The two addressed the grand room as though its nearly two thousand seats were filled. In reality, they spoke to just a camera. First on the program, as has been since 1946, was the Défilé—a procession of all the 154 dancers that comprise the Paris Opera Ballet and over 100 of the company’s ballet school. It’s a simple parade, introducing audiences to the company en masse. From the score (Hector Berlioz’s Marche Troyenne) to the position of the dancers, the piece has remained unchanged for decades. This year’s, however, will stand out among the rest as the first time the dancers appeared wearing face masks—a safety measure but also a sobering reminder of the times we now live.
Next came a new production for the Paris Opera Ballet for which new costumes from the house of Chanel were debuted. The dance, Grand Pas Classique, is one of choreographer Victor Gsovsky’s most well-known. Its movements are stripped down to reveal the extent of a ballerina’s capabilities and there’s an exactitude that lent itself brilliantly to the showcase of fashion—a midnight velvet blue leotard and a tutu embellished by Maison Lesage with a dazzle of stars and constellations.
Jerome Robbin’s In the Night followed. It follows three dance couples who each typify a different stage of love—from discovery to bliss to despair. In the first pairing, even mid-embrace, the dancers seem to ache with longing the other. Next came what was described in the program as a production with an avalanche of fouettés and pirouettes—The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by William Forsythe. It’s a piece with five dancers, three of whom wear modern takes on a tutu that have all the bounce of a trampoline in a color akin to chartreuse.
Upon the close of each piece, the dancers paused and bowed. The absence of applause, flowers, and curtains calls were acutely felt but what was lost could be somewhat made up for in the camerawork. A front-row orchestra seat couldn’t get you as close to the dancers as a ticket to this streamed gala did. The proximity only acts to enhance the experience and it was all the better to see those marvelous, sparkling costumes by Chanel.