Marie-Josée Redont’s own masters always insisted that she dance a ballet with the precise style and the choreographer’s own wishes very firmly in mind.
The first of these masters was Huguette Devanel, who made her début on the Opera stage in 1945. Over a ten-year period, Mlle Devanel taught her Nicolas Guerra’s famous séries, Saint Léon’s tours tire-bouchon and virtuoso pointe technique.
It was Christiane Vaussard who took over the Opera School’s final-year students (classe d'engagement). A student of Carlotta Zambelli, Mlle Vaussard inherited her teacher’s indomitable will, energy and above all, brio. From Vaussard, Mlle Redont learnt the secrets of a strong, flexible and independent torso. “The floating ribs must float” Miss Vaussard would exclaim!
The real turning point however was Mlle Redont’s first lesson with Maître Yves Brieux, a disciple de Gustave Ricaux, when she was ten years old. Ricaux, of whom Brieux would say “Good Lord! The moment you begin that enchaînement, I hear his voice in my ear ! " . Over 24 years of study, Maître Brieux passed on not just the traditions, but the grandeur of the French School. Sculpting the back, the feet, delving deeply into adagio work, mastering the intricacies of the pas de deux and above all, acquiring virtuoso batterie and jumping technique amongst a throng of male students, and of the étoiles who flocked to Brieux’ studio.
A superb musician, Yves Brieux would insit on every subtlety of rubato, rallentando, legato in adagio work, the showmanship (abattage) peculiar to classical dancing, the poetry implicit in silence, and how one casts a spell with a suspended pose….
Brieux never forgot Noverre’s dictum: “an exercice useful to one pupil, may harm the next".
Even at 84, Maître Brieux would go quite pale, bounding like a Jack-in-the box whenever he spotted a flaw that might harm us. Then he would shout “Stop it! Not in my studio! If you want to go elsewhere and do it, so be it! Not here! A dancer’s career is so brief that an injury in youth is a luxury we cannot afford."
Brieux was notoriously and terribly strict, but what we recall is his absolute commitment to our art and its beauty; his knowledge of the theatre and of choreography shone upon us like the brightest of stars. As for historical styles, he was non-pareil: he would present us with enchaînements taken from Bournonville, tests of derring-do from the schools of Ricaux and Cecchetti, or the off-balance poses typical of Serge Lifar.
Assiduous students of Brieux were veritable chameleons, ready for any challenge, endowed with the artistic and technical means to render every style right down to the most fashionable trends. That being said, he would never water down the concepts of classical dance to make it “fit” with other disciplines, but rather strengthened its own identity. We discovered how to steer our course through countless styles without harming the body - or the style! For the professional must learn to defend himself against whatever toils and troubles may be flung at him in a theatrical career.
The question remains: is there nonetheless a limit? Must we dance ever-faster, ever “louder”? Or weightlessly, as though we were astronauts? Must we alter our aesthetic canon by splitting our articulations ever-wider? … Must we? To the point of breaking and distorting line? Shall Fashion rule, and disrupt purity and harmony?
The body obeys its own laws. As Marie-Josée Redont sees it, young dancers and young professionals must be given the tools to deal with new trends without suffering injury. Accordingly, they must become perfectly-acquainted with the enchaînements that have come down to us over the past three centuries. For there are flaws and errors which the naked eye, perhaps, will not see, but which the experienced “mind’s eye” does – flaws that harm the body and prevent the enchaînements from being properly executed.
The Shadow of Mouvement.
Wisdom dictates that the artist drink from the well of the great teachers of the past, in order to “reset” a body that certain specific techniques will likely throw off track. He must master the relationship between the back and the torso’s frontal plane, develop the stamina to “build” lengthy passages, and strive for the greatest cranio-caudal length. For the key to avoiding accident is a strong, flexible back, like a great wild cat.