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Whitney Jensen's SPF Dec 13

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Just came upon this in November 24th's New Yorker dance listings:

The Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s version features a female Drosselmeier (played by Kozlova) and a very impressive young dancer in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy: the sixteen-year-old Whitney Jensen, who recently won a top honor at the international Varna Competition in Bulgaria. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 13 at 4 and 8.)

For those who do not follow competitions, she won the Special Distinction Grand Prix for Juniors, higher than a Gold Medal! Admirable to come back (she danced it last year) to dance in her teacher's Nutcracker.

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Saturday matinee, December 13, 2008

Varna Champion Whitney Jensen in Valentina Kozlova's Nutcracker

Even though Ms. Kozlova plays Drosselmeyer (here a Countess) this is a very traditional Nutcracker, and even though there are some professional dancers this is very much a school performance. And it is the school's style that stands out. Very Russian, of course, but far more Bolshoi than (contemporary) Mariinsky. No ballerinas here trying to kick stars out of the sky, just the harmony of indivisible upper and lower bodies, dancing with rigor and personality.

Sugar Plum Fairy Whitney Jensen first appears early in Act II, welcoming the participants to Land of the Sweets. Toward the end, she and her regular partner Albert Davydov dance the grand PdD: adagio, two variations each, and coda. Ms. Jensen's first moments on stage speak wonders. She seems to tower majestically over the scene: Symphony Space's stage is small and many of the student dancers are, of course, not yet to full height. But it is, I think, her posture, so admired by Vladimir Vasiliev at Varna, that accounts for much of this majesty (her natural blonde beauty doesn't hurt, either). There is a rightness for the authority of this role, and a right for her to be the ballerina dancing it. If Ms. Jensen does go beyond competitions (frankly winning anything else after Varna Junior Special Distinction Grand Prix would be a step down), I hope she finds a company with strong coaching and a sense that, though she might well begin with some non-principal roles, this authority would best not be held back or deflected for certain very homogeneous corps work. Throughout her performance she projects loads of warmth, but real interaction (to miss a kiss of Clara's cheek by more than a foot, for example) probably needs the nourishment of being in a company. Technically, she reflects the school's whole-dancer approach. The arms and hands amaze, but always and only in context of the complete picture. There are the prize-winning, yet never excessive moves, fouettes especially. These turns have none of the flailing-too-high working leg's foot that may be seen in some St. Petersburg ballerinas...

There are other dancers coming of age under Ms. Kozlova. Among those who seem just about company-ready is Snow Queen (and later in Waltz of the Flowers) Lindsay Colavito (clearly ready for a physically larger stage!), and among the Snowflakes (this Snow Scene is among the highlights of Valentina's production), a long-stemmed blonde who brought hints of NYCB's Tess Reichlen, within context of the school's softer style. In Act II Zsofia Solta showed splendid allegro as the Russian. The young Clara (Masha), Maggie Yin Horowitz, later got to flash her pointes in a diagonal of pirouttes in which she rapidly changed legs. There are a lot of gifted young talents here.

My favorite Whitney Jensen memory came after the ballet ended. The dancers on stage for their bows, and out came Valentina Kozlova to praise and thank the audience, and tell us that they would be back on June 13, graduation performance, with Act III Swan Lake, some of Russlan and Lyudmilla, and a premiere. Throughout this Whitney's faced glowed with the kind of love that I've seen Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballerinas radiate on occasions when their teachers joined them on stage. This was a Russian ballerina and her Russian teacher. Where you're born doesn't matter. A ballerina is a ballerina.

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But it is, I think, her posture, so admired by Vladimir Vasiliev at Varna, that accounts for much of this majesty (her natural blonde beauty doesn't hurt, either). There is a rightness for the authority of this role, and a right for her to be the ballerina dancing it.

One of the things that struck me most about Jensen's performance in the Harlekinad pas de deux clips on YouTube were how lifted and vertical she is in the supported pirouettes. She just kept getting taller!

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Whitney Jensen debuted yesterday and will also dance Maria today in the Nutcracker with the Hungarian National Ballet. She is billed as a "ballet virtuoso" under her name on the website. Her partner for both performances is Vladimir Arhangelski who was until this season (when he started in Budapest) a longtime principal with the Estonian National Ballet. Is there a chance that anyone on BT saw or is seeing the performance?

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Sorry I did not see this performance but Ms Jensen has recently been taking class with Ballet West. I believe this is her home when she's not in NY or performing in Europe.

She is looking beautiful and in my opinion an artist has taken the place of a the little girl technician I saw last year.

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