Such is the intensity of a new production of Boléro at the Opera de Paris that even with a running time of just under 17 minutes it is the hottest ticket in Paris and the talk of the fashion, art, music and dance worlds. Created by the performance artist Marina Abramovic in collaboration with choreographers-of-the-moment Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet and featuring costumes by Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci, the show is the fusion of some of the hottest contemporary talents in art, dance and fashion. Critics have hailed the result of the collaboration as “hypnotic” and “magic”.

Energetic from start to finish, the 11-dancer ensemble remain on stage throughout the entire work and are multiplied by the set which was designed by Abramovic. Simply consisting of a tilted mirror at the back of the stage, the reflection creates doubles of the dancers and confuses the viewer as to their location.

“It was very important for us to define what the ‘Boléro’ is about,” said Abramovic of the Maurice Ravel’s ballet that was first performed in 1928. “We agreed that it is about emotions — love, hate, jealousy — but in an abstract way. The dancers are like atoms, uniting to create new groups, splitting off again. There is no center.” More drama in her set design is found in a cloud of smoke and in the field of static projected on the floor (“What you see when your television isn’t tuned, like electrical particles,” she says).

"Boléro is all about intensity. The music has such an intense feeling,” said Tisci of what inspired his costumes that featured ribcages, spines and jaw lines embroidered onto tulle. “I wanted the dancers to feel naked somehow. The costumes express two sides of me: darkness and romanticism." Some layers of the “skins” are removed and thrown onto the floor during the performance.

Though opera and the ballet has a long history of collaborations with artists from other fields – Coco Chanel famously designed costumes for Diaghilev’s 1924 production of Le Train Bleu – lately there has been a renaissance in fusing music and dance with art, fashion and architecture. Notable productions that bring together contemporary talents include 2010’s production of Verdi’s Attila at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which featured set design by Herzog & de Meuron and costumes by Muiccia Prada; Viktor & Rolf’s costumes for a 2009 performance of Die Freischutz; John Pawson’s 2010 stage scenes for the Royal Opera House in London.

Fashion designers Rodarte and Christian Lacroix are frequent collaborators with ballet companies. Coming later this month is a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figao at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where the sets will be created by Jean Nouvel and the costumes by Azzedine Alaia.

“In my own work I am completely in control, but the interesting thing with collaboration is to give up part of yourself, the ‘I,’” says Abramovic of working with choreographers, dancers, musical composers and a fashion designer. “It’s very liberating to be in a new field, dance, to let things come to you and not to make decisions.”


"It is one of the dreams of a designer to design costumes for a ballet. I have had offers in the past from many other big theatres and operas, but I never felt ready. When this one came along, I felt that it was the moment to say yes for many reasons. First, being Italian, I am very proud to have been asked to create costumes by Brigitte Lefèvre, director of dance at Paris' national Opera - which is the biggest opera theatre in the world and is such an iconic institution in France. Second, because it is the Boléro. The project is amazing because it is made by a group of unique people with great talent, from the set design by Marina Abramovic to choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet."
- Riccardo Tisci

“When you are very tired or in pain, you have to find another energy, to break through to another level. I can’t help with making choreography, but I can help with how to channel energy to achieve another kind of state. Like Maria Callas said, when you perform, half of your brain has to be extremely conscious and the other half extremely free.”
- Marina Abramovic

"I was mad on drawing when I was a kid. I wanted to draw reality, but when I drew clouds, I'd also draw the things I could see in them. The great thing about dancing is that you're both the pencil and the artist. I still translate the world into something beyond the facts."
- Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Choreographer

Until June 3 at the Opera Garnier, Paris
Currently sold out, there are sometimes return tickets available by calling +33 1 71 25 24 23