The Paris Opéra Ballet does la danse francaise big time | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Paris Opéra Ballet does la danse francaise big time 

A legendary company comes to the Harris Theater

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L'etat c'est Emoinuel

L'etat c'est Emoinuel

Sébastien Mathé

Dance enthusiast (and French king) Louis XIV founded the ur-institution that became the Paris Opéra Ballet in the late 1600s. Now it seems our mayor, who once studied dance, is jockeying to become a 21st-century Louis. Rahm Emanuel will host the opening-night gala when the POB's first U.S. tour in over a decade kicks off here on June 26—and the city is supporting a Pritzker Pavilion simulcast of the following night's performance.

Long may Emanuel reign if he can raise the profile of dance. The POB's own high historical profile may help. Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot created Giselle for the company back in 1841; that storied classic constitutes the first of two Chicago programs (6/26-6/28). The second program, "Epic French Masterpieces" (6/29-7/1), jumps to the 20th century and reveals the POB's range. Like Giselle, Suite en Blanc (1943), by former company ballet master Serge Lifar, shows off the dancers' ballon and precision. But Maurice Béjart's 1960 Boléro, with its hip-thrusting gyrations, is as rude as Lifar's dance is polite. And Roland Petit's Hollywood chops show through in L'Arlesienne (1974), notwithstanding its 1872 source material, a play by Alphonse Daudet.

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