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 Post subject: YAGP -- 2014 Competition and Galas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:17 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 443
Location: New Jersey
Youth America Grand Prix
Skirball Center; David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

April 3-9, 2014
New York Finals

-- by Jerry Hochman

Every spring, New York is invaded by a mass of uniformed visitors, dressed primarily in white, taking in the sites and being gawked at by intrigued and sometimes worshipful civilians. This spring is no different. No, I’m not talking about Fleet Week, where hordes of men and women in naval uniforms meander through the streets of Manhattan. The invading masses last week were predominantly little and not so little bunheads, and the uniforms of choice were leotards, tights, and tutus. Youth America Grand Prix was back.

This year I decided to take in more than just the final evening of the YAGP competition and its galas. To get a better flavor of the event as a whole, I attended one round of finals at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in Greenwich Village, the Junior and Senior solo final round on April 9, and the awards ceremony on the afternoon of April 10, both at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater. The annual ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’ gala, and a special 15th Anniversary celebration gala, which I also attended, will be addressed separately.
A lot of ink has been spilled about the value of competitions in dance, as well as the increasing preeminence of athletic proficiency over artistic style. As I wrote with respect to last year’s YAGP, I don’t particularly like the idea of dance competitions for those reasons, and also because to a large extent weighing the relative merits of individual performances is like comparing apples and oranges, particularly with respect to the solo contemporary and ensemble dances, where each performance is to individualized music and choreography.

But competitions in the arts, including the performing arts, and including dance, have a long and celebrated history, and they’re here to stay. The increasing athleticism, the pre-eminence of ‘tricks’, is a different matter, but it too is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Whether this is the product of audience preference, a teacher or school director’s calculation, an artistic director’s decision to stimulate ticket sales by casting dancers known more for their athletic prowess than their stylistic purity, or merely an individual dancer’s effort to stand, or step, out, is a chicken and egg question. But to the extent ‘tricks’ are a preeminent ingredient in evaluating and responding to a dance performance, this is hardly the product of competitions: they’ve been around a long time – certainly since 1893, when Pierina Legnani wowed a St. Petersberg audience with 32 fouettes in “Cinderella,” and then reportedly danced a 28 fouette encore in response to entreaties from the bedazzled audience.

With that in mind, to me competitions such as YAGP are not a bad thing for the art form. On the contrary, they keep the art from stagnating, and the educational opportunities that competitions such as YAGP provide help preserve it.

I concede that other than through internet clips, I am not familiar with other similar competitions. But what seems to set YAGP apart from others is its worldwide scope (over 7000 contestants auditioned at venues spanning six continents) and its mantra that ‘winning’ an award is not the only measure of a winner. I won’t repeat information that can be gleaned from its web site, but what YAGP has accomplished in 15 years, whether one likes competitions or not, is extraordinary. I’m sure there are rivalries and inflated egos within this competition – there have to be. But other than the simple fact of life that when the ratio of girls to boys is naturally and overwhelmingly skewed in favor of the girls the boys are greeted and fawned over like dancing rock stars, what stands out to me is the apparent collegiality, the ready recognition and enthusiastic acknowledgement of talent demonstrated by other contestants, and the understanding that winning isn’t everything. While I walked through the nooks and crannies of the Skirball Center trying to maneuver my way through the wall-to-wall dancers and not step on little girls’ toes, I overheard a group of preteen girls wondering why they were here and what the point of this was, since they clearly weren’t going to win anything. An older woman (maybe age 14), perhaps from the same school, joined them, and I heard her explain to the others: “It’s about the experience. About taking classes from the teachers. About seeing the performances. About being in New York.” Indeed.

And despite its connections to the ‘best’ schools, companies, and dancers in the world, the nuts and bolts of the YAGP competition made the process look remarkably egalitarian.
Dancers have an air about them. It starts young, and is doubtless a product of stingy eating, rigorous training, and having a goal. Knowing that you’re an object of adulation doesn’t hurt either. But although a few of the YAGP finalists navigated the theater streets of New York looking like young royalty, the vast majority, when they were offstage, looked and acted like ordinary kids – whatever that is – albeit kids without an ounce of fat on their bodies.

But make-up, costumes, and training change everything when they hit the stage. Except for certain precocious pre-competition 9-11 year olds, the ‘performing age’ appearance of the dancers was considerably older than their real age. Indeed, what strikes one about all the contestants, in addition to their desire and obvious talent, is their remarkable stage maturity. Granted that each dancer could not have reached the New York finals without first having been selected from among other contestants in regional semi-finals, and that some of them were clearly a step ahead in terms of polish and consistency, not a single dancer I saw didn’t belong here.

The YAGP competition is divided into categories: ‘pre-competitive’ (ages 9-11); junior solo (12-14); senior solo (15-19); pas de deux; and ensembles. The solos are further divided into male/female divisions, and each solo candidate performs a classical and contemporary piece.

At the competitions, the dancers in scheduled categories performed seriatim before a panel of approximately 15 judges, and an audience that ebbed and flowed with the category and time of day. Except for omnipresent annoying and indiscriminate ‘woops’, and some overly enthusiastic childishness from certain spectators who were not children, the days’ performances proceeded in businesslike fashion.

What ‘system’, if any, the judges used to evaluate each contestant (solo, pair, or ensemble) is not knowable, at least to me, but there appears to be one – after each dancer performed, the judges would complete a form, and the forms would be collected by a YAGP worker and tabulated. One assumes that the highest scorer would win, but I suspect there was also a measure of subjective evaluation on top of any measured criteria. Be that as it may, I had no quarrel with the ultimate decisions – only how the judges could possibly select one remarkably talented and stage-savvy dancer over another.

I see two potential areas of concern. First, the criteria for awarding scholarships and for determining winners are unstated (at least to non-participants). Consequently the award determinations – which dancers get scholarships; which are in the top group of finalists; who’s a ‘winner’ – is at best confusing. For example, some scholarship grantees are not in the top group of finalists and vice versa; and winners don’t correspond to the standing of the dancers in the top group of finalists. Although a lack of clearly defined standards may be a necessity since evaluations must to some extent be subjective, a little enlightenment would be helpful. [In this respect, I should note that following the awards ceremony, each dancer received a packet containing his/her individual evaluations.]

The other area of concern is that among the judges, not only were there representatives of schools that are affiliated with professional companies, but there also were representatives from ‘unaffiliated’ schools that funnel significant numbers of dancers into the competition. This carries the appearance of impropriety in two respects. First, theoretically it would allow a school’s representative to skew his/her evaluation in favor of its own student/competitors. More significantly, it looks like mutual backscratching – these ‘unaffiliated’ schools award a sizable number of scholarships.

But such commentary from an outsider is undermined by the sense of camaraderie I gleaned from everyone involved, the fact that one judge’s scoring, skewed or not, is only a drop in the collective evaluation bucket, and that all the schools participate to a greater or lesser extent in awarding scholarships. There was no sense of elitism or entitlement. On the contrary, and as Arthur Mitchell, former New York City Ballet principal and Dance Theater of Harlem founder, stated in one of the gala’s introductory film clips, YAGP is “an opportunity for the global village of dance to come together.”

By my rough count, there were over 100 winners of scholarships of varying lengths (e.g., one week summer; full summer intensive; full year) – although some of that number represent multiple scholarship awards to the same students. Certain contestants were also awarded studio and company contracts. For example, ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School offered (again by my unofficial count) 13 scholarships, and one studio company contract. Of course, there were also competition award winners. In the latter category, twelve competitors (dancers or ensembles) were singled out as the ‘top twelve (or, in the case of the male soloists, the top six), and then the 3rd, 2nd, 1st place finishers, and, with respect to both the junior and senior soloist categories, an overall Grand Prix winner.

Tempting as it is, recognizing all the individual contestants I saw who for whatever reason stood out to me would be prohibitive. The winners in each announced category follow.

Grand Prix Winners – Senior Soloist: Cesar Corrales (Cuba/USA); Junior Soloist: Harrison Lee (Australia); Senior Soloist Women – 1st place: Juliet Doherty (USA); 2nd place: Mackenzie Richter (USA); 3rd place: Madeline Woo (USA). Senior Soloist Men – 1st place: Haruo Niyama (Japan); 2nd place: Feng Hao Liang (Peoples Republic of China); 3rd place (tie): Blake Kessler (USA), David Fernando Navarro Yudes (Monaco). Junior Soloist Women – 1st place: Aviva Gelfer-Mundl (USA); 2nd place: Ƒrishko Sugiura (Japan); 3rd place: Bianca Scudamore (Australia). Junior Soloist Men – 1st place: Jun Masuda (Japan); 2nd place: Austen Acevedo (USA); 3rd place (tie): Leroy Mokgatle (South Africa), Adrian Zeisel (Austria).

Pre-Competitive Hope Award winner -- Eunsoo Lee (Korea). Pre-Competitive Women – 1st place: Lindy Mesmer (USA); 2nd place: Mikaela Milic (Canada); 3rd place: Hana Yasue (Japan). Pre-Competitive Men – 1st place: Antonio Gameiro Casalinho (Portugal); 2nd place: Summit Geiselman (USA); 3rd place: Pierce Johnson (USA). Pas de Deux winners – 1st place: Gabriella Stilo and Francisco Serrano (USA); 2nd place: Claire Rathbun and Rammaru Shindo (USA); 3rd place: Seung Yeon Yang, and Sunwoo Lee (Republic of Korea). Ensemble winners – 1st place:”Origem” (dancers from Balletarrj Escola de Danca, Brazil); 2nd place: “Legion” (dancers from Escuela Superior de Music y Danza de Monterrey, Mexico); 3rd place: “Noir et Blanc” (dancers from The Rock School, USA).

As various speakers recognized (including Sergei Filin -- Director of the the Bolshoi Ballet recently the victim of an attack that left him with significant loss of eyesight -- who served as judge, coach, and speaker at a public interview prior to the closing gala), YAGP’s rise to international prominence in a mere fifteen years has been extraordinary, and as audiences were constantly reminded, YAGP contestants now populate companies throughout the world. Nevertheless, but for its breadth, it may be indistinguishable from other prestigious dance competitions. But it is distinguishable in one significant way: it’s ours.

Last edited by balletomaniac on Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: YAGP -- 2014 Competition and Galas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:27 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 443
Location: New Jersey
Youth America Grand Prix
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

April 10, 11, 2014
‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’
Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration

-- by Jerry Hochman

The annual gala that follows the Youth America Grand Prix competition, called ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’, is not your ‘usual’ gala. That is, it’s not a preview of a company’s upcoming season, nor is it an assortment of ballet’s most popular bravura bon bons performed by ballet’s greatest dancers. Rather, and in addition to featuring young ‘stars of tomorrow’ from the competition, the gala is a compendium of star dancers that New York audiences don’t usually get to see, excerpts from classic ballets and contemporary dances, and a smattering of new pieces receiving their world, or New York, premieres that reflect YAGP's nurturing of dancers on both the performing and choreographing level. And as it sometimes does, this year there was a second gala, similarly curated, to celebrate YAGP’s Fifteenth Anniversary.

Some criticism can be made that this year’s galas (particularly the Anniversary Gala) were overstuffed with mediocre pieces that could easily have been jettisoned or replaced by more familiar and justifiably renowned dances. I disagree that this necessarily would have been an improvement. On the contrary, I found the two galas this year to be particularly noteworthy in terms of the variety of the dances and excerpts presented, as well as the wide-ranging background, company affiliation, and current rank of the dancers selected to participate. While not all the performances or new pieces were successful (indeed, many were disappointing), the evenings as a whole maintained interest throughout, and the audiences were both receptive and enthusiastic.

Nevertheless, I have one general criticism: YAGP’s failure to advise its audiences of changes from dancers listed in the program. There were three that I was aware of because I knew the dancers, or those they replaced, by sight: Linda Celeste Sims replaced Alicia Graf Mack in both performances of Alvin Ailey’s “Pas de Duke”; Luis Ribagorda replaced Cory Stearns on Thursday in the world premiere of Gemma Bond’s “Being Natasha”; and Jared Angle replaced Robert Fairchild in the New York premiere of Justin Peck’s “Distractions” on Friday. No paper insert was included in the program, and no vocal announcement was made – either of which could have been easily done. Things happen, and cast or program changes are inevitable. But these dancers (and any other substitutes I did not recognize) deserved to be highlighted and acknowledged, and the audience deserved to know who they were seeing.

The programs included two new dances of more than passing significance.

The most unexpectedly smashing performance was Thursday’s presentation of a competition ensemble piece called “Legion,” choreographed by Jaime Sierra and danced by 23 young and not so young men (ages 13-23, but most of them 18) from the Escuela Superior de Music y Danza de Monterrey, Mexico. In general, I’m not a fan of all-male ensemble dances, particularly those that emphasize ‘masculine’ strength and power, but this piece is considerably more than that, and it was memorably performed. The dance is exhilarating and lighthearted, daring and ingenious, and it should make its way into mainstream repertory quickly. And “Legion” ‘only’ won second place in YAGP’s ensemble competition.

Of the premiere offerings, Mr. Peck’s piece was the most accomplished. For a quartet of four dancers – Daniel Ulbricht and Mr. Angle, both New York City Ballet principals, Taylor Stanley, a NYCB soloist, and James Whiteside, an American Ballet Theatre principal – Mr. Peck has created a short, abstract piece filled with energy, variety and choreographic finesse. “Distractions” is a respite from more ‘meaningful’ and less successful pieces. It has no airs; there’s nothing to ‘figure out’ – it’s simply fine choreography and dancing, and pure fun.

Each program opened with sterling performances by young student musicians (noted as part of YAGP’s aptly-named “Music Protégé Series”) which served as appropriate fanfare for the dancing to come. On Thursday, Elizabeth Aoki, a Juilliard student who appeared to be approximately 12 years old (and whose violin looked almost as big as she was) delivered a splendid rendition of Nathan Milstein’s devilish “Paganiniana.” She was followed on Friday by another Juilliard student of about the same age, Nadia Azzi, who made her piano keys dance to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Following the musical introductions, both programs began with representative performances by competition ‘winners’. Aside from “Legion,” the “Stars of Tomorrow” portion of Thursday’s program began with the pas de trois from “Fairy Doll” by three dancers in the ‘pre-competitive’ age group whose performance was recognized as one of the top 12 in the ‘ensemble’ category – Antonio Gameiro Casalinho , Laura Matos Viola, and Francisco Tiago Gomes. All were from Portugal; all were 10 years old, and each was awesomely cute. They were followed by Junior Women’s 1st place winner Aviva Gelfer-Mundl (USA, age 12) who added a delightful ethereal quality to her technically facility in her solo from “Paquita”; and Junior Grand Prix Winner Harrison Lee (Australia, age 14), who brought youthful enthusiasm and energy to his variation from “Flames of Paris.” Friday’s Anniversary celebration began with a performance of "Noir et Blanc," the 3rd place winner in the ensemble category, by 12 dancers from Pennsylvania’s The Rock School (young men and women ages 15-22, most 16), a ballet requiring accuracy, fluidity, and technical prowess. Juliet Doherty (16), a student at the San Francisco Ballet School and Senior Women’s 1st place winner, followed with a finely executed performance of a variation from “Grand Pas Classique”; and Cesar Corrales (17), Senior Grand Prix Winner, brought the house down with his hyper-charged variation from “Don Quixote.”

The ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ portion of Thursday’s gala concluded with the annual “Grand Defile,” a performance by all the YAGP 2014 New York Finalists. This is no mere ‘parade of dancers’. The choreographer, Carlos dos Santos, Jr., not only created a dance for a mere 300 or so dancers, but one that was thrilling and interesting to watch and that appropriately showcased one or another group of dancers and a couple of unidentified individual standouts. Even though one could see that it was a largely a collection of disparate ingredients pasted together (a necessity given the competition schedule), it was by far the best of such pieces d’occasion I’ve seen over the past three years. Kudos not only for Mr. dos Santos, but also for rehearsal directors Alexei Moskalenko and Mikhail Tchoupakov, as well as for the young dancers who learned and executed their parts so quickly and so well.

I will address the balance of the gala performances roughly, but not exclusively, in order of presentation.

Thursday’s dancing began with New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle performing the pas de deux from Jerome Robbins’s “In G Major.” Excerpted from the larger piece, the dance loses its beachy context. But, so isolated, the pas de deux itself becomes more emotionally intimate and visually stirring. Ms. Mearns and Mr. Angle executed superbly – to me, this was one of Ms. Mearns’s finest performances. As of this date, the composition of NYCB’s spring gala performance has not been announced. This pas de deux, with this cast, would be a fine addition to the program.

Most of the dances in each program were preceded by filmed comments by one or more dancers, the choreographer, the composer, or some combination. In the film clip that preceded the excerpt from “Pas de Duke” that began the ‘Stars of Today’ portion of Thursday’s program, ABT Principal Daniil Simkin lucidly explained how Mr. Ailey’s work differed from ballet, and begged the audience’s indulgence if he didn’t get it right. On Thursday, Ms. Sims’s performance had appropriate weight, but Mr. Simkin moved like a tethered helium balloon. But when the piece was repeated, this time in its entirety, at Friday’s gala, Mr. Simkin appeared to grow into the technique as he danced, and by the end, got it right.

“Being Natasha,” Ms. Bond’s world premiere piece, is an abstract piece with no emotional gloss that I could sense (nor any connection to anyone or anything named ‘Natasha’). And although it’s put together well, with a variety of choreographic components, images that start interestingly don’t go anywhere or fit together. I’ve enjoyed Ms. Bond’s previous efforts, but despite its stellar cast of ABT dancers, this one misfired.

Olga Smirnova, a young Bolshoi Ballet 'leading soloist' who already has acquired an international reputation, followed on Thursday in the climactic pas de deux from John Cranko’s “Onegin.” This is one of those rare pas de deux excerpts that is so emotionally and choreographically rich that it can stand on its own for more than just bravura dancing. I found Ms. Smirnova to be a compelling actress, and Evan McKie (in his New York debut), a principal with the Stuttgart Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, impressed as a solid partner. However, irreverent as it may sound to some, I thought that the performances in this same role by ABT’s Hee Seo to be every bit as emotionally compelling, if not more so. At Friday’s gala, Ms. Smirnova danced the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s “Diamonds” (this time partnered by Bolshoi principal Semyon Chudin). Here again, Ms. Smirnova danced superbly. But the performance was emotionally one-dimensional and, though appropriately regal, was somewhat stoic. Another facet of “Jewels” followed later on Friday, with Lauren Lovette, a NYCB soloist, who was anything but stoic, and ABT principal dancer Herman Cornejo, dancing the central pas de deux from “Rubies.” But even Ms. Lovette’s knock-out vivacity was insufficient to offset Mr. Cornejo’s unfamiliarity with the jazzy choreographic nuances and precision partnering that the piece requires.

Thursday’s program continued with a fine execution of an angst-ridden solo from Rudolph Nureyev’s “Manfred” by Paris Opera Ballet principal Matthias Heymann, followed by the world premiere of “Ameska,” choreographed by ‘Dancing With the Stars’ non-star star Derek Hough and performed by ABT soloist Misty Copeland and ‘ballroom guest artists’ Paul Barris, Alexander Demkin, and Roman Kutskyv. I would have preferred to see Mr. Hough try his hand at more balletic movement, but for what it was, it was very good. The three men handled the choreography, as well as their ballroom ballerina, crisply, and Ms. Copeland appeared to relish the freedom that the more explosive movement quality and intricate manipulation provided.

Mr. Hough’s ballroom showpiece was followed by a showpiece of classical ballet: the White Swan pas de deux from “Swan Lake.” Lucia Lacarra has been around the block for many years, but her body still looks remarkably fluid, and her Odette included the most successfully executed ‘swan arms’ I’ve seen since Nina Ananiashvilli. But to me, her Odette was a bit too mannered and austere. And as exquisite as they were, she continued flapping her swan arms even when she was being lifted over her partner’s head. It may have been intended to give the illusion of a bird in flight, even though she was held aloft by her partner, Marlon Dino (who, like Ms. Larcarra, is a principal with the Bavarian State Ballet), but to me it was overkill. On the other hand, during the mini-scene when Siegfried kneels downstage and Odette approaches him from behind, Ms. Lacarra gently but clearly nudged Mr. Dino’s shoulder with her arm, or wing, to bring him out of his solo meditation and continue dancing with her. I’ve never seen this gesture done this way before, and it’s a superbly appropriate physical (rather than emotive) image of simple human affection.

On Friday, Ms. Lacarra and Mr. Dino beautifully performed a more contemporary and delightfully simple and serene piece: Ben Stevenson’s “Three Preludes,” to music by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The two danced a second piece on Friday’s program, “Two Times Two,” choreographed by Russell Maliphant. The piece has the two dancers moving independently within independent beams of light as if in their own private moonlight. An interesting concept, but easily forgettable.

Not easily forgettable was “Milleneum Skiva,” a pas de deux for humanoids on skis created by Moses Pendleton for MOMIX, which followed the White Swan Pas de Deux on Thursday. Two dancers, Nicole Loizides and Steven Ezra, appear center stage glued to their skis, and the skis become an extension of their liquid bones: the two bodies, with their skis, move in ways that bodies and skis were never intended to. The piece looks like a mating ritual for deboned skiers from Alfa Centauri. Mr. Pendleton was also represented on Friday’s program by another MOMIX piece, called “TUU” (named after the band that created the accompanying music), and this time Mr. Ezra’s partner was Rebecca Rasmussen. The dancers initially appear as one body, with Ms. Rasmussen wrapped around Mr. Ezra’s upper torso. They eventually spread into different poses all around the same visual theme – essentially, Mr. Ezra as the center of gravity, with the two bodies assuming poses in which they balance each other in incredibly tortuous-looking positions. Another exercise in strength, balance and body manipulation, “TUU” is characteristic of Mr. Pendleton’s choreography for MOMIX (here the program indicates he had co-choreographers Tim Acito and Solveig Olsen), but seeing it one time is sufficient.

After “Three Preludes” on Friday’s program, Maria Kochetkova and Joaquin De Luz, principal dancers with the San Francisco Ballet and NYCB respectively, danced the world premiere of a piece called “Kubler Ross,” choreographed by Andrea Schermoly to music by Antonio Vivaldi. In the introductory film clip, the piece is described as illustrating five stages of grief. Although I could not discern five discrete ‘stages’, the dance visually displayed frustration, agony and angst more than adequately. I found a film projected at the rear of the stage to be annoyingly distracting and cryptic, but the performances themselves were as flawless as the piece was uninteresting to watch.

Mr. McKie, partnered again by Ms. Smirnova, followed with the world premiere of his own piece, “Wiegenlied Pas de Deux.” Choreographed to a Richard Strauss lullabye, the dance is charming and filled with obvious reverence, and it was performed with exceptional warmth, but it was more romantic than it should have been for a piece that Mr. McKie said he dedicated to his mother and to all mothers. Later on Friday’s program, Mr. McKie danced a solo choreographed by Maco Goecke to music by Edward Elgar called “OnVelvet.” Although the audience clearly was enthralled by Mr. McKie’s ability to move his arms from one angled pose to another at warp speed while standing still or lying on the stage floor, I found the piece to be of little interest or significance.

NYCB principal Ashley Bouder and Mr. Chudin followed Mr. McKie’s pas de deux on Friday, dancing a pas de deux from “La Sylphide.” For a first attempt, Ms. Bouder did well. Mr. Chudin, more experienced in his role, was understandably more accomplished. Although he wouldn’t be mistaken for a Royal Danish Ballet danseur more proficient in the Bournonville style, he brought an enthusiastic and commanding presence to his role -- even though he largely ignored Ms. Bouder. The performance brought to mind how long it’s been since New York audiences have seen either “La Sylphide” (its return to ABT’s repertoire is long overdue), or Balanchine’s “Scotch Symphony,” which has been absent from NYCB’s repertory even longer.

The pas de deux from Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain” followed, which, out of context, looked like a relic from another age. It was skillfully performed by Beckanne Sisk, a soloist with Ballet West, an elegant and extraordinarily fluid dancer, and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet, a gentle-looking giant who manipulated Ms. Sisk like a pretzel. Later in that program, Brooklyn Mack, a dancer with The Washington Ballet, delivered a jubilant performance of “Gopak,” a brief solo piece derived from a Ukrainian folk dance, choreographed by Rastislav Zakharov. The piece is a brief, high-flying audience-pleaser, filled with aerial acrobatics that Mr. Mack's energized execution took to a higher level. Literally.

If you’re going to do bravura dancing and tricks (which were largely absent from the evenings’ offerings), it might as well be in the final pieces in the gala programs, and in each of these performances the dancers pulled out all the stops, to the audiences' delight. Thursday evening’s gala ended with a rousing rendition of the “Don Quixote" pas de deux, danced by Iana Salenko (Berlin State Ballet) and Joseph Gatti (unaffiliated, but deemed a ‘principal dancer’). On Friday, these two were joined by Mr. Mack in the pas de trois from “Le Corsaire,” the piece that concluded that program. Ms. Salenko is an accomplished spinner, but to me Mr. Gatti in both performances, as well as Mr. Mack, brought more class and personality to their roles.

Aside from the comment about cast changes noted earlier, my only criticism of both galas is that the presenters might want to consider that, at times, less is more. But putting together a week of competition and two galas that span dance styles and dancing generations is no small accomplishment. They can be forgiven for getting carried away.

edited on 4/20 to consolidate and correct several egregious typos

Last edited by balletomaniac on Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: YAGP -- 2014 Competition and Galas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 11:00 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 14250
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Joel Meares profiles Junior Soloist Grand Prix winner Harrison Lee.

Sydney Morning Herald

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