The Guggenheim Works & Process Emotion & Motion program on Feb 14 & 15 featured two top-ranking dancers (étoiles) from the Paris Opera Ballet—Clairemarie Osta and Mathieu Ganio—performing three ballet excerpts, plus the speaker Dr. Helen Fisher. Works & Process events usually trace a theme elucidated in dance performance excerpts, or preview an upcoming performance, or the work of one or more choreographers. This program, timed for Valentine’s Day, oddly felt more like a variety show than a unified presentation, with unrelated dance segments breaking up blocks of Dr. Fisher’s more conventional, if interesting, lecture.
Dr. Fisher is a biological anthropologist who has studied the brains of people in love, as well as analyzed data from huge numbers of participants on match.com. She presented her findings—including ideas like romantic love can be chemically similar to addiction, and that humans are almost uniquely monogamous among mammals—peppered with quotations about love from famed historical writers and philosophers. Her style ranged from scholarly to frank best friend handling subject matter innately appealing to pretty much everyone, looking from the inside or outside.
Osta and Ganio performed duets from Giselle, Emeralds, and Caligula in between the 15-minute lecture parcels. Each presumably stood for a different type of love. Giselle represented young, passionate love through Coralli/Perrot’s hyperclassical steps—although Osta’s Giselle, lovely gentle arms aside—could have used more youthful vim. Balanchine’s perfumy Emeralds showed us mature, enduring love as sure as the passing of time, seen in the repeated ticking motifs. (Coincidentally, New York City Ballet is presenting Jewels Feb 25-28 to close out its winter season.) And Caligula should have presented impossible love—the emperor’s obsession with the moon—but any emotional effect was blunted by Nicolas Le Riche’s unfocused amalgam of classical and modern steps to an oddly bright Vivaldi score. This segment did offer a bonus—seeing Ganio’s well-formed legs and feet encased in gold, beribboned slippers.
It’s all good that Works & Process is expanding on the staple lecture/dem format, but Emotion & Motion‘s disparate parts needed to be connected by an interlocuter, or Dr. Fisher, in some capacity. Or perhaps I should give the organizers credit for assuming we are capable of doing so ourselves.
Images: (top) Clairemarie Osta in Emeralds. (bottom) Mathieu Ganio in Caligula.