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Stars of the 21st CenturyFebruary 11, 2008


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#1 Ceeszi

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Posted 11 February 2008 - 09:41 PM

I just arrived home and I am going to try to synthesize evrything that I saw tonight. This is the fourth year in a row that I have been to "Stars" and in my opinion, I thought that this was one of the best. There was a lot of variety in the dances and of course, a tremendous amount of talent on the stage tonight. I have the program in front of me (which was shuffled around), so I am going to try to go by memory. I may get a couple of the dances out of order. Myriam Ould-Brahm was a no-show.

The star of the night? Daniil Simkin! :clapping: :) :clapping: WOW!!

ACT I

The evening started off with the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Maria Kowroski of the NYCB and David Hallberg of the ABT. It is such a very beautiful dance. I saw this almost thirty years ago with Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins, but I can still remember the audience reaction. Tonight was very well done. I thought that Kowroski was a little distant and remote in her projection to the audience, but her dancing was beautiful. The audience oohed and ahhed over David's leaps, but there was better to come later in the eveing. They were the only pair not to do an encore in Act II.

"Moorhuhn" was our first glimpse of Daniil Simkin of the Vienna Opera Ballet. Every year, "Stars of the 21st Century" has some kind of modern dance. In 2005 it was the Martha Graham Dancers (which I hated), the past two years has been Desmond Richardson (which I thought was OK) and in 2006, they also brought the tango dancers (which I loved). These are usually my least favorite parts of the night, but tonight was very, very different. Simkin interpreted every note of the music, which was done to mostly bird calls. And in the end he layed an egg - I'm serious! This was very creative and some of the positions he hit were incredible. I saw in the program that this was choreographed by his father.

Next was a real treat - Svetlana Lunkina and Nikolai Tsikaridze of the Bolshoi in the "Giselle" Act II Pas de Deux. I also saw Lunkina in 2005 and 2006 in the "Stars" gala. She is not one of my favorites, but she is a very lovely ballerina. This is the first time that I had the opportunity to see Tsikaridze. The two really set the mood of the Romantic Ballet with their dancing and their expressions and both excelled in their solos, especially Lunkina.

Then we had a World Premiere - E Lucevan Le Stelle from Puccini's "Tosca". This was danced by Shoko Nakamura and Ronald Savkovic (who also did the choreography) of the Berlin State Opera Ballet and sung by tenor Mikhail Kotlyarov. First of all, I admire Kotlyarov who was able to sing his aria to recorded music. This was the first time that I have ever seen ballet being done with a live singer. I mostly watched the dancing, which was highlighted by Nakamura's beautiful pirouettes and the passionate moves of Serkovic.

Then came another treat - the "Le Corsaire" Pas de Deux with Anastasia and Denis Mativienko of the Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre. The Matvienkos really brought the house down. They got a well-deserved ovation. Very, very beautiful and dynamic! I have seen this Pas de Deux danced a few times and this was one of the best I have ever seen. Denis Matvienko did that move, which I can only describe as the "karate kick whellbarrow" move.

Daniil Simkin returned with "Les Bourgeois" - a Jacques Brel song. Again, I was expecting some kind of dissapointing modern dance. Instead, Daniil gave us a smooth, sophisticated combination of ballet and Broadway-like sashaying. He had the audience in the palm of his hand. And he did this one move that I can't even being to describe. Whatever that move was called, it was followed by a huge butterfly jump. Really, another spectacular performance from this young man.

The first act ended with "Thais" with Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre from the Munich Ballet. How dissapointed I was last year when they had to cancel out of the "Stars" gala. And what a treat to see them tonight! They danced this two years ago and tonight was just extraordinary. I saw this about four years ago with different choreography by Frederick Ashton. In that version, the womn enters covered by a veil as if she was a dream floating in and out of the man's imagination. In this version, with choreography by Roland Petit, it was just a total exprssion of love. Lacarra is one of my favorite ballerinas. I think I wrote this before - you can actually see her heart when she dances. Probably because she is dancing with the man she loves.

ACT II

Now, here is where I may get the order mixed up. According to the program, we were supposed to see Ould-Brahm. I beleive I heard that Svetlana Lunkina took her place (which means she actually appeared three times tonight - brava to her!) She danced with David Makhateli of the Royal Ballet in the Pas de Deux from "La Sylphide". I have never seen this ballet in its entirety. In fact, my only exposure to this ballet was back in 2005 when Lunkina danced the Pas de Deux with Guillaume Cote. I liked this much better than three years ago. Lunkina really was an other-worldly creature and I was impressed with Makhateli's dancing - especially he had to dance in a kilt - which looked very heavy!

The Matvienkos returned with "Radio and Juliet". I was dissapointed, because they danced to this last year and I remember not liking it. I still did not care for it too much and I would have liked seeing them dance to something else, especially after the beauty of "Le Corsaire". However, I was impressed by their versatility. They seemed to enjoy dancing to this.

I believe Nakamura and Savkovic returned with "Transparente" (again, with choreography by Savkovic). The music was by Fado Portugues. This was a dance that needed a lot of energy and intensity and I felt that both dancers slacked off a little in the middle. Of all the dances tonight, I would say this and "Radio and Juliet" were my least favorite.

Lacarra and Pierre returned with the Pas de Deux from Act III of the "Lady of the Camellias". I saw this done last year by Aurelie Dupont and Manuel Legris at the Youth America Grand Prix Gala. I really preferred Lacarra and Pierre tonight. They brought so much more emotion to this dance. And in the end, they just seemed to melt into each other's bodies. The audience gasped when Cyril pealed Lucia's black dress off of her. This couple is amazing - I am so glad that they came back this year.

Lunkina returned with Tsikaridze for "La Rose Malade". The music was by Mahler and the choreography was by Roland Petit. Again, Lunkina (who we saw as a sylph and a willi) and Tsikaridze showed a different side of their dancing from Act I. I found this to be a very mesmerizing dance. The two dancers set a romantic, somewhat sad mood for this dance. Tsikaridze's partnering was outstanding in this dance. Lunkina was able to float about the stage and he was always there to set her down securely.

Simkin returned with Roberta Marquez of the Royal Ballet. This is almost always a showstopper. Simkin and Marquez were outstanding. This is the first time that I have seen her dance and I thought she was lovely. Simkin (like Lunkina, we were seeing for the third time) is incredible! He got the loudest ovation tonight and for me, he was the real surprise of the night!

Then in the finale, everyone came out (exept for Makhateli - I guess because he had no one to partner!) Simkin did this one move where he jumped in the air like he was doing an axel jump in figure skating and then did a spit.

I forgot to mention that this was the best that I have heard the recorded music. In the past, the music has sometimes sounded awful. Tonight, everything sounded nice and clear. Of all the "Stars" I have been to, I do believe this was the best. My only disappointment was the Ould-Brahm no-show.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 04:07 AM

That's "our" Daniil for you. He's a bit of a Tolkien Elf! :clapping:

#3 aurora

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 10:05 AM

What a fun night!
I had never been to the Stars of the 21st Century, or any such sort of gala event previously. And it really outdid my expectations.
It seems a lot of these types of things are all flash, and I appreciated that they didn't go that route, although the flash was fantastic!

I agree with most of what Ceeszi said above... with some minor caveats.

The star of the night? Daniil Simkin! :clapping: :) :clapping: WOW!!

definitely, though Denis matvienko's turns in the finale gave Daniil's virtuosity some run for its money in my view.
Daniil is a somewhat odd looking person--very small, and fey, or childlike (i don't mean fey in a gay sort of way, but more that he seems a sort of fairy sprite on stage).

The solos he did, neither of which I was particularly anticipating, were fabulous, especially the chicken one! and really showed off his versatility. I have to say that I found them more satisfying than the Don Q with him and Roberta Marquez who is equally diminutive.

Don't get me wrong, he was excellent in it, but he didn't convince me as the character--he did all the right things, but his persona (for lack of a better word) doesn't seem suited (yet?) to the big bravura roles, although his technique certainly is!

He is VERY young though!


As for the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Maria Kowroski and David Hallberg: very enjoyable, and they looked very well together although at the end when they do 2 passages with fish dives, I believe Maria didn't move as far as David expected because he had to dart backwards to catch her just in the nick of time (or at least that is how I saw it). She also was very feeble in the fouettes.

I enjoyed Lunkina in all three dances, though perhaps best in La Sylphide, where she created a wonderfully playful character and was truly ethereal. I have to disagree with Ceeszi on Tsikaridze, however, of whom i am not a fan, especially in the Giselle PDD--he was lumbering and loud, which given the sound in state theater, is some feat.

I enjoyed both works danced by Shoko Nakamura and Ronald Savkovic (who also did the choreography) of the Berlin State Opera Ballet though I wish they had done one "classic" work to show greater versatility, as did the other couples.

The "Le Corsaire" Pas de Deux with Anastasia and Denis Mativienko of the Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre was excellent. Though to me there was a major drawback here--the sound. It was SO QUIET. This should be a real rousing number and up in the front of the 4th ring, I had to strain to hear the music. They were a lot of fun though, and his turns are thrilling.

For me the real highlight of the evening was "Thais" with Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre from the Munich Ballet. Though I loved them in act II as well. I had never seen her before and am really glad I had this opportunity. They were just so incredibly beautiful together, it was a thrilling piece.


Ok, I've run out of steam :)
All in all a VERY enjoyable night!

#4 FauxPas

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 10:33 AM

I was there too and went home very happy. I haven't gone in a few years, so a few of the pieces were unfamiliar though they wouldn't be to those who have gone every year. I think Lunkina did the "Sylphide" PDD a few times before? Ditto the Lacarra/Pierre "Dame du Camellias"?

Of course, Tchaik PDD, Le Corsaire PDD, Don Q PDD and Giselle PDD are staples in these gala evenings. However, I felt that in each case, the couples had some unique quality to infuse into them. Some were unfamiliar dancers like the Matvienkos (she is a beauty) who stunned me with their fine individual quality. The classical elegance that Roberta Marquez brought to the "Don Quixote Pas de Deux" kept it from becoming a trite bag of tricks and she was partnered (and well) by that puckish sprite Daniil Simkin, with his offbeat charm and wild virtuosity.

The "E Lucevan le Stelle" showed much of Ronald Savkovic's elegance and passion but I could have lived without the feeble Russian tenor the Tencers dug up probably from some Toronto restaurant/café. Frankly a recording of Franco Corelli or Luciano Pavarotti singing the aria would have been better. The tenor actively detracted from the work, his stage presence was quite as awkward as his singing. BTW: I liked both Nakamura and Savkovic but found their choreography boring after a while.

I think that Svetlana Lunkina and Lucia Lacarra are two of the most beautiful, expressive ballerinas out there. With the retirement of Ferri, I think that Lacarra is really the torch bearer for this kind of lyrical, emotional and dramatic dancing. I would love it if she guested at ABT and danced a few of Ferri's old roles. I know she does the Cranko Juliet, not the MacMillan but she could be a sensational Manon. How is Lacarra's Giselle? She must have danced it when she was with SFB.

Often one dreams of a dancer from one company partnering another dancer from a rival company - it was delight to see Hallberg and Kowrowski together. He is quite big enough for her though the fact that they don't often dance together showed in some tentative lifts and careful partnering. Like Marquez, I wish there was a way they could have found another solo or duet for them.

I loved the two Roland Petit pas de deux's: the gorgeous and sensuous "Thais" with Lacarra and Pierre (she has magical arms) and the deeply moving and mysterious "Rose Malade" to music by Mahler with Lunkina and Tsiskaridze. I am unfamiliar with these dances and I found that among the "modern" pieces, they were the strongest choreography.

Many, many Russian speaking people around me, including Irina Kolpakova who was seated in the orchestra.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 02:57 PM

Well, Daniil may be a bit small for one of Tolkien's Elves, but then he definitely could be a Baggins, who are rumored to be part Elvish, anyway! :clapping:


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