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Dance: Extraordinary Talents in Ballet's Future

ART TIMES Summer 2013

Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild in George Balanchine's
Stravinsky Violin Concerto Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

Youth America Grand Prix’s 2013 “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” Gala was held Thursday, April 18, 2013 in Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. YAGP Galas featuring the world’s most promising young dance students and the stars of today’s leading international dance companies have been thrilling New York City audiences since 1999.

This year it was even more memorable than last. In fact, even though the event ran an hour over, there was not a moment when one was bored or restless. The evening moved with precision and the young talents were breathtaking.

From the moment the petite violin protégé Elli Choi played the “Carmen Fantasy” to start the proceedings, the event displayed one extraordinary performance after another. I knew we were watching the finalists of the competition. The first two dancers, Russia’s Lada Saratkova with her endless pirouettes and Japan’s dynamic Daichi Ikarashi set high standards for all who followed.

It was a day or so later that I learned Ikarashi had won the HOPE award for a pre-competitive dancer for he is amazingly only 10 years old and already could out dance half the men I’ve seen on other stages! Ms Saratkova, who is also ten, won the silver medal in the pre-competitive competition.

The junior competitions for women and men were for dancers 12-14 years old and the senior competition for 15-19 year olds.

Albert Gordon
From stars of today meet the stars of tomorrow contest. Albert Gordon, 17, Washington School of Ballet, USA a Top 12 Finalist in the Senior Men's Division. Photo credit Liza Voll

Several countries won multiple awards in the various categories. Companies from Belgium won a bronze award. Brazil won one Grand Prix, one gold, two silver and two bronze awards. Korean dancers won one gold and one bronze. Japanese contestants won one top award, one gold and one silver. Russia won silver. Switzerland won one gold and one silver, and the USA won one grand prix, two gold, two silver and one bronze.

In addition to performances by dancers from Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Bolshoi Ballet, Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theatre, there were world premieres by Emery LeCrone and Marcelo Gomes, with an original score by Karen LeFrak. 

Coming up in June, the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition (formerly Boston International Ballet Competition) next event, is set for New York City's La Guardia High School, at Amsterdam & 65th Street, June 27-30, 2013.

It requires a great deal of work from the young dancers, because participants not only select dances from a list provided by VKIBC, which includes solos from Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Giselle, and other classics, but are also required to learn, via computer, one of the following: Compulsory Contemporary Female Solo, created this year by Jacqulyn Buglisi, Compulsory Contemporary Male Solo, created by Viktor Kabaniaev or Compulsory Duet, created by Paulo Arrais.

Dance, of course, means different things to different people. I remember back when the jitterbug was a fad and the older generation was appalled by the moves of the youngsters who excelled in this flamboyant dance style.

Viengsay Valdes & Osiel Gouneo
From stars of today meet the stars of tomorrow contest. Viengsay Valdes and Osiel Gouneo (National Ballet of Cuba) in Double Bounce, choreographed by Peter Quanz.
photo credit Liza Voll.

Just as with our politics, our sense of human rights, our ethnicity, dance comes from many different sensibilities and creates movement that expresses the concepts and dreams of the choreographer and performer. We can appreciate the skill of the dancers without necessarily responding to the dance pieces we are viewing.

Not all the good dancers are featured only at such competitions. There were many exciting dance events in the early spring – the Miro Magliore’s New Chamber Ballet in the City Center Studios presented well trained young dancers in two premiers and two other pieces. Piano and/or violin accompanied each of the dance works. Magliore choreographed most of the works but Constantine Baecher choreographed and was one of the dancers in the provocative Allow You to Look at Me.

Steps on Broadway held its Celebrate Dance - Steps Beyond event in April at Ailey Citigroup Theater. Many of the lifts and poses were breathtaking, challenging the body to assume new shapes and positions. I often felt I was observing a gym session rather than dance, so much of it was athletic and showed the dancers’ strength, physical stamina and skills but proved staccato with one movement not flowing into the next. In Tit for Tat there were unique partnering moments that created excitement. Certainly the performers were all well trained and highly skilled, but I guess it was just a night when I was in the mood for a different style of dance, because I simply did not respond.

The New York City Ballet will present 33 dances in three weeks May 21-June 9. A rare opportunity for classical ballet lovers such as myself!

The wonder of today’s dance offerings is that they include such a wide range of styles and skills that there is sure to be a dance event that will thrill even the most jaded audience. We won’t all respond to the same dances, we won’t all admire the same choreographers or dance companies, but we will all agree that the dance smorgasbord allows each of us to find dance events that satisfy our wants.

The more frequently we go to see companies that are not in our comfort range, the more we expand our own concepts of dance and our appreciation of its practitioners.

Like any contemporary art form, dance is alive and well, experimenting, discovering and delighting some of us all the time!

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