After two years’ work the Water Theatre Grove, redesigned by Louis Benech and enhanced with fountain sculptures by Jean-Michel Othoniel, will be open from 12th May 2015. As we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV, a great builder and patron of the arts, this work is proof that the Palace of Versailles remains at the heart of contemporary creation.
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Built between 1671 and 1674 by André Le Nôtre, then destroyed in 1775, the Water Theatre Grove lay dormant for many years. Then, in 2009 the Palace of Versailles decided to create a contemporary garden there that would respect the overall setting of Versailles and its history. The landscaper Louis Benech and the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, winners of the international competition held for the grove’s refurbishment, have created a bold project for which work began in May 2013.
The Project by Louis Benech and Jean-Michel Othoniel
“You need to hear Louis Benech talking about the ternary pattern in the composition of the Water Theatre Grove and Jean-Michel Othoniel describing the steps of the ” belle danse” (beautiful dance) that inspired the fountains in order to appreciate how much the spirit of Louis XIV is ever-present in this contemporary creation,” stresses Catherine Pégard, President of the Palace of Versailles. The two artists based their creation on what remained of the grove. Taking inspiration almost exclusively from the location’s history, they have returned to its original idea: that of a theatre of greenery where water effects play with the plant structure and a celebratory atmosphere reigns. Louis Benech’s grove is a welcoming, permanently open place where visitors embark on a walk punctuated with breaks in the shade of holm oaks, before coming across a large clearing filled with light and water that is divided into a large “auditorium” and a raised “stage” laid out in two pools.
An inauguration with dance at the forefront
Benjamin Millepied, Director of the ballet of the Opéra National de Paris, was invited, along with the L.A. Dance Project dance company, of which he is Director and founder, to take part in the renewal of the Water Theatre Grove. During the official inauguration ceremonies on 10th and 11th May 2015, the dancers of L.A. Dance Project, exceptionally accompanied by the performer Lil Buck, will perform O’de, a never-before-seen dance choreographed specifically for the occaision by Julia Eichten and directly inspired by Les Belles Danses by Jean-Michel Othoniel. The creation of O’de by L.A. Dance Project was made possible thanks to the support of Van Cleef & Arpels.