Honoring the legend, the man, the humble Julio Bocca.

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.

JULIO BOCCA: A TRIBUTE TO A DANCE LEGEND

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.

JULIO BOCCA: A TRIBUTE TO A DANCE LEGEND
photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP

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.

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Photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP

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.

 

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Photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP

 

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.

www.YAGP.org

//Thank you to everyone who sponsored me to go to the YAGP.

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AND THE CROWD GOES CRAZY…

The Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow:
Thursday, April 13, 2017 @ the David H. Koch Theater @ Lincoln Center

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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.

 

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Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

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.
YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

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.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

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.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of TomorrowBrittany 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.

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Photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP

 

 

 

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.

And the winner is… YAGP 2017

Thank you to my list of donors who have helped make this trip possible. This afternoon, at Lincoln Center at the David H. Koch Theater hundreds of young potential ballet dancers, flooded the audience. These young hopeful students sat around in anticipation as the winners of the 2017 YAGP were announced.

From the pre-competitive division, the Hope award went to Brady Farrar from Stars Dance Studio.

The winner of the Junior Grand Prix was Madison Penney from Master Ballet Academy, AZ for her variation from Esmeralda.

From the senior category, no one won the grand prix.

The Shelley King Award for Excellence went to Remie Madeleine Goins. The Outstanding Artistry Award went to Jan Spunda from English National Ballet School. The Natalia Makarova Award went to my favorite, Elisabeth Beyer.

Senior Women Top 3:
1.Gloria Benaglia, Ellison USA
2.Chloe Misseldine, Orlando Ballet School USA
3.Lauren Hunter, Marat Daukayev School USA
Senior Men Top 3:
1.Taro Kurachi, Don Q, Ellison, USA
2.Jun Young Yang, Paquita, National University of Arts, Korea
3. Jan Spunda, English National Ballet School, Czech Republic
3. Yuedong Sun, Secondary School of Bejing Dance Academy, P.R. of China.

The most important part of this afternoon was the endless amounts scholarships given out. Hundreds of scholarships were given out to all age groups, most receiving multiple offers to the best schools in the world. Now, these young potential dancers will have their choice of going to a school who wants them. Register now for the 2018 YAGP.

Catching up with Robbie Downey (BalletBabble // BalletFreak)

Robbie Downey YAGP 2017
Catching up with social media sensation, entrepreneur, and ballet dancer Robbie Downey. And, if you don’t know who she is, she is the eighteen-year-old who everyone has grown up with online. Catching the first wave of youtube channels five years back, Robbie Downey has documented her ballet journey through various social media platforms. So, this cool kid took some time in between sessions at the YAGP FINALS to meet up with a Ballet Education. Between social media accounts with a huge following, and dealing with her own personal ballet journey, Robbie Downey is the voice of positivity. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the final round, but she has hopes for scholarships. That is the great thing at the YAGP, you don’t have to make it to the final round to still get a scholarship spot. So, if you don’t follow her, this San Diego native has spent a year at Ellison and now is at Masters in Scottsdale, AZ. She has battled injuries and documents her journey all over social media. Agreeing that in ballet, exposure these days can make or break a career, and with her half a million followers, she has it.

So, how does she juggle it all? With the help of her mom. 
Robbie Downey Youtube

How do you take your coffee? Prefers Green Tea
Last movie you watched? Don’t Breathe
Current Song/Playlist: anything by Muse
What does she want out of her dancing? To inspire others and to balance it with dancing for herself.
Favorite thing to do when not doing ballet? Eating good vegan food.
Where to next for ballet? Possibly Spain.
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Follow this cool kid on instagram:
@balletfreak / @balletbabble @its_robbie_
Follow her on Youtube: MydanceTV
Shop her brand: Farina.
Like on Facebook: Facebook.
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Photos by me 🙂