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 Post subject: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:20 pm 
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Location: Canada
The list of competitors has been announced, and the Royal Ballet has apparently declined to participate again. Instead, we will be treated to young dancers from both the Hamburg Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet. Nikolaj Hübbe is not judging, likely because the competition is less than week prior to the world premiere of his new production of "A Folk Tale". However, with the participation of Silja Schandorff, I believe the Erik Bruhn Competition will see it's first winner return as a judge.

The RDB competitors are an exciting pair. Elsbree was hired out of SAB by Hübbe and Jon-Axel Fransson is one the very exciting generation of up and coming Danish-trained male dancers. He's received rave reviews for his performances, including that of the Jester in Swan Lake. The ABT competitors are also big talents, having come through ABT II out of the competition circuit. I believe the Ebe is one of the NBoC corps dancers who have caught my eye in the last season.

It's a prestigious competition, and draws some of ballet's top young talent. Last year's male winner, Cory Stearns, is now a principal at ABT, and Alban Lendorf is now a stand-out soloist at RDB. The women's winner, Elena Lobsanova is still with NBoC, though Noah Long has just recently departed. The ABT female competitor, Isabella Boylston, has received much praise and was a Princess Grace Awardee in 2009, though unfortunately is now better known as Benjamin Millepied's ex. RDB's Hilary Guswiler, while still in the corps, has danced lead roles in ballets like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

It will be interesting to find out who the rest of the choreographers are ... RDB is having a choreographic workshoop soon, so their choreographer may come from that group (Iain Rowe, Tim Matiakis, Sebastian Kloborg and Constantine Baecher among others) or be Louise Midjord. It's nice to see NBoC giving a dancer the opportunity to choreograph, rather than going for a very experienced professional choreographer. (I wonder if they adjusted the choreographic prize rules after 2009, since the competition was very lopsided - two companies entered well established choreographers, 3 entered company dancers with very limited choreographic experience).

I have to admit that the Audience Choice award seem like a silly idea since the competition is always held in Toronto (and at the Four Seasons Centre), so the audience tends to be very pro-NBoC. Either they need to start rotating the location of the competition or limit audience choice awards to choreography.

The Erik Bruhn Prize Competitors Announced
Shino Mori and Naoya Ebe Represent the National Ballet
Robert Stephen Creates New Work for Choreographic Prize
New! Audience Choice Award

January 18, 2011… Karen Kain, Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada, today announced that Corps de Ballet members Shino Mori and Naoya Ebe will represent the company at The Ninth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Second Soloist Robert Stephen will compete for the Choreographic Prize, creating a new contemporary work commissioned by the National Ballet.

New this year is the Audience Choice Award where audience members will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite male and female dancer as well as their favourite new contemporary work.

The companies participating in this year’s competition are American Ballet Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada. As The Royal Ballet is unable to compete this year, Stuttgart Ballet and, for the first time ever, Hamburg Ballet will each send two young dancers and one choreographer to the competition.

The competitors for The Erik Bruhn Prize include Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak from American Ballet Theatre, Maria Baranova and Alexandr Trusch from Hamburg Ballet, Shelby Elsbree and Jón Axel Fransson from the Royal Danish Ballet and Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo from Stuttgart Ballet.

The repertoire will be announced shortly along with the choreographers competing for the Choreographic Prize.

Judging the competition will be Artistic Directors Karen Kain, Kevin McKenzie (American Ballet Theatre), John Neumeier (Hamburg Ballet), Reid Anderson (Stuttgart Ballet) and Artistic Coordinator Silja Schandorff (Royal Danish Ballet).

The evening will be hosted by Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson and will feature excerpts from George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations performed by The National Ballet of Canada.

One of the most acclaimed and revered male dancers of the 20th century, Erik Bruhn personified the danseur noble tradition in all its classical, regal glory. His affiliation with The National Ballet of Canada was a lengthy and fruitful one, culminating in his Artistic Directorship of the company from 1983 until his untimely death in 1986. Mr. Bruhn was always keenly interested in the development of younger dancers and in a codicil to his will, Mr. Bruhn left part of his estate for the establishment of The Erik Bruhn Prize, which was to be awarded to one male and one female dancer who “reflect such technical ability, artistic achievement and dedication as I endeavoured to bring to dance.”

Since it began in 1988, the competition has showcased the talents of many of the finest young dancers from the companies with whom Mr. Bruhn was most closely associated: American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada. Competitors for the prize must be between 18 and 23 years old and are selected by the Artistic Directors of their respective companies. Each pair performs a classical pas de deux and variation and a contemporary pas de deux or solo work.

Each participant receives a medal and the winners each receive a prize of $7,500 and a sculpture by Canadian artist Jack Culiner generously donated by Artcast. The winner of the Choreographic Prize, established in 2009, will also receive a Jack Culiner sculpture in addition to the $2,000 cash prize.

Many of the past winners have gone on to become Principal Dancers, enjoying international careers, making the competition a glimpse of the future stars of the ballet world in one exhilarating evening of dance.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:28 pm 
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To lead up the competition, I will start posting information about the competitors. We welcome additional information, links and comments.

I will start with the Royal Danish Ballet competitors, since it is the company I am most familiar with (other than NBoC). I have not seen Elsbree perform, but I remember Fransson back when he was a student in the school, and then as an apprentice (aspirant).

As a note, there are many images of both dancers at David Amzallag's Facebook page and on his website.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/blueballe ... 7789249740

Shelby Elsbree
bio: http://www.kglteater.dk/OmKunstarterne/ ... sbree.aspx

Elsbree is 19 or 20, and joined the RDB in February 2009. Originally from Florida, she trained there and at SAB where she had the chance to perform with NYCB in Scenes de Ballet (Wheeldon), Double Feature (Stroman), Serenade and The Nutcracker. At RDB, she has danced corps roles in a wide range of repertory, and danced the role of the Girl in Blue in Dances at a Gathering (Robbins).

She has provided text to accompany some of David Amzallags gorgeous photo-essays at his site (http://blueballet.blog.lemonde.fr/), and has wonderful blog at http://tutusandtea.wordpress.com/

A recent essay and/or images of Elsbree can be found at these posst:
http://blueballet.blog.lemonde.fr/2010/ ... -des-fees/
http://blueballet.blog.lemonde.fr/2010/ ... -facebook/

There's also a nice interview here:
http://balletnews.co.uk/2010/12/23/cupc ... sh-ballet/

Photos of Elsbree (and others) in Dances at a Gathering
http://www.blueballet.net/Gallery/Dance ... index.html



Jon Axel Fransson

bio: http://www.kglteater.dk/OmKunstarterne/ ... nsson.aspx

Fransson was born in Iceland, and is also 19-20. He became an apprentice in 2007, and joined the company in 2010. His big roles have been the jester in Swan Lake and the blue bird in Sleeping Beauty. He also received the Neel Resling Halpern Foundation grant for 2010. Along with last year's RDB competitor, Alban Lendorf, Fransson studied at SAB during the summer of 2009 through the Danish-American Society Award Program.

Jon-Axel as the Jester:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/blueballe ... 7203592465
http://www.facebook.com/pages/blueballe ... 7789249740

In Jord (Earth)
http://www.facebook.com/pages/blueballe ... 7789249740

A little blast from the past (in the photo, Fransson is closest to the camera, and Lendorf to his right):
http://www.kglballetskole.dk/Uddannelsen.aspx

Also, as a student
http://arkiv.kglteater.dk/OplevTeateret ... s=5&imgId={1AAD300C-B8C5-4C89-A25C-BEA575E23503}

Receiving the NRH Foundation Award:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid= ... 7620844224


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:01 pm 
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On to the competitors from the Hamburg Ballet: Maria Baranova and Alexandr Trusch

Maria Baranova

Miss Baranova, who was born in Lohja, Finland, is 18 and trained both at the Helsinki Dance Institute and the Hamburg Ballet School. She joined the company in 2009, having won the Scandinavian Ballet Competition in 2007, received the bronze medal at the IDC Premio Roma, and both the first prize and the encouragement prize at the 6th Helsinki IBC in 2009. She was also a bronze medalist at Varna in 2010.

bio: http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/bio/baranova.htm

You can see a (legal) video of Baranova at the 2008 Prix de Lausanne here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfO_eTuG9lM
Contemporary piece from Varna 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0G5tJdqOzY



Alexandr Trusch

Mr. Trusch, a native of the Ukraine, is 21 and was promoted to soloist in 2010 after joining the company in 2007. He has danced Fritz in The Nutcracked, The Prodigal Son and Daphnis in Daphnis and Chloe. In 2010, he received the Dr. Wilhelm-Oberdörffer Prize.

bio: http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/bio/trusch.htm

There is an image of Trusch in Prodigal Son here (drag down): http://www.danzaballet.com/modules.php? ... e&sid=3039


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:42 am 
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Thanks for all the info, Kate.

I have to agree that the audience choice award seems a bit silly considering it's a very biased audience. Not to say that we won't vote for other dancers, but you'd imagine the NBoC dancers will have the home field advantage.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:45 pm 
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Next up, from the Stuttgart Ballet, Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo!


Elisa Badenes

Badneses is a native of Valencia, Spain who trained at the Conservatorio Profesional de Danza de Valenzia, and on a Prix de Lausanne scholarship at the Royal Ballet School. She joined the Stuttgart Ballet as an apprentice in 2009 and was promoted to the corps for the 2010-2011 season.

Her main roles have include the Peasant PdD in Giselle, and solo roles in Big Blur and Yantra.

Bio: http://www.staatstheater.stuttgart.de/b ... hp?id=3116

Images: drag down for images of Badenes at the Prix de Lausanne: http://www.forum-dansomanie.net/forum/v ... c&start=45

Two articles from BalletNews:
http://balletnews.co.uk/2009/12/19/our- ... a-badenes/
http://balletnews.co.uk/2009/08/14/elis ... t-to-star/


Daniel Camargo

Camargo is from Sorocaba, Brazil, and trained at the Teatro Guaira Ballet School in Curitiba before entering the John Cranko School in 2005. He graduated in 2009 at which time he joined the corps de ballet. He has danced in the Peasant PdD in Giselle, and has had roles created on him in Letter of Others, Orlando, Yantra, RED in 3 and Meridian.

Bio: http://www.staatstheater.stuttgart.de/b ... hp?id=3129

Photos:

Drag down to see Camargo in Notations I-IV: http://www.tanznetz.de/kritiken.phtml?p ... &tid=15999
http://jpgmag.com/photos/2104939


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:47 pm 
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BDm will be interviewing Royal Danish Ballet dancers Shelby Elsbree and Jon-Axel Fransson when they are in Toronto for the Erik Bruhn Prize Competition on March 5th.

Do you have any questions you would like to ask one or both of these dancers? Now is your chance to ask!

Please post your questions below by March 3rd.


Please note that the interview will take place prior to the competition, and while we will try to include all appropriate questions, time is limited. Inappropriate questions/spam/abuse will be deleted.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:55 pm 
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On to the ABT competitors: Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak

Joseph Gorak
Bio: http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=184
A native of Texas, Mr. Gorak was trained at the North Central School of Ballet, the ABT Summer Intensive in Austin, Orlando Ballet's summer intensive and SAB. He joined the Orlando Ballet in 2005, and that year he won a silver medal at the Helsinki IBC, and a gold medal at the YAGP Finals. He was the Grand Prix Award winner the following year, and joined ABT 2. In January 2009, he apprenticed with ABT, and a year later he joined the corps.

Article: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... n16533591/
NY Times profile: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/nyreg ... html?fta=y

Photo: http://www.yagp.org/gala/images/photos/Joseph_Gorak.jpg
Photo: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/haagsu ... 191354195/

Christine Shevchenko
Bio: http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=179
Ms. Shevchenko was born in the Ukraine, and was chosen to train in both ballet and rhythmic gymnastics. She moved to the US at the age of 8, and trained at the Rock School of Ballet in Philadelphia. She received a Princess Grace Award in 2003, the youngest to receive the award. She has won medals the US IBC and the Moscow IBC. She joined ABT 2 in 2006, became an ABT apprectice a year later and joined the company in June 2008.

A nice interview from balletnews.co.uk: http://balletnews.co.uk/2010/11/16/cupc ... t-theatre/

Offstage photos: http://www.patrickmcmullan.com/site/sea ... Shevchenko


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:49 am 
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The repertoire, and some announcements. The male competitor, Alexandr Trusch, from the Hamburg Ballet is injured, and he is being replaced by a non-competing dancer.

Unfortunately, once again, the choreography competition seems very imbalanced, since the Hamburg Ballet competitors have a contemporary piece done by John Neumeier. If this is to be a fair choreography competition, they need to lay some ground rules so there is a level playing ground. That said, perhaps Hamburg Ballet intended to have another choreographer, but he/she had to withdraw too late to find a replacement.

I still don't think much of the Audience Award as the crowd is undoubtedly NBoC-biased.

One interesting note is that the ABT dancers are using a pdd from La Sylphide for their classical piece. It's a very interesting choice considering that they'll be competing against RDB dancers, and being judged by one of the all-time great Sylphides (Schandorff). Certainly Elsbree did not grow up in the Bournonville tradition, but she has had a couple of years of intensive exposure to the style.

Repertoire Announced for The Ninth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize
Competition Judges Host Ballet Talk


March 2, 2011… Karen Kain, Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada, today announced the repertoire for The Ninth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize which takes place Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Ms. Kain has commissioned a new work, Passcaglia, from Second Soloist Robert Stephen for Corps de Ballet members Shino Mori and Naoya Ebe to dance as their contemporary work. They will also perform the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty for the classical portion of the competition.

Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak from American Ballet Theatre will dance the pas de deux from Act II of La Sylphide and Divergent Connectivity by Nicola Curry. The Hamburg Ballet’s Maria Baranova and Kiran West, who is performing in place of injured Alexandr Trusch but not competing, will dance the pas de deux from Act II of Giselle and Chopin Dialogue by John Neumeier. The Royal Danish Ballet’s Shelby Elsbree and Jón Axel Fransson will dance the pas de deux from Flower Festival in Genzano and Meron Nign by Louise Midjord. Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo from Stuttgart Ballet will dance the pas de deux from Act III of Don Quixote and Little Monsters by Demis Volpi.

New this year is the Audience Choice Award where audience members will have the opportunity to vote by text for their favourite male and female dancer as well as their favourite new contemporary work.

Hosting the Ballet Talk, 45 minutes prior to the curtain, are judges Karen Kain, Kevin McKenzie (American Ballet Theatre), John Neumeier (The Hamburg Ballet), Reid Anderson (Stuttgart Ballet) and Silja Schandorff (The Royal Danish Ballet).

The evening will be hosted by Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson and will feature George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations performed by The National Ballet of Canada.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:32 pm 
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What happened to San Francisco Ballet this year? I thought they were also one of the companies eligible to send dancers.

Why does the Royal Ballet decline to send dancers recently? Anyone know?


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:11 pm 
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The Erik Bruhn Competition, from my understanding, was originally set out in the terms of Bruhn's will to include dancers from the RDB, NBoC and ABT, the companies Bruhn had the closest ties to during his lifetime. I'm not clear on whether the Royal Ballet was actually named in the will, but dancers from the Royal Ballet were included in the very first competition.

Other companies have been invited when one or more of the other companies could not attend or declined to send entries. San Francisco Ballet has been invited to send dancers in the past, but either the organizers elected to ask other companies this year, or SFB was asked but wasn't able to send dancers. They also may have wanted to balance out North American and European companies.

As far as I know, no official reason has ever been announced for the Royal Ballet's absence, and gossip is not appropriate here. I will say this - it requires time and money for each company to prepare the dancers and commission a new contemporary piece. And to send the dancers, choreographer and artistic director/AD representative to Toronto. At this point, the artistic vision, priorities and responsibilities at Royal Ballet obviously preclude participation. This year may have been a real challenge in particular since they just premiered a huge new production of "Alice in Wonderland" this week. As it is, Nikolaj Hübbe is not coming, most likely because he can't take time away with his new production of "A Folk Tale" premiering next week.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:26 pm 
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Thank you Kate.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:30 pm 
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Squeaking in, with more on the NBoC dancers...

Shino Mori:

Bio: http://www.national.ballet.ca/thecompan ... o_mori.php
Mori is a native of Gunma, Japan and trained at the Reiko Yamamoto Ballet School before moving to Canada to attend the NBS. She became an apprentice in 2008, and joined the corps in 2009.

Her solo roles have included Canary Fairy (Sleeping Beauty)m and she has performed in St. John's at the Kittiwake Dance Theatre. She was a Prix de Lausanne winner in 2006.


Naoya Ebe:

Bio: http://www.national.ballet.ca/thecompan ... ya_ebe.php

Ebe is originally from Tokyo, Japan and was trained at the NBS. He became an apprentice in 2007 and joined the corps a year later. Solo roles include the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty, A Fox and Mouse Tsar in The Nutcracker and The Fool in Swan Lake. He has also create roles in Jorma Elo’s Pur ti Miro, Aszure Barton’s Watch her and Crystal Pite’s Emergence.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:24 am 
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Looking forward to tonight!

Some added trivia - we will see dancing or choreography from a number of NBS grads tonight.

Demis Volpe, choreographer for the Stuttgart piece, graduated in 2002.

Robert Stephen (choreographer for the NBOC piece) and Kiran West (dancing for Hamburg, replacing an injured dancer) graduated in 2003.

Nicola Curry (choreographer for ABT piece) graduated in 2004.

And then of course there's the NBOC couple, information on them previously posted by ksneds.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:29 pm 
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Greetings

Thanks to a somewhat unexpected late blast of winter, it took a bit longer than expected to drive back from Toronto.

Winners:

Choreography: Demis Volpe

Male: Joseph Gorak

Female: Maria Baranova

I certainly thought Maria Baronova did a beautiful job. I think Giselle is very hard competition piece to pull off because it is such a "downer", but she was absolutely lovely in John Neumeier's piece. It was a good example of matching the right contemporary and classical pieces to show off the dancer. And I don't think that there was any sense of her getting "brownie points" for the rather last minute substitution of partner.

I was much more surprised by the male award, as I found the ABT dancer's "La Sylphide" very underwhelming. Mostly notably, and I'm probably spoiled by having so many of the top Dane perform the roles, the mime seemed totally muddy. I'd be interested to know who coached them, because the mime got lost in the steps. Shevchenko is lovely, but didn't bring much character to the role, and I didn't feel much chemistry between them. Gorak, to my eye, looked labored in the steps. It didn't help that ABT's James costume is downright ugly, and the color of the socks blends in the with the ballet slippers so you lose the focus on the fast Bournonville beats. However, Curry's contemporary piece showed him off beautifully, and he has a very mature sense to his style.

I also was unenthused by the choreography winner. Volpe's choice of music (Elvis) was great, but the piece didn't seem to have a lot of choreographic depth. Until well into the piece, there was more arm motion (beautifully done) than dancing. I'd probably have gone for Nicola Curry's piece, and while I think Louise Midjord's piece was perfect for the Danes, it's not necessarily the strongest choreographically. I enjoyed Robert Stephen's piece, though by that point the contemporary pieces were starting to blend in my mind. I am somewhat assuming that there was probably a ladies/gentleman's agreement not to vote for Neuemeier's piece. I wasn't wild about it, but it was a far more developed piece than any of the others.

The audience awards went to the two Stuttgart Ballet dancers and to Robert Stephen for choreography.

Daniel Camargo from the Stutthgart Ballet ripped off some stunning feats in DOn Q including an unending series of double tour -double pirouettes. It's easy to see why he was an audience favorite. However, I can see why he didn't win, because I felt that the choice of repertoire made him come across as very much of a one trick horse. His partnering of Badenes was solid, but the pdd had almost no spice and no chemistry. They also changed the choreography a lot to show of his skills. And I suspect the judges rewarded the other dancers for working to stretch their range with existing choreography rather than altering choreography to show off bravura skills. DonQ makes for good theatre, but it takes a much more complete artist to make Giselle or Flower Festival in Genzano look good.

I'm not sure who I would have picked. Probably Baranova or Ebe for the women (Elsbree has a winning stage personality, but her lack of Bournonville experience showed), and Fransson or Mori for the men.


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 Post subject: Re: Erik Bruhn Prize Competition 2011
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:42 am 
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(Apologies for the briefer descriptions of the later contemporary pieces - it was a very long evening, and the pieces tend to blend together as the eyes get more tired).

Erik Bruhn Prize Competition
Four Season Centre, Toronto
March 5, 2011

It few weeks, it will have been twenty-five years since the untimely death of the brilliant Danish dancer Erik Bruhn. However, his memory shines on brightly in the performances of the young dancers who have had the honor of competing for the prize established through a bequest in his will and bearing his name. In this, the ninth competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize, Maria Baranova of the Hamburg Ballet and Joseph Gorak of the American Ballet Theatre were the winners of the performance awards, while the Stuttgart Ballet's Demis Volpi received the choreographic award. This is the first time a dancer from the Hamburg Ballet has won one of the Erik Bruhn Awards. For the first (and in this critic's opinion, hopefully last) time, audience choice awards were handed out, and were awarded to the Stuttgart Ballet's Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo, and NBoC's Robert Stephen.

In order of competition

Royal Danish Ballet - Shelby Elsbree and Jón Axel Fransson (Flower Festival in Genzano pdd and Meron Nigron by Louise Midjord)

For what must be the first time, the Royal Danish Ballet sent two dancers of non-Danish origin. However, while Fransson was born in Iceland, he received all his training at the Royal Danish Ballet School, a ballet heritage obvious in his fast beats and gently elegant epaulement. Elsbree came to the company by way of the School of American Ballet, having been on of the first dancers selected by Nikolaj Hübbe for the company. A petite blond, she has a youthful sweetness and solid technique, but a still-developing sense of the Bournonville style (in particularly she had some very odd moments with the positioning of her back leg in attitude). An intensely challenging, but unflashy pas de deux, the Flower Festival in Genzano pdd was a perfect selection for this couple. They had a sweet chemistry that suggested the shyness of young love, but were very much up to the technical challenges of a piece that keeps both dancers on stage (almost?) the entire time. The long-limbed Fransson has attracted a lot of rave reviews in Copenhagen, and this performance made it clear why. While his double tours had a tendency to be a bit under-rotated, he has understated elegance, musicality and magnificent pirouettes. His multiple pirouettes were beautifully balanced, allowing him to balance in releve before gently closing down into fifth, all in perfect timing with the music. (And, frankly, much more impressive than the bravura display that followed which was completely divorced from any artistic or musical context.)
Louise Midjord's "Meron Nigron", set to klezmer music, is the story of young love. It starts with the young man, in simple brown pants and shirt, dancing around his partner, silent on the floor. She eventually "wakes" and joins in the dancing, her long brown skirt amplifying the motion. Midjord's choreography combines angular, contemporary motion and hint of traditional folkdance. It's successful at times, with enough interesting moments to warrant further viewing. Yet while artistically it worked beautifully for the Danish dancers, strategically, it might have been better to create a piece that showed off some of Fransson's impressive jumping and turning skills. It also suffered from an unfortunately over-amplification of the soundtrack.

Stuttgart Ballet - Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo (Act III PdD from Don Quixote and Little Monsters by Demis Volpe)

The Stuttgart Ballet's Badenes and Camargo were crowd favorites for their high-flying Don Quixote Pas de Deux. There's no doubt that Camargo was technically astounding, ripping off a series of double tour -double pirouettes that seemed to go on forever and ever. Badenes' fouettes, with a many multiples thrown in - were also most impressive, though her initial balances were very brief. The pair was also nicely matched, with very secure partnering - though this version had little in the way of lifts. However, the rather unoriginal choice of classical repertory probably did not serve the dancers well because it seemed to highlight their ability to show off a few bravura skills rather than to present a fully-rounded, artistically and musically developed performance. The piece felt artistically flat, with little very little Spanish spice, little chemistry between the dancers, and particularly in terms of the very extensive re-working of the male solo to highlight Camargo's skills, little musicality. It felt like a performance one would expect to see (minus some of the technical fireworks) at a Youth America Grand Prix, not at a competition for young professionals.

"Little Monsters" was clearly well received by the judges, but felt relatively undeveloped choreographically. The selection of Elvis Presley songs was a nice change from the classical music, and brought out a more playful side to the dancers. The piece opened with an extended section where the dancers arms, brightly illuminated, wavered and flowed up and down. It's fascinating at first, but wore thin after a while. Overall it was enjoyable, but felt very embryonic in terms of choreographic skill. There's an unique voice there, and it was much more memorable than some of the later pieces, but not one that seemed yet worthy of the overall award.

Hamburg Ballet - Maria Baranova and Kiran West (Act II PdD from Giselle, Chopin Dialogue by John Neumeier)
In contrast to the previous couple, the Hamburg Ballet's couple challenged themselves by dancing the rather melancholic Act II pas de deux Giselle. It's a long piece with little change in the musical pace and few breaks for rest (as with the Bournonville pieces). West was a late non-competing replacement for the injured Alexandr Trusch, but you would have never know it from Baranova's assured performance. Her dancing is expansive, with a beautiful flow and stretch. Experience will undoubtedly add depth to her interpretation, but it was already touched with a mature elegance.

John Neumeier's Chopin Dialogue was a wise choice to compliment Giselle, exposing not only Baranova's long lines, but her ability to tackle more contemporary choreography with as much mature confidence as she does classical pieces like Giselle. The piece was hardly Neumeier's strongest, but certainly the most mature of the contemporary choreography. Hence, I strongly suspect that there was an unwritten agreement to select one of the four younger choreographers for the choreographic award.

The National Ballet of Canada - Shino Mori and Naoya Ebe (Bluebird PdD from Sleeping Beauty and Passacaglia by Robert Stephen)
The home favorites, Mori and Ebe, were the the most ebullient and personable of the performers, and were blessed with a well-selected repertoire. Though Nicholas Georgiadis' costumes are over-the-top gaudy (these are bluebirds, not peacocks!), the dancing was simple and superb. The Canadians dancing is perhaps a bit unfinished, but Ebe in particular sails across the stage. His back is not the most flexible, but his series of jumps across the stage don't decrease at all in amplitude or precision, as is so often the case when Bluebirds tire. Mori is delicate, but powerful.

Robert Stephen's Passacaglia, set to music of the same name by Handel & Halvorsen, was beautifully choreographed for the the personable NBoC dancers, though for this critic, the length of the evening unfortunately meant a decreasing memory for new choreography.

American Ballet Theatre - Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak, PdD from Act II of La Sylphide and Divergent Connectivity by Nicola Curry

This very talented couple from ABT suffered from a poor choice of classical repertory, but benefited from Nicola Curry's delightful contemporary piece. While certainly companies other than the Royal Danish Ballet have successfully danced La Sylphide, it's not an easy task for those without years of experience in the Bournonville style. Neither ABT dancer looked at home in the style, and the mime, in particular, was very blurred. ABT's version may be different from RDB's, but regardless of the version, the mime is central, and one got the feeling that the dancers were simply repeating what they were taught, rather than having any real understanding of the mime's meaning. At RDB, I have heard dancers refer to mime in terms of what "they are saying", not what they are doing - and here it seemed to be a case of doing, not saying. Shevchenko has a delicate spring to her jumps, but she never seemed to flow across the stage or create the feeling of an ethereal creature, and Gorak looked a bit sluggish in the solos. It's also unfortunately that the ABT costume for James uses a particularly hideous tartan with socks the same colour as the ballet slippers. So much of Bournonville is in the feet, and when the feet blend into the legs, it makes the dancing look less precise. The pair also seemed very out of synch in the final sections, detracting from the overall image.

However, Nicola Curry's pdd, Divergent Connectivity, brought out the best in the two dancers, and, one suspects, tipped the favor in Gorak's direction. While this critic confesses to having little specific memory of the piece, it left an impression of controlled power. Gorak is not a tall dancer, but elegantly proportioned, and the piece showed not only his crisp technique, but solid partnering skills and a fine control. The choreography was also some of the strongest of the evening, revealing a new choreographic talent.

The NBoC performed Theme and Variations during the judging intermission. The company's green hued costumes are relief from ABT's pink things and the Royal Ballet's brown, be-wigged monstrosities. While the mens' costumes reminded one that balletic talent does is not always accompanied by the ability to look good in white tights, it was a fine performance. Piotr Stancyzk's turns continue to amaze and Elena Lobsanova, the 2009 women's prize winner, made a fine debut in the lead role. The corps was a bit sloppy in the finale, but all in all, it was an energetically pleasing performance.

Overall it was a pleasant evening with a strong cast of dancers, and a menu of contemporary choreographic contributions that was far stronger than in 2009. The enthusiastic audience made for a very exciting, dynamic evening, and one hopes to see the competition continue in 2013. The choreographic award has been a welcome addition, but the audience awards are an experiment that didn't seem to quite work. There was no option to vote other than by text, and votes could only be sent during a very, very short break between the contemporary piece and Theme & Variations. And, though certainly it's n small feat to host the competition, it would be nice to see the competition be hosted by a different company for it's tenth anniversary. Perhaps this would be an excellent time to take the competition to the country of Bruhn's birth.

Bravas and bravos to all the dancers.


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