Corps de Ballet

Choreography : Noé Soulier
Music : Franz Schubert and Guiseppe Verdi

Premiere March 15, 2014, at the Opera National de Lorraine

Choreography, set design : Noé Soulier
Costumes : Noé Soulier and Martine Augsbourger
Lighting : Noé Soulier and Olivier Bauer
Musical design : Noé Soulier and Arélien Azan-Zielinski
Musics : 4th movement of the Symphonie n°4 en Ut mineur D.417 de Schubert and final scene
Rigoletto of Verdi (3ème acte, Gilda/ Rigoletto)
Musical arrangements : Jacques Gandard

Rehearsal director : Isabelle Bourgeais


The choreography of Corps de ballet is based entirely on classical ballet steps.
It begins as a glossary: the dancers execute all the classical ballet steps in alphabetical order. Each step belongs to a family of movements which combine in different variations. The dancers each execute a different version of the same step to visually deploy the internal structure of our classical ballet vocabulary.
Depending on the step the common point between the dancers’ movements may vary: the first step is an arabesque: all the dancers have one leg placed behind their bodies, but some of them do a jump, others a turn or a balance in this position. The second step is the assemblé, a jump with the feet together: all the dancers do a jump, but one leg may be in front, to the side or behind the body. This creates a complex unison pattern in which that which is in unison is constantly changing.

The first two sections are executed to the last movement of Schubert’s 4th Symphony. All the melodies have been taken out, meaning the accompaniment changes also, it no longer really accompanies. Instead it has become more prominent. A similar logic underlies the prologue, in which miscellaneous elements of the decor are juxtaposed: fields, sea, statues, balustrades, etc., no longer combining into the creation of a general illusion, they are presented as themselves, occupying the entire space, clearly distinct from one another. The dancers are wearing doublets typical of certain classical ballets. Large basting stitches are embroidered in gold, such that the internal structure of the garment becomes its own ornament.
The dancers continue with a phrase composed only of preparatory steps, transitional steps which allow them to execute other steps: the coiling plié which precedes a jump, or the sprung plié which precedes a pirouette. The dancers perform these movements as if they were really going to jump or turn, then interrupt themselves at the last second to initiate a new movement. This discrepancy between the intention and the action of the dancers is meant to render visible how they plan for and project the next movement.
The final sequence is composed only of specific pantomime movements from 19th century ballet. Contrary to traditional use, these movements are performed without interruption or articulations, creating a single continuous phrase. But little by little, movements with clear meanings stand out, making it impossible to fully see the movements as performed.
The movement phrase is saturated with meaning: you can see the dancers’ facial expressions, the movement of their hands and the multiplicity of feelings caused by the layering of elements in their overlapping movements - without them being attached to a particular opera, Rigoletto.This movement phrase is danced to the final scene of Verdi’s Rigoletto. Only the orchestral parts are played; as in the pantomime phase, the multiple, contradictory emotions of the dramatic stage emerge without imposing a narrative upon them.

Noé Soulier

Noé Soulier, born in Paris in 1987, studied at the CNSMD in Paris, at the National Ballet School in Canada, and at the PARTS school in Brussels. He earned his masters’ degree in Philosophy at the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and participated in the residency programme at the Palais de Tokyo: Le Pavillon. Noé Soulier explores our ways of perceiving and interpreting movements through multiple structures: choreography, installation, theoretical essay and performance.
In Mouvement sur Mouvement (2013) and Signe blanc (2012), Noé Soulier created a gap between speech and the gestures which accompany it, questioning their collaboration in the development of meaning.
In Petites perceptions (which won First Prize in the Danse Élargie competition organised by the Théâtre de la Ville and the Musée de la Danse in 2010) and Corps de ballet (his 2014 creation for the CCN - Ballet de Lorraine), the tension is set between the intention and the actual movement of the dancer, examining how the dancer commits to his or her action.
These gaps and internal tensions attempt to explore the complex relationships between intention, action, and the articulation of meaning by the body and the word.