In Ballet right now there are many women fighting their rightful way into leading positions in the ballet world. It isn’t enough now for these women to retire and become teachers. They are pushing forward for jobs like Artistic Director, Creative Director, Executive Director, Resident Choreographer and more. As ballet is slowly progressing, women in ballet are taking things into their own hands. Here are just five women who are extremely different, extremely talented and have something to say in the world of ballet.
>> Tamara Rojo, Two Jobs One Passion
The Spanish sensation, Tamara Rojo has had a stellar career and still at the age of 42 is wowing audiences as lead principal at English National Ballet. But it doesn’t just end there, she is also the Artistic Director of English National Ballet and has now nurtured ENB to be one of the best companies in the world with a repertory to die for. She is also making way for more female choreographers and repetiteurs with Anna-Marie Holmes re-staging of Le Corsaire.
Russian-born Larissa Saveliev established the YAGP in 2000, and since then has awarded over 3 Million dollars in scholarships. The YAGP reaches over 7,000 dancers a year and helps mold their technique and career paths through their master classes. She has also established the bi-annual Job Fair, the Emerging Choreographer Series, and Legends in Dance Galas.
Boston Ballet Principal, Ashley Ellis took a hobby of knitting and turned it into a mega brand, all while dancing. Her leg warmers and warm ups are everywhere, all while balancing dancing full time. One for the female entrepreneurs. You can catch Ms. Ellis in Boston Ballet’s production of the Sleeping Beauty opening this weekend.
>> Michaela DePrince, Author & Role model
First Position superstar, Michaela DePrince not only became a role model for young girls everywhere but now has authored multiple books and one that was just optioned by MGM for a movie. The Dutch National Ballet Soloist is carving her way into the world of ballet, and carving hard so that others that will follow won’t have to.
She isn’t just the first Korean principal at American Ballet Theatre, she is also changing the landscape of ballet in Korea. Hee Seo started her foundation last year in hopes to start connecting Korean dancers to more opportunities, and it is working. Additionally, her foundation is helping boys in ballet compete at the international level, in hopes of avoiding/being excused to their mandatory two years to the Korean army.
On Friday night, at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, the ballet world came together to celebrate one man: Julio Bocca. Most nights at the ballet are great, but this night was exceptional. The night began with the crowd filling the lobby of Lincoln Center, the entire ballet world seemed to be there. Among the faces in the crowd were Julie Kent, Isabella Boylston, Lauren Lovette, Stella Abrera (who was nominated for a Prix Benois de la Danse for her performance as Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty), The Olsen Twins, and more. The evening promised to be one of excitement as the playbill listed a long list of principal star dancers. With that many principals, it promised to be a stellar night.
The evening opened with projections of various dancers from around the world wishing Julio Bocca a happy birthday while in front dancers were planning a party and toasting. As it all wound down, there was Marcello Gomes who gave the opening speech. A speech about inspiration and the admiration he has for such a great dancer. He then danced with Luciana Paris in Twyla Tharp’s My Way from Sinatra Suite. This was followed by ballroom dancers Cecilia Figaredo and Hernan Piquin dancing to Michelangelo 70 by Astor Piazzolla. NYCB’s Joaquin De Luz came out to talk about Mr. Bocca and was followed by him dancing Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances with Tiler Peck. A series of beautiful solo variations and cute playfulness engulfed Lincoln Center.
Next, another video of Julio Bocca describing what it was like to dance Romeo and Juliet with Natalia Makarova. This was followed by a letter and voice clip from the Swan Queen herself. It started with a video of Natalia in the balcony scene with Marcelo Gomes being her Romeo. This was then followed with Maria Riccetto (Ballet Nacional SODRE and formerly ABT running out). The two performed MacMillan’s luscious pas de deux. Have not seen her dance since she left ABT, but she has definitely grown as an artist. It was adorable and fresh, everything a Juliet should be. Marcelo pushed his jumps and turns insanely during the opening solo. It was just beautiful dancing.
Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz performed the Final Pas e Deux from Bells by Yui Possokhov. Her beautiful red Leo showcased her ridiculous ferocious body and her unbelievable movement quality.
This was followed by Julio Bocca’s thoughts on DON Q, and started with a video of Mr. Bocca and Tamara Rojo performing the exciting pas de deux. Emerging from the wings was Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez of English National Ballet. The two dazzled the crowds with insane balances, never ending pirouettes, triple fouettes, and a sassy playfulness on Ms. Rojo’s part. It was probably the best Kitri I have ever seen.
Gonzalo Garcia of NYCB performed the solo from Mambo Suite, a fun and male flirty variation. Followed by Nina Ananiashvili of State Ballet of Georgia performing Lekuri, a Soviet folk dance in pointe shoes. Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luz came back out to performing the opening of Black Swan Pas De Deux. The audience wanted more but they only did the pas de deux. Her take on black swan is more sly and sleek, befitting to her body.
Lucia LaCarra and Marlon Dino performed Spiral Twist by Russell Maliphant. This gorgeous, gorgeous pas de deux was complex and intricate. Somewhere between ballet and figure skating the piece was intellectual and thought-provoking for the audience. No pointe shoes, just simple gray costumes, the two moved so elegantly and so luscious that the audience went wild.
Luciana Paris and Rodrigo Colomba (Teatro Folklorico Nacional-Argentina) performed Presente, a world premier by Analia Gonzalez. This super sexy pas de deux made for a very entertaining number. He was strong, supportive, and so into her, it turned the audience on. It was so sexy. His large hands all over her tiny waist and body… She danced in just a long sleeve leotard, he danced in pants and a tank top… Oooh, hot and bothered all over again.
Isabelle Guerin and Manual Legris, former etoiles of Paris Opera, danced Farewell Waltz. A very subtle pas de deux about the end of life. She is everything I have ever imagined about watching her dance life. Slick and effortless technique. He was everything he needed to be, strong but insecure, effortless but distraught.
Vitor Luz performed Percussion 4 from Bob Fosse.
The night ended with all of the dancers toasting Julio Bocca on stage. For most of the young YAGP competitors, they probably didn’t know who Julio Bocca was until now. But, if they could take anything away from the evening it was the humility and thoughtfulness of this man. Everything that was said about him reflected his genuine qualities, his humble attitude, and his never ending hard work.
The Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow:
Thursday, April 13, 2017 @ the David H. Koch Theater @ Lincoln Center
Any evening at Lincoln Center always promises to be a success and enjoyable for the mature ballet goer. But, tonight was different as hundreds of young ballet dancers flocked to the fountain with the anticipation of what was to come. Tonight, the Youth America Grand Prix hosted a beautiful gala honoring their lifetime achievement honoree Bruce Marks, the pure talent of top performers from the Prix, and professionals from all around the world. Dozens of professional dance icons glided across the marble floors at Lincoln Center to support their colleagues, young dancers, and the talented and forever a part of ballet history Bruce Marks. By the time the audience sat and the house lights dimmed, the sold-out house was ready for ballet.The energy was different from other nights at theater. It was young, it was hopeful, it was exciting. As the lights dimmed, dozens of screams from the third and fourth ring poured into Lincoln Center, the anticipation was bursting, and it led to a spectacular evening of ballet.
It opened with a male pre-competitor, Brady Farrar doing the variation from Talisman that was pretty awesome. Followed by the pas de deux from Coppellia from Master’s Juniors featuring Avery Gay. Classical Dance Academy performed a competitive ensemble piece titled Existence that involved a glowing pink parachute. Junior division’s Takumi Miyaki performed the male variation from Swan Lake. This was followed by a contemporary solo from Jan Spunda titled “Swan” which was a male take on Dying Swan. A senior from Korea redid her variation from Raymonda. Tara from Portugal performed a contemporary solo in a skirt. Maddison Penny blew the audience away with her variation of Esmeralda and Taro Kurachi blew everyone over again with his Don Q variation. This was followed by the Grand Défilé with choreography by YAGP resident choreographer Carlos do Santos, Jr that included 300 YAGP participants from 30 countries. It rivaled many corps de ballets from major companies. It was just legs for days and clean technique. Arms that are too short for their bodies because of their ages, but beautifully proportioned bodies.
Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP
The night then honored Bruce Marks. The talented and beautiful Nina Ananiashvili presented the award. His acceptance speech was funny, heartfelt and inspiring. Then it just got long a political, but he is Bruce Marks and 80, so let the man do his thing.
Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP
ACT II brought the roaring applause. The second half of the program opened with Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro performing Wheeldon’s Pas De Deux from Carousel. It was a very cute pas de deux but completely out of text from the Carousel Suite… Without the entire ballet the pas de deux is kind of boring. They were not boring, as I adore Tiler Peck. He was nice, but
James Whiteside then performed in place of Xander Parish in a solo by Marcelo Gomes. James Whiteside is beyond beautiful, the problem with this solo was that it was not thought out well. It seemed very disjointed and lacked the interesting factor.
Brittany O’Connor and Paul Barris performed a very sexy ballroom number involving one pointe shoe and a backless sequin dress with a live music ensemble. She had legs and body for days… Like for days. So between ballroom steps and ballet steps, the sexy duo performed with intricate lifts and spiraling whip arounds. Photo courtesy of the YAGP by VAM.
Skyler Brandt and Gabe Stone Sayer performed the always crowd pleasing pas de deux from Spring Waters. Both are now at ABT and both former YAGP finalists. He was charismatic, and she as full of energy like always. Skyler Brandt is truly turning into ballet’s sweat heart, and there is a clear reason: she is adorable. Her big eyes, all American body type, a smile that’s worth a million dollars and she’s clean.
Svetlana Lukina and Evan McKie performed David Dawson’s new Swan Lake Pas De Deux. In this minimal costuming, and contemporary take, the White Swan has total control and is almost enticing. She is mesmerizing and this was probably the most interesting piece of the night. For the mature balletomane, this probably was the jewel of the evening, but for the kids and this young audience, it wasn’t enough… But what came at the end truly was what the audience craved…
Ian Spring performed the always popular David Parson’s Caught. If you haven’t seen it, it involves a very cool strobe hiding the in-between steps and only what Mr. Parson’s wants you to see. Like a series of photographs. I have now seen Angel Corella do it and it was awful but the audience liked him and Glen Simmons from Ailey which was spectacular. Ian Spring brought a very fun and very lively take to it which I enjoyed a lot. Plus, the kids were going crazy over it.
Goddess Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino performed Light Rain by Gerald Arpino. The choreography was dated, but it showcased Ms. Lacarra’s impeccable legs and feet and the fact that she has no hips. It was purely all about flexibility.
The night was then stolen by Tamara Rojo and Cesar Corrales (baby daddy status) from English National Ballet. They performed the pas de deux from Le Corsaire which ENB just did. It was so impressive. He was so impressive. From his ENB’s emerging artist performance to skyrocketing through the company, Cesar Corrales might just be ballet next Roberto Bolle. With the exception that he turns with his shoulders up. Tamara Rojo was beyond marvelous. Her technique was spotless and her triple fouettes were quite impressive as they came with ease. The audience adored them. Ovations galore, as they deserved it.
It was a great and exciting night as the young ballet bunheads of tomorrow screamed with admiration. It was a great, beautiful and crazy night. A night where young ballet hopefuls became even more inspired by ballet legends and royalty.
Thank you to all of my sponsors who helped me go cover the YAGP FINALS in NYC.