The French Reclaim Detroit!

Photo: Michigan Opera Theatre

My culture is that of classical ballet, and I confidently remain attached to it. Because while I readily admit that its artistic and social codes are from another time, I also think that this heritage from four centuries represents invaluable resources for dancers. A classic choreographer for some, a contemporary one for others, I play with it, simply trying to find a dance I like. A dance that will not only leave a lasting impression of joy, but that will also restore the essence of the sacred things and serve as a response to the difficulty of being.”

~~Thierry Malandain

DETROIT — Last night at The Detroit Opera House, the Malandain Ballet Biarritz, a modern dance company in the Atlantic coastal city of Biarritz, just a delectable snail’s throw north of Spain, in the Basque region of France, our great ally in the American Revolution (I learned from Bugs Bunny cartoons they bottled up the harbor…), and, savior of Westerndom, or Western Civilization if you quibble, in the Battle of Tours in 732, performed perfectly choreographed, ineffable numbers to musical masterpieces by Vivaldi, Chopin, and Ravel.

It was nice that there was an Intermission before Chopin, and, again, for Bolero, the oft-played, ultra-powerful piece by Ravel that literally never gets old. This time, instead of a bikini-clad Bo Derek running slow-mo on a secluded sunny beach toward the audience, the company danced in a confined space in nudish tutus in the middle of the stage “to represent the liberty gradually won from confinement” in the words of Mr. Malandain himself. It was a great way to cap off an evening of ineffable wonderment.

The evening started with “Estro” by Antonio Vivaldi – when in doubt go Italian, right? The dancers introduced themselves to we Michiganders and a smattering of Ontarians and Ohioans with a zesty, while still ineffable (hey, it’s the word of the day…..) take on the song that completely won over the crowd – kind of like a Trump Rally in Alabama….

Next up was an ineffable, somber dance number (let’s say “13”) by the great Frédéric François Chopin of the Duchy of Warsaw, now the capital of Poland. It was a beautiful, somber, somewhat sad number, with wailing horns, and grey tutus…. It had me craving for a meat pierogi and sour cream. Maybe a gołąbki, too. Mmmmm…..love me some stuffed cabbages!!!!

The artistry of the entire evening was amazing af. It would’ve been even more amazing if the woman I invited could’ve made it, but, settling for the drive-thru of White Castle before merging onto I-75, I tossed a double cheeseburger in a bag to a man begging on 8 Mile right before the light turned green, then turning left onto Eisenhower’s American Autobahn. I heard him shout an indecipherable message of thanks as I fled like Napoleon galloped out of majestic Moscow toward festive Paris as the wicked winds of winter beset his languishing, inebriated troops, dulled by three weeks of French-style carousing in the great, strategically-abandoned Russian capital. Luckily, his horse was largely drinking just water.

I was thinking of saying sardonically that the performance was perhaps “too French.” But, nothing can be too French. Everything French is good. French toast. French fries. French wine. French kissing. French dressing. French dip. French bread. French maids. French lace. Heck, French nuclear bombs are better than Pakistani nuclear bombs.

I want to thank Mr. Malandain and all the entire troupe and the entire production team, and, of course, Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Opera House for an incredible evening of moving art. Have a slice of French Silk Pie for me!!!


Photo: Michigan Opera Theatre
Photo: Michigan Opera Theatre
Photo: Michigan Opera Theatre

For more information about upcoming shows at the Detroit Opera House, visit https://michiganopera.org/


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