Matisse, La Danse

Ballet – Creation – Byron Ballet Company

Byron Bay – NSW – July 2021

Creation based on the famous painting from 1910 and other of his masterpieces.

Matisse – La Danse is a ballet inspired by the famous painting of the Master.

As he said it himself: ”It was inside me, that Dance” and this ballet, stimulated by the painter’s body language, hopes to express what was inside him too. Dance is inside all of us, wanting to get out and express itself, freely. Eventually it will also build a link between individuals, create a community, a circle in which the energy circulates, and give birth to unity.

As there are five dancers in the painting, there are fives parts to the ballet, I-Lines & Solitudes, II-Others, the Uncompleted Dance, III-The Dream, IV-The Circle & V-The Dance. These stages could be seen as the work we have to do right now when, with confinement, we need to learn anew how to open our souls and let our bodies and hearts meet the bodies and hearts of others, in order for the world’s energy to circulate again and touch everyone on this planet.

The musical language of the ballet —De Falla, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Lekeu—, translated the same vital pulsion at the beginning of the XXth century. In Paris then, new ways of expressions in the visual arts, such as Matisse’s, or in choreography such as Isadora Duncan’s who inspired him, also inspired the Ballet Russes. Our inspiration for the costumes comes too from the sets & costumes Matisse created for them.

“C’est que je vis davantage dans la danse :
mouvements expressifs, rythmiques, musique que j’aime bien, dit-il en guise d’explication, à la fin de sa longue vie. Elle était en moi, cette danse”.

D. Fourcade, Henri Matisse. Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris 1972, p63.

“Actually, I live more in Dance: expressive movements, rhythmics, music I like, said Matisse as a sort of explanation at the end of his long life. It was inside me, this dance”.

Matisse saw Isadora Duncan dancing and if, indeed, she was a large source of inspiration for his Dance, it was also a visit in the south of France, not far from Spain, where he witnessed and was fascinated by some fishermen dancing their traditional ring that inspired the circle of dancers

At the turn of the twentieth century (The Dance is from 1910), the influence of Spain was very important on French Culture as was the use of traditional heritages in contemporary creation: De Falla or Lekeu used traditional songs, Diaghilev a folkloric theme for his Rite of Spring. Debussy or Ravel chose evocations of Spain, as, of course, Bizet had in his Carmen.

Matisse and Picasso, the two rivals whom the critics paired often as the leaders of Modern Art, worked both for the adventurous Ballets Russes.
Matisse created the set and costumes of a ballet called “Etrange Farandole” (later renamed “The red and the black”).

This “farandole”, traditionally a dance from Provence, was also danced more ‘freely’ at the famous bals of the Moulin de la Galette as a long chain of people. This was the melody “inside me, like a rhythm carrying me!”, the very music Matisse was humming and whistling in 1910, when painting The Dance.

Part I: Lines & Solitudes
Manuel De Falla: Nana – from Siete canciones populares Españolas
Soprano & Piano, then, Cello & Piano versions

In 1907, De Falla is in Paris composing his opera La Vida breve (performed in Nice in 1913), and meets numbers of composers such as Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and the impresario Sergei Diaghilev. As Matisse and Picasso will later, he begins a collaboration with the Ballets Russes!

Part II: Others – The Uncompleted Dance
Camille Saint-Saëns: Finale from Suite for Cello & Piano – Opus 16

If Ravel praised Saint-Saëns as a genius, the classical instinct of this composer didn’t appreciate the shapelessness of the musical impressionists led by Debussy and it is often said that he walked out, outraged, from the premiere in 1913 of Stravinsky’ s ballet the Rite of Spring.
This Suite for Cello & Piano – Opus 16, was written in 1866, a work considered the launching point of the composer’s career.

Part III: The Dream
Claude Debussy: Extract from the Sonata for Cello & Piano

Debussy’s symphonic poem, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, first performed in Paris in 1894 provided the basis for the famous ballet choreographed by Nijinsky in 1912.
His Sonata for cello and piano was written in 1915, three years before the death of the composer.

Part IV: The Circle
Guillaume Lekeu: Extract from the 2nd mouvement from
the Sonata in F for Cello & Piano

Guillaume Lekeu is a Belgium composer who died from typhoid fever in 1894, the day after is 24th birthday. His Cello Sonate in F major was written in 1888, when he was 18, and performed thanks to his Master Vincent D’Indy for the first time in Paris in 1913.

Part V: The Dance
Manuel De Falla: Jota – from Siete canciones populares Españolas
Soprano, Cello & Piano versions

An original choreography by Vianney Pinon for the Byron Ballet Company


Heera Cattani – Silvia Magnani – Eva Nicolosi – Laura-Kate Terry – Kate Utting
& Michael Braun

Soprano: April Galleti
Cello: Ian Knowles
Piano: Ken Naughton

Choreography: Vianney Pinon & Collective

Artistic Director: Vianney Pinon

Artistic Advisor: Delia Silvan

Heera’s Special Assistant: Cheryl Heazlewood

Lights creation: April Galetti & Vianney Pinon

Costumes & Set: Vianney Pinon after Matisse

As we dance on Bundjalung land, we wish to acknowledge
the traditional custodians and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We also give thanks to artist Mel Ladkin who has generously offered us Bundjalung ochre for this performance

Byron Ballet Company

Director: Yvonne Hall

Ken, Laura-Kate, Eva, Heera, Michael, Kate, Silvia, April & Ian

Photos, Jane Utting, Sapphire & Vianney

Matisse, La Danse – Youtube :