Rain ballet choreographed by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Set to Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich. Performed 2014 at the Paris Opera Ballet. Star dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet are Valentine Colasante, Muriel Zusperreguy, Christelle Granier, Sae Eun Park, Léonore Baulac, Amélie Lamoureux, Laura Bachmann, Vincent Chaillet, Nicolas Paul, and Daniel Stokes. Georges-Elie Octors conducts the Ensemble Ictus and the Synergy Vocals. Set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld; costumes by Dries Van Noten; produced by Françoise Gazio; directed for TV and screen by Louise Narboni; Director of Dance at POB was Brigitte Lefèvre. Released 2015, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling and the disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: B+
Keersmaeker created Rain for her own dance group in 2001. Brigitte Lefèvre added it to the POB repretoire in 2011.
Keersmaeker named this dance after Rain, a novel published by Kirsty Gunn in 1994 about a child who drowned. Keersmaeker was also a fan of Steve Reich. Perhaps the soothing and repetitive Music for 18 Musicians also suggested "rain" to the choreographer. But the dancing in Rain is the opposite of soothing and repetitive. Every molecule of rainwater is desperately determined to reach the center of the earth, and this determination is suggested by the dancing here with its constant motion and countless discharges of nervous energy. If I were to rename this piece, I'd call it Currents or Streams.
This first screenshot below comes from the curtain call, a rare chance to get a relatively sharp picture of all 10 dancers. The 3 guys are all identical drops of Paris Opera H2O. The 7 girls, hair down, barefoot, and braless, range in age and personalities:
Here, also at curtain call, is conductor Georges-Elie Octors on stage and the only decent view of the musicians in the video. I wish the producer had included a bonus feature showing the musicians at work in rehearsal with their special array of instruments. The music seemed well-played to me and the recording sounded fine:
As the show starts, the dancers run on stage and continue running in big circles like soldiers or football players in endurance training. A "light feature" is used to intentionally spoil the image for a moment at the beginning and the end of the show:
After running amok, the dancers form into groups and start leaning over. Each lean results in a new walk, run, tumble, dance adventure, and often, a flop to the floor:
Here's a flop. One of the dancers was quoted somewhere on the Internet as saying, "Ballet is a fight against gravity. In Rain you must give gravity free reign." I think she said this in French and that the pun in English is a weird fluke:
Gradually the individual currents run together into small groups, which usually perform in some asymmetric fashion . . .
. . . leading to multiple flops. Notice the markings on the floor. I read comments that Keersmaeker's choreography is "mathematically" determined and related to the floor diagrams. But I could never detect any of this from the video:
The only scenery is a rope curtain behind the dancing. In the view below, the pink and rose lighting has just changed to blue. Lighting tricks and quick costume changes by some of the dancers provide a bit of visual variety:
Eventually we get ensemble dancing, which reminds me of the Alonzo King approach. King sets the parameters for his dancers, but each performer is then personally responsible for creating her own role. This must be the Keersmaeker technique also, which Brigitte Lefèvre calls an "association of soloists":
The irresistible force of flowing water bursts all boundaries:
And leads to mass flopping. This style of dancing is radically different from classical ballet. In classic dancing, everything is precisely predetermined by management to be uniform and is performed in spurts punctuated by recovery time off stage. In Rain, all the dancers are mostly on stage for 70 minutes and each is the star of her own show. There are three chairs for brief rests on stage, but most of the breathing room comes from wallowing on the floor:
To stay mostly moving on stage for 70 minutes requires a lot of stamina. Towards the end, the movements become ever more raucous and sexual. Of the 7 girls, 5 are young and 2 are older. The 5 youngsters all richly demonstrate their ability to strut and flaunt. The senior girl (probably close to age 45) seems to get a mercy pass from flopping and wallowing and serves as a kind of chaperone (not shown here):
By now, each girl has established her personality, and a bit of this shines through in actual acting:
A key ensemble before the "finale":
I already mentioned the 5 flaunting girls and the chaperone. I left out "girl 7", who is also not far from retirement age but doesn't ask for mercy. I think she is Christelle Granier (please correct me if I'm wrong.) In the finale, girl 7 shows how tough she is with the most astonishing solo in the whole piece. The next 4 screenshots are devoted to girl 7, who deserves a Medal of Valor from the President of France. I hope this role didn't flop her into a hospital:
Now for a grade. I didn't like the silly "light-features" that interfered with the video at the beginning and end of the show, but maybe that's in the libretto. I'm not happy with Louise Narboni's video, most of which is marred by weak resolution and noticeable haze. Narboni's attempt to pan across a line of standing dancers was particular bad. At first I thought the video might have been an attempt to "up-rez" from a SD film. But the flop shots from that camera in the fly space all look admirably sharp and clear. So I guess Narboni either needed more light or better gear.
The overall presentation of the ballet is marred by a lack of bonus features, which could have been interesting in support of this unusual work. I wish BelAir had provided little pictures in the keepcase booklet to help me connect the names to the faces of the dancers. That would have been so much nicer than a bunch of dense PR about Keersmaeker's wonderful career. Why load up the booklet with still photos of the production that are so much better than the quality of the video? And why print 2 pages about Steve Reich's career (all easily available from the Internet) when what I wanted to see was nice pictures of the Ensemble Ictus and their setup in the pit?
Sum up: I reduce what could have been an A+ video to a B; but solely out of admiration for girl 7, I'll move the grade up to "B+."
Here is a clip from BelAir: