Mats Ek’s Giselle differs in various ways from all other ballets that I have danced.
It’s in his Giselle that I was first able to show my real personality on stage and where I didn’t need to act. Mats Ek doesn’t want his dancers to play a character, he seeks authentic and personal reactions.
He brings together the performers, aiming to achieve the rapport he’s looking for between the characters. In the beginning, he wanted to try me in the role of Albrecht, but very quickly he realized my personality better matched the role of Hilarion.
The experience is fantastic, because unlike in other ballets, the dancer doesn’t have to identify with anyone but just let the acting come naturally. For both the spectator and the dancer, the vision is very strong, because I react according to how I feel and not because I am obliged.
I feel totally immersed in this ballet, I’m deeply sensitive to it. Usually, when I finish dancing, I become myself once again, and I can go to my dressing room and talk and joke normally. But with Mats Eks’ Giselle it’s different, it’s tough for me to recover. I’m so close to myself on stage, and what happens on stage is so strong that the barriers between Hilarion and José dissolve. And then it’s like what happened on stage also happened to me.
I could dance this Giselle forever. I never want performances to finish. The emotions run so high and are so natural that the slightest difference from one evening to another is magnified. The conditions vary so completely that I never dance the same ballet twice.
Sleeping Beauty is not my favorite ballet.
I like to dance it though—despite its excessive rigidity and formality—because there is a truly magic moment in the slow variation during the second act. This is a unique sequence in the great academic repertory.
I’ve never really encountered in another ballet the sensation I feel during this six-minute solo, except in Jean-Claude Gallotta’s Nosferatu. At the start of his piece, I’m alone on stage, and as if bewitched by the music, I let myself be brought into the dance. The choreographic moves are obviously very different from those in Sleeping Beauty, but the sensations that I experience dancing the two works on stage are curiously similar.
I think it’s definitely worth it to dance Sleeping Beauty, just for the pleasure of dancing this slow variation, although I know this may appear to be bit of an egotistical approach to the role.
This variation is danced to a violin solo. Because there’s genuine complicity between the dancer and the musician, the choreographed sequences become second to the musical background. It’s the violinist who determines the duration of the balances or the pirouettes that the dancer executes. I adore the start of the variation, the instant when I don’t yet know how the musician will release the music on that particular day and when the dancer must have a tuned ear for the music and the dance to be perfectly aligned.
When I first began to dance Swan Lake, the role of the prince, especially in the first act, was hard for me.
Right from the start, I chose a modern and very natural way of playing the role. I tried to be quite close to what a prince today could be like, a prince that’s bored. I met with a lot of negative reactions. There were those who thought I had stage fright, others said I was sulky. One time, someone even asked me if I was unhappy because I learned too late about a substitution!
Later, I constructed a very different prince, one with a romantic temperament, but also with much more brio. Physically, he’s at the royal court, but his spirit is very much elsewhere. He’s lost in his dreams. He’s obliged to go through the motions of court life, but has absolutely no desire to do so. In one way, this is also a very true interpretation because it matches a reality for me. I’ve never been happy with too much society life!
Actually, my first interpretation was too modern and too true for a classical ballet, which traditionally remains in a highly stylized universe. I think it would work for a modern version of Swan Lake, like the choreography of Matthew Bourne, which I find very interesting.
I think it’s for essential dancers to adapt their stage performance to the choreographer’s vision of his or her work. In Patrice Bart’s version, for instance, the characters’ psychology is different, and the prince’s role can be handled in a more modern approach. In a ballet, there’s not only a soloist. The rapport between all the characters is important (see Mats Ek’s Giselle).
I think that narrative dance should evolve into more modern characters and portrayals. We can’t dance characters from the late 19th century as they were danced in that century forever.