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corps dancers we love as if they were stars

Paul Parish

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On a thread about Dances at a Gathering, so many people posted about Delia Peters, whom they'd loved as the girl in green "though she was only a corps dancer" -- it made me think -- the corps dancer we all love as if they were a principal should be a topic of its own.

I'll start if off --I can think of 4 or 5 right off the bat in San Francisco -- but i hope others will join in

I'll start with Kim Davy, who isn't here any more.... but in Symphony in C, in the last movement, there's this tiny moment where 2 girls run forward from the back, doing hte first port de bras as they go, and make a huge circle and run back to the back, before the next big section begins --

Kim was the girl stage center left, and she made this one of the HIGHLIGHTS of the entire ballet -- it's just a run, but the phrase is kind of like a drumroll -- it announces that something even MORE wonderful than everything so far is ABOUT TO HAPPEN, and she made it like a cascade of pearls.......

And there was Askia Swift, also gone -- to Ailey? -- wonderfully musical, always, in everything. He wsa especially thrilling in Val Caniparoli's Lambarena, the plastique in the jumps was amazing, and the part of the body that initiated the movement -- it's a character ballet, with lots of Senegalese movement fused with ballet -- was always extremely clear -- his ribs were so expressive.....

And Chidozie Nzerem, who's also African American - -still with SFB, and a wonderfully answerable dancer-- when he was young, he was rather rigidly classical -- he was one of Larissa Sklyanskaya's greatest students, and his clarity and power were so noble and so Russian -- I saw him do the barrel turns from Corsaire at the student show, it was like the young Nureyev -- He's a wonderful character dancer -- as a guest at the Nutcracker party he steals he show, the character has been so thought through -- and of course, as the black face at the party, he does stand out..... But he does nothing to grab focus; he just is responsible for what you see. I LOVE that. As the tuba in Robbins fanfare.... He understands the vaudeville side of the role; he's a scream. And in d'Amboise's role in Western Symphony, again he understands the relation of the creature he’s presenting to antecedents in American popular theater and he uses all the tradition -- he's got some black shtick, he's got some cowboy shtick, he's got his Russian tricks, he's got his sweet danseur noble deference (as he ducks under her leg, well, that's what a cavalier would do, the lady's the man, its SO SWEET).... And with Leslie Young (who's Chinese American), they really look like the old wild west, where such racial mixing on an absolutely equal basis was a real possibility, maybe the first place in the world......

Not to mention Sara Sessions, the TALL GIRL in everything who was never out of the corps and in everything, a wonderful dancer, supple of spine, in modern stuff (Lar Lubovitch' has his corps BE the storm in Othello -- kind of an awful ballet as a whole, but with so MANY redeeming features, and she was fantastic), perfect in Agon, feet like arrows, wonderful elance.... perfect as the Wili center left in the back row, very fine in "Company B" -- and now the poster girl for ballet.co (here's the link to her interview.... http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/y...ra_sessions.htm)

And that's just a start.....

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I absolutely agree about Chidozie Nzerem...when is Tomasson going to promote him?

I was quite fond of Lindy Mandradjieff, and am glad she's getting some good roles at NYCB.

Also Eliane Munier and Alice LuAn Lewitzke, neither of whom is with the company anymore. Also Blanca Como Rosella, Yolonda Jordan, Marisa Lopez, Justin McMillan and Alex Ketley.

Can't forget Amanda Schull, of Center Stage fame, or Dalene Bramer, the cutest White Cat I ever saw.

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A contemporary of Peters was Bettijane Sills. She had a majestic and imperious appearance onstage. I was at a performance where the corps seemed to go into a case of mass amnesia, and phumphered around, looking for the counts, and Sills seemed single-handedly to put them all back on track. New boys to the company were often put with her to make sure that they had a partner with a firm grasp of what was going on. One of them was a very young Robert Weiss. It was in Balanchine's Don Quixote.

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Priceless, Mel -- what a great story!!!

Sarah sessions had to do thatone night when Lucia Lacarra was ballerina in Agon - - Lacarra looked great , but her timing was hers alone, and Sarah (among others -- I think Askia was in that cast) had to make everybody else look like they had a clue; there was some pretty big thrashing going on, and since hte energy was so high ,and that's so appropriate for Agon, it wasn't a BAD performance.... but htey sure weren't together....

and yes, Ballet Nut.... Lindy Mandradjieff !!!

reminds me, Elizabeth Miner, who IS still here, is an exquisite dancer.....

And Blanca Como was the best thing at the gala -- the way she danced Norwegian Moods was completely enchanting, so soft, but with an edge to her timing that took my breath away... A marvellous creature...

A big break for her...

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Paul, you can edit your message using the little "edit" icon...

I don't see POB performances that often, so I'm not very familiar with the corps de ballet dancers (all the more as the company is really big and some of them don't dance much). And also it is difficult to know if the "sujets" should be counted in the corps de ballet or as soloists (as they perform both kinds of roles). But well, among the oldest dancers of the company, I have a fondness for the sujet Jean-Marie Didière, in his early 40s now, and who dances many of the "bad guys" in all classical ballets, and also roles like "Don Quixote". He has so much stage presence and is very good at mime... And he was especially bright in Kader Belarbi's "Hurlevent" last season. Among the coryphée, Vincent Cordier is a tall dancer with a beautiful line, and for example he looked great recently in the corps de ballet of "Diamonds" in the Polonaise part. Also there are quite a lot of very good and reliable female sujets (one can really feel the difference when they're there or when there are only less experiences coryphees and quadrilles) like the joyful small Sandrine Marache, Nathalie Aubin and her beautiful feet, the very charming and graceful Miteki Kudo, Laure Muret who was so funny as the "girls with glasses" in Robbins' "The Concert"...

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There are so many corps de ballet dancers I adore in Paris! My really favourite ones are Isabelle Ciaravola, who has a beautiful line and very long legs, Guillaume Charlot, who according to a famous french critic, is a future prince with a perfect style (but I'm afraid he's too old now to become Premier Danseur). There are also Nathalie Aubin, Fanny Fiat, Miteki Kudo, Christophe Duquenne, Emmanuel Thibault (no one understands why he isn't promoted), Yann Saiz,who has danced a few times with Elisabeth Platel (Raymonda, Midsummer's Night Dream...), Nicolas Paul and Stéphane Phavorin. These are all sujets, it is easier to get to know how they dance since they dance some more important roles as well as being corps de ballet. Otherwise, I would also say I like Alexandra Cardinale, Aurore Cordellier and Matthieu Ganio.

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Paul love, that was Clara Blanco in Norweigan Moods.

Blanca Como left the company a while back -perhaps now a 'civilian.' I recall her being interviewed a while back and not having pleasant things to say about life in the dance world.

At SFB Michelle Wilson and Jennifer Blake were two of my "corps" favorites.


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Brioche, I have to thank you -- not just for setting me right about the Blancas, but for reminding me of Jennifer Blake. I was thinking of her when I made the post, but couldn't remember her name. Michelle Wilson was a lovely dancer, too -- but I was never there on a night when she took my breath away. Jennifer Blake, however, on a regular basis would come onstage like a comet -- in Ballo della Regina -- do you remember that? -- she was the girl with the grands jete/pas de chats, and she entered flying -- I believe this was also a role Wilhelmina Frankfurt danced, but maybe my memory has slipped again.

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Yes, pville, but Korbes and Bouder are not likely corps lifers. ;)

For me, the huge gaping hole remains in every role danced by Renee Estopinal. Tall, dark and pretty, she exuded sophistication, elegance and glamour and a certain girl-next-door accessibility and warmth. She was also modest, discussed as an indispensible characteristic on another thread. She never fussed over anything at a time when City's dancers tended to be very mannered.

Among her most notable roles were the Agon first pas de trois, demi in Third Movement Bizet (stage left), the Theme in Goldberg, and -- here's the vacuum -- Who Cares?, the Somebody Loves Me Section (the female quintet), where her status as a first among equals (the lady in the middle) really has not been matched by any of her successors. I know I am asking for a lot, but hey . . . can't help it.

As friends have heard me whine many a time, I miss Renee!!! :)

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Another unforgettable Estopinal role: the lead in the Ricercata section of Episodes. Her musicality and unfussy dignity were perfect for this part, and for years after she retired, when watching this ballet, I would mentally edit out the dancer onstage and replace her with Renée. Later, Maria Calegari gave a breathtaking performance in that role, but it's Renée's that sticks in my mind.

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I remember Estopinal, Frankfurt and Susan Freedman in the pas de quatre in Harlequinade. All dark haired beauties - but who was the fourth?

I also have to nominate Sean Savoye and Tracy Bennett. Bennett and Castelli were frequently paired in Agon, Div #15 and 4 Ts.

And Marjorie Spohn, such a creamy smooth way of dancing.

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Susan Freedman was stunning. I remember her elegant and fresh beauty especially in the ensemble of 'Serenade'. Gorgeous everything about her, attacking pique turns.

Marjorie Spohn, another fair, beautiful, perfect Balanchine type body.

Could it be Victoria Hall, liebs? Was she not part of that foursome in 'Mozartiana'.

Those women had a sophistication that I miss.

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I believe the lovely Victoria Hall was in Mozartiana's original foursome but left the company not too long after its premiere. She was replaced by (if that's the word) (no, the role was recast with) Nina Fedorova.

In Harlequinade, Nina had the role of the Statue-Come-to-Life, so that quartet would not have included her. Hmmm.:confused:

Garielle Whittle? I'm thinking Phlegmatic, where she had membership in that foursome.

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Susan Freedman was also wonderful as one of the sisters in Prodigal Son. She actually reacted to what was happening onstage (as opposed to the other sister, Carole Divet, who just stood there like she was waiting for a bus), and in the final scene added to the pathos with her compassion for the Prodigal.

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I think Fedorova was in the original cast of Mozartiana. It's in Balanchine's 'Mozartiana': The Making of a Masterpiece by Robert Maiorano. Balanchine was fond of her and in the book there's a nice bit about him complimenting her on her attitude turn and marking her name on the score at that point in the pas de quatre.

I always thought of Fedorova as the blonde Suzanne Farrell. What ever happened to her?

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