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Ladies, ladies - and gentlemen ! A new fashion, a "mania" as the French say, has swept Paris, and it is called Heymania. It revolves about a stripling of nineteen or twenty, one Matthias Heymann, who in the past six months has leapt in fancy costume over the pages of Danse, Danser, Altamusica, taken the Prix Carpeaux and the Prix de l’AROP, and danced more leads than you’ve fingers and toes.
Saved by the bell! The hot-air balloon around Matthias Heymann has floated in à point nommé. For Matthew Ganio, poor lad, has been hard done by. Appointed étoile in 2004 at the age of twenty-one, Ganio - to earn his keep - was pitched straight into the gaping mawl of "modern" dance. And as one feared, his frail frame has not stood the trial.
And so the next teenager was brought on. Now, to be fair, behind the rolling drum-beat prances a nice little dancer. Blessed with the advantage of middling stature - not above five foot ten I reckon - Heymann’s emploi is markedly demi-caractère. At so young an age, his muscular development is unusually complete. He is skilled in batterie and terre-à-terre work, and endowed with considerable elevation. His grandes pirouettes are secure, and his stage manner agreeable enough.
In fact, so fleet on his feet is Heymann, that his arrival on the scene has turned to spring the fifteen endless winters that X, Y and Z had to wait, seething, before finding someone with a technique credible enough, to put up against Emmanuel Thibault.
And some seethe cold.
Recently, Japanese television broadcast an educational series, where Paris Opera stars instruct their juniors. One of these stars managed to go on about the Blue Bird for twenty minutes (never has Parliamentary Question Time seemed so long), without caring to mention that a not-unknown colleague, the aforesaid Thibault, has been amongst the role’s major interpreters since World War II. A role amongst the many, to which the latter has brought an entirely new depth of meaning. Upon which, the star in question brought on camera, not Thibault, but Heymann, then aged eighteen, as the exemplar Blue Bird!
Die haben Sorge! While some make of the settling of accounts a lifetime’s work, others scuttle the ship. As we go to press, we learn that by 2009, the Government will have cut off all public subsidy to the Operas of Avignon, Metz and Tours - while creating a twin to the notorious Théâtre de la Ville: after the Pavillon Noir at Avignon, yet another lavishly-subsidised Temple to Modern Dance at the Palais de Chaillot, as a showcase for the Centres chorégraphiques nationaux (CCN).
The Paris Opera was founded as a public service, in the noblest sense of the term, built less than ten minutes’ walk from the Louvre as a repository for major works of art, ancient and modern. Is it now become a den, to which some few only hold a key? Where one give free rein to recondite personal tastes? A private club for promoting one’s cronies, a battleground for private revenge?
And once the hot-air balloon have floated off, Blue Bird or otherwise, it will be down to earth with a thud for poor Heymann. For as étoile, he will, perforce, be called upon to defend such stupendous works as "MC14/22 Ceci est mon Corps" or "Casanova" by Preljocaj, Robyn Orlin’s "Allegro" or perhaps, a new Jérôme Bel. At least the salary is good - covers medical bills.
Abroad, the sheer caprice manifest both in our repertory and in our late appointments to étoilat, gives rise, variously, to mirth, disdain, or a cynical smile. But does it matter? This latest object of caprice will shortly be appointed étoile, guest star everywhere from Patagonia to Khurassan, and be duly grateful to his benefactors.
Were classical dancing just looking right, doing the steps right and knowing the right people, it would not matter.