Like Bianca Li and Thierry Malandain, Carolyn Carlson is one of the choreographers and dancers who were installed at the Académie des Beaux Arts, a new category created besides the traditional movie, printing, architecture, painting, divisions… The Oakland, CA, born and French naturalized (in 2019) Carlson, had Finnish origins. She was extremely entertaining during her acceptance speech and yet not as witty as Laurent Petitgirard, the music composer and conductor, who welcomed her saying that he had been picked because his accent in English was as offensive as hers in French. And he offered her a piggy bank where she would be forced to put 1 € every time she pronounces a word in English during the sessions of the Académie.
Her career was based in Europe, mostly in France, thanks to Rolf Liebermann and Hugues Gall (now her colleague), who convinced her in 1974, to come to the Paris Opera as a chorégraphe étoile, a special title created for her. There she choreographed, among many ballets, “Signes, under Brigitte Lefèvre’s direction and with decors and costumes by Olivier Debré. She worked in Finland, her grandparents’ country, in 1991 and was always inspired by the country’s legends which she used in her poetry and choreographies but she also spent time in Venice at La Fenice. She created ballets for Théâtre de la Ville and Théâtre de Chaillot and ran the centre chorégraphique de Roubaix in the North of France. “I don’t dance for the eyes, I dance for the soul”, she likes to say and her many published writings express this, as Françoise Nyssen, former minister of culture, declared while handing her her very special sword in bamboo, shell and aventurine, designed by Gilles Nicolas.
Gilles Nicolas is a very special multitalented artist, who creates magical dioramas and boxes for museums and sculpts animals in bronze. The fish case in which the sword was carried was just as beautiful as the object itself. He is long time collaborator of Carolyn Carlson.
Everyone joked in their speeches about her authoritarian moods and her very directive attitude. She had a son, Alexis, with the music composer René Aubry, but only became French in 2019. Everyone in the public was involved in the performing arts and it was once again a very entertaining session presided over by Astrid de la Forest, a printer and a painter.
Laurent Petitgirard, whom I met at the academicians’ delicious cantina Il Vicolo the next day, is really the most fun and charming Secrétaire perpétuel, and amid the pomp of the Garde Républicaine’s music and the official ordinance of the ceremony, his sense of humor was very well received as were the numerous films and solo ballets performed during the afternoon. Carolyn Carlson was dressed by Agnès B (alias Agnès Troublé) who was present. As were Frédéric Mitterrand, Adrien Goetz, Erik Desmazières, the very sympathetic gang of creative members of the Académie.
It is heartwarming to see that the French Académie is including so many diverse talents and the atmosphere which reigned during the ceremony (where everyone was very hot in the canicule!) was jolly. You can watch it here on YouTube.
As I write these lines, I read that Michel David-Weill, the famous banker from Lazard, but also a member of the Académie des Beaux Arts and a very generous benefactor of the arts, has died in New York last night. He will be missed. His funeral will take place at Eglise Saint Germain des Près on Thursday at 10.30.
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