Although he has been around for quite some time, the French choreographer Thierry Malandain (Petit-Quevilly, France, 1959) was unknown in the Netherlands until fairly recently. This began to change a few years ago when, consecutively, Introdans danced the world premiere of his choreography Entre Deux, his own company Malandain Ballet Biarritz presented the poetic and playful Magifique in The Hague, and Introdans then incorporated his successful Boléro in its repertoire, set to the iconic composition of the same name by Maurice Ravel.
It is said that Malandain’s work has an aesthetic that appeals to the Dutch. His choreographies have a classical style. They are clearly structured but are difficult to learn because each movement has to be executed very exactly, in just one precise way. Moreover, Malandain is praised for his great musicality. You might say that his choreographies help you understand the music better. And so this French choreographer has never shied away from using famous compositions – often already used various times by other choreographer. Indeed, he has made ballets to musical masterpieces by, among others, Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi, and each time, just as with his Boléro, he has chosen a completely individual approach.
After completing his dance education, Malandain danced for a short time at the Ballet National de l’Opéra de Paris, the Ballet de l’Opéra du Rhin and then, for six years, at the Ballet Théâtre Français de Nancy. It was at this latter company that he also made his debut as a choreographer, where he was noted for his major ambition and – even then – his challenging choice of music. In 1986 he ended his dance career in order to found his own company in Élancourt, a suburb of Paris: the Compagnie Temps Présent. In his work for this group he combined classical and modern elements and his talent soon boosted his reputation outside France as well. As a result he was invited to make choreographies for the Royal Ballet of Wallonia and the Royal Ballet of Flanders.
In 1991 Malandain moved to the French town of Saint-Etienne with Temps Présent. It was here that made several of his most famous works: La Fleur de Pierre, Blé Noir and Ballet Mécanique. After leading this company for twelve years, in 1998 he was asked to take over directorship of the Centre Chorégraphique National – Ballet Biarritz, which was then soon renamed Malandain Ballet Biarritz.
Malandain has made a total of around seventy works, many of which have also been performed by other companies, including Ballet Florida, the Ballet National de l’Opéra de Paris, the Ballet National de l’Opéra de Bordeaux, the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg and the Ballet National de Marseille. Malandain is a Chevalier dance l’Orde des Arts et des Lettres and has twice been nominated for the prestigious Benois de la Danse award (‘the Dance Oscar’). From 2000 to 2004 he was the artistic director of the Temps d’Aimer Festival in Biarritz, a post he took up once again in 2008. It was on his initiative that a Hans van Manen programme was performed at the festival in 2012 – Malandain regards the Dutch master choreographer as a kindred spirit.