Category Archives: Ballet

Wendy Whelan Joins NYC Ballet Academy East Faculty

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Ballet Academy Easis proud to announce that Wendy Whelan will join the Pre-Professional Division Faculty.  Ms. Whalen’s tenure will begin with Ballet Academy East’s Summer Intensive from August 18-29 and will continue through the school year, which begins on September 16, 2014.  Ms. Whalen will primarily teach the upper level students of the Pre-Professional Division.

Wendy Whelan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. At age eight she performed as a mouse with the Louisville Ballet in its annual production of The Nutcracker. Joining the Louisville Ballet Academy that year, she began intense professional training.

In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet and a year later she moved to New York to become a full-time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991.

Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/Wheeldon Company.

She has been a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and with the Kirov Ballet. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance.

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In 2012, Whelan began developing new collaborative projects. Her inaugural project, Restless Creature, which premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August of 2013, is a suite of four duets, created by and danced with four of todays most cutting edge contemporary dancer/choreographers, Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo. Restless Creature will travel to London and Vail in 2014 and will tour in the US starting in January 2015.  Whelan was recently appointed an Artistic Associate at New York’s City Center and for two years beginning November 1, 2014, City Center will be her home for developing future projects.  She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.

About Ballet Academy East

Ballet Academy East trains dancers for professional careers in ballet. The faculty is led by artistic director Darla Hoover and includes Maxim Beloserkovsky, Cynthia Birdwell, Olga Dvorovenko, Peter Frame, Jenna Lavin, Joseph Malbrough, Tara Mora, Francis Patrelle, Elizabeth Walker and Cheryl Yeager. The comprehensive syllabus was created by Darla Hoover and is designed to develop technically strong, expressive ballet dancers, who ultimately can adapt to any style. The curriculum includes technique classes, pointe, partnering, variations, stretch, men’s weight training, modern, and character. Performing opportunities include two annual productions: the Studio Showing in February and the Spring Performance in May. The director and founder of Ballet Academy East is Julia Dubno.

For more information, visit www.baenyc.com.

Alessandra Ferri Stars in the U.S. Premiere of The Raven in NYC May 28-31

THE-RAVEN-Photo-by-Richard-Termine,-Photographed_Filmed-at-New-42nd-Street-Studios---RTRH4C0174A-copyGotham Chamber Opera, in collaboration with the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, presents the U.S. Premiere of The Raven as part of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, on May 28, 2014 at 7:30pm and May 30 and 31, 2014 at 8pm, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, 524 West 59th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), New York City.

The Raven will star Fredrika Brillembourg in the role of the Narrator and will be danced by Alessandra Ferri, former prima ballerina assoluta with the Royal Ballet (1980–1984), American Ballet Theatre (1985–2007) and La Scala Theatre Ballet (1992–2007).

Tickets are $30-$175 and will be available at www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200. For more information visit www.gothamchamberopera.org.

Based on the narrative poem by Edgar Allan Poe, with music by Toshio Hosokawa, The Raven tells the story of a man visited by a raven after the death of his lover. To all the questions the man asks, the raven only answers, ‘nevermore’. After drifting through states of different emotions, the narrator, still burdened with the loss of his beloved, finally lays down in the raven’s shadow, his soul trapped and lifted ‘nevermore’.

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The creative team for The Raven consists of Neal Goren, conductor; Luca Veggetti, stage director/choreographer; Clifton Taylor, scenic and lighting designer; and Peter Speliopoulos, costume designer.

The program also includes “Conte fantastique: Le Masque de la Mort rouge”(d’après une des Histoires extraordinaires d’Edgar Poë), by André Caplet.

Gotham Chamber Opera, now in its twelfth season, is the nation’s leading opera company dedicated to vibrant, fully staged productions of works intended for intimate venues. Its high quality presentations of small-scale rarities from the Baroque era to the present have earned Gotham an international reputation and unanimous critical praise. For more information, visit www.gothamchamberopera.org.

NY PHIL BIENNIAL is a kaleidoscopic exploration of today’s music showcasing an array of curatorial voices through concerts presented with cultural partners throughout New York City. Modeled on the great visual art biennials, the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL, taking place May 28–June 7, 2014, brings the public together with a diverse roster of more than 50 composers, ranging from elementary school students to icons, for concerts of symphonies, concertos, staged opera, chamber music, and solo works, many of which will be premieres. Meet-up events, lectures and panel discussions, and online interactivity are planned to encourage audience members to directly engage with composers, scholars, and artists. The 2014 NY PHIL BIENNIAL partners include 92nd Street Y, The Museum of Modern Art, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Juilliard School, Gotham Chamber Opera, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Bang on a Can, American Composers Orchestra, and Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School.

 

Hey NYC – Dance Against Cancer on May 5th

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Producers Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht have partnered with the American Cancer Society to present the fourth annual Dance Against Cancer on Monday, May, 5, 2014.

The evening’s performance, produced by New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht and Manhattan Youth Ballet’s Erin Fogarty, will feature New York City Ballet‘s Jared Angle, Tyler Angle, Robert Fairchild, Chase Finlay, Lauren King, Maria Kowroski, Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, Taylor Stanly and Daniel Ulbricht; American Ballet Theatre‘s Isabella Boylston, Herman Cornejo, Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside; Alvin Ailey‘s Matthew Rushing, Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga, Miami City Ballet‘s Patricia Delgado; as well as Lar Lubovitch‘s Clifton Brown and Memphis Jookin’ sensation, Charles “Lil Buck Riley.” This year will also showcase young dancers from Jacques D’Amboise’s National Dance Institute.

Work by choreographers George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Brian Reeder, and others will be featured.

Dance Against Cancer was conceived in 2010 by longtime friends Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht who both have close ties to the cause. The benefit brings together artists from leading dance companies for a night of performances, world premieres and great company. Since it’s inauguration, Dance Against Cancer has raised over $100,000 in support of the American Cancer Society.

Join them on Monday, May 5, 2014 for cocktails at 6pm (VIP ticket only), followed by a 7pm performance, and a post show reception at AXA Equitable Theatre, 787 Seventh Avenue (between 51st and 52nd Streets), NYC.

For more information visit the website.  Tickets are $150 ($300 for VIP) and are available at www.danyc.org

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New York Theatre Ballet Announces The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies

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“Imagine a totally unwired world and the impact of so much visual richness on the children in it. Then unplug a 21st century kid, and head for the Gould…”- The Village Voice

New York Theatre Ballet announces The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies choreographed by Keith Michael at New York City’s Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York City.

Follow Alice’s adventures through Wonderland as she meets some of the most beloved characters in children’s literature.

Presented in a vaudeville setting (NY circa 1915) this eclectic ballet draws on many different dance forms – from Irish step dancing to African Jubba to classical ballet.  The ballet features sets by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith and costumes by Sylvia Taalshon Nolan, Resident Costume Designer of the Metropolitan opera.

Performances:

Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 1pm

Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm

Tickets are $39 and are available at online at www.nytb.org, via Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787, or in-person at the Florence Gould Hall box office.

For more information, contact the Florence Gould Hall box office at (212) 355-6160.

The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies is part of NYTB’s Once Upon a Ballet series.  Other ballets in the Once Upon a Ballet series include:

Cinderella

March 1-2, 2014 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm

Carnival of the Animals & Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding

May 3, 2014 at 1pm, May 4 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm

ABOUT NEW YORK THEATRE BALLET

New York Theatre Ballet (NYTB), founded in 1978 by artistic director Diana Byer, is the most widely seen chamber ballet company in the United States and has been hailed by The New York Times as “an invaluable company.” NYTB is dedicated to inspiring a love of dance in diverse audiences through performances of chamber ballet masterpieces and bold new works, as well as innovative one-hour ballets for children, all at affordable prices.

By pairing the ballets of legendary creators with those of contemporary visionaries, NYTB brings a new understanding and appreciation of dance. The approach to live performance for children is groundbreaking and unique. New York Theatre Ballet offers an annual series of hour-long ballets tailored to the attention span of young audience members, while offering high production values and clever choreography sophisticated enough for discerning parents.

NYTB is committed to reaching underserved audiences by performing in small cities throughout the U.S. Its professional school provides ballet training based on the Cecchetti syllabus. Classes are offered at affordable prices. Scholarships are awarded to talented homeless and underserved children along with support for well-rounded learning.

The Malibu Civic Ballet Presents: The Nutcracker Dec 13th-15th

MalibuCivicBalletby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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It’s not much of a confession, but, yes…I love The Nutcracker.  17 years of season tickets to New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, not to mention growing up with the Boston Ballet and witnessing, promoting and occasionally spending time in rehearsal space back East, with a multitude of versions, from numerous companies local or visiting, what can I say.  I’ll always be enthralled with this timeless classic.  This year, yet another local company has come on Gia’s radar.

The Malibu Civic Ballet and Performing Arts Society will be staging their 22nd annual local production next weekend on December 13TH, 14TH AND 15TH.

Billed as Malibu’s only local production, they tout themselves as the ONLY area Nutcracker that is cast with Malibu’s own young dancers and supports the local arts community.

Directed by Diane Linder, Artistic Director, whose performance career includes many years as a principal dancer with the Gene Marinaccio American Concert Ballet Company. Ms. Linder has also served as the artistic director of her own studio for 16 years. She joined the faculty at Pepperdine University and directed their dance department and has choreographed the premiere of an original ballet, “Elizabeth and The Lieutenant”, as well as “The Nutcracker” for the Malibu Civic Ballet.

In addition to Malibu’s home-­‐grown cast of dancers, The NUTCRACKER features guest Principal Dancer (formerly of the National Cuban Ballet) Raydel Caceres and guest Prima Ballerina Alihaydee Carreno.

Four Performances Only!

Friday, December 13th, 7:30PM

Saturday December 14th, 2:00PM and 7:30PM

Sunday, December 15th, 2:00PM

The Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University
24255 PCH
Malibu, CA 90265

$$$ and MORE: $35 Orchestra Center and Orchestra Pit; $25 Orchestra Left and Right; $20 for Youth 17 and under; $10 for Malibu High School and Pepperdine students with ID

For tickets please call 310.506 4522. Smothers Theatre box office is open noon to 5 Monday-­‐Friday and for two hours before every scheduled performance. Tickets can be bought in person, over the phone, or online through Ticketmaster (surcharge applies).

http://malibunutcracker.org

Like Them On Facebook!

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The Model Critic Is Back! Reviews for Ballet Inc. and San Francisco Ballet

Aaron Atkins (director/choreographer ) and Edgar L. Peterson III.     Photo by by Carolyn Brady/Lois Greenfield Workshop 2013

Aaron Atkins (director/choreographer ) and Edgar L. Peterson III. Photo by by Carolyn Brady/Lois Greenfield Workshop 2013

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
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Ballet Inc., An Evening with Ballet Inc.
Aaron Atkins, Artistic Director
Tribeca Performing Arts Center 
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Aaron Atkins first full length evening of self-produced ballets was presented on October 25, downtown Tribeca. The company founded in 2012, appears to have the right stuff and a bright future judging from the new works performed on Friday night. Atkins’ dances combine contemporary and classical elements, with a few dances en pointe, out of the seven pieces presented. Ensembles of ten dancers were choreographed effectively, with dramatic structure and surprises, as well as some passionate duets, and one particular solo from “Fallen Angels,” performed beautifully by Chloe Slade, caught my attention.

The themes were generally dark and moody, with “Untitled,” serving as a short introduction or prologue, quickly transitioning into “Examinis,”with music by Arvo Part; a soft seduction duet, lyrical and flowing, coupled with an intimate low light. From there, however, until the final dance in Act 11,  we were revisited with the same lighting scheme, with slight variations, that eventually shaded the prevailing themes with a somber mood. “Fallen Angels,” ending Act I, with an intended garbled sound track from Schubert’s Ave Maria, and dark temperament, was made even darker by the same distracting lighting, black background and dark costumes.  (Was this a technical production issue or a creative choice)? Courtney Sauls opened passionately in the first section with long and controlled movement dynamics, while in the third section Chloe Slade, in her solo, was exciting with her bright and exacting quickness. Overall, the dance conveyed a feeling of sexual repression, loneliness, and dissatisfaction, and was dramatically moving, but the message became a bit overcooked, and made remote with the audience not being able to see the dancer’s more subtle expressions.

Act 11 opened with “Waiting,” again to a moody theme, and a soundtrack from various down-cast artists; good dancing throughout though, well performed, intriguing energy, and displaying many choreographic ideas. “Meminisse” followed in the same emotional motif–forlornness, joyless couplings, loneliness, separation. If art is about exploring ideas deeply instead of broadly, this was approached. But as performance, added texture seemed to be needed.

Atkins founded the company to “challenge traditions that may inhibit a dancer due to his or her body type or ethnic background..and too merge various forms of dance into a unique and eclectic style.” He seems to accomplish this within his pieces, and has assembled an attractive group of dancers with strong backgrounds. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see how attractive they really are fully, until the final dance, “No Words”. A dance not nearly as self-consciously private, but with a more open and generous viewpoint, finally had illumination. Faces dance too, and is part of the total experience, so it was like experiencing the group for the first time. Maggie Baum, Shannon Maynor, Genene McGrath, Jesus Olivera, Lila Simmons, Courtney Sauls, Chloe Slade, Carly Topazio, Tanya Trombly, and Dana Wiley drew well deserved cheers at curtain for their fine efforts.  We wish all the performers, and Mr. Atkin’s brave new venture all the best.

Lastly, because these dances had such a close organic link, they perhaps could be knit together into one longer piece, and given a greater scope.  Otherwise, Ballet Inc. looked great and engaged the audience, and is a company that should be watched because there was so much more hinted to come.

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San Francisco Ballet Company
Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director
 David H. Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York City
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The oldest ballet company in America is beginning its second week of performances in New York City with six performances of Cinderella.  The first week gave us a mixed program of some exciting dances splendidly performed by a young and talented company. However, what struck me the most about the performance Sunday October 27, and the New York Premiere of Cinderella on the previous Wednesday night, was the commitment of the dancers to delivering a high level of joy, energy, and enthusiasm. There were many tremendous individual efforts, but most of all, I walked away with a feeling that I saw a company dancing all out, giving its best on the road. It was all fresh, alive, and dynamic; like an old friend returning from an long absence bringing light and air. SFB hasn’t visited since 2008, and we’re lucky to see them return.

This new concept of Cinderella is more true to the Brothers Grimm version, says choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. In place of the Fairy Godmother in the Perrault version, Wheeldon has chosen a more primordial narrative, incorporating rain, birds, and fleecy skies that he felt were more poetic. In a splendid visual effect of design wizardry, a tree magically grows from Cinderella’s mother’s grave, and becomes a reincarnated character, a living spiritual presence guiding Cinderella throughout her journey from distressed servant at the hands of her abusive stepsisters, her struggle to go and return from the ball, to the famous triumphant fitting of her slipper, and finally to her destined transformation, and salvation into the loving arms of Prince Guillaume.

All this works to great effect in this imaginative and inspired creation; the beguiling projections onto scrims; the rich primary colors of the costumes; the breathtaking, naturalistic carriage scene; the ensemble dances at the ball;  together eerily unified by the dark and dramatic music of Prokofiev which completes Wheeldon’s clear vision. At the end, Cinderella comes across as genuine fairy tale, full of awe and fantasy with all the depth of story intact. Makes you want to see his Alice in Wonderland!

Maria Kochetkova was a dreamily youthful and naive Cinderella, that moved with elastic purring grace, while her prince, Joan Boada was strong, attentive and clean in his movements; both well suited in their final, beaming pas de deux at the ball. Marie-Claire D’Lyse was hilarious as the Stepmother Hortensia, and made the most of her over the top caricature in her “slightly” intoxicated dance scene. A fiery standout was Dores André, who sparkled in the mixed program to good advantage, and was again outstanding in her fluid, funny, and charismatic role as the Spanish Princess.

In the mixed program earlier in the week, we were presented with another New York Premiere by Alexei Ratmansky, From Foreign Lands. A choreographer, most recently creating new refreshing ideas for ABT, here graced this company with a delightful travelogue of dances– Russsian, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, and Hungarian–my favorite being the Italian with Joan Borda, Doris André, Mathilde Froustey, and Dana Genshaft that gleamed with good fun. The German, with its evocative, poetic music and movements, reminded one of  perhaps Goethe, and German Romanticism, with Jennifer Stalh, Luke Ingham, Anthony Spaulding, and Luke Willis elegant in their group. Polish was passionate, with lively variations and proud mazurkas.

Announcements, at the beginning, to changes in the scheduled program was a bit confusing as to who was dancing, and in what order the dances were to to appear. But as luck would have it, the reshuffling seemed to work perfectly as Suite en Blanc, scheduled first originally, was last on the program, and showed to be the most beautiful of the performance. San Francisco Ballet is not strictly classical either, but rather blends in many elements of contempory ballet– to be in this company dancers must be adept in various forms. That said, Suite en Blanc, by legendary Serge Lifar of the Paris Opera Ballet, who believed dance was more important than the musical elements, and someone who had a more contemporary approach to ballet in his day, choreographed this piece in 1943 (premiered in San Francisco in Jan, 2013 at the War Memorial Opera House) nonetheless, obviously looks and feels to today’s audience as an homage to classicism. Beautifully inspired, the dancers Clara Blanco, Simone Messmer, Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro, Yuan Yuan Tan, Tiit Helimets, Maria Kochetkova, and the fine corps, gave a sparkling clean and powerful picture of classical line, structure and presentation.

San Francisco Ballet, with artistic director Helgi Tomasson at its head for the last 29 seasons, formerly at City Ballet under Balanchine, is the third largest ballet company in America, and the first company in America to present Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Under Tomasson, the New York Times said SFB was one of the spectacular success stories of the arts in America.

RIP New York City Ballet Dancer and Elliot Feld Mentor, Richard Thomas, 1925-2013

Richard ThomasRichard Thomas, prominent ballet teacher, passed away July 27, in Kentucky.

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by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

Born December 3, 1925, Thomas was a dancer with New York City Ballet and owned the New York School of Ballet, where he and his wife Barbara Fallis trained many prominent dancers.

Three of his former students Elliot Feld, Christine Sarry and Daniel Levans, placed the following obituary in The New York Times:

Richard Thomas, know affectionately as Dick, master ballet teacher, mentor, willful iconoclast, sublimely human and adored by umpteen generations of dancers, is said to have died on Saturday morning, July 27.

For those of us who knew him, who were privileged to brush against his vital and provocative nature, he lives on!

The ripples from his kindness, wisdom, sensibility and wit endure.  So too, his divine lickety-split petit allegros, even his excesses, which were excessive, his passion for dancing and dancers, and his knowledge of ballet technique combined with this intellect and his gift for cajolery  to impart the lesson to we who were eager, so eager.

He lives forever within us.  He has become a part of who we are.  Indelible.  It seems only appropriate that Dick should have the last word, as was his wont and dessert deserved.  Accordingly: in ballet class, half a century plus ago, though it seems like yesterday, at the conclusion of the Grand Allegro, he opined to the class and to the gods if they would only listened and learn -cowovermoon

“the cow jumped over the moon but he was still a cow.”

La Paloma Blanca Soars in ABT’s Swan Lake: The Model Critic Reviews

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by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
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Image by Gene Schiavone
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Paloma Herrera, partnered by Corey Stearns, beguiled the audience last Saturday night at the Met with the timeless classic, Swan Lake.
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With the familiar but always revelatory music of Tchaikovsky, the transcendent and evocative fairy tale of love, evil, and final redemption, once again flirted with perfection: the grand sets, beautiful costumes, the text book classical choreography, and flocks and flocks of dancing swans.  With this, the dancers had only to breathe life into their roles to be transported to a glimmering palace, a shimmering lake, a primeval forest–all gloriously harmonized in magical effect. And one of the most remarkable qualities to this production of a ballet en blanc is that the emotional level always remains constantly thrilling, with lush musical variety,  compelling story, and clean, visionary choreography.
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Both Herrera and Stearns lived up to the proceedings.  Herrera, a consummate professional, owns the stage, its her playground. When you look at her closely, you realize she has always had a natural facility for the art form of ballet: a natural musicality, pliant body, exceptional feet, effortless turn-out. Added to these qualities, are her childlike bearing, her charming looks, and overall confidence and comfort in her roles. Is she as fast and powerful as she once was?  No, but never mind, that is nothing; she still has the maturity and artistry to create roses on the stage.
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But for a ballerina in Swan Lake to do well in the important pas de deux’s, she must have a graceful and competent Siegfried, and not enough can be said about Corey Stearns in this role.  He, in  large part, was the frame to Odette/Odile’s picture.  Partnering, he allowed her to capture three or more pirouettes, hold her arabesques for longer counts, and lifted and supported quietly and princely. You could see the confidence that was transferred to Ms. Herrera’s  performance, that conveyed a nuance seldom seen today in his manly, quiet, and reserved demeanor.  He is light in his movements, assured in his partnering and doesn’t overact.
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As for the Pas de Trois, Sarah Lane, Isabella Boylston, and Sascha Radetsky were sharp and clean, and presented fine individualistic qualities. Sarah Lane, with her more intricate, feminine movements, Isabella Boylston displaying more jumping ablitity, and Sascha Radetsky, quickness and strength.  Together, they created a celebratory unison that was very exciting.
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Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer, play by both Thomas Forster and Ivan Vasiliev was dramatic and well performed by both, Vasiliev playing von Rothbart in sorcerer costume, and Forster as the elegant, magical guest at the Great Hall celebration. Forster performed well, but I wanted to see a more menacing sorcerer, one that makes women swoon, and conveys magic and danger, to this portrayal. I didn’t feel it. A much taller and angular figure is called for.
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love_conquers_allI have never seen Swan Lake not to have a deep affect on audiences.  I feel it has something to do with man’s deep connection to nature, a consciousness that arose at the tail end of the Enlightenment, when culture decided in the West that not all questions could be solved through Rationality–that through poetry, a return to nature, a bridge could be gapped, something mysterious and invisible could be glimpsed. Swan Lake does this well, and is always inspiring. It captures an essence that is fundamental to us all, a sort of holiness that almost seems Christian in nature. Evil thwarted, love transcendent, order restored.
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We all feel it; grumpy old men dragged to the ballet by wives, to perhaps catch a few winks; a young boy tagging along with his tourist parents dreading the occasion; well-dressed ballerinas, now retired, soberly reliving moments in the most knowing way; financial executives suffering a bad week in the stock market trying to breathe for a moment; a grandmother out with her friend from the West-side condo for their weekly outing; to the bright, budding ballet students prancing the aisles in contained anticipation. Everyone is smitten in the end.  And if you aren’t, then you must join Dorothy to see the Wizard, for something is not right. For this ballet says the following: Love wins the day, love conquers all forces, love is power, lifts mountains, abounds like the lake, nourishes, and transports us. Sounds familiar, but we always need the reminder.
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ABT closes out its season with a week of Sleeping Beauty starting July 1, 2013.

The Model Critic Reviews Irina Dvorovenko’s Final Curtain in ABT’s Onegin

Irina Dvorovenko Final Curtain of Oneginby Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
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ABT is sadly loosing another great star: Irina Dvorovenko. Here is a dancer who is still so artistically superior to most dancers in every category, in her looks, art and intelligence, that it’s a big disappointment to see her pack her bags. The stars we are used to seeing at ABT are shrinking faster than the polar ice caps. Annashevilli, Carreno, Stiefel, Osipova, to name of few recently, and now Dvorovenko. And while some dancers depart in a natural progression, others seem premature. What gives?
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But before making her final boisterous curtain calls, Dvorovenko made a lasting impression not soon to be forgotten. Playing Tatiana, the naive and romantic heroine from Pushkin’s famous and beloved narrative poem, we see her express a deep and astonishing range of emotions, progressing from provincial love struck ingenue, to sophisticated and transformed socialite living in St. Petersburg many years later.
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Onegin, brooding, cold, and arrogant, must visit the country to inherit the property of a relative who has died. There he encounters the characters pivotal to his future existence. Lensky and Olga, lovers to be married become his friends, as well as Tatiana, a young beautiful, but bookish girl who sees Onegin’s imperial and remote bearing, and is shaken to her heart’s core with love and desire; she struggles as to whether she should reveal her own true feelings. Being smitten, she dreams of him. In a erotic and passionate pas de deux, Onegin’s image appears in her bedroom mirror, then emerges magically in the flesh to dance with her.
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 Embracing, both Stearns and Dvorovenko create flames in their wild, open and ecstatic dance with Dvorovenko’s longing fluidity, her graceful, exquisite, and effortless nuance. Stearns, rapier slim, and elegant in black, partners her with delicacy and care, and is unwavering in his lift, carries and caresses.  Later, as Tatiana  slowly awakens to reality, she bravely opens herself to complete her love letter to Onegin.
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Those in attendance at the Met knew it was a memorable moment…

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Gemma Bond and Blaine Hoven were perfect as Lensky and Olga. Both danced with ardour and connection– totally believable characters that were both charming and clean in their movements; deeply in love, full of hope and joyful expectation, depicted in their splendid pas de deux in Act 1.
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At Tatiana’s name-day party, the guests dance a Czardas, and waltz in celebration. Olga and Lensky join in. Onegin catches Tatiana alone in the gazebo, and as she quietly awaits his response to her love letter, he archly and coldly detached, hands her back the letter, leaving her stunned, and then casually returns to the party unmoved. There he arrogantly grabs Olga and dances wildly with her. Olga too submits to Onegin’s charm and energy and forgets herself while Lensky watches  As his jealousy mounts, Lensky confronts Olga for her behavior, but is rebuffed. Onegin unconcerned, continues to waltz with her deliriously as she submits to his lead.  Afterwards, Lensky’s honor wounded, challenges his friend to a duel at sunrise.
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dvorovenkoWith moaning birches stuck onto a gray, forlorn landscape, the duel tragically ensues.  Friend against friend, wounded lover defending his own fragile honor and that of his lover; pride, jealousy and spite all mixed in.  Onegin senses the futility of such a duel and tries to end it, but Lensky will have nothing of it. In a single shot, Onegin kills Lensky. All collapse in bitterness.
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Years later in St Petersburg, Onegin returns a broken man, his whereabouts unknown. He appears at an elegant ball, royal and aristocratic, given by a distant relative, Prince Gremin (Vitali Krauchenka). Onegin dances with many women, all in a psychological, metaphorical dream, and ends at a table alone and disgusted. A woman dressed resplendently in red dances with the Prince. Here, Mr Krauchenka dances a beautiful pas de deux with his new bride, none other that Tatiana, and displays a tenderness and care that is fitting in their exquisite pas de deux; Dvorovenko rare, fine and astonishingly moving; the Tchaikovsky music filling the depth of the moment. When Onegin realizes the woman is Tatiana he understands his mistake from the past, and is compelled to write a love letter to her, and express his true nature.  But it is much too late!  As she reluctantly meets him alone, and he pleads for her on his knees,  she realizes too she still loves him, has never forgotten him, but could never open her heart to him again. In an act of courage and defiance, she takes his letter, rips it to pieces, and hands it back to him.
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They say that in Russia there is a statue of Pushkin in every town and city, that he is their most esteemed writer. It is also worth noting that English writer Jane Austen also wrote a book that had similar themes in Pride and Prejudice.  That in love, these themes of pride and prejudice, as in aristocratic Onegin and provincial Titania play out constantly in art, literature, opera, drama, and popular culture. Class structure impedes and confuses choices of the heart, and as Pushkin seems to be saying through Tatiana, its not a good idea to block your own true natures.  This evening the dancers surely didn’t, and it was a tremendous gift Dvorovenko and company offered on her send off.  Those in attendance at the Met knew it was a memorable moment, and responded with repeated curtain calls to a stage filled with cast and fellow dancers, and mountains of flowers, and lastly Dvorovenko’s little girl, dressed in what else, red.
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Onegin, American Ballet Theatre
Choreography by John Cranko
Based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin
Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
Ballet in Three Acts and Six Scenes
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Eugene Onegin, Cory Stearns
Lensky, Onegin’s friend, Blaine Hoven
Tatiana, Irina Dvorovenko
Olga, Gemma Bond
Prince Gremin, Vitali Krauchenka

The Inspiration of Dance

I woke up this morning wanting so desperately to find some inspiration in the day for myself…and then a video appeared in my box, posted by Ellison Ballet in NYC who The Model Critic covered in review.  I had to share…

Featured here is 3rd Place Winner in the Classical Dance category, Yui Sugawara, age 19,  who danced her piece called, “Exit,” at the 2013 Youth America Grand Prix  which took place in Hartford, CT.

AsianInNY 2013 Lunar New Year Celebration And Fashion Show

Lunar New Year Celebration in SingaporeFebruary 10, 2013 marked the Lunar New Year, a major holiday in Asia and a major cultural event in Asian communities around the world, celebrated with music, food, and good company.

Asian Lunar Celebration New Year Fashion Show

For its eighth year in a row, AsianInNY, New York’s premier online destination for multicultural networking and entertainment, will host its 2013 Lunar New Year celebration fashion show on February 23, 2013 from 6:00-10:00pm at New York Law School located at 185 West Broadway, New York.

*The first 100 people to arrive will receive free raffle tickets (amazing items including bags, wallets, bottled water, t-shirts and more.)
$20 online pre-event purchase* before Feb 22 midnight
$25 at the door
For tickets: http://www.asianinny.com/?p=26601

AsianInNY guests will enjoy an exciting line-up of comedy, music, fashion, dance, and food starting with MC for the event, the Godfather of Asian American comedy, Phil Nee. A native New Yorker, Nee appeared recently on “The Colbert Report,” headlined the Hong Kong Comedy Festival, and just completed filming a role in the upcoming movie “Chinese Puzzle.”

Raising the roof will be DJ Simon ‘Taiga’ Tai. Regularly mixing at the hottest clubs in NYC, he can be found spinning events for the likes of LVMH, Dior and Tag Heuer.

This year’s runway fashion show will spotlight Joy Hu, a NYC-based Canadian designer whose couture custom dresses have been worn by Miss Universe Natalie Glebova, Miss Jamaica Chantal Zaky, singer Anjulie, Jersey Shore’s, Angelina Pivarnick, and Model Latina Champion Jessica Caban, and will feature the new collections by other outstanding Asian designers.

Get in the groove early.  Check Anjulie’s hit record, You and I.

Attendees can purchase all the featured items from the fashion shows with discounted rates on 247Features.com after the event where a portion of their profits will give to charity.

Asian models will be sporting TC Charton Eyewear by designer Alexandra Peng Charton, the first North American line created expressly for Asians. Hair and makeup will be done by Charles Lam’s hair salon and beauty spa MessLook. A top international stylist for more than 20 years, Lam’s clients include artists, singers, models and performers from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The evening’s featured performers will include:

• KI-YO -Singer

• Shoko Tamai – Dancer

• United East Athletics Association – Lion Dance

• Takala Land – Dance Company

• ‘Nuf Said – Live Band

AsianInNYRead more about the performers on the AsianInNY blog.

Sponsors: AriZona Beverages, Asian Real Estate Association of America, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, Haruo Noro Salon, JOA Production, KOH COCONUT, Manhattan Portage, MessLook, Mika Japanese Cuisine and Bar, MusicDish China, New York Law School, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, TC Charton, Ty Ku, Well Luck Co., 247Features.com.

Asian in New YorkJoin their Facebook FanPage to receive special announcements about exclusive offers and events: https://www.facebook.com/AsianInNYFans

The Model Critic Reviews: Tarantella: Spider Dance at Theatre for the New City, New York

TarantellaTARANTELLA: SPIDER DANCE
Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
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In popular culture the Tarantella is mostly associated with a high spirited, Italian folk dance performed at wedding celebrations, or perhaps more formally, in a character dance for ballet along with mazurkas, polkas, and other traditional festive fare. Who can forget the Michael Corleone wedding scene in the Godfather 1?
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Forget all that! Alessandra Belloni’s Spider Dance takes her audience on a spectacular historical, hypnotic, and soul-liberating trance dance experience as she traces the origins of the Tarantella and its myths and evolutions.
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Beginning in Greece, Aracne, the beautiful princess, who weaves the most beautiful and skilled linens of all, challenges Athena, goddess of love, to a weaving contest. When Aracne wins, Athena in her fury, destroys the linen and rips it into a thousand pieces. Aracne, humiliated, hangs herself.  Athena, then out of pity, transforms her into a spider, condemning her to weave her web forever.
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“Rarely on stage does a choreographer get to the heart of the matter like Alessandra Belloni. “

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From Greece we move to Southern Italy where the bite of the taranti, or little spider, would send working women of the fields into fits of convulsive dance to rid the body of the poisons.  They were know as tarantate, and others would join in the frenzied dance that could last for days. They danced the Pizzica Tarantata (bite of love) that would evolve into a Dionysian cathartic revel, purging victims of  the poisons within–sexual repression, social mistreatment, abuse, depression. Or similarly, as Blake poetically wrote, the mind-forged manacles imposed on oneself from within and without.
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The performance conjures up caravans of gypsies, witches, and shamans at orgiastic gatherings, from Greece, Italy, French Basque country, to present day Brazil; all with the repetitive driving beat of the tarantella–tambourines, flutes, piccolos, wild techno violin, and  plaintive chanting.  The dancers respond to the quick and energetic trance music with the basic tarantella steps of hops, spins, and skips, but weave them into wild writhing on the floor as the music intensifies, and demons are released. Francesca Silvano was especially enchanting as Arianna, as she performed most of the dances with wild sensuality and grace. This is clearly not a social outing at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Ms. Belloni incorporates so many electrifying elements of movement, an aerialist, a fire-twirling performance, Death, portrayed on stilts, capoeira, and authentic period costumes.
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Rarely on stage does a choreographer get to the heart of the matter like Alessandra Belloni.  You are reminded of primitive fertility dances of Africa; of sun-worshiping dances of the Incas during spring plantings; of the Sufi’s Whirling Dervishes, invoking and blending with all things in universal rotation; of the ancient Balinese gamelan and dancers, along with the sound of the gong to communicate with the  gods; to even the Shakers, and “shake and the word will be revealed.”  All these examples of elemental dances that we could call trance dances, of worship, of liberation, of connection.
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The tarantella, of course, morphed into a courtship dance, then a dance of celebration. Naples, Calabria, and Sicily are have versions to the ancient underpinnings as the tradition continues.  Alessandra actually has her 13th Annual Workshop “Rhythm is the Cure,” August 19-26, 2013, in Italy, focusing on the origins of the Tarantella as a healing trance dance of purification, and Southern Italian tambourine workshops among other offerings. When you consider how many classical musical composers used the same elements of the tanrantella in their work–Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, etc–you begin to see the deep influence that this music and dance has inspired throughout the ages.  Her performance is like no other in its originality and content, and she strikes a deep chord of truth.
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TARANTELLA: SPIDER DANCE

Theater for the New City, New York
I Giullari Di Piazza
Choreography by Alessandra Belloni
No More Performances