Wiseman, though not strictly a ballet follower, is a genius storyteller; he rightly saw that the artistic vitality housed in this venerable company is a great story. Its current repertoire includes works by German experimentalist Pina Bausch, Britain’s deep-thinking Wayne McGregor, its former dancer Roland Petit and others.
Indeed, when it performs in New York right after the Kennedy Center engagement in July 2012, the Paris Opera Ballet will dance a raft of works little known on these shores, including Bausch’s acclaimed version of “Orpheus and Eurydice” and Petit’s rarely seen“L’Arlesienne.”
But, in what is one of the Kennedy Center’s greatest missed opportunities of recent years, the Paris Opera Ballet will be making its much-anticipated return to Washington with . . . yet another “Giselle.” A ballet that the Maryiinsky gave us last month in a near-definitive version. We don’t need another one anytime soon. Especially since we see “Giselle” in the Washington area roughly every other year. The Kennedy Center’s planners, apparently, think that’s not often enough, so the warhorse will be trotted out again for six performances.
In announcing the 2011-12 calendar last week, Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser said he has planned a “huge” ballet season. Really? It’s little different from any other, a parade of old faithfuls: Along with “Giselle,” we’ll see “La Bayadere” from the American Ballet Theatre, “Coppelia” from the Bolshoi, and — in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet — the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s “Jewels.” Huge, no. Familiar, yes.
It may be peevish to ask, but since Kaiser raised the anniversary, the question arises: Exactly how has Farrell’s troupe developed in those 10 years? It is essentially unchanged, still a migrant pick-up troupe performing Balanchine staples, dependent on freelancers and dancers moonlighting from other companies. It is hardly a “company,” though Farrell’s great skill would surely merit a more permanent entity. But the Kennedy Center’s support goes only so far.
In the contemporary dance arena, the brightest notes are sounded by the return of two familiar friends: the Mark Morris Dance Group will perform Morris’s evening-length “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” accompanied by the Handel oratorio of the same name. And the Merce Cunningham Dance Company comes through in the final throes of its funeral march, as it will permanently dissolve shortly after its two performances at the Kennedy Center in December.