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Eric Bruhn Prize - May 20, 2002!!


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 16 May 2002 - 02:03 PM

On the ABT forum, Paquita wrote:

*************
Michele Wiles will also be competing in the Erik Bruhn Prize, held here in Toronto's
Hummingbird Centre, this monday. I can't remember who her partner will be, but
they are dancing Grand Pas Classique for the classical section and Manon pdd
(not sure which) for the contemporary. She certainly is busy these days!
***********

Thanks for that news, Paquita! Wiles will represent ABT. Does anyone know the names of other competitors & the companies to be represented at the Bruhn Prize this year? In the past, it was RDB, RB-Britain, ABT & NBCanada. There's lots of great up-and-coming talent in each of those troupes.

Please keep us posted from Canada, Paquita!

#2 Terry

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Posted 16 May 2002 - 02:06 PM

Hi Jeannie. :D

I've heard that the lovely Clara Blanco will be representing the San Francisco Ballet along with the powerful Gonzalo Garcia (who will be principal from next season). I'm sure the Spanish pair will have a lot of positive energy to offer in their "Paquita."

#3 Paquita

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Posted 17 May 2002 - 12:12 PM

NBoC: Guillaume Cote and Heather Ogden- black swan pdd, dominique dumais new work
ABT: Michele Wiles and ?- Grand Pas, Manon
SFB: Clara Blanco and Gonzalo Garcia- Paquita, Wheeldon work (forgot name!)
RDB: black swan pdd, Neumier work (again forgot name!)
Stuttgart: Sleeping Beauty Act 3, In the Middle Somewhat Elevated

The information was not publically released, but I volunteer at the NBoC and managed to glance over the list. The evening also includes a screening of the documentary on Bruhn "I'm the same, only more" and possibly a brief summary of the PPF (Past, Present, Future) Conference that is being held today and tomorrow. The Confrence involves artistic directors of NBoC, RB, RDB, ABT, NYCB, SFB, POB.

Looking forward to the event! Will report as soon as I can!

#4 Natalia

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Posted 20 May 2002 - 09:43 AM

Good to hear from you again, Terry!

Paquita - lucky you! Please *do* post a report. Good luck to all of the competitors. That's quite a line up.

I'm a tad sorry, though, that the Royal Ballet of England has once again opted to not compete (as occurred at the last competition).

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 20 May 2002 - 12:16 PM

I wonder who is the executor of Bruhn's will! How did Stuttgart get in there???

I'll second Jeannie -- sorry the Royal isn't involved.

A

#6 Natalia

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Posted 21 May 2002 - 07:52 AM

This just in!

Women - MICHELE WILES of ABT WINS GOLD MEDAL!!! (Wiles, as most folks know, won Gold Medal at 1996 Varna IBC. She'll be dancing her first Medora at ABT very soon!!!)

Men - FRIEDERICH VOGEL of STUTTGART BALLET wins GOLD MEDAL!!! (Vogel won a top prize for Junior Men in 1998 Jackson IBC...I fondly remenber his long elegant line &, especially, his feet. Stunning dancer.)

I look forward to Paquita's full report on last night's competition. Who won the other medals? What were the highlights?

#7 Paquita

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Posted 21 May 2002 - 01:14 PM

Jeannie- Since there are only 5 couples competing, there is only 1 winning pair ( male winner and female winner are not necessarily from the same company), no silver or bronze. The winners each get $7,500 CND and a trophy. Actually, it's probably better this way. If they had to rank 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the judges would have a hard time and those who didn't get medals would feel pretty bad!

Well, it was a very long, but most enjoyable evening hosted by NBoC principals Chan Hon Goh and Rex Harrington. Them, along with James Kudelka and Lennart Pasborg (director of the film on Bruhn) said a few words about the competition and Bruhn himself. Following that, was a screening of the film "I'm the Same- Only More", which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival 2000, in the "Real to Reel" section. It's not a documentary, but provides an intimate portrait on the artist's life. There was some excellent footage of his performances in La Sylphide (both as James and Madge) , Don Quixote, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Etudes, Carmen, and more. I heard that a lot of this footage came from fans who secretly brought videocameras into the theatre. Bless them! ;) Some say "There's good, there's great, and there's Erik Bruhn." From the film, I could really see why. Btw, he had great pirouettes- he seemed to do the first one slow, and gain momentum (on multiple pirouettes). It looks very different from the way male dancers do them today. Also, great commentary on his relationship with Nureyev (no rivalry, but if Bruhn had been the same age as Nureyev he "probably wouldn't be able to stand him being there").

The competition began with the classical repertoire- the gruelling technical displays. After that came the contemporary repetoire, where stage presence and dramatic ability became more important. After the classical portion, the two clear leaders were the dancers from ABT and the Stuttgart.

ABT
The performance of Michele Wiles and David Hallberg in Grand Pas Classique was near flawless. Both seemed right 'on' last night. I can't believe they are hiding Hallberg in the corps! He seemed to be an excellent partner, and his variation was wonderful. His extension is impressive, especially for a male dancer. All the grand jetes en tournant and sissones were fully stretched with lots of height and quiet landings. Good batterie too (brise-voles in the coda). Wiles is certainly one to watch and I predicted her win. Her balances in the adagio, and her pirouettes and fouettes show how technically sound she is. In her variation, she did a long, controlled diagonale (ballote devant twice, small develope a la seconde, plie, fouette- know which one I mean?), with complete ease and perfect placement. Both looked very comfortable on stage and with each other, not nervous at all. They move as one. I didn't think the grey costumes were very flattering though. I prefer the while ones POB wears.
In the Manon bedroom pdd, again, they both looked excellent and proved to be good dance actors. One felt like they were watching a performance, not a competition. Out of their 2 numbers, I think I prefered Grand Pas. It was really outstanding and had the audience gasping at many points. Still enjoyed Manon very much though.

STUTTGART BALLET
Alicia Amatriain and Friedemann Vogel are also 2 incredibly talented dancers. Like the couple from ABT, you could've told me they were experienced principals and I'd have believed you. They were just beautiful in the Act 2 pdd from Giselle. Amatriain's pointe shoes are a bit distracting. They remind me of Evelyn Hart's, with a very short shank and a somewhat distorted line. Nevertheless, her portrayal of Giselle was sensitive and heartfelt. It was also nice to see a couple doing a more romantic piece, instead of a flat-tutu virtuoso piece (the other 3 companies did Petipa). But they managed to sneak in some brilliant footwork and 180 degree extensions! She is extremely flexible- in supported penchee, her foot was hitting her partner's head! It made for gorgeous lines in the adagio when it was appropriate, what an arabesque she has! She looked a bit worn out after the long series of travelling entrechat quatre's though. Friedemann Vogel was to die for as Albrecht. Really. He has such a classical line and presence. Nice line, lovely ballon, batterie and backbends. He also finishes multiple pirouettes (4 of 5 I think) in a perfect passe position, totally balanced, like Baryshnikov used to. Vogel is a musical performer and the judges were obviously impressed his dazzling technique!
In In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, both dancers pushed themselves to the limit and gave an exciting performance. Amatriain especially threw herself into the piece and style, and I could barely recognize her. That is, until I saw her over 180 degree extensions to the side. Vogel was also stunning in his little solo part at the beginning, but he still carried himself a bit like a prince. I can't decide if I prefered them in this, or in Giselle. Both were amazing. I think Amatriain was a little dissapointed that she didn't win, but I think Wiles is a slightly more well-rounded dancer.

ROYAL DANISH BALLET
Amy Watson and Ask La Cour opened the competition with the Black Swan pdd. They looked reeally nervous, understandably. Unfortunately, I think they were 'miscast' in the roles. Watson seemed tense in her upper-body and not quite suited to the choreography. La Cour doesn't have the look or carriage of a prince at all (strange costume too, all black with bright blue back). I would have liked to see them in something Bournonville, and perhaps they would have been more comfortable in that. Watson's wrist movement were a bit distracting, though her variation was quite enjoyable. La Cour was shaky in his variation, his weight seemed to pull him back when landing double tours. In general, they didn't seem to be very much at ease with each other. The coda was fine, Watson did about half of the fouettes before switching to a manege of pique turns. La Cour's working leg needs to be higher on tours a la seconde.
They were better in the contemporary piece, Adagietto from the 5th Symphony of Gustav Mahler, choreographed by Neumeier originally for Erik Bruhn and Natalia Makarova. Watson looked much less tense, and her dancing was soft and lyrical. Overall though, these dancers seemed too restrained.

NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA
Heather Odgen and Guillaume Cote danced the Black Swan pdd- right after the Danish dancers did. Kudelka's choreography varies slightly from RDB's version by Peter Martins, and having them back to back made it easy to compare- but I feel bad for the orchestra having to play it all over again! I prefered these dancers' performance to that of Watson and La Cour. And I don't think I am being biased! They were not technically perfect either, Guillaume probably very nervous, a lot of pressure was put on him and many Canadian balletgoers I spoke with expected him to win. However, I thought they danced with much more style and attack. I was especially impressed with Odgen, who I thought was beautiful in Intermezzo and as Juliet, but I didn't think she would be much of an Odile. I was pleasantly surprised with her interpretation. Beautiful penchees in the adagio, effortless looking- what my teacher calls "easy legs". She also had some lovely turns in her variation, seemed very secure. She completed almost all the fouettes, but her working leg was a bit low. Cote danced well too, but had a few hops and wobbles here and there. He had a big smile on the whole time though, and both of them had a lot of support in the audience, which was on it's feet at the end. (NBS students, NBoC company members, volunteers, and Celia Franca herself were there).
I thought they were great in the world premiere of Dominique Dumais' CollectiveSontataForTwo, set to the music of Giuseppe Tartini and with french and english voiceovers, sometimes overlapping. The voices talk about des epreuves or trials, and some other things I didn't catch. This was the most 'modern' of the contemporary repertoire: lots of contractions and 'modern arms', No ballet tights, just tight green shorts and tank tops. They danced with, and on a stool. Moving it away from each other, creating a comic effect. It showed their versatility and both dancers really let themselves go. Very exciting to watch.

SFB
Lots of Spanish flair in Clara Blanco (looks very young!) and Gonzalo Garcia's Paquita Grand pdd. This couple was so charming, not the most flashy, but really graceful. They seemed to enjoy being out there. Blanco is a superb turner, with some triple pirouettes en dedans in her variation and nice fouettes (single, single, double with hands on hips). She is very petite and is not as flexible as Amatriain, creating a different line. I liked her a lot though, she is very expressive with her face and draws the audience in. Garcia is a solid dancer, with big, lofty jumps and lots of charisma. Technically though, he is not quite at par with Hallberg or Vogel. I liked him more in Continuum. I also really liked Wheeldon's choreography. It's looks like it's fun to dance. Blanco was sharp and musical. They looked good together here, one's movement complimenting the other's.

After a long wait (the orchestra played a bit of Michael Torke's score for 'The Contract', James Neufeld and Penelope Reed Doob gave a summary of the Past-Present-Future Ballet confrence, Rex Harrington sang his own rendition of 'I love you forever'- "Musical Theatre here I come!" while the results were being tabulated), the winners were announced: Michele Wiles and Friedemann Vogel. They both deserved it. Flowers, hugs and kisses, and a shower of balloons followed.
My special awards;):
Best chemistry- Guillaume Cote and Heather Ogden
Most versatile dancer- Alicia Amatriain

I wonder when the next Erik Bruhn Prize will be? It's not exactly every 4 years or anything like that. Previous competitions were in 1988, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1999. Maybe the Royal will join in next time!

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 21 May 2002 - 01:27 PM

Thank you, Paquita! It was great to be able to read such a detailed account.

I've seen the Erik Bruhn film and agree with you that the footage is phenomenal -- he was noted for his turns (among other things). If fans hadn't snuck cameras into theaters during the goodolddays, why, some people might question the fact that they existed ;)

#9 mom2

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Posted 21 May 2002 - 04:36 PM

Thank you so much for your wonderful account of last night's events! It almost made up for the fact that I didn't have tickets this time!!

#10 Natalia

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Posted 22 May 2002 - 08:19 AM

THANK YOU, Paquita! It made me feel as if I were there myself. Brava!!

#11 Terry

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Posted 23 May 2002 - 05:43 AM

Paquita,

Thank you so much for the wonderful report!
I'm wondering if there is any way you (or anyone who has the information and the time) can provide us with some names of the previous participants of the competition. The winners of the previous competitions have been up on the NBoC website, but not the list of previous representitives of the companies. Thank you!!!

#12 Paquita

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Posted 23 May 2002 - 09:51 AM

This was my first time attending the competition, so I don't know who the previous participants have been (other than the winners). All I know is that in 1999, NBoC's female representative was Bei-Di Sheng (lovely, talented dancer- but she is currently on a leave of absence from NBoC). Also, in 1988 or 1989, Martine Lamy competed.
Anyone interested should read the Globe and Mail's review (Links section). I was a bit surprised that they would have chosen Alicia Amatriain and Guillaume Cote...

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 May 2002 - 10:08 PM

I covered the '99 competition - I believe the participants were:

San Francisco Ballet - Vanessa Zahorian (winner) & Guennadi Nedveguine (co-winner)

National Ballet of Canada - Bei-Di Sheng and Jhe Russell (co-winner)

American Ballet Theater Marcelo Gomes and two non-competing partners, Anna Liceica and Mayo Sugano (Gillian Murphy withdrew from the competition because of injury)

Royal Danish Ballet - Mortens Eggert & Gudrun Bojesen.

Some past winners who performed that night were Silja Schandorff, Jamie Tapper and Johan Persson.

#14 Saveta

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Posted 26 May 2002 - 08:09 PM

I know that this is a little late, but I also saw this year’s competition. I like Erik Bruhn Prize because I think it’s a good way to see what sensibilities are developing in (very different) participating companies and for which dancers their artistic directors have high hopes.
In many things I agree with Paquita’s wonderful report. I believe that overall standard of dancing this year was very high. The fact that there are different opinions on who should have won already tells a lot.
In regards to female dancers, I have to agree with Paula Citron from Globe and Mail. Like her, I also thought that the most interesting dancer that evening was Alicia Amatriain from Stuttgart Ballet. Her Giselle was simply so beautiful. Even though her extensions were higher, in my opinion that was never distracting, nor was her flexibility in any moment purpose for itself (as I feel about what I saw of i.e. Lucia Lacarra’s dancing). Amatriain’s arms and port de bras were so lyrical and telling, and her beautiful line so elongated and very reflective of Giselle’s sadness. I felt moved as if I watch entire ballet, and not only a pas de deux.
As a sharp contrast, her energy changed so much in In the Middle Somewhat Elevated. She was so spunky and flirtatious, and that took me by surprise. Of course, the choice of their program dictated this big change, but change of her temperament was unusual and extraordinary. To me it was as if you can imagine Evelyn Hart (if you know this Canadian dancer) change into Zizi Jeanmare.
I also liked Canadian Heather Ogden very much. Both her and her partner Guillaume Cote were excellent in modern piece. I was surprised when I learnt that they choose Black Swan Pas de Deux, (as Paquita said Ogden seems more like Julliet type) but they were good in it.
I thought that ABT dancers were both stunning in Grand Pas Classique. Their technical brilliance was probably winning over everyone in the audience. I especially liked Hallberg in his variation. But, in their Manon Pas de Deux I didn’t feel any special moments. It was nice, but that is all that I felt.
Of course, this is just one opinion. I think that the most valuable thing was that there were no clear winners (or rather that there were more than two).

#15 Paquita

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Posted 27 May 2002 - 10:25 AM

Thanks for your input Saveta:) Well, I believe Kudelka said something about it as "comparing apples and oranges" which really was the case. Esepcially in the contemporary repertoire, there was such a range from very modern (NBoC) to quite classical (ABT). I was also extremely impressed with Alicia Amatriain, and the two men from ABT and Stuttgart respectively. Our dancers, Odgen and Cote also did a great job, but to me the ABT and Stuttgart dancers stood out. Michele Wiles level of technique was IMO, unparalleled though. Which brings us back to the technique vs. artistry debate, and why arts just aren't suited to competition! It's just too subjective. The companies have very different styles, making judging very difficult. But, I still think it's a wonderful event, and one of the better and friendlier ballet competitions since the dancers are already in companies and used to performing (not vying for scholarships etc.), and it's not so much about scores but about maintaining a good relationship with these other companies and of course, pleasing Erik.


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