The making of “Daphnis et Chloé”



Ballet by Benjamin Millepied
Symphonie chorégraphique by Maurice Ravel

In this double bill, which is named after the two choreographers whose works will be staged, Benjamin Millepied, the celebrated choreographer of the blockbuster movie “Black Swan” and until recently the Aristic Director of the Paris Opera Ballet, will present one of his pieces in Berlin for the first time:  “Daphnis et Chloé”, which is set to Maurice Ravel’s “symphonie chorégraphique” with the same name. With this one-hour-long piece, Millepied introduced himself to the Parisian public in 2013. In Berlin, his ballet will be having its German premiere.

The story of the ballet can be summed up easily: Inspired by the Greek epigraph of Longus the adventures of Daphnis and Chloé are told: the discovery of their love, the appearance of the seductive and disturbing Lycéion, the tricks of the malicious Dorcon, the kidnapping of Chloé by Bryaxis and the pirates, the intervention of the nymphs and the god Pan, and the happy ending in which the young lovers are finally united.

For the piece, the French artist Daniel Buren has designed a geometric color scheme that transforms the bucolic landscapes in which the ancient story about the two foundling children is originally set into a reduced but intense aesthetic. Large stripes, squares and circles give the dancers a tension-packed frame, which they, clothed in colorful costumes, bring to life with a classic movement language.


Ballet by Jean-Christophe Maillot
Music by Claudio Monteverdi, Biagio Marini, Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger

While Millepied’s “Daphnis et Chloé” shines just like the sun on the first day of a promising summer, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s piece “Altro Canto” from 2006 appears rather solemn and almost liturgical: In ever new constellations more than one hundred candles (stage design by Rolf Sachs) illuminate the otherwise empty stage space while we hear baroque compositions by Monteverdi, Marini, and Kapsberger.

The longtime director of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo in the Principality of Monaco is particularly interested in the flickering of the candles, the effect whose magic captures the moments between light and darkness, in which the bodies for a short glimpse solidify as statues and a new perspective on movement becomes possible. At the same time, the flickering is to be understood – in the sense of a tremor – as a continuous movement from one emotion to the next.

To this contrast between light and shadow, fragility and monumentality Maillot also adds the fundamental duality of the sexes, which is also set into movement by this choreography. Fashion Grandmaster Karl Lagerfeld has designed matching costumes: On stage, men wear skirts, women wear are trousers, everybody is wearing everything quite naturally – but never in the way of a foolish travesty, but always with refined elegance. And so the necessary tension is evoked that creates the space for that special resonance which unfolds its mysterious charm in the space “in-between”.

The double bill “Maillot / Millepied” is an hors d’œuvre for the varied French ballet tradition, which has found a wonderful contemporary expression with the two choreographies “Daphnis et Chloé” and “Altro Canto”.

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