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Sorry this post is a bit late. I attended this ballet gala on April 28, 2002. The show has toured many international cities, and came back to Toronto after 5 years. It was truly a remarkable programme, with dancers of a calibre that Torontonians rarely have the opportunity to see. From start to finish, the evening was a real treat for balletomanes.

First on the programme was Le Corsaire pdd, danced by 2 exciting young dancers: Daniela Severian of the National Ballet of Portugal and Marcin Krajewski of Ballet Opera Wiesbaden. These were the only dancers on the roster that I was not familiar with, and they turned out to be a surprising highlight of the evening. Severian is a petite Brazilian with sharp technical precision, and enough confidence to open this gala of stars with style. She reminds me a bit of Paloma Herrera, except she has a more beautiful port de bras and upper body carriage. She throws off 32 fouettes with ease- and a few doubles and triples too! Not to be outdone, Krajewski pulled out all the stops in his solo and the coda. His energy and the height of his jumps were incredible. His double tours with one leg in passe (don't know what to call it), were flawless. He overrotated on a few jumps, but it was refreshing to see a talented young dancer not holding anything back. They did look a bit hesitant in the adagio though, probably because they are from different companies and maybe haven't danced together a lot.

Severian and Krajewski each performed later their own solos. Both choreographed by Ben Van Cauwenberghe, and to French music with a Parisian feel. Krajewski's "Les Bourgeois" was one of my favourites. He combined his strong, virtuosic technique with superb comedic style. His facial expressions, mime, and costume (complete with fake cigarette) made for a complete performances that brought the house down. Severian danced to "Non, Je ne Regrette Rien" in a long black dress, and showcased her dramatic range, maturity, and... more fouettes! She also did fouettes in the finale, where dancers each had a turn to do a last diagonale or a few steps to the music of Diana and Acteon. What a turner she is!

Desmond Richardson's modern solo, Fauvre was also a huge hit with this audience who seemed focused on "tricks"- clapping after every jump, spin, and extreme extensions ( later, by Lucia Lacarra). He is very talented, and moves with fluidity and energy.

One of the biggest delights for me was Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky dancing Tchaikovsky pdd. They look great together, and Irina especially was really "on" that night. She had some gorgeous extended balances, perfect turns, and great speed and lightness in her variation. Belotserkovsky also has an elegant line and clean technique. Later, they appeared in Farewell. I enjoyed bits of this modern pdd, but they were much more memorable in their first appearance.

The audience didn't seem to appreciate as much the more subtle and less flashy performances from Jaimie Tapper and Johan Kobborg, but I thought they were both excellent. It was nice to see Tapper back in Canada after so long! She looked beautiful as Giselle (Act 2), and has such a lightness in her jumps. Of course, Kobborg was impressive in Flower Festival- such ease in his batterie. And in Giselle, he was really acting the part, even though it is sometimes hard to do when just dancing an excerpt.

We saw Bolshoi's Svetlana Lunkina and Dmitri Gudanov in La Sylphide and in the Black Swan pdd. I am running out of superlative adjectives, but they were beautiful in La Sylphide, and I felt they achieved the Bournonville style very well- though sometimes a bit too showy. In Black Swan, Lunkina slipped during the adagio and later fell on her behind after the first few fouettes of the coda. She recovered well, immediately getting up and finishing the turns- though travelling to the side. Nonetheless, she is obviously a wonderful dancer and reacted very professionally to what seemed to be slippery shoes! In spite of the slips, she danced with character and self- assurance. She did a series of gorgeous grand jetes in the finale, her legs are so long! Gudanov was brilliant in both his solos (Sylphide and Siegfried), finishing everything in perfectly placed positions.

The other Svetlana, Zakharova, was ethereal in the Dying Swan- beautiful arms, and such a supple back.

Evelyn Hart and Rex Harrington danced a pdd called Impromptu to the music of Shubert choreographed by Derek Deane. Though they were the oldest performers and didn't have the technical virtuosity the others did, they certainly had a lot to offer. Their artistry and musicality was unmatched. With rumours of Hart's retirement, I am glad to catch any of her performances in Toronto!

The apparent stars of the night were Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre. I say this because they receiving the most enthusiastic applause, Lacarra is on all the posters, and in the final bow they were places in the centre, gave flowers to the artistic director of the programme, etc. Like Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky, they dance well together and have a strong rapport that lets difficult lifts and positions look easy. In the Light Rain pdd choreographed by Gerald Arpino, Lacarra's amazing extension was pushed to extremes. The music by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier is repetitive and hypnotic, and the pdd is mostly a series of poses instead of continous movement. Though I found Lacarra's oversplits and hyperextended legs impressive and beautiful, the pdd left me wondering what else she has to offer. For this reason, I prefered the Adagio for Strings which had a little more depth and drama.

Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed the gala and am looking forward to it next year (they said that next years programme is already underway). It was also my first time seeing all of these international dancers live, except for Eveyln Hart and Rex Harrington. So it was really great to be able to see these wonderful dancers that I read so much about in magazines, newspapers, and of course, right here on BalletAlert!

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