August Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux, the sole surviving section of his full-length 1842 ballet 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’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 practiced 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.
Here, instead of a country lad and his lass, Wevers gives us two dudes in business suits squaring off against each other. Indignity and grace get inextricably tangled together with a swagger and silliness that’s seamless.
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times
“Flower Festival” is Wevers’ wacky take on one of the most delightful pas de deux in the classical ballet repertoire, but he has upended virtually every aspect of it. It’s a clever and appropriate conclusion to a delightful romp that had the audience on its feet almost before the stage went to black.
Alice Kaderlan, Crosscut
Wevers has upended the decorum and propriety normally associated with Bournonville and created a duet for two men in his trademark whimsical style. Danced with just the right mixture of wit and aplomb by Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postelwaite, the two men compete with increasing silliness. This is Wevers at his best and the quirky movement has a delightful freshness to it.
Mariko Nagashima, Seattle Dances
January 20, 2012
Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center