Dream Casting…

Some have fantasy football… I have fantasy ballet nights. If I were going to die, I would cash out everything I own and have one super star studded night of good ballet. And, I probably would invite all of my friends and family as well. (That has yet to be decided) Now, with all of these international super star gala events… My lineup doesn’t seem that absurd, or impossible… But, if I had the chance to curate one night of magical goodness…. It would be:

Balanchine’s Serenade

Russian Girl: Tiler Peck, NYCB

Russian Girls: Whitney Jensen, Lia Cirio, Dusty Button, Misa Kuranaga – Boston Ballet

Waltz Girl: Hee Seo, ABT

Waltz Boy: Roberto Bolle

Dark Angel: Olga Smirnova, Bolshoi

Elegie Boy: Pete Leo Walker, Charlotte Ballet

Corps provided by Paris Opera

Balanchine’s Apollo

Apollo: Alexandre Hammoudi, American Ballet Theatre

Terpsichore: Me… for the sake of dancing with my Baby Daddy… Just kidding.  Julia Rowe San Francisco Ballet

Polyhymnia: Natalia Osipova, Royal Ballet

Calliope: Dorothee Gilbert, Paris Opera

Break

Matthew Bourne’s White Swan Pas De Deux

David Hallberg, Bolshoi/ABT

Fabrice Calmels, Jofferey

Esmeralda Female Variation

Svetlana Zakharova, Bolshoi

Giselle Second Act PDD

Giselle – Lucia Lacarra, Staatsballett

Albrecht – Kevin Jackson, Australian Ballet

Liza Variation from Who Cares?

Jeffery Cirio, Boston Ballet —— but instead of random tap steps can we do cool hip hop, or contemporary steps. Thanks.

A New Contemporary Solo choreographed by Benjamin Millepied 
Tiler Peck, NYCB

Onegin PDD

Steven Morse, San Francisco Ballet

Madison Keesler, English National Ballet

BREAK

PDD from Romeo and Juliet

Beckanne Sisk, Ballet West

James Whiteside, ABT

That would be some nimble biscuit dancing…

Le Palais de Cristal 

First Movement

Tiler Peck (NYCB) & Mathieu Ganio (Paris Opera)

PNB

Second Movement

Maria Kotchekova (SFB) & Amar Ramasar (NYCB)… i know height difference buuuut i think it would be like butter.

Bolshoi Ballet

Third Movement

Michaela Deprince (Het National Ballet) & Derek Dunn (Houston Ballet)

New York City Ballet

Fourth Movement

Patricia Zhou, Staatsballett and Jim Nowakowski  (Houston Ballet)

Paris Opera

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Fantastic Five: 5 Really Great Male Variations

In the world of ballet, variations define a dancer’s career. As artists a variation is the one moment where technique, artistry and years of daunting rehearsals finally meet. A 2-3 Act ballet is carried by the principals, and the defining moment for them are their variations. For a female in the role(s) Odette/Odile, she is first pushed emotionally, and technically as Odette. Then in a ferocious breath she seductively attacks with stamina, the role of Odile. Then, she has to turn back int Odette, and die. Exhausting. I mean not only does the prima have to act, change roles, act some more, she also has to do two full on PDDs and do an epic 4th act finale. Pretty impressive.

When it comes to the men in ballet, their variations are always kind of bland. It is usually two jumping passes, followed by two pirouette combinations, executed by flawless double tours or entrechat sixs, and then some have a quality menage added in. Either way, these variations have turned into like… the most redundant yet insanely tricked out performances. Like Roberto Bolle cranking out 40 Entrechat six in Giselle… Or Daniil Simkin’s insane turning combos for Corsaire… Or Osiel Gounod in … like every variation. (If you don’t know who he is… youtube that $h!t… it’s like insane.)

Now, there are a lot of male variations that are actually super musical, and super beautiful that are overlooked. Granted… Most of them are either Balanchine, or specific to a company’s repertory. BUUUUT… Regardless… We should take a look at these fantastic five variations for men.

1. “Name of Prince” Variation in ACT II… Paris Opera’s – Nureyev version gives the male two super beautiful variations in the second act. The first uses the music that Balanchine’s Nutcracker uses to bridge party and battle scene. It is a very long variation (7 minutes), but super gorgeous, and demonstrates that boys have arabesques too. It could be that Nureyev really reinvented the male, and as a male ballet dancer he was able to create roles for other men within the confinements of classical ballet. The second variation is from the music sometimes used in ACT III of sleeping beauty for one of the jewels. It is very classical as well but has really gorgeous enveloppe moments. Then, Royal Ballet also gives a super luscious, kind of sensual variation in the second act as well. As sensual as fairytale princes get.

2. Balanchine’s Apollo. Besides the fact that this is probably one of the only ballets with a male name as the title and has the title/leading role… With music by Stravinsky, Apollo never leaves the stage but has two brilliant variations. One is really raw, and the other is really refined. Balanchine cut the first variation and birthing, but people since have put both back in. Both variations are incredibly musical, one of the things that I adore about Balanchine. I think for a lot of male dancers who were trained in the Balanchine aesthetic, and for men in Balanchine companies, this ballet is used to really define their presence in the company. I think NYCB currently has Chase Finlay as the face of Apollo, and prior to him was Nilas Martins (both blonde… kind of suspicious) but, both made names for themselves in the role. David’s Dream Casting: Alexandre Hammoudi (aka Baby Daddy) in Apollo.

Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.
Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.

3. The Male Variation(s) from Sylvia. Besides the fact that the Delibes’ score is super danceable and kind of cute… (FUN FACT: the original production of Sylvia was created to open the Palais Garnier for Paris Opera, and the costumes were designed by Lacoste) In the Balanchine PDD, the male is variation is structured like a classical variation, but has really beautiful nuances added in. And like a lot of the classical-like Balanchine male variations (Tchai Pas, Theme and Variations), each one was modified so the steps vary by who dances/staged it. In the Ashton version of Sylvia, Aminta has numerous gorgeous variations. I actually think that the Ashton Version is only danced at American Ballet Theatre, and Royal Ballet. Paris Opera has a version of Sylvia, but it is more contemporary or modern, so it doesn’t count for this list. If we counted that… Then we would have to count numerous other new ballets like Chroma, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, every ballet created by Complexions, Cedar Lake and LINES, and the Cranko Ballets… Though… I really should count the Cranko Ballets… )

Roberto Bolle in Ashton's Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot off youtube. #boom
Roberto Bolle in Ashton’s Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot of youtube. #boom leg up.

4. The male variations in John Cranko’s Onegin are like beyond roles and somehow have combined real life and ballet. The music used for the male variations aren’t awfully heavy, and scary sounding. The variations also create this beautiful emotional prism for a male ballet dancer. All of the Cranko characters are always so dynamic. I’ve never seen it live, but have watched the full length on Youtube on five different companies. It is incredible. When I was a student, I never really wanted to dance Onegin, but now in retrospect it is so beautiful to me and I am like -_____-  (that is my Snorlax face)… Not that I was ever good enough, or would ever have been cast in Onegin… but still… a boy can dream.

5. The Liza Variation, from Balanchine’s Who Cares? Music by Gershwin. Probably one of the younger variations as it was choreographed in 1937, but it is super fun. Kind of jazzy, okay, super jazzy but really fun dancing. Seriously. If you ever have the chance to preform it, it is one of the must enjoyable variations to get through. It isn’t like trying to get through the male variation in Theme and Variations or random crazy turns from Corsaire. Did I mention, it really is just plain fun? And Baryshnikov in a Balanchine ballet = love. (Click Here = https://youtu.be/GnWxmELOcBI)

The Male Variation in the Satanella Pas De Deux from the Carnival of Venice tied with the male variation for Harlequinade for variations in classical ballet that aren’t dance enough. Both are obviously classical variations, but I feel like these two ballets are underused. Plus… I think the music is kind of cute. I also think these two male variations are more age appropriate for boys (11-16) competing at competitions. I mean what 11 year old boy should be doing Swan Lake? Then, because I love Balanchine, there are the roles that don’t really have variations but are gorgeous: the male lead in Rubies or Diamonds, the male in the walking pas de trois from Emeralds. I think all the male leads in Symphony in C or Palais Cristal, the male leads in Western Symphony, the pas de deux from Agon.)

Finally, I would like to take the time to talk about Lady of the Camellias, music by Chopin, and choreographed by John Neumeier is another “newer” classic work. It premiered in 1978 with Marcia Haydee, and is a super beautiful full length with male variations… The downside is that even though the story is the same, Val Caniparoli used the same music and redid it, maybe even better … But in this version, the male variations are great but they really  aren’t as dynamic as the females. Lucia Lacarra slayed this for the ballet gods.

To see the 5 variations, watch them on our YOUTUBE channel’s playlist:

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Company Profile: Oregon Ballet Theatre

Company Profile: Oregon Ballet Theatre

Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT) http://www.obt.org/

Location: Portland, Oregon

Artistic Director: Kevin Irving

Current Season: 4 bills

Theatre Residence: None, but performs at Keller Auditorium

Dancers Hired: 21

Budget: 5,203,151* based of the 2013 tax audit.

Affiliated School: School of OBT

Annual Tuition: $5,015, pre-professionals get half scholarships, apprentices get full scholarships.

Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check the summer program page: http://www.obt.org/school/summer_intensive.html

Celebrating their 25th season, OBT was originally founded by James Canfield. Who was actually known for his choreography, and was a former dancer with Joffrey. In 2003, it was handed to Christopher Stowell. (If you didn’t know who he was, he is the son of PNB’s founders: Kent Stowell and Francia Russell.) Then in the season 2013-2014 season it is taken over by Kevin Irving, who is now in is sophomore year there.

OBT has constantly gone through a lot of different phases. At it’s origins it was more on the contemporary side. The second phase under Christopher Stowell, was probably the peak of OBT. Staging of full length ballets, and acquiring numerous Balanchine rights, OBT flourished. Now, under their new director the question remains: What will happen to OBT? With the new director’s background in modern, will OBT now transition into a newer, more modern phase? OBT had a huge financial set back between 2012 and 2013, losing almost a million dollars in funding. Hoping to regain momentum, OBT’s building is quite new and quite gorgeous. (I have taken open class there numerous times, as my family spent part of their summer in Oregon. My brother, who now attends uni there, has caused me to think I will be seeing more of OBT.)

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So many ballet companies miss the mark when it comes to PR and marketing but OBT has some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen for a ballet company. Also, their website is gorgeously put together, minus their header image with a pierced ear… of all the photos to use as the first image we see… it is of a dancer’s upper back glistening in sweat and pierced ear.

Truthfully, I have never seen OBT dance. Even when they performed 20 minutes away from my house, and having three friends in the company, I decided not go. Hopefully, this will change. And I hope more people consider them to be a formidable company, and not just the smaller version of PNB. 

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