The last dance at the opera

Looks like it was just set. A proud warrior Solor with a sober smile. We are June 2, 2010. But time flies by so fast on the stage. Twelve years later, almost to this day, it’s time to say goodbye. Paris opera star Stéphane Bullion, 42, led his last dances on Saturday 4 June at Garnier in Mats Eck’s “Another Place”, a duet delicate and exquisite in his image.

By Maria Sedelnikova

Neither a noble artist nor a brilliant artist, Stéphane Bullion is the most discreet star of his generation. It is a passion underpinned by hard work, intelligence and artistic generosity that guided his rich career at the Paris Opera. The young dancer joined the company at the age of 17 after dance school, slowly but surely. At the age of 23, the great Grigorovich saw in this cute, curly-haired handsome boy – Ivan the Terrible. The first success was broken by the disease. Cancer, which he will not talk about until years later, deprives him of the stage.

In the studio – read “In Life” – the alloy is back with the support of its director, Brigitte Lefevre. The title of first dancer received in 2008 opens the door to the great classics – Albrecht In Giselle, Lucien N paquita Above all Armand in La Dame aux camélias by Neumeier, a ballet with several technical lifts in which Stéphane earned his reputation as a reliable partner.

The star nomination comes at the age of thirty, and he is already an accomplished artist. Since then, he has danced all the main roles in the repertoire of the second half of the twentieth century. Lesco, Onegin, Jeune Homme, Quasimodo, le Parc, Orphée – to name a few.

He did not want to say goodbye, preferring to leave in silence, invisible, without looks, without regret. Fortunately it failed. Garnier, full of emotion, hung his ears with salutations for a good thirty minutes, which he tasted in his usual way, almost embarrassed, terrified. Above all, don’t be alone on stage. Surrounded by his beloved partners Ludmila Bagliero, Alice Rinavand (next to Farewell), Agnes Letesto, Eleonora Abagnato, his senior companion Jose Martinez, his principals Aurelie Dupont, Brigitte Lefevre, and his wife Pauline Verdusen, who is also a dancer with the two. Children rejoice under the rain of twinkling stars.

Mats Ek’s ballet program dates back to 2019. Re-reading for Carmen by Bizet-Chtchedrine (1992), an entry into the opera repertoire as well as two creations – else square and Bolero She celebrated the return of the Swedish choreographer, who announced the end of his career in 2017, at the age of 70. But when Aurélie Dupont makes you an offer, it’s hard to refuse. She danced herself the first time with Stéphane Bullion in 2019 and she was the one who almost ordered him to say goodbye to this piece. The choice is irreplaceable, because this heartwarming duo traversing several psychological degrees on the sonata in B minor by Franz Liszt (played by Staffan Scheega) deserves all the neoclassical ballet stories they danced.

Elsewhere One of Mats Ek’s famous solos for two, this pas deux derives from allusions to romantic ballet. Conspicuously imperfect binaries like the lives of an ordinary couple involved in everyday life. Bergman’s scenes from Married Life appear to be in a theatrical version folded into ten minutes. The same couple who leave each other and meet endlessly. The same fairy tale of a movie where episodes change before our eyes. The same sober and modern decor except that instead of the green sofa there is a pink table. Everyone has their fetish. Eck hanging on the tables. Stephane Polion embodied a man, Ludmila Bagliero – a woman.

But on the evening of farewell, this family saga took on another personal and artistic dimension: Stephane Bullion did not break up with the woman, but rediscovered all his relationships with her for the last time on the opera stage. The joy of the beginning, the pain that comes with age, the physical and emotional feelings that translate into direct and subtle gestures specific to Mats Ek. You should have seen with what despair Stephan Polion jumped into the fragile arms of Lyudmila Bagliero, he looked like a child, how he held her hand as if he was afraid to fall without her and how much he devoted himself to dancing.

In the end, they both settle down on the table and curl up to be very small in front of the wonderful and formidable Foyer de la Danse. Technicians arrive to take them backstage: you go to the right, he – to the left. But before he leaves for good, Stephane Bullion makes a barely perceptible impulsive movement of a hand towards the table, as a last-ditch attempt to extend his time here. A minimum of nuances with the deepest sincerity.

Barely leaving, the new dancers bravely came out on stage. “Another Place” goes straight with “Bolero” forming a kind of diptych that invites relocation and renewal. The company’s energetic young dancers warm up, stretch and prepare to attack the famous Ravel music. Why is there no vacancy for the star?

Visible © James Bort / ONP

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