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"Dancers & Competitions" at the Guggenheim


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#1 balletmama

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 08:41 PM

Wow, what a fun evening! SPOILER ALERT: If you are going tomorrow night, read no more, because I am going to tell highlights of the dancers' stories, which won't change between now and then, I suspect.

This was an evening devoted to dancers' experiences of competitions. They were all pretty sane on the subject. John Meehan was the moderator. First we saw Sarah Lane and Danny Tidwell of the studio company in the pas de deux from Le Corsaire. Having seen Sarah Lane at the Youth America Grand Prix and Boston SDP, we were naturally excited to watch her now...She and Tidwell were terrific, with lots of audience appeal. The Meehan "interviewed" them. Young dancers might be interested to hear that Lane auditioned for ABT and did not make it. Then she won the silver at Jackson...Also, at the YAGP her music stopped in the middle of her variation, and she danced right through till the end and received a standing ovation. Kevin McKenzie saw the tape and decide to invite her into the studio company.

Next we saw Sarawanee Tanatanit, from Thailand, who was recently promoted into the corps. She did a modern piece choreographed by Peggy Baker to Scriabin...lovely. I guess she came to the studio company after winning the Prix de Lausanne.

Next came Michelle Wiles and David Hallberg in the Grand Pas Classique...It was a very small stage and we were extremely close to it, maybe 10 feet away, and Michelle looked a bit frozen for much of the pas. She and Hallberg talked afterward in a friendly way about how they competed for the Erik Bruhn prize and she won and he didn't. Also Michelle expressed her disappointment at having won at Varna and then only being offered a place in the studio company! Gee, life is rough!

Craig Salstein did a jazz solo he had performed at the age of 11. Then we saw a video of him performing a jazzy number on Star Search, introduced by Ed McMahon. He noted that he was up against 4 other young boys and observed gleefully, "I'm here! Where are they?" He was very comfortable talking to the crowd. He said he decided to switch from jazz to ballet because in ballet a career can really take off; I think that was the first time I had ever heard of anyone pursuing ballet because they thought it was a hot career path. ;-)

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes performed in a pas de deux from Robert Hill's Baroque Game. They were gorgeous; it was beautiful partnering. They talked about having rehearsed endlessly to go to a competition (Paris? Can't remember) and Murphy injuring her fourth toe and being unable to put on a pointe shoe. Gomes went with two other dancers.

Angel Corella did Corsaire. The stage had a low ceiling; we were a bit worried he would hit it. (Same concern about Michelle Wiles.) Corella talked about how he was supposed to send a video to ABT but couldn't get one together; he did an audition in ABT's studios and asked McKenzie immediately afterward whether he could sign a contract as a principal. McKenzie apparently inquired as to whether he had ever been a principal before, and when the answer was no, Corella got a soloist contract.

Last came Amanda McKerrow in the Prelude from Les Sylphides, which she performed to win the Moscow prize in the early 80s as a student at the Washington Ballet School; Meehan observed that this simple though lovely piece does not usually win ballet competitions. Of course, the fact that she also did Bluebird and the third act Sleeping Beauty probably helped ;-) Not to mention being Amanda McKerrow!

After all the variations and the brief interviews, they all danced in the finale. What an amazing evening -- an intimate setting, beautiful performers, dancers telling their stories, and even a reception afterward, all for an amazingly low ticket price. Thank you, Alexandra, for posting the press release here on BalletAlert.

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 09:14 PM

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes performed in a pas de deux from Robert Hill's Baroque Game. They were gorgeous; it was beautiful partnering. They talked about having rehearsed endlessly to go to a competition (Paris? Can't remember) and Murphy injuring her fourth toe and being unable to put on a pointe shoe. Gomes went with two other dancers.


It sounds like the Erik Bruhn competition in '99 in Toronto. Murphy withdrew due to injury, Gomes performed Black Swan with Anna Liceica and a Robert Hill work "Post no Scriptum" with (I'm not sure I've got this name right) Mayo Sugano. The circumstances hurt him and he did not win (Jhe Russell of NBoC and Guennadi Nedviguine of San Francisco Ballet split the prize for men and Vanessa Zahorian of SFB won the women's competition)

#3 bbfan

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 07:36 AM

balletmama:
Do you mean Sarah Lamb from Boston Ballet?

Sounds like an interesting evening, sorry we couldn't be there. Thanks for the write-up.

#4 balletmama

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 09:38 AM

No, Sarah Lamb is a beautiful dancer and a company member at BB. Last summer I believe she talked to the students at the SDP about her experience in Jackson; if not, she certainly took class with them, which they found exciting. Sarah Lane was a student dancer from Rochester, NY, at the Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program two years ago. Now she is in ABT Studio Company.

#5 cargill

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 11:10 AM

I agree it was a great evening--though I don't really know what works were processing! In some ways it was almost too much; I would have loved to hear a lot more from each dancer about their training and experiences. David Halberg implied that he did not like being in Paris at all (he was at the school for a year) but said he got very good training, and it would have been interesting to here more about that--what he liked about the training, especially. Gomes and Murphy were a bit non commital about competitions, I thought. Murphy said since dance is an art, you really can't rank dancers, which made me want to cheer. It was a great venue to see these amazing dancers so closely, and John Meehan did a great job with the interviews. He seemed to love the dancers and to be so excited about their success. I overheard some ladies behind me saying they had to get tickets this season to see them, which is I think pretty much what everyone felt.

#6 Calliope

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 11:59 AM

Did they go into at all, why ABT seems to encourage the dancers to "compete" as opposed to other companies?
I've always been curious. Perhaps it's because ABT doesn't have a particular "style"?

#7 balletmama

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 05:18 AM

Calliope, they didn't say much about why they encourage dancers to compete. I'm sure we can all guess that prestige is a factor, though several dancers mentioned the excitement of meeting dancers and ADs from around the world. When John Meehan was talking with Michelle Wiles and David Hallberg, he observed that the Bruhn prize is a way for corps and solo dancers to get to the next level.

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 06:08 AM

The Bruhn competition is rather atypical; it isn't an open competition. It involves four companies that Bruhn was associated with (Royal Ballets of UK & Denmark, ABT and tha National Ballet of Canada) and the companies each nominate one young couple it feels has promise to participate.

#9 carbro

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Posted 12 February 2003 - 05:40 PM

It was also evident that these dancers generally emerged from schools in places where their direct exposure to *The Dance World* is severely limited -- and vice versa. Most of the dancers noted that they were drawn by the opportunity to see who was out there and what they were doing. Also implied: opportunity to be seen/gain credibility as potential professionals.

#10 balletstar811

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Posted 09 March 2003 - 10:39 AM

Balletmama,

When did Sarah [Lane] dance? She went to my studio, I love her! She is so amazing. When was this performance? Was it spectacular? Which pas de deux did she and her partner dance? The one from Act 2 (or is that the only one?) Hahaha, well please reply soon! :)

#11 cargill

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Posted 10 March 2003 - 06:34 AM

Sarah Lane danced the pas de deux from Corsaire, as I recall it was only the coda so she didn't do her solo. Her fouettes were amazing, but even on that small, cramped stage very close to the audience (it was at the Guggenheim), she had a real sense of character. I had seen her earlier in an ABT Studio Company performance, where she danced the lead in a new ballet by a student (very much influenced by Interplay, and none the worse for it--it suited the young dancers very well), and thought she was lovely and lyrical. It was quite a switch to see her as a technical whiz kid, but I really thought she was something special, not just technically, but she seemed to have a real sense of how to create someone interesting on stage.


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