L’Heure Exquise magazine – a Beckettian ballerina buried in pointes | To dance

Alessandra Ferri drowns in a mountain of spikes. A huge pile of pink satin almost fills the stage, and in the center the 58-year-old ballerina, visible only from the waist up to the waist, is buried in the tools of her trade. Each shoe is a link to the past, “I remember! she said, holding up a pair and humming a tune from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. She pats her toes to see how hard they are. “They will always do it for the second act.”

This is not Ferri’s story, however. The role is only credited as “Elle”, but it is essentially Winnie from Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, who inspired choreographer Maurice Béjart to make this work. (In the play, Winnie is buried in sand, not in shoes.) Béjart changed the central character to an aging ballerina, originally created for Italian dancer Carla Fracci, in 1998. Ferri is just the star. third woman to perform the role – the other was Maina Gielgud, who helped Ferri rebuild it for this production.

Carsten Jung and Alessandra Ferri in L’Heure Exquise. Photograph: Tristram Kenton / the Guardian

Ferri’s Winnie is a woman of determined positivity (her mantra: “I can’t complain, I mustn’t complain”), who is content with her memories. She emerges from the mound of shoes, to dance with her husband (former Hamburg Ballet dancer Carsten Jung) in gentle harmony, whether it’s a simple pas de deux or a piggyback ride. But much of the action unfolds on her face, Ferri’s big eyes widen or drop to the ground, her delicate features rearrange into a look of sadness or elation or longing, as if she is falling apart. recalled the smells, tastes and sounds of his past.

L’Heure Exquise is half-game, half-dance and its touch is sparse; calm, eerie, a little dreamlike, with shades of darkness sewn into the mirth. Winnie’s fragmented thoughts are punctuated with doubt. Ferri spreads her arms in an elegant fourth position (she has a lovely stage presence) then wobbles, her fingers jumping to her mouth in the uncertainty of what to do next.

It’s not a life, you might say, resigning yourself to nostalgia, but for Winnie it’s safer there. For Ferri, however, his dancing years are still very much alive.

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