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School of American Ballet

Annual Workshop Performance: 'Chopiniana,' 'The Flower Festival at Genzano,' 'Ballabile,' 'Swan Lake,' and 'Aurora’s Wedding'

by Kate Snedeker

May 31, 2003 -- Juilliard Theater, New York

Each year the School of American Ballet Workshop Performances showcase some of the top young ballet talent in the country. This year, on the eve of the Balanchine Centennial celebration, the students in these, the 39th Annual Workshop Performances, performed ballets and excerpts of ballets by four choreographers who were admired by George Balanchine: Michel Fokine, August Bournonville, Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. It was a display of both lovely dancing and rich choreography.

First on the program was Chopiniana , Michel Fokine’s first version of Les Sylphides, which originally starred the legendary Anna Pavlova. Staged for the 2003 Workshop by former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Cynthia Gregory, the ballet is captivating in its simplicity. Lyrical and contemplative, Chopiniana is set to Chopin’s equally lyrical piano music, played on this occasion by Whit Kellog. As in Alexandra Danilova’s 1972 staging for the New York City Ballet, the dancers were outfitted in simple white dresses, and for the lone man, black tights and white shirt. Due to an injury, the sole male role was danced by Tyler Angle, with Rebecca Azenberg, Polly Baird and Abigail Simon as the other soloists. Both principals and corps seemed at ease in the delicate, paced choreography that includes frequent explorations of the various port de bras positions.

New York City Ballet principal dancer Nikolaj Hubbe staged the two Bournonville excerpts performed in the Workshop, the first of which was the pas de deux from The Flower Festival at Genzano . Danced with brio and a nice attention to the detailed footwork by Arron Scott and Barette Vance, the pas de deux is set to music by Edvard Helsted. The other August Bournonville excerpt, new to the Workshop repertory, was the Ballabile from Act I in Napoli . More often seen as part of New York City Ballet’s Bournonville Divertissements , Ballabile is accompanied by H.S. Paulli’s festive music. Led by Miriam Rowan and Daniel Appelbaum, the spirited dancers demonstrated nice epaulment, a vital part of the Bournonville style.

George Balanchine’s influence was seen in his version of the Act Two pas de deux from Swan Lake , based on the original choreography by Lev Ivanov. In Sean Lavery’s staging, Maya Collins and Ted Seymour were solid, with Seymour a very strong partner. However, the Act II pas de deux is not an ideal selection for a workshop piece, because to be more than just a series of tricky steps, it requires an emotional maturity that very few ballet students possess.

The program ended with a delightful performance of Aurora’s Wedding from Peter Martins’ The Sleeping Beauty , after the original by Marius Petipa. A joint effort of Sean Lavery, Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Russell Kaiser, Katrina Killian and Gabrielle Whittle, the final act extravaganza highlighted the vast and varied talents of the School of American Ballet advanced students, with some younger students (including Nicholas Fokine, the great-grandson of Michel Fokine) also included. Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle,as Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré, were elegant and noble in the final pas de deux and especially solid in the tricky fish dives. Also of note were Barrette Vance as the Lilac Fairy, Olivia Goodrich and Vincent Paradiso, who soared in the bravura Blue Bird pas deux and the delightful jester trio of Anthony Carr, Troy Schumacher and Nicolay Smirnov. Giovanni Villalobos, Maya Collins, Elysia Lichtine and Elisabeth Holowchuk were the sparkling Jewels, Cassia Phillips and Barry Kerollis, the playful White Cat and Puss in Boots, and Heathe Viernes and Ted Seymour a solid Little Red Riding Hood and Wolf. The corps were appropriately elegant in the court dances, with William Lin-Yee and Lindsay McGrath the King And Queen and Choong Hoon Lee as Catalabutte.

The 2003 Mae L. Wien Award for Distinguished Service was given to Sheryl Ware, a member of the SAB faculty since 1996. The Mae L. Wien Awards for Outstanding Promise were awarded to Sara Mearns, Ana Sophia Scheller, Vincent Paradiso and Giovanni Villalobos.

The orchestra was conducted by Richard Moredock and the lighting was designed by Todd Elmer.

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