Ballet French Style | Ballet Grand Gala Review

Editors choice

The Ballet Grand Gala returned for its fourth year in the UAE bringing an exclusive selection of classical and contemporary works performed by dancers of the Paris Opera National Ballet.

Dorothee Gilbert was the named star of this production, and she was accompanied by some of the ‘most promising talents of the rising generation of the company.’

I’d never had the pleasure of seeing Gilbert dance – apart from on YouTube. So, I was more than excited to see the French étoile perform.

The gala opened at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi on the Thursday then moved to Dubai’s Madinat Theatre at Madinat Jumeirah for matinee and evening performances on the Friday & Saturday. I caught the 2:00pm matinee on Friday.

A Strong Opening

The gala’s first piece was ‘La Sulphide (The Sylph) – Act II’ which was a strong opening with lyrical dance moves and sprightly pointe work, which saw Silvia Saint Martin’s Sylphide playfully tease and enthrall her male co-star as she pirouetted around him. A wobbly finish on one of her spins was the only low point towards the end – yes, missy, we all saw that! Well, that was until the next couple came out and showed up their predecessors with boundless energy, sky high jumps and lifts. I was captivated by Hannah O’Neill, whose effortless elegance was a joy to watch – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her! The leggy ‘half-Japanese, half-New Zealander’ most have stood around 5’10″ – which for a ballerina is huge! Definitely a name to watch out for.

A quick flick through the program informed me that Gilbert wasn’t on till the closing piece of part one and would be dancing Juliet from Romeo & Juliet. ‘Boo! Hurry up women’ were my thoughts….

‘Trio Per Uno’ was a brilliant contrast to the classical ballet, and gifted the audience a male duo ‘dance off’ with an African influence complete with drum beats and tribal dance moves.

Lead Talent

After a wait of 5 routines, Miss Gilbert finally graced us with her presence as Juliet in the famous balcony scene in Romeo & Juliet. And boy, did the lady not disappoint! The choreography played well to the couple’s chemistry with fluid lifts, seamlessly rolling out from nowhere, and tight lyrical footwork. The ethereal flowing gown she wore only cemented the romanticism of the dance, which was, and pardon the cliche, ‘poetry-inmotion’ This piece closed off the first half, and was my personal highlight.

Sometimes, the boys get overlooked by the females when it comes to ballet, but Jeremy Loup Quer assured that we all took note of him in his swashbuckling dance from ‘Le Corsaire (The Pirate)’ with a succession of Grand Jetes circling around the stage, only just clearing the back wall of the stage with his feet – this boy needs a bigger stage!

A Few Disappointments

There were 11 pieces in the gala, all pas de deaux except the finale, ‘The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude’, a pas de cinq, which saw the five dancers in fluorescent outfits, and the ladies rocking a green velour hooped dress – a modern take on the tutu which gave the piece an edgy look. The steps had a Irish jig quality to them which was reminiscent of River Dance. That would have been fun to watch but the off centered blocking was distracting and made the whole routine look messy. Gilbert didn’t make an appearance in the shows finale which was disappointing from an event baring her name.

Final Verdict on the Ballet Grand Gala

Ballet Grand Gala was a beautifully curated event with carefully selected pieces that contrasted well, whilst offering a variety of ballet styles to the audience – a smorgasbord of ballet if you will. It would be an ideal event for those not keen to sit through an entire ballet – or those that want to stifle the moans from a ballet intolerant partner. The show could benefit from a change of scenery as a blank stage is a little boring to the eye, but the talent on show is world class, breath taking and 100% a must see from myself. The 2018 show has already been confirmed and will be moved to the Dubai Opera so hopefully they will take note, and think about dressing the stage. And more importantly, sorting out the issue of the dancers steps being amplified by the stage mics! The last ballet I saw there, Giselle, was a rather noisy affair. These wee chinks are easily fixed and if so I can imagine the 2018 show will be even bigger and better then this years. Dance / Ballet / Culture Vultures – put the date in the diary.

About author
Profile photo of Emma Haylan Hall

Emma Haylan Hall

British Actress, travel junkie and connoisseur of all things fabulous. Emma's love of performing began at a young age and never left. Not quite as sweet as she looks.


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