August Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux, the sole surviving section of his full-length 1842 Napoli, is a classic in every sense of the word. Alive with his characteristically bouyant spirit and quick footwork, the duet, revived on its own in 1949 at the Royal Danish Ballet, has become a favorite for galas, competitions, or any occasion that seeks to showcase the flowering of classical ballet.
Olivier Wevers’s Flower Festival is an experiment in reinvention. Even casual ballet-goers will recognize the overall structure—intro, slow pas de deux, male and female variations and a lively coda for two—in Olivier’s new piece. More seasoned balletomanes will note many subtle details in his loving subversion, which closely follows the basic form of the original. Olivier stretches the Bournonville movement vocabulary, and his own. Instead of a young countryman and his girl, we get: two men. Instead of beribboned “peasant” costumes: business suits. And the spritely geniality of an old-fashioned rural courtship is stripped down, quite literally, to the urban edginess of contemporary power plays and office politics.
At once light and replete with technical challenges like the Bournonville original, Flower Festival must be danced in earnest, deadpan. The result is neither mockery nor mere parody, but a slyly funny and oddly touching reinvigoration of the old in the new.