A Firmament of All-Stars From All Over, All Glittering

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A Firmament of All-Stars From All Over, All Glittering ...

A Firmament of All-Stars From All Over, All Glittering

    By ANNA KISSELGOFF, The New York Times

    February 13, 2002

     stAn evening billed as “Millennium International Ballet Gala, Stars of the 21 Century”

    proved more routine than festive a year ago at the New York State Theater. But the opposite was true on Monday night as the same Canadian organizers presented an other st“International Ballet Gala, Stars of the 21 Century”. This Time the dancing was better,

    and there were revelations. New Yorkers could see for the first time the perfection of Tamara Rojo, a young Spanish principal in Britain’s Royal Ballet, and the brilliant Bournonville stylist, Johan Koborg, a Dane with that company.

     The 13 dancers from the United States and Europe delivered the promised international mix, and Spain, once a country with no classical ballet tradition, looks more and more like a fount of major talent. Somebody must be putting something in the paella.

     The results have been evident at American Ballet Theater, where the Spanish contingent is led by Angel Corella. His Madrid teacher, Victor Ullate, taught Ms. Rojo and Lucia Lacarra, the San Francisco Ballet’s popular Spanish principal, who also performed on Monday, Jose Martinez, who appeared, as he did last year with Agnes Letestu, is the Spanish-born star of the Paris Opera Ballet.

     The audience favorite, unsurprisingly, was Marcin Krajewski, a young Polish dancer who repeated the bravura solo he performed just as sensationally with the Jeune Ballet de France last year before a smaller audience at Florence Gould Hall.

     The program produced by Solomon Tencer and introduced by his wife and the evening’s artistic director, Nadia Veselova-Tencer, leaned more forward the

    contemporary this year.

     Desmond Richardson, a modern dancer whose power and charisma have defied definition since his days with Alvin Ailey’s company, led off with a solo by Dwight Rhoden to a recording by Prince. (All the music was on tape.) Wearing a red loincloth and moving through a collage of contrasting small gestures and large movements, he was as usual his magnificent self.

     The “Black Swan” pas de deux introduced Ms Rojo and Mr. Kobborg. Neither is tall, but Ms. Roho’s classical style and technique are so flawless that whatever one misses in projection on the the State Theater’s large stage is made up by the incisive clarity and natural ease of her regal dancing. Technically, she is a whiz without any vulgar circus tricks. Her turns in attitude position or in renverse are perfect, and her many triple fouettes are sensationally beyond the call of duty. She also has a special grace, tempering academic form so that her arms close up like flower petals at night.

     Mr. Kobborg, seen at the Royal Danish Ballet’s Bournonville Festival in 1992 in Copenhagen, was good enough in the “Black Swan.” But his strength lies in August Bournonville’s ballets. With Ms. Rojo as a charming partner, he gave the “Flower Festival at Genzano” the special buoyancy, crisp leg beats and precision in air turns (in both directions) that the style demands. Bernice Coppieters and Chris Roelandt offered a change of pace in the balcony pas de deux of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “Romeo and

    Juliet,” which they performed with the Ballet de Monte-Carlo a few years ago. They are

    bold, risk-taking dancers, as seen again in Mr. Maillot’s “Duo d’Anges,” set to Handel.

     Ms. Letestu and Mr. Martinez were strangely pale in Victor Gsovsky’s familiar “Grand pas Classique.” But in Anatol Yanovski’s “Alquivia Pas de Deux” (music by Luis Delgado), they were a forceful contemporary couple and they know how to cleave through the air.

     Michele Wiles of American Ballet Theater wore a maroon bathing suit in “Helix,” a minor academic solo by Robert Hill to music and Cyril Pierre, also from San Francisco Ballet, looked properly ecstatic in Gerard Bobotte’s “Liebestod” and had more impact in the cheerfully contortionist duet from Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain.”

     A digest of duets from the “Shades” scene of “La Bayadere” was performed by the Kirov Ballet’s Igor Zelensky and Svetlana Zahkarova. How dancers with jet lag can

    dance so well is a mystery, although Ms. Zahkarova fell off toe in the vell duet, and her shapes were occasionally too angular for the choreography. She redeemed herself in Forkine’s “Dying Swan” with a lovely interpretation and expressive arms, all true to the

    solo’s metaphor for a soul that expires.

     As for Mr. Krajewski, his soaring turns in the air and crashing leap to his knees may bring down the house in “Les Bourgeois,” choreographed by Ben Van Cauwenbergh

    to a Jacques Brel song. There is, one suspects, a great deal more than bad-boy bravura to this gifted dancer.

Leaps of Faith, by Dancers and Donors


     New and impressive talent from Russia and Portugal studded the annual International Ballet Gala on Monday, a single-night event that was presented for the third year at the New York State Theater. st The Evening was again subtitled “Stars of the 21 Century” and featured various pas

    de deux and solos from a mix of 13 American and foreign dancers.

     For the first time, the evening was also a benefit for Seeds of Peace, an organization that has brought together teenagers from Israel and Arab countries. Queen Noor of Jordan joined John Wallach, the founder of Seeds of Peace, for onstage remarks and expressed her fervent belief in the value of such contacts.

     Leen al-Almi, a young woman from Jordan and two young men, Yehoyada Mandel from Israel and Hassan Halta, a Palestinian from the West Bank who noted that his great grandmother was Jewish, spoke of their past participation in the program. Each had an individual viewpoint, but all said mutual trust within their own generation was still possible.

     Nadia Veselova-Tencer, the program’s artistic director, introduced the evening with a

    thematic note by calling attention to the “cultural diversity” of the dancers. All are excellent but few are genuine stars in the old sense. Yet occasionally star quality blazed, especially in the performance of Daniela Severian, a Brazillian newcomer with the National Ballet of Portugal, and in the familiar power of the American dancer Desmond Richardson.

     In the revelation category, there was not only the fiery Ms. Severian but at the opposite and lyrical extreme, a very pure classical dancer from the Bolshoi Ballet, Dmitiri Gudanov.

     Mr. Gudanov was not featured with the Bolshoi in its recent visits, but his partner, Svetlana Lunkina, triumphed in New York as a young and fresh Gisselle two years ago with the Moscow company.

     Both have an eye-riveting classical style, and there is a certain paradox in the sight of Bolshoi dancers, once known more for their passion and bravura, embodying purity of Russian style, while the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg opts for a more idiosyncratic and contemporary look.

     Svetlana Zakharova of the Kirov came back to dance Michel Fokine’s “Dying Swan” as she had at the gala last year. This time her stretched, eloquent silhouette was deliberately broken up by arms with oddly angled wrists.

     Mr. Gudanov, blond and slight, and Ms. Lunkina, dark haired and delicate, gave the evening artistic depth with their superb performance of the pas de deux from Act II of August Bournonville’s 1836 version of “La Sylphide.” Unusually for Russian dancers, both captured the right phrasing in Bournonville’s Danish style. Both also appeared in Fokine’s “Spectre de la Rose,” in which they were too academic in choreography that was not always correct.

     Ms. Severian, the other find of the evening, walked out hunched over in a dark dress and proceeded to whip around in a variety of turns on toe or on a flat foot. At other times her body seemed to break apart, right down to every vibrating finger. The image matched Edith Piaf’s words on a recording by a singer called Dumont Vaucaire. Piaf assured all in

    the title song, “No, I regret nothing,” and Ms. Severian and Ben Van Cauwenberg, the choreographer, put across the right mix of bravado and vulnerabililty.

     The evening began with the New York City Ballet’s Charles Askegard, in brilliant

    form, and Alexandra an sanelli, somewhat unsteady, in the duet from George Blanchine’s “Stars and Stripes,” to Sousa. At the end, the same music accompanied a leaping finale for all the dancers against a star-spangled projection.

     Mr. Richardson used his muscular nuance with his power in a collage of movenment in a solo announced from the stage as “Growth.” Rut Miro of Victor Ullate Ballet Madrid moved sharply through “Arrayan Daraxa,” a brief solo choreographed by Luis Delgado, and she joined Lars Van Cauwenberg, of the Belgian dancing family, in a heavy performance of the “Don Quixote” pad de deux.

     Two couples from previous galas returned. Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre from San Francisco Ballet were easy on the eye in Val Caniparoli’s “Lady of the Camellias” and

    Norbert Vesak’s “Belong.”

     Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez of the Paris Opera Ballet offered a routine “Black Swan” pas de deux and then raised the audience’s pulse with a duet from William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.”

A Universe of movement

    By Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail

Wednesday May 1, 2002

     st With International touring down to a trickle, a ballet gala such as Stars of the 21Century is one way to experience artists making news on the world dance scene. Of course, the complement of dancers is filtered through the taste of producers: in this case, Solomon Tencer and artistic director Nadia Veselova-Tencer, who mounted the fundraiser for Toronto’s Koffler Centre of the Arts. Given the ecstatic response of the

    audience, the Tencers came up with winners, both in variety of dance, and choreographic styles.

     Ukrainian-born Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky of the American Ballet Theatre were the most polished couple. They sparkled with personality, tossing off the Russian tricks of Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, while showing dramatic flare in Maria Chimengilly’s moody Fare-well. That the couple triumphed over Chimengilly’s

    pedestrian choreographic angst is a tribute to their expressive talent. In short, these two dancers have it all classical technique and modern sensibility.

     Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre of the San Francisco Ballet were the contemporary masters who brought down the house with both their numbers. Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain Pas de Deux, an intricate series of contortions set to Levantine-influenced music, showed the couple at their supple, elastic best, while Gerard-Michael Bobotte’s Adagio

    for Strings, and intense, romantic encounter, displayed their enormous dramatic capabilities. Together, they move like silk.

     The gutsiest performer was the young Marcin Krajewski of Ballet Opera Wiesbaden, who threw in so many extra moves in Le Corsaire Pas de Deux that it was like watching this Russian warhorse in double time. So reckless, and therefore exciting, was his performance that somehow it didn’t matter that he overroatated or lost his balance a couple of times.

     The drunken antics of his contemporary number, Ben Van Cauwenberghe’s Les Bourgeois to Jacques Brel’s song, also allowed the dancer to give free rein to his dancing

    death wish, flipping in the air and falling from great heights. His Le Corsaire partner, Brazilian born Daniela Severian of the National Ballet of Portugal is a real treasure, who showed formidable classical technique in the Russian piece, and phenomenal dramatic presence in Van Cauwenberghe’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, set to Edith Piaf’s mantra. Severian was the delightful surprise of the evening. In fact, each dancer brought something special to the evening’s embarrassment of riches, beyond mere talent and

    technique. New York’s charismatic Desmond Richardson (Complexions Dance) was the maven of intricate and pwerful body isolations in Dwight Rhoden’s Fauvre. Svetlana Lunkina and Dmitri Gudanov (Bolshoi Ballet) demonstrated how character can connect dance steps, and put a story behind the showy technique of Bournonville’s La Sylphide and Petipa’s Black Swan Pas de Deux. The young and lyrical Svetlana Zakharova of the Kirov Ballet is clearly one of the outstanding next generation of Russian classicists. Her elegant performance of Fokine’s The Dying Swan was moving beyond belief.

     On the home front, Canada’s beloved Evelyn Hart (Royal Winnipeg Ballet) and Rex Harrington (The National Ballet of Canada) performed Derek Deane’s romantic

    Impromptu with grace and style. Both are in the twilight of their careers, but their skill had to be a model for the up-and-comers who shared the program.

     Sort of on the home front was the return of Jaimie Tapper and Johan Kobborg (Royal Ballet). The former was a rising star at the National before decamping to London in 1999, while the latter won the 1993 Erik Bruhn Competition. The couple’s performance was

    distinguished by their beautifully articulated and elegant lines in two classical pas de deux, one from the Coralli/Perrot Giselle, the other from Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano.

     Kudos to Veselova-Tencer, who staged the dazzling Defile finale that had dancers crisscrossing the stage with thrilling abandon.

An embarrassment of riches at ballet benefit gala

    William Littler, The Toronto Star

    April 30 / 2002

    It had been all of five years since Soloman Tencer and Nadia Veselova-Tencer had last staged one of their star-studded ballet galas in Toronto and it didn’t take long for the

    audience that filled the Main Stage Theatre of the Toronto Centre for the Arts Sunday evening to demonstrate with applause and cheering how much they have been missed.

     This time the financial beneficiary was the Koffler Centre for the Arts, where Veselova-Tencer heads the dance program, and to mark the occasion, philanthropist Murray Koffler took the opportunity to announce that Toronto-born celebrity architect Frank Gehry will soon preside over the 25-year-old centre’s expansion.

     But it was dancing rather than architecture that dominated the evening, dancing of a level of virtuosity all too seldom seen in Toronto during the past ballet-starved decade.

     Although their galas began in Toronto back in 1993, the Tencers have since taken stthem to cities as far flung as New York, Paris and Cannes under the title Stars of the 21

    Century, featuring along the way some of the brightest of recent lights to illuminate the stage.

     Not that all the dancers have only recently begun shaving. Canada was represented this time by two veterans of the pointe shoe circuit, the Royal Winniped Ballet’s ageless Evelyn Hart and the National Ballet’s prince-in-chief Rex Harrington, whose

    performance of the romantic Derek Deane pas de deux Impromptu illustrated how beguiling unforced beauty can still be to the susceptible eye in this age of hard sell.

     An erstwhile Canadian from the National Ballet, Jamie Tapper, made a similarly favourable soft sell impression opposite her Royal Ballet colleague, Denmark’s

    aristocratic Johan Kobborg, in the pas de deux from Giselle and Flower Festival In Genzano.

     It takes dancing such as theirs in a gala such as this to be reminded of the slightly lower energy level and softer attack still cultivated by the English and Canadian Schools, compared to the hard sell Russian and American.

     Whether representing American Ballet Theatre, in the case of Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky, Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, in the case of Svetlana Lunkina and Dmitri Gudanov, or St. Petersburg’s Kirov Ballet, in the case of Svetlana Zakharova, the Russian School dancers in this gala were out to dazzle and dazzle they did.

     Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky looked particularly brilliant in George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, in which the position to position kind of classicism in the pieces danced by the Canadians was strikingly speeded up by Balanchine’s accelerated way of connecting step to step.

     Even when performing more lyrical material, as Zakharova did in Fokine’s famous

    solo The Dying Swan and as Lunkina and Gudanov did in their pas de deux from August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, there was a sometimes welcome and sometimes not so welcome virtuoso edge to the dancing.

     Among the younger dancers, medal-winning Marcin Krajewski, a promising Pole from the Wiesbaden Opera Ballet, recovered from an exciting but raw-edged Corsaire pas de deux opposite Brazil’s lovely Daniela Severian of the National Ballet of Portugal to draw gasps with his combination spins and jumps in Ben Van Cauwenberghe’s solo to a

    Jacques Brel song, “Les Bourgeois.”

     Severian herself, petite and impressively focused, also tossed off a highly effective Van Cauwenberghe song-in-spired solo, based on Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette


     But in some ways the most remarkable solo dancing, closer to modern dance than ballet, came from American Desmond Richardson, an Alvin Ailey alumnus who now co-directs his own company, Complexions, and who turned Dwight Rhoden’s Fauvre into a phenomenal, muscle-rippling kinetic celebration of the male body.

     And in some ways the most completely integrated pair dancing came from the San Francisco Ballet’s Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre, who looked like two parts of the same being when dancing kitsch-master Gerald Arpino’s slickly sensual Light Rain and the

    clinches, lifts and runs of Gerard-Michael Bobotte’s Adagio For Strings.

     Clocking in at close to three hours, the program may have resembled a banquet of hors d’oeuvres but with so many of them locally unfamiliar, many audience members

    probably felt like echoing Oliver Twist and saying, please, sir, I want some more.

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