The best way to experience Le Palais Garnier is by going to see a performance, not only does this get you inside but you get to truly feel for the grandeur of the building and the years of culture and performance it has housed.
During our trip to Paris, the Husbae and I went to see a modern ballet by León, Lightfoot and Van Manen. Set as three separate pieces, these ballets all used simple, minimal sets to create atmospheres where the dancers are given the space to create strong iconographic imagery forcing your mind to draw metaphors and compelling you into a creating a story. Here is my interpretation of the first piece performed:
“Sleight of Hand” – Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot.
Two figures, a man to the right and a woman to the left, clothed in black stand as God’s on high pillars, they move constricted by their oblesk to only the upper body. Her movement starts, her rigid, pantomime motions desperate to start a story in motion, he then joins her telling the same story but perhaps with a different point of view. She lifts her index finger to the heavens and the story begins.
The man, emerges from the dark space between the pillars the scene is still barely lit as he unfolds we see who he is, then joined by the woman, who finds him, lured him and together they continue their story. The story telling gods above comment and continue the story.
Then, the interrupters arrive. The gods rage, the female story teller is laid bare and our woman dissaears to the darkness. The intereupters are complex and confuse, they show us fear and anxiety but they also show us hope they swallow our man and we are left to see the emotions of human kind battle it out on stage. Through the darkness and the light they debate with movement, to an overwhelming orchestrial soundtrack. Until the debate returns to the source and our couple return.
The gods continue to tell their story, the couple move as directed and then as determined and the demons and hope we saw do not dare interrupt them. They move into a new rhythm, creating their own shapes until we are left with the woman, alone on a closing curtain, her index finger pointing to the heavens demanding the gods to stop interfering and so the story ends.
A remarkable and intense performance, Leon and Lightfoot have composed a ballet that provokes thought by over whelming the emotions. A limited colour palatte of black and white, the use of pantomime movements and the creation of shapes with intertwined bodies, in both the positive and negative space, makes for a sensational piece.
This is just a description of the first performance. Two more followed that were as intense and as sensual. The ballet runs at Le Palais Garnier until the 23rd of May, if you can get a ticket and are in or travelling to Paris, I would highly recommend it. See the Paris Opera website for more detail: https://www.operadeparis.fr/en