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2015 Benois de la Danse Nominations

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Nominations were announced a couple of days ago for the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse 2015. Congratulations to Misty Copeland for being one of only five nominees for Female Dancer of the Year, for her performance of D. Rhoden's AVE MARIA as a guest with Complexions Company. She has tough competition, including Zakharova and Nunez, but wish her well.

The ceremonies are usually in mid/late May in Moscow, with Yuri Grigorovich president of the jury. I wonder if this means a trip to Moscow for Misty next month, in the midst of the ABT season?

www.benois.theater.ru (go to "News" page; both English and Russian)

With Grigorovich as the President of the jury, I'll eat my hat (or whatever) if Zakharova doesn't win the women's prize and Rodkin the men's. I also suspect Maillot will win the Choreographers prize for Taming of the Shrew (done for the Bolshoi).

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Yes, the nomination process is such a joke that the Benois is meaningless to me. I became convinced of this after an execrable ballet I saw, but which most of the jury could not have, was nominated for the choreography award courtesy of a friendly juror. The prize reached its nadir two years ago when all but two of the 17 nominees could be traced back directly to an AD/coach on the jury. Dwight Rhoden, Copeland and Clifford Williams owe their nominations to Desmond Richardson's presence in the jury, for performances given with his company, just as Kevin O'Hare put forth Christopher Wheeldon, Nuñez, Edward Watson and Joby Talbot, Ingrid Lorentzen nominated Alexander Ekman and Yolanda Correa, Vladimir Malakhov put forward Marian Walter, and Alexander Vetrov presumably nominated Maillot, Zakharova and Rodkin. It's not that there aren't worthy artists among them, but the award itself is tainted.

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Yes, the nomination process is such a joke that the Benois is meaningless to me. I became convinced of this after an execrable ballet I saw, but which most of the jury could not have, was nominated for the choreography award courtesy of a friendly juror. The prize reached its nadir two years ago when all but two of the 17 nominees could be traced back directly to an AD/coach on the jury. Dwight Rhoden, Copeland and Clifford Williams owe their nominations to Desmond Richardson's presence in the jury, for performances given with his company, just as Kevin O'Hare put forth Christopher Wheeldon, Nuñez, Edward Watson and Joby Talbot, Ingrid Lorentzen nominated Alexander Ekman and Yolanda Correa, Vladimir Malakhov put forward Marian Walter, and Alexander Vetrov presumably nominated Maillot, Zakharova and Rodkin. It's not that there aren't worthy artists among them, but the award itself is tainted.

Who do you think nominated Xander Parish? He's the only nominee from the Mariinsky.

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Parish is one of the few nominees without an obvious patron on the jury. But you raise a good point. Where are the other Mariinsky (POB, Royal Danish Ballet, New York City Ballet…) dancers? The Benois should make public exactly who nominated whom. Or would artistic directors suddenly become embarrassed about nominating ballets they commissioned themselves?

The idea of an international performance award is untenable. Nobody can have been everywhere and seen everything. It’s one thing to establish a theater prize for a single city, where it would be possible for a selection committee to see virtually every eligible candidate, and votes could be cast on the basis of live performances. But here you have a highly subjective and self-interested nomination process, and decisions are made on the basis of watching videos of variable quality. I think most of us recognize the perils of “You Tube assessments,” but that’s how ballet’s supposed “Oscars” are decided.

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The 2015 Benois de la Danse nominations were announced in Moscow on April 21. The winners

will be announced at the Bolshoi Theatre on May 26.

The nominees are:

Choreographers:

  • Alexander Ekman - "A Swan Lake," Mikael Karlsson. Norwegian National Ballet
  • Jean-Christophe Maillot - "The Taming of the Shrew," Dmitri Shostakovich, Bolshoi Ballet
  • Dwight Rhoden - "Verse Us," W.A. Mozart, Nils Frahm, Claude Debussy, Phillip Glass, Sven Helbig, Kristian Jarvi. Ballet Nice Mediterrannee,
  • Martin Schlapfer - "Deep Field," Adriana Holzsky. Ballet am Rhein.
  • Christopher Wheeldon - "The Winter's Tale," Joby Talbot. The Royal Ballet, London.

Ballerinas:

  • Misty Copeland - "Ave Maria," V. Kagen-Paley/D. Rhoden. Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
  • Yolanda Correa - Tatiana in "Onegin," P. Tchaikovsky/J. Cranko. The Norwegian National Ballet.
  • Nicoletta Manni - Death in "Le Jeune Homme et La Mort," J.S. Bach/Roland Petit. La Scala Ballet
  • Marianela Nunez - The leading part in "Symphonic Variations," Cesar Franck/Sir Frederick Ashton. The Royal Ballet, London.
  • Svetlana Zakharova - Marguerite Gautier in "Lady of the Camellias," F. Chopin/ J. Neumeier, Mekhmene-Banu in "Legend of Love," A. Melikov/Y. Grigorovich. Bolshoi Ballet.

Dancers:

  • Akram Khan - The leading part in "Dust," J. Pook/A. Khan. English National Ballet
  • Xander Parish - Aminta in "Sylvia," L. Delibes/Sir Frederick Ashton. Mariinsky Ballet
  • Denis Rodkin - Ferkhad in "Legend of Love," A. Melikov/Y. Grigorovich. Bolshoi Ballet
  • Marian Walter - Morel in "Proust ou Les Intermittences du Coeur," G. Faure/R. Petit. Staats Ballet Berlin
  • Clifford Williams - The Guide in "Ave Maria," V. Kagan-Paley/D. Rhoden. Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
  • Edward Watson - Leontes in "The Winter's Tale, J. Talbot/Christopher Wheeldon. The Royal Ballet, London.

Composers:

  • Konstantin Meladze - "Great Gatsby," choreography by D. Rhoden
  • Joby Talbot - "The Winter's Tale," choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. The Royal Ballet, London.

Scenographer:

  • John MacFarlane - Hummingbird, Phillip Glass/L. Scarlett. San Francisco Ballet.

Libretto:

  • Marit Moum Aune - "Ghosts," N. P. Molvoer/M. Moum Aune, C. Espejord. Norwegian National Ballet
  • Dwight Rhoden - "Great Gatsby," K. Meladze/D. Rhoden.

http://benois.theatre.ru/english/massmedia/news/

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I'll never forget the year when one of the Shao Lin monks was nominated as Male Dancer of the Year, competing against the likes of Hallberg and Vasiliev. Benois nominees can be wacky...coming from left field.

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Many years ago Alexander Grant gave a talk about his career and told a story about being on a Russian jury. He wasn't happy about the nominees at all so he nominated a French dancer, after seeing a video of her the rest of the jury realized they couldn't in all conscience give the prize to anyone else and she won.

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With Grigorovich as the President of the jury, I'll eat my hat (or whatever) if Zakharova doesn't win the women's prize and Rodkin the men's. I also suspect Maillot will win the Choreographers prize for Taming of the Shrew (done for the Bolshoi).

Or Grigorovich and the jury decide to show the world they're color blind and progressive and award the women's prize to Misty Copeland.

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Or Grigorovich and the jury decide to show the world they're color blind and progressive and award the women's prize to Misty Copeland.

I haven't yet seen Nunez dance live but I have seen Zakharova live several times and Misty for more than a decade. IMO, Misty and Zakharova are not at all in the same league, not even a little bit close. As volcanohunter noted above, the only reason Misty got nominated is because Desmond Richardson is on the jury. The only ABT ballerinas who would be mildly competitive would be Gillian Murphy or Polina Semionova (unless you count Diana Vishneva as an ABT ballerina) but Polina won last year. But put Tiler Peck or Ashley Bouder in the competition and then maybe the Americans would have a chance.

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If they want to prove they are colour blind they could vote for Akram Khan as best male dancer. Both a modern dancer and choreographer he is also a brilliant exponent of Indian classical dance, he lives and breathes his art and is one of the most compelling performers you will ever see. His ballet Dust for English National Ballet was the best new work I've seen by a British choreographer in years - strange it isn't nominated for best choreography, I'm surprised that Jocelyn Pook isn't being nominated for her score for that work as well.

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It appears that all of the nominated works will be performed on May 26, on the stage of the main Bolshoi Theatre. That's just three days before the NY premiere of The Sleeping Beauty. I was hoping to see Misty in Bluebird pdd at the premiere but it may not happen if it's so close to the Benois awards gala. Maybe she'll be on a jet back to NY on the 27th?

Someone asked about Xander Parish's connection to someone on the jury. Perhaps an indirect connection to RB director Kevin O'Hare, since Xander is an alumnus to the RB and a British citizen? Current RB principal Watson also nominated for his role in Wheeldon's Winter's Tale...which has several nominations and could be a huge win for Wheeldon (who is also set to win BIG at the Tony Awards). Will there be a Tony and Benois for Wheeldon within 10 days' time?

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I haven't yet seen Nunez dance live but I have seen Zakharova live several times and Misty for more than a decade. IMO, Misty and Zakharova are not at all in the same league, not even a little bit close. As volcanohunter noted above, the only reason Misty got nominated is because Desmond Richardson is on the jury. The only ABT ballerinas who would be mildly competitive would be Gillian Murphy or Polina Semionova (unless you count Diana Vishneva as an ABT ballerina) but Polina won last year. But put Tiler Peck or Ashley Bouder in the competition and then maybe the Americans would have a chance.

If Misty were nominated for a classical role, I'd agree with you she wouldn't stand a chance against Zakharova. Since she's nominated for a contemporary role, there's still hope for the home team. I consider Mariinsky as Vishneva's home company even though she had more performances with ABT than with Mariinksy during the past year. If she's nominated next year for her role in the new Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty, then she'd be nominated as an ABT ballerina.

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If Misty were nominated for a classical role, I'd agree with you she wouldn't stand a chance against Zakharova. Since she's nominated for a contemporary role, there's still hope for the home team. I consider Mariinsky as Vishneva's home company even though she had more performances with ABT than with Mariinksy during the past year. If she's nominated next year for her role in the new Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty, then she'd be nominated as an ABT ballerina.

Since Vishneva only performs approximately 4 times per season at ABT these days, I'm surprised to learn that she performed more with ABT than with the Mariinsky.

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Since Vishneva only performs approximately 4 times per season at ABT these days, I'm surprised to learn that she performed more with ABT than with the Mariinsky.

Including the performances she toured with ABT to Japan and CA, I believe she performed more with ABT than MB this past year.

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At the second Benois gala on May 27 Nicoletta Manni is scheduled to dance Roland Petit's "Cheek to Cheek" with Luigi Bonino. I'm now willing to take a wild guess as to the source of her nomination. dry.png Gosh, you'd think the Benois organizers would at least discourage joint performances by nominees and jurors.

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With Grigorovich as the President of the jury, I'll eat my hat (or whatever) if Zakharova doesn't win the women's prize

Your diet is safe, Amour. About 25 minutes ago the Bolshoi press department sent out an e-mail announcing that Zakharova had won the prize. It didn't mention any of the other winners.

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"...dry.png Gosh, you'd think the Benois organizers would at least discourage joint performances by nominees and jurors."

Exactly. It was (almost) a foregone conclusion what the results would be. Since 1992 one has to simply look at the names on the jury and the nominees, and there's a +95% chance you can predict who the winners will be. Personally, I think it's systematic i.e. they're going through the alphabet over and over, so that eventually everyone of note will either get nominated or win before they retire or die. At least this year's winners received their statuettes. A few weeks ago in Petersburg, Dance Open announced its winners, but on the day of the announcements they didn't have statuettes to give them. For this ceremony, that was a first. Only in Russia.

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Most of the prizes went to The Winter's Tale: Wheeldon, Watson, Talbot.

Surprised, but happy. I loved Winter's Tale. I thought it was his best full length ballet to date- far superior to his Cinderella or Alice in Wonderland. This is such an exciting time for Wheeldon. He is favored to win various awards for An American in Paris at the Tony Awards on June 7.

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