Serge Lifar: French Ballet under the Occupation at St Hilda’s College on Thursday 4th June. (more…)

Hot on the heels of the transmission of La Fille mal gardée from the Royal Opera House comes another major classic of the ballet repertoire, this time the  Paris Opera Ballet in live transmission from the Paris Opera at the Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford.

Choreographed by Marius Petipa, La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer) is a spectacular and lush work of late 19th century orientalism which tells the story of bayadère Nikiya and warrior Solor, who have sworn eternal fidelity to each other… (more…)