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Last Night Stand - "Véronique Doisneau" (a film) and reflections on career transitions for dancers

by Marian Horosko
March 9, 2009
Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 West 37th Street, Suite 501
New York, NY 10018
646-731-3200
More information about "Véronique Doisneau" can be found at www.jeromebel.fr.
The Baryshnikov Arts Center, at 450 W. 37th St, presented a one-night stand for a one-hour film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey, "Véronique Doisneau." It was filmed onstage at the Palais Garnier in Paris, home of the Paris Opéra Ballet with Doisneau alone, no scenery, no music except for her humming the score as she dances. She talks about her life in the company. That night would be Doisneau's last performance.

The charm of the production is the sincerity and simple narration of Doisneau as she reflects on her career as a corps dancer, her regret at not having gone up the levels due to an injury to her back and she graciously omits mentioning the Opéra's backstage politics. She is 42 years old, has two children, 12 and 6 and she is on stage alone. She gives no reason for leaving. The date of the filming is the day of her last performance. She dances onstage in a practice skirt, an 18th century long white tutu, hums her music as she dances beautifully. Her favorite solo (which she never had a chance to perform) is the third variation in "Le Corsaire" and she marks the title role in "Giselle," which she would have done movingly had she been given the chance. Especially moving, and even humorous, is her endless standing in corps poses during the Second Act of "Swan Lake" as the absent principals dance the title roles.

With her beautiful body and face, one wonders why she never attempted to perform in another company, but she mentions her forthcoming pension and seems content. (Click here for a clip of the film in French.)

In contrast, the American ballet girl upon retirement, has had to pay for her 8-year education in dance (amounting to about $20,000, since there is no government support for major ballet academies as there is in Europe, Asia and Russia, although she may have won a scholarship in a competition); the corps will receive no pension even after 20 or more years of performing, except in special cases of a principal; no training in the school's pedagogy or choreographic courses. Balanchine, however did create a "workshop" for would-be choreographers that has long disappeared.

But, at that last night, unless the American dancer waits for the end of the season to disappear, there will be plenty of flowers, presents, good wishes and "keep in touch," exchanges. Deplorable. There is an alumni association that invites alums to visit the school once a year. At one point New York City Ballet talked about giving a pension, or assistance with retraining in another profession, but the talks went no further. Since 1985, however, there are several retraining organizations for theater performers making a transition. An exception is the Jackqueline Kennedy Onassis School where alums of American Ballet Theatre now receive training in their New York University courses to become an accredited teacher of their school's pedagogy.

Then, there is always the option of turning to choreography. With the vast exposure to a varied repertory that even regional companies have, some dancers have turned to choreography and been very successful. One upcoming performance by a former principal, John Prinz of NYCB and ABT, will have his single performance showing, Sunday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 W 55th Street, of classical and contemporary works for his small company. It is produced by DanceTracks, an organization founded to present opportunities for ballet dancers to perform and create classical and contemporary works. Contact: www.dancetracksnyc.webs.com.
A photo from 'Véronique Doisneau', a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

A photo from "Véronique Doisneau", a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

Photo © & courtesy of Anna Van Kooij


A photo from 'Véronique Doisneau', a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

A photo from "Véronique Doisneau", a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

Photo © & courtesy of Anna Van Kooij


A photo from 'Véronique Doisneau', a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

A photo from "Véronique Doisneau", a film by Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey

Photo © & courtesy of Anna Van Kooij


Ted Thomson and Frances Ortiz perform 'For Love or Grace' with John Prinz and Friends

Ted Thomson and Frances Ortiz perform "For Love or Grace" with John Prinz and Friends

Photo © & courtesy of Lois Greenfield

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