Last night, we went to the Palais Garnier to see "Le Parc" (The Park), a ballet by French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. Preljocaj's "Ceci est mon Corps" (This is my body), a reflection on the biblical text, had left me in tears last year. An exploration of faith and trust in the face of despair and danced to the rhythms of shattering glass and gunfire, the performance had hit a nerve exposed by my mother's recent death.
This year, I anticipated something different, lighter in fact, since "Le Parc" was to be danced to Mozart. The live orchestra started with a short adagio in C major, luring me to think I had been correct in my assumption. But Preljocaj's familiar thematic strains quickly surfaced: the tensions between the forces of light and dark, between social constraints and individual longings, between hope and despair. Mozart was balanced against the whine of tape-recorded jet engines; dark-leather clad automatons moved in counterpoint to demoiselles in 17th-century finery, and elaborate courtship rituals were stripped down in the penultimate act to a near-naked love-making pas de deux. The twosome's dance is called "L'Abondon" (Abandon). The pair moved to the haunting simplicity of the andante from Mozart's piano concerto number 23, spinning across the stage as if to rise up off the floor, freed from the pull of gravity.
I was wrong. This wasn't light fare at all. The andante was the single disk on my mother's CD player on the day she died, and here, at the Palais Garnier, I wept for her, for the loneliness at the end of her life, and, in the hope that she, like the spinning lovers, has been freed.
As planned, we met up with La Chef and three visiting Americans after the performance and walked through the streets together to a nearby brasserie for drinks. Talk among the six of us stayed mainly on demographics as we learned about jobs, family life, and the details of our various Parisian experiences. Eventually, we paired off, and I found myself with Barbara, an urban East Coast real-estate broker. She looked at me finally and asked, somewhat hesitantly, "Did you like the dance?" Thinking of the sodden handkerchief in my purse, I replied, "Oh, yes! I was in tears at the end. Did you like it?" Barbara sighed. "Well," she said. "You know, to be honest, I prefer something more like...... 'Swan Lake.' "
We continued to the brasserie and ordered drinks, chatting about pets and grandchildren, and separating around midnight to go our separate ways to our temporary homes in the city.