From Montpellier Avec Amour

By Victoria Looseleaf

How do I love thee, Montpellier Danse, let me count the ways: I love thee on opening night (June 22 – July 7, 2011), when old colleagues come together again, especially over beautiful French Champagne and tournedos de filet de bouef Rossini; I love thee at the relaxing, informative press conferences held in the belle jardin avec pomegranate juice, espresso and fresh apricots, where peeps like Batsheva Dance Company’s Ohad Naharin speak about their work with mind-boggling profundity; and j’aime thee most during performances, at least at those new creations that make one ecstatic to be alive and ever so grateful one has a career in dance, if only writing about this most ethereal of art forms.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The Leaf actually took a Gaga class under the master, Naharin, himself, who told her afterwards during lunch, “You did very well. You were listening.”

Ohad Naharin in grey, upper right. Free-for-all Gaga, Tel Aviv.

Wow! Talk about making my day, week, month and trip! But I digress: At 31 years old, Montpellier Danse, directed by Jean-Paul Montanari since 1983, is one of Europe’s most prestigious festivals, and The Leaf is honored to be covering it – this being her fourth time in the charming Southern French town. With numerous premieres – world and otherwise – and choreographers representing eight countries, this year’s works run the gamut from absolutely, well, awful, to staggeringly sensational.

The Trois Graces Fountain on the Esplanade

The venues are also varied, but nothing compares to sitting in the beautiful 15th century 550-seat Agora Amphitheater, also called Cours Ursuline and lovingly restored to the tune of 11 million Euros last year. With the stars and moon peeking through the mystical sky and the winds rustling sweetly through the trees, the top performers in the universe heat up the stage that was once a setting for nuns and prisoners. Vraiment: It doesn’t get much better than this.

From one great Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, to another – Israel Galván – The Leaf is living la vida buena as an arts journalist extraordinaire!

And as she recovers from jet-lag (while watching Wimbledon – hello Raffa – from the confines of her B. Hills-adjacent bedroom after dealing with the agonies and intricacies of TGV, CDG and Schipol in order to traverse the 6,000 miles to “commute” to this wine capital of the world – all helped, she might add, by what Tennessee Williams referred to as being dependent on the “kindness of strangers” – she realizes how much writing she must do to help justify/pay for her latest European jaunt. Still, The Leaf is oh-so grateful to have been in the presence of geniuses such as Ohad, Israel Galván, The Percussionists of Strasbourg, a quartet of Bartabas’ horses and the list goes on.

To read her Los Angeles Times’ Dispatch from Montpellier, then, click here. And not to worry, there will be more musings from The Leaf for Dance Magazine and for The Looseleaf Report on this incomparable festival. Merci et vive la France!

About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...