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Proteges program at Kennedy Center

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It's a program of students from major ballet schools -- Paris, Royal, Royal Danes, others. Plus two dancers from the Kirov in Nutcracker pas de deux.

If you like ballet, you'll probably like something on the program, if not all of it. Go see it!

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Thank you for the information. Wish I could see it, but DC is still too far away. :D

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Nice program. Bullet points:

* Good to see Ashton's 'Birthday Offering' again, although not all of the female soloists did justice to the variations. Whoever danced the most languid variation (sixth one, I believe) was spectacular. She was a blondish, tallish girl who danced after the Fonteyn variation. Alas, the soloists were not specified in the programme.

* Adored Camila Ruelykke -- actually a full-blown member of the Royal Danish Ballet and not a student! -- in 'Flower Festival.' The 'Napoli' pas de six made a lackluster impression, although it had its positive moments.

* POB School showed one of the best (J-G Bart's elegant 'Peches de Jeunesse') & one of the worst (very long & yucky-cutesy 'Scaramouche' by J. Martinez) numbers.

* Good to see the Dance Th. of Harlem school's small nugget (first movement) of Balanchine's 'Concerto Barocco.' I especially admired the attack and energy of the first soloist (Jamie Kotrba or Ashley Murphy; again, not specified in the programme). We'll see a bit more of them in tonight's program, with excerpts of the modern ballet 'Ginastera' (replacing POB School's 'Scaramouche' in the 2nd and 4th performances).

* Most delightful surprise -- HIGHLIGHT of the night: New National Theater-Tokyo's magnificently toned & uniform corps in Maki Asami's gem of a neoclassical ballet, 'Sinfonietta' (to Gounod's Symph no. 1). Woweee!!! The best new ballet I've seen in ages!!!! Seriously - this ballet is the essence of why I love the art form (classicism, musicality, use of beautiful classical music, wispy costumes, lovely presentation of technique without veering on the vulgar, etc.). 'Sinfonietta' & the Tokyo Dancers made my heart sing.

* Biggest disappointment...if not an outright embarrassment: Kirov Ballet newcomer (class of 2005), Daria Vasnetsova's, display of utter vulgarity in Vainonen's 'Nurcracker pdd.' Extensions even more atrocious than those of Alina Somova, if that could be possible! Furthermore, this young lady, whose face resembles a young Galina Mesentzeva, is sorely in need of the services of an orthodontist. The Kirov's elegant Vladimir Schklyarov (class of 2004) tried his best to partner & control her.

An evening of marked contrasts. I feel sorry for the Vaganova Academy right now.

Edited by Natalia

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I agree with every one of Natalia's points -- we must think alike!

I especially loved Camilla Ruelykke in Flower Festival. I'm not surprised to find out that she's already a member of the company. One question -- Is Sebastian Kloborg, who danced Flower Festival, the son of Eva Kloborg and Frank Anderson? He did pretty well, from what I can remember, but I was concentrating pretty heavily on Ruelykke. I'll try to pay more attention tonight and Sunday afternoon.

I also liked Sinfonietta and would love to see more work by this choreographer.

On the Kirov's Daria Vasnetsova, I really hated the hyperextensions, too, and would add that she really needs to start focusing on her arm positions. There were some pretty ugly moments there.

I'm very glad that the Kennedy Center is doing this program; it's great to compare the schools and choreogaphers. Since we don't get to see a lot of Ashton and Bournonville in the US, those programs were especially appreciated.

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I too was there last night.

I actually thought Scaramouche was rather cute, though part of me longed to see some more classical work from the tiniest ones.

There were some rough moments in both Birthday Offering and Napoli, but these are students, after all. In some ways it was nice to see the contrast between the dancing by the RDB company dancers (pas from Flower Festival) and then the students.

It was disappointing to me that there were so few younger students. Only POB sent students below the age of 15 or 16, as far as I could tell.

One quite fascinating contrast was between the successive cabrioles by the male Vaganova graduate, which were rather labored, and those in the next piece, by RDB females, which were much lighter. Interesting.

I agree that Sinfonietta was an absolute delight--beautiful choreography, beatifully simple costumes, and exquiste dancing. Terrific.

I was also disappointed by the Vaganova grads Nut pas de deux, though not exactly for the same reasons as Natalia. Vasnetzova has a classic ballet body--very long thin legs and highly arched feet and a beautiful (if overused) extension. Her turning, however, was very, very weak. Not quite as weak as mine, but each preprofessional program in the Washington area probably has at least 3 girls who are stronger turners than Vasnetzova.

Did anyone else notice the chunk of duct tape on the left side of the stage? What was that all about????

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Sorry, I didn't notice the tape, koshka, but you were probably closer to the stage than I was!

Although I didn't like Scaramouche, it seemed to be a big hit with the audience, at least by the end of the ballet. It was very unusual, and I think the French comedic aspect of it bewildered the audience at first. It was nice to see younger students, and I was impressed by the dancers who had to do their speaking parts in a foreign language. Some of the ballet "jokes" were pretty amusing, but one viewing of this was enough for me.

I thought the roughest moments came in Birthday Offering, which struck me as having some pretty complicated choreography. I've never seen this before, so I don't have previous performances to compare it to. To me, it seemed that most of the problems/bobbles came at the end of solos when the variation ended quickly (almost abruptly) after some difficult steps, but I would be interested to know more about Natalia's thoughts on how the variations were performed. I thought it was actually kind of endearing seeing the dancers try to hold their final poses, often not entirely successfully. I'm glad the Royal Ballet School used this for their program, though, because Ashton abstract ballets are so rarely performed in the US. I loved the choreography, and the costumes were lovely. It was nice to be able to compare this with Concerto Barocco, which DTH danced immediately afterwards.

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...I would be interested to know more about Natalia's thoughts on how the variations were performed. ....

The first two variations were taken at a slower-than-normal pace. The first one -- like a cuckoo-clock doll -- was downright funereal. Even at the slower pace, the footwork was not tidy. Many of these variations are intended to demonstrate brisk, filligreed footwork. The male ensemble number was sloppily performed, although one can see great talent in the jumping abilities of a couple of the men. [in this ballet, each lady gets a solo variation. The men do not but, rather, perform as a group.]

None of the allegro variations were effective or even somewhat correct. Only the two slow -- purposely slow, that is -- variations were satisfying to me. The pas de deux adagio for the leading pair was OK, considering that these are students. I'm attending the other performances. Hopefully what I saw last night was a case of opening-night nerves. Hopefully, performances of the ballet will improve.

p.s. I'm setting a high bar with the first variation: Alessandra Ferri, with ABT, was magical in the role!

p.s.s. re. Vasnetzova - LAC, I did not even want to get into her port-de-bras (or lack thereof). Glad that you brought it up. In truth, I was shocked at the Dolly-Dinkleish quality of this dancer.

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Thank you, Natalia, that's the feedback I was hoping for. This site is such a great source of information!

I'm going again tonight and Sunday afternoon, and I'll be watching this one very closely.

I'll be interested to know if you think things improve.

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For those of you who didn't like Scaramouche, could you please explain us why ? And what did you think about the overall level of the kids ?

And why did you like Péchés de Jeunesse ?

Thanks a lot in advance :)

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To answer cygneblanc's post -

Scaramouche - Many reasons. First, it was obvious that Martinez was trying to 'cram' a bit of each style of classroom work into the 30-odd-minute ballet. Secondly, the comedy seemed forced (well, they are children, but still...). Thirdly, it went on way too long. I was among SEVERAL audience members falling asleep. The intermission took place right after 'Scaramouche'; many of us dashed to the coffee & one lady looked at me, laughed & said "You too?" [falling asleep] A real shame because you can tell that the kids are very vivacious and talented, trying their darnest. I'm a huge comedia dell'arte fan...and it did not even delve deeply enough into comedia d.a. Act I simply introduced the characters...then what? We were in the middle of a mock-Giselle. Silly sight gags (the daisy, etc.). The pianist slowly blowing away while the kids make souonds of the wind. Hardee-har-har. Trying too hard to be funny without being funny - know what I mean? I thought that the little boy-Albrecht was a cutie, though. ;)

Peches - classical, musical, elegant. Those gorgeous, trademark-arches on the women's feet! Hard to explain - just beautiful movement to beautiful music. This was my second-favorite piece, after the Tokyo 'Sinfonietta.'

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I returned over the weekend. Just a couple of thoughts:

* 'Birthday Offering' improved tremendously, especially by Sunday afternoon. Almost every variation was danced cleanly. Although the leading couple was wonderful, I still give top honors to that 'tallish and blondish' lady who caught my eye on opening night. She danced the last variation, to a 'swipsey' sort of violin tune. Whoever she may be, she has real star power and a gorgeous face, to go along with (to me) the best technique among the seven ladies on view. The guys were all wonderful in their pas-de-sept mazurka, although my eye kept going to the Italian-looking tall fellow who danced just to the left of the principal (audience view left, that is). *If anybody can provide the name of these special dancers, I'd greatly appreciate it! :)

QUESTION to Ashton specialists: I seem to recall that the Fonteyn Variation used to be the last of the seven female variations, was it not? Here, the ballerina (white tutu) soloist danced the gentle fifth variation with exquite port de bras arms forming a circle at times. Were variations switched for the DC performances, I wonder?

* It finally dawned on me: Daria Vasnetsova's face (not body) is the mirror image of a very young Viviana Durante. Exact-same sparkling blue eyes and long jaw/big teeth. Forget what I wrote earlier about Mezentseva....Vasnetsova looks like Durante. A very elongated & ultra-thin version of Durante at her thinnest. Not that there's any similarity in the dancing, I'm afraid.

* Shklyarov 'did his own thing' yesterday, changing the steps of the Nutcracker male solo to show-off his strengths...including a dazzling series of fouettes (yes - male fouettes) in place of the usual diagonal of cabrioles.

* Biggest applause yesterday went to Dance Theater of Harlem's 'Ginastera' (which was not on the opening night program). The final piece of music -- 'Malambo' from Estancia -- had us jumping in our seats, it was so exciting.

* The Tokyo 'Sinfonietta' remained my favorite piece at all performances. Those dancers are spectacular -- technically & musically (facial nuances, etc.). Spot on. What talent!

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I agree that Birthday Offering looked much more solid on Sunday. One of the blondes is American Quenby Hersh, who is studying at the Royal Ballet School on a scholarship won at (or as a result of, or?) YAGP. I don't know if she's the one who caught your eye, but you might be able to google and see if the face matches...

And here is as good a point as any to say that the program was woefully lacking in information. They could easily have id'ed the ladies by variation (etc) but they didn't.

Unfortunately after reading Natalia's comments about Vasnetzova's Dinkle-ish arms, they really annoyed me. Also, I'm glad to see that I wasn't imagining things and that Shklyarov's choreography really did change. I was waiting for the labored cabrioles, and mercifully they never came.

Ginastera, alas, doesn't really speak to me. I loved seeing Sinfonietta again, though.

Also, I found it quite fascinating to see Concerto Barocco and Sinfonietta together. Both are classical leotard ballets, but DTH's corps is about as varied as they come (height, "look", skin tone, you name it) and the Japanese school was about as similar as they come (all similar height, look, hair color, features, etc).

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...One of the blondes is American Quenby Hersh, who is studying at the Royal Ballet School on a scholarship won at (or as a result of, or?) YAGP.  I don't know if she's the one who caught your eye, but you might be able to google and see if the face matches...

Thanks, Koshka. I have since found out, through a private message, that the final variation was danced by Jacqueline Clark. Quenby Hersh also did a great job -- she's the one who danced the variation that immediately followed that of the 'ballerina' in this version -- the sixth (oboe) variation. The 6th & 7th variations -- the two blondes -- were the cleanest on opening night. The sixth variation appears to be an incredibly difficult one, so I can easily forgive a slight off-balance moment just before the final pose. It's hard to believe that these are students!

p.s. From Jennifer Dunning's 1-28-06 NYTimes review of the opening night of the program, I can infer the following order for the 'Birthday Offering' soloists:

Variation # Name

1. Callie Roberts

2. Moe Nieda

3. Annie Carroll

4. Claire Calvert

5. Adeline Kaiser (in the mostly-white ballerina tutu...but was it the "Fonteyn Variation"?)

6. Quenby Hersh

7. Jacqueline Clark

p.s.s. In this DC version of 'Birthday Offering,' the tutus were beautifully constructed, echoing the bell-skaped skirts of the original 1956 production. Nonetheless, it's a shame that the non-ballerinas wore the same black-&-white-trim dresses. In the original production, each ballerina wore a tutu of a unique color (blue, red, purple, etc.). Also, the original jeweled necklaces & earrings were more sumptous than the black velvet chokers worn in the simpler DC setting.

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the confusion, conflicting info mounts.

here's what i scribbled down, perhaps erroneously for the variation order after the perf. on 27th.

according to RB School information:

#1 = C. Roberts

#2 = M. Nieda

#3 = A. Carroll

#4 = C. Calvert

#5 = A. Kaiser

#6 = J. Clark

#7 = Q. Hersh

and here's what i've compiled from past notes on A BIRTHDAY OFFERING + D.Vaughan's Ashton book chron. (also on line and linked, i believe here, somewhere).

Variations according Vaughan chronology:

#1 – E. Fifield = Marionettes/SCENES DE BALLET

#2 – R. Jackson = La Givre/THE SEASONS

#3 – B. Grey = La Glace/SEASONS

#4 – N. Nerina = La Grele/SEASONS

#5 – S. Beriosova = La Neige/SEASONS

#6 – V. Elvin = La Ete/SEASONS

#7 – M. Fonteyn = from RUSES D’AMOUR

further confusions would also arise when a ballerina for whom Ashton made one of the solo variations moved into the leading/fonteyn role: did she take to that 'position' her own variation or did she assume fonteyn's choreography? david vaughan isn't sure, tho he suspects, as do i, that she took her variation with her.

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Thanks for all of this, RG. Well, Hersh & Clark....Clark & Hersh...were both wonderful. Now I'll trust your RBSchool info that indeed Ms. Hersh is the taller of the two, who I especially admired in yesterday's final solo with the violin. As I watched her I kept thinking "The next Darcey...future RB Aurora!"

Upon seeing your list of musical numbers: My knowledge of the music of LES SAISONS tells me that the music was performed in its originally-intended order, here in DC. Ms. Kaiser seems to have danced the Beriosova Variation in its proper place in the order (5th), although she wore the white tutu and danced the rest of the ballet as Fonteyn.

Now if the rest of you aren't totally confused by this then you are eligible for a prize of some sort!

Edited to note: I have since googled "Quenby Hersh" and seen her photo on a number of competition sites. YES! That's "my" star! Ms. Hersh is definitely the lady who danced the 7th (final) variation in DC. Wow - the Royal Ballet Academy is certainly lucky to have her. Years from now, we'll be writing "We saw her when she was a student..."!

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Hi Natalia,

I think perhaps that the tall "Italian looking" fellow about whom you asked is Pietro Zambello, who is Italian. He was my partner both of my summers at RBS (at that time he studied at a school in Italy). He is a wonderful partner and dancer. I attended the night he was the male dancer in the lead couple so I am not perfectly sure of his placement when he danced in the corps.


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Natalia and rg certainly know a lot more about the history of Birthday Offering than I do, but I do want to add something to further add to the confusion about who originally danced the variations. I checked Julie Kavanagh's "Secret Muses: The Life of Frederic Ashton," and she lists the dancers in the following order on pages 421-422 --

Elaine Fitfield

Rowena Jackson

Svetlana Beriosova

Nadia Nerina

Violetta Elvin

Beryl Grey

Margot Fonteyn

At least Vaughn and Kavanagh agree that Fonteyn's was seventh variation.

Also, just a comment that I agree with others who thought that Birthday Offering improved considerably from Thurday to Sunday. Most of the problems on Thursday were probably just opening-night jitters.

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Both Kaiser (2005) and Naeda (2004) are also Prix de Lausanne scholarship winners.

I wish we could see more of the RBS performing here in England!!!!!!!!

I don't know if this is the right place to put this, or if I'm being incredibly naive and missing something (quite possible), but I have been puzzling over the end of Alexandra's review of the program in the Washington Post. I've not really participated in many discussions besides reviews of performances on this board, so please forgive me for being a relative 'newbie.' :wink::(

At the end, she writes

If the "Proteges" program becomes a yearly attraction, it could become one of the Kennedy Center's calling cards. It's amazing what one can learn about the state of ballet from a single evening. This one showed that ballet is healthy -- or could be. If the parent companies let it happen, ballet may well be on the brink of renewal.

It's the last two sentences... ballet could be healthy? Is it sick now? And how are parent companies the impediment? And a renewal from...?

I realise there are probably many thoughts on this - and some probably covered elsewhere on this board. What do people think?

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I've always assumed that the solos in the original Birthday Offering were in that order (as given by Kavanagh) because the dancers appeared in reverse order of seniority - I think Fifield still wasn't a principal dancer at the time, for instance. But I don't think I've ever seen that written down and I suppose it could be coincidence.

Working it out from the details in Alexander Bland's The Royal Ballet, only Nerina and Beriosova from the original cast ever danced the pas de deux: they both kept their own solos and Merle Park did the Fonteyn solo. In the RB's last run I remember Muriel Valtat doing Fonteyn's solo when someone else (Guillem, perhaps?) did the pas de deux.

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I would absolutely love it if they did a Proteges-type run every year. If it were to become a regular occurrence, it would be even more amazing if they could work up some sort of cycle/coordination, so that, for example, one year all of the schools would send students at an early level, then the next year more advanced students, or...I don't know.

Does anyone have a sense of whether tickets for this run sold well? I'd guess it was a tough sell since last 2 weeks ago Swan Lake and this week/weekend is Romeo and Juliet. But maybe the audiences were different.

Also, I'd love to see the Japanese company in for a full run of its own.

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I seemed to me that Proteges sold about as well as Swan Lake, if not better. It's a little hard for me to tell because I was there on different nights of the week for the two runs. Of course, the Proteges program had three fewer performances than do companies that come in for the entire week.

I second koshka's sentiment that it would be great if this could be done every year (or two). It would be nice to see NYCB's SAB participating in this in the future.

As far as the parent companies go, I would also like to see more of the Japanese company and the Paris Opera Ballet. It would also be great to see the Royal Danish Ballet more frequently than we do now.

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It's the last two sentences... ballet could be healthy?  Is it sick now?  And how are parent companies the impediment?  And a renewal from...?

I've opened up a new thread here to discuss this.

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There seemed to be a pretty good house on Sunday. I liked Springtime (RDB, 2005) quite a lot, in addition to Peches. Also, the professionalism and artistry of the Tokyo troupe seemed outstanding to me. The program notes make the Tokyo Training Program sound like a kind of graduate school. They accept eight dancers every two years, which is also the length of the training period. I, too, would like to see them here for a full program.

My only reservation about "Proteges" was that some of the dancers were (recent) graduates rather than students. (I wonder if perhaps the Tokyoites also come under the "graduates" category.) In any case, I hope the Festival happens again next year. It is an innovative, promising, and enjoyable bit of programming.

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