World-renowned French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj explores the splendour of the much loved tales with his new ballet, Les Nuits (The Nights) and Johannesburg audiences were able to see this ballet as part of Dance Umbrella/Arts Alive Festival at the Joburg Theatre on 2 and 3 September 2014.
His work captures the Golden Age of Islam so beautifully, and it is at all times sensuous, witty, refined and mysterious. It is erotic. Plenty of same sex and opposite sex seductive movements and steamy writhing complete with orgasmic expressions on the dancers faces as they move from one scene to another in non-stop action for ninety minutes (and at our altitude too). The audience is invited to join Scheherazade, a woman of intelligence and culture as well as of great grace and beauty as we look at a world where women are expendable against a backdrop of Eastern opulence achieved with a minimalist set and magnificent, sumptuous Arabic music and the evocative choreography. The costuming, of course, is a triumph. The girls start out topless in turbans, at one point the men are dressed in black, ninja like to portray thieves.
Programme notes advise that for Les Nuits, Preljocaj, the choreographer, drew heavily on 19th century depictions of the myth and mystique of the Middle East in art, such as The Barber of Suez by Léon Bonnat, The Nubian Woman by Charles Gleyre, The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugene Delacroix and The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. I did not know the works before and it was interesting to see how my ignorance lost me the images at the time, and how the research brought back the ballet images.
All round this ballet was wonderful in every detail and I count myself privileged to have been able to see it. Thanks to Dance Umbrella and Arts Alive.