Band Jonathan Widran and Jessica Taylor
Making its first Southern California appearance in 21 years, the Paris Opera Ballet – worldwide
recognized as the birthplace of classical dance – brought a unique fusion to the Hollywood Bowl scene
of historical significance and contemporary timelessness, offering the deep recognition
a mesmerizing public insight into its greatness over the past 350 years.
Their richly visual presentation was highlighted by Pas de deux (male/female duos) by Le
Park and Swan Lake, a single ballerina creating the magic of a hovering swan (La Mort du cygne),
a solo dancer illustrating the tender passions of Debussy’s “Clair de lune” and more
sets that used the expanse of the Bowl stage to bring Faunes and The Vertiginous
Thrill of accuracy to kinetic life. Ballet came to the Bowl through its association with
Gustavo Dudamel, longtime music director and bandleader of LA Phil, who simultaneously
has been musical director of the Orchester de l’Opéra de Paris since 2021.
Throughout many of the eight pieces presented, the music and movement were so beautifully
synchronize that they often felt part of the same transcendent creative heart. This kind of impact
the intuitive pairing reflects Dudamel’s commitment to the seamless connection between art forms. His
choice of repertoire to showcase most delicately but powerfully the ballet comprised five pieces
for large orchestra by Auber (the opening number “Grand Pas Classique”), Mozart (“Adagio
of the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major” associated with the Pas de deux from the Park), Tchaikovsky
(“Pas de deux from Swan Lake, Act II”), Debussy (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”, paired
with Faunes) and Schubert (the last number “Finale of Symphony No. 9 in C major”,
paired with The Dizzying Thrill of Accuracy).
Equally haunting, alternately adagio (slow rhythm), allegro (up-tempo) and dynamically powerful
like the LA Phil was, it felt like the most endearing musical element of the night was a veteran
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. His magical tones transcended mere earthly music to create
works of sheer beauty that could have stood on their own even without the presentation of dance.
As he brought his inimitable magic to the orchestra on Mozart’s piece, he was the most
exquisite accompanied by the cellist Robert de Maine (on “Le Cygne” by Saint-Saëns
Carnival of the Animals, in duet with La Mort du cygnet) and solo under the spotlights of Satie’s
“Three Gnossiennes” and “Moonlight”.
Although the larger set pieces that closed each set were intended to impress with sheer numbers,
colorful costumes and use of the stage, two of the Pas de deux, emphasizing intimacy and
romantic storytelling on pure tinsel, combined to create the emotional core of the
presentation. Because the soft rhythm of the music matched so perfectly the quiet rhythm of the
late night romantic tale, probably Dudamel’s most inspiring couple of the night was
“Adagio” by Mozart with the slow, classy and sensual dance of the Park. Both the female
(Laura Hecquet) and the male movements (Germain Louvet) were deeply lyrical, and one
particular moment of the dance – where he spun her around while she stood
her neck – was so moving and passionate that it inspired the audience to applaud in the moment,
long before the play ends.
Both were so controlled and graceful that all could feel their passion and strength throughout the
sequence of him picking her up and twirling her around, them jumping for joy, then she moving slyly around him until their long kiss, with him literally sweeping her off his feet. Thibaudet was pure perfection here, creating a seamless connection with rising romantic tension and fulfillment with sounds beyond mere notes. Rather than classic ballet costumes, the couple wore elegant, flowing white sleepwear and danced barefoot, as if to ground the lyrical choreography in down-to-earth sensuality.
The Swan Lake Pas de deux, with Sae Un Park and Paul Marque, was the most classic
evening dance, with Park wearing a traditional white classical ballet tutu and dancing in
points all the time as he slowly twirled her around, his arms and legs raised like the delicate unfolding of
the feathers of a swan. Their dancing was sensitive with a very intuitive flow, creating a harmonious otherworldly chemistry. Although their movements are effortlessly elegant, they
possessed all the strength and skill of the best athletes.
Although they are a real duo, Marque’s role was to elevate Park literally and figuratively to the rank of
highlight her beauty and grace and make sure she shined all the time. Their innovation
presentation marries marvelously with “Le Cygne” by Saint-Saëns, the opening number of the
second half which featured solo dancer Dorothee Gilbert (also wearing a white tutu and
showing the tip technique) using his skills and talent to artfully resemble a real swan. Dancing
on tiptoe, she seemed to glide across a glassy lake while gracefully stretching her
For those living in Los Angeles, the all-night performance felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air.
fresh air and escape from reality, even if it was only for a starry night.