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'Stars of the 21st Century' Ballet Gala Returns to Toronto

by Denise Sum

Torontonians seldom have the chance to see great dancers from the world’s top companies. Gone are the days when international ballet companies would include Toronto in their touring schedules. So the Stars of the 21st Century gala is becoming a regular treat. In the past two years, the highly successful gala has consistently presented exciting evenings of dance with rosters of outstanding artists. This year the annual tradition continues on April 25th at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, bringing together some of the finest dancers for one night only.

In previous years, some of the ballet luminaries on the program have included Irina Dvorovenko, Maxim Belotserkovsky, Jaimie Tapper, Johan Kobborg, and Svetlana Zhakharova and this year’s rosteris no less impressive. American Ballet Theatre stars, Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy, are scheduled to perform a pas de deux from "Within You Without You," choreographed by Natalie Weir and set to the music of George Harrison, as well as the virtuosic grand pas de deux from "Don Quixote." Murphy will also perform the flirty “My One and Only” solo from George Balanchine’s jazzy  Gershwin tribute, "Who Cares?"

Other dancers in this year’s show include Elena Andrienko (Bolshoi Ballet), Eduardo Lao and Ana Noya (both from Victor Ullate Ballet), and among the returning dancers are audience favourites Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre (Munich Ballet), Herman Cornejo (ABT), Dmitri Gudanov (Bolshoi Ballet), as well as Desmond Richardson, a veteran of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballett Frankfurt, and ABT.

From the home team, the National Ballet of Canada will be well-represented by Guillaume Côté,  who was recently promoted to principal dancer following his outstanding performance as Prince Florimund in February.   His partner for the gala will be Heather Ogden, a first soloist and rising star within the company who has danced often with Côté.

As with every edition of the Gala des Etoiles, the program's organizers have planned a broad variety of classical and contemporary works. Solomon Tencer and  his wife, Artistic Director Nadia Veselova-Tencer, have been producing these international ballet galas since 1993, when they gathered a group of world-renowned artists in Toronto for a tribute to Veselova-Tencer’s teacher, Alla Osipenko. After the Osipenko gala, Fernando Bujones, who participated in the performance, encouraged the Tencers to produce another gala in honour of Rudolph Nureyev, which they did in 1995, and the rest is history. Since then, the popularity of the Stars of the 21st Century Gala has taken off, with tours to New York, Moscow, Paris, and Cannes.

Former dancers with the Kirov Ballet, the Tencers are also directors of the Koffler School of Dance and the Academy of Ballet and Jazz, which is home to the new Canadian Ballet Theatre. Part of the funds raised by the gala will go towards the Koffler Centre’s cultural programming and providing scholarships for eligible students. A non-profit community arts school located within the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre, the Koffler offers a variety of children and adult classes in dance, visual art, music, and theatre. And as part of an outreach and educational initiative, 500 free tickets have been set aside for underprivileged school children and youth from the local community, made possible by generous support from the gala’s corporate sponsors.

From community arts to world arts, the Stars of the 21st Century gala promises to be a spectacular celebration of dance and an event of unmatched caliber for Toronto audience and one which any balletomane won't want to miss.

Performance tickets are available through Ticketmaster: 416 872-1111. Ticket Prices: $145, $95, $45. For more information about the event please call 416 636-1880 ext. 271.
For more information, visit the Stars of the 21st Century Website.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt

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