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Erik Bruhn Prize 2009

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Paul, Spaulding was wonderful in the contemporary piece, as were all the others.

carbro, I've got to get you a picture of what I mean. :)

Thanks, Rosa, Victoria, bart, and renata for all the lovely replies.

I don't have ready computer access, so wasn't able to write today. I will try tomorrow.

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Erik Bruhn Competition

Contemporary repertoire

From the program: “These ballets have been commissioned by each of the companies specifically for the Eighth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize. They are receiving their world premieres this evening. The Choreographic Prize will be awarded to one of the participating choreographers for best new contemporary choreography as determined by the panel of judges.”

1) Royal Danish BalletHilary Guswiler, Alban Lendorf

“An Elegy for Us”, choreography: Iain Rowe; Music: James MacMillan, Angel; Michael Byron, As She Sleeps with additional sound design by Iain Rowe

Stage has a dark cast. Piece begins with lots of walking to silence by each dancer. There are 2 chairs onstage. She sits down on one of them and the music starts. He shows off some entrechats and a grand jeté. She runs and jumps. He turns. She gyrates on one spot. She brings a chair next to his. He does a renversé and a grand jeté. She sticks her legs out. He twirls her in a split. He lifts her. He twirls her in another split. He lifts her again. The minor key music consists of chord, chord, note, note, sustained note, note, chord, and so on. They gyrate around each other. He runs and puts his chair in a new place. She gets hers and puts it right next to his. He moves his chair again. She picks hers up and places it next to his again. They sit. He moves his chair. She moves hers next to his yet again. He picks up his chair and throws it across the stage. It lands upside down. She stands stock still. He walks toward third wing. An unseen “door” opens beyond it, emitting the bright light of a room full of people partying. We hear loud party chatter (in English), above all a clear female voice whose words are distinctly understandable (I don't remember what they were, but they didn't seem to advance or explain the "plot"). He stands at the “open door”. She goes and stands next to him. They “enter” the “party room” together. The end.

My summation (there's nothing really that I can review or critique): The first of three "end of relationship" pieces, this one is a big, fat, 60s style, minimalist, experimental nothing (not to be confused with the 60s works of genius produced by Graham, Cunningham, Taylor, Alwin-Nikolais, etc.). Girl wants boy. Boy doesn't want girl. But they walk into party together. ?

It’s a real shame that Hilary Guswiler and Alban Lendorf, both in ballet slippers, didn’t get a chance to dance. They needed something wonderful to augment their overall competition score and were given walking, running, twirling, a couple of jetés for him, and a little gyrating, all of which they did very well. :) The choreographer, born in 1986, is a member of the corps de ballet.

Iain Rowe

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2) American Ballet Theater Isabella Boylston, Cory Stearns

“End.”, choreography: Marcelo Gomes; music: Franz Schubert, Piano Trio #2 in E Flat, 2nd movement (Andante con moto); piano: Mark Harjes; violin: Lynn Kuo; cello: Maurizio Baccante

Cory walks in. Isabella runs in and jumps on his back. This piece, too, is in a minor key, for it is clearly about a breakup where he doesn’t want her anymore. There is lots of beautiful, classical dancing. Isabella is in a romantic tutu with puffed sleeves and a gorgeous bodice, the just-below-the-knee skirt built up with several layers of lavender tulle covered by iridescent fuchsia chiffon. Her tights and pointe shoes are black. Cory is in grey: tights, shirt, and shoes, with a black vest.

This very balletic piece is full of advances by her and rejections by him. She goes to him, he pushes her away. There is partnering in-between the push-pull, with luscious supported pirouettes, Isabella’s foot in high passé. Her extensions are also high, and classical. A contemporary moment: She wipes his face and places his sweat on her own brow.

He resists her every time she tries to engage him. Cory has wonderful double tours, Isabella a beautiful entrelacé. She dances to him, he takes her by the shoulders and gives her two firm shakes, pushing her violently away from him. The dancers use all levels: floor, middle, and the air, to convey their feelings – she, always wanting him to take her in his arms and be hers again, and he, angrily and abruptly trying to get rid of her. Isabella’s technique shines through every movement, as does Cory’s. Her upper body is soft with expressive arms and beautiful port de bras. Her legs are powerful and confident. The music is seen through her movement. Every note of it is danced with smooth phrasing and vivid accents.

In their pas de deux parts, there are lots of backward flops into his arms. Before he strides briskly offstage, he gives her an intimate touch and with softness on his face, looks on hers with kindness (reminding me of one of my own past loves when we broke up). She is left alone onstage. She runs back and forth, then stops and reaches in the direction he left in one last gesture of painful yearning, turns and runs off in the opposite direction.

This was an achingly heartrending piece that should be seen by all for its exquisiteness. But it shouldn’t have been presented at this competition. It hurt Isabella's chances, I’m sure, by looking just too classical. Both Isabella and Cory are widely experienced in many styles of contemporary choreography, and New York is full of avant-garde choreographers who would have loved to have had the chance to compete for the $2000 (Cdn.) choreographer’s prize. I wanted everyone at the competition to see what a great contemporary dancer Isabella is. And, I would have loved to have seen Cory do something in a different vein from what I’ve seen him do before (excepting “Citizen”). I have convinced myself that the choice of this piece, as beautiful as it was, lost Isabella the competition, stellar as she was.

Marcelo Gomes

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3) Stuttgart BalletRachele Buriassi, William Moore

La Grande Parade du Funk”, choreography: Bridget Breiner; music: Chris Brubeck, Convergence, 3rd movement

He is shirtless, in bermuda shorts. She is in a bathing suit (or something that looks like one). Both costumes are blue in color. As the name implies, this piece was replete with funky dancing: feet turned in, walking on pointe, body isolations. Sometimes the couple danced in unison, sometimes they were each in a different part of the space dancing independently of each other. His hands were sometimes in his pockets, lookin’ cool and easy :flowers: .

Rachele Buriassi showed us sharp développés to head-height and excellent attitude turns. She and William Moore moved effortlessly through the upbeat piece which required lots of movement, something to do on every beat of the music. They were both really comfortable with the choreography – which was relatively easy – and showed the fun they were having. Some of the movements were made quirky because they were led by the head (think breakdancing). There were slides along the floor, and some simple partnering.

The audience loved the piece and so did I.

Bridget Breiner

Bridget Breiner, Ballerina Gallery

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3) San Francisco BalletDores Andre, Anthony Spaulding

Ebony Concerto, choreography: Val Caniparoli; music: Igor Stravinsky, Ebony Concerto; clarinet soloist: Max Christie

Dressed in a black t-shirt and pants, Anthony Spaulding begins the piece with a solo which includes turns, grand jetés, and isolations. I have scribbled in my notes “he’s really good at this”. Dores Andre, in a black lacy strapless top and a black ballet skirt (like the ones girls wear to class) contributes lots of body isolations as well -- arms, head, legs – and I’ve written “she’s really good, too.”

More grand jetés, jazzy moves, different ways of touching and connecting, all to a fast tempo. They cavort on the floor and several other levels. In a neat move, they’re both supine, she atop him, and he rolls her off in a sushi-roll-making motion. They dance different things concurrently on different parts of the stage (as in the last piece), then unite for some arm-y pas de deux. Drumbeats signal a new section of the piece, which is a kind of push-pull -- not the negative kind we saw in Marcelo's piece, but a dance-y, fun variety – sort of a can-you-top-this? contest.

Spaulding has soft-as-a-kitten landings. Andre has nice arms. This is a long piece that you wish would go on and on (I noted “best!”, as in best contemporary offering). The music is wonderfully utilized, with continuous movement that makes sense.

I was sure Val Caniparoli would win the choreographer’s prize with this innovative contemporary work.

Val Caniparoli

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5) National Ballet of CanadaElena Lobsanova, Noah Long

Dénouement, choreography: Matjash Mrozewski; music: Paul Tortelier, Suite in D minor for solo cello, movements 1 and 4

Noah Long: shirtless, with long maroonish-brown striped pants, brown ballet slippers

Elena Lobsanova: hot pink short shorts with a lacy maroon turtleneck top, pointe shoes

Matjash Mrozewski’s overly long rendering of his "anticlimax", while interesting in its use of space and form, was not a winner, in my estimation. I was sure they would call out Val Caniparoli’s name for the choreographer’s prize. I liked the piece well enough, and there were some nice lifts and a couple of attention-grabbing positions, but long before the end I was wondering when it would. That’s not a good sign.

Elena danced assuredly, displaying shapely extensions with no broken-foot “cupping” (see my first review of NBoC). Noah is an extremely sensitive partner who handles quirky choreography with aplomb. Perhaps due to the energy demands made by its length, it became noticeable toward the end of the piece that they were both working – not dancing – it. The final pose, a head-to-head embrace, came as a welcome relief for both dancers and (some of us in the) audience.

Matjash Mrozewski

Matjash Mrozewski after his win

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