Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

corps dancers we love as if they were stars

Paul Parish

Recommended Posts

I mainly watched her, since I "knew" her. So nice that she's gotten a mention in this thread. I, too, love her dancing. :)

That's one of the great pleasures of being able to follow one company over a period of time. Dancers who have this kind of effect on us definitely deserve a :wink:

Link to comment

Miriam Mahdaviani. My eye always went to her when she danced at NYCB, a short, dark-haired dancer among all of the redwoods.

There are several young dancers at PNB that are terrific additions to the corps:

*The lovely Liora Reshef, whose expansive port de bras are always wonderful to see, and as the third (?) in line in the shade corps in Doug Fullington's recreation of excerpts from "La Bayadere" (from his second "Balanchine's Petipa" lecture/demo), she moved as fully by the end as she had at her entrance.

*I don't know her name, but she's a slender, light-haired dancer who was next to Reshef at the end of the second-to-last movement of "Emeralds" and had very expressive arms and neck and was beautiful to watch. I can't tell from the program who she is, but I'm hoping that process-of-elimination will work later in the season.

*Eric Hippolito Jr. He mesmerized me in a student performance a few years ago, but my process-of-elimination was faulty, and I thought he was another dancer who was not in the Professional Division and went to college. Luckily for us, he is now a corps member.

Stallwarts of the corps are Kari Brunson, Lindsi Dec, Laura Gilbraith, and Brittany Reid, all of who have performed demi-soloist and featured roles, and who are in the Renee Estopinal and Wilhemina Fernandez Frankfurt* mold of tall, full-bodied movers with sweep and presence. Dec and Gilbraith have been given a number of Principal roles in the past couple of years. Peter Boal said he convinced Reid not to retire at the end of last season, and I'm not sure what her long-term plans are. Brunson was stunning in the Susan Marshall's aerial work, "Kiss" a few years ago.

*confusing opera singers with ballet dancers (and she was a Wilhemenia) :wink:

Link to comment
I don't know her name, but she's a slender, light-haired dancer who was next to Reshef at the end of the second-to-last movement of "Emeralds" and had very expressive arms and neck and was beautiful to watch. I can't tell from the program who she is, but I'm hoping that process-of-elimination will work later in the season.

Helene, I believe you may be thinking of Claire Stallman. She has very blond hair and a very young-looking face, and she's the same dancer who was the last member of the corps to exit and posed in the doorway in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. I can think of others who might fit the bill, though, if this guess is wrong.

Link to comment

Two that have caught my eye lately at SFB are Clara Blanco and Ashley Muangmaithong. Clara was wonderful in a demi-solist role last Saturday in Possokhov's Fusion, holding my attention though dancing alongside Yuan Yuan Tan and Vanessa Zahorian; two dancers who are always riveting. And Ashley has stood out in recent performances with a beautiful line and port de bras that seems to emulate that of Yuan Yuan's. She's one corps member that I'm particularly finding rewarding to watch.

Link to comment
Two that have caught my eye lately at SFB are Clara Blanco and Ashley Muangmaithong.

I very much agree about Clara Blanco. Last December, she danced a very nice, if rather small-scaled Nutcracker GPdD: very clean and almost academic, but with great charm (those dimples!). Then this season, she knocked me out with a passionate and riveting Nora (I think that was the one) in Ibsen's House. For somebody who looks like a kewpie doll, she can pour on the drama when she needs to. And you're right: she really held her own with Tan and Zahorian (and Frances Chung) in Fusion.

I haven't picked Ashley Muangmaithong out yet, but I'll watch for her.


Link to comment

Zhong-Jing Fang: my daughter, Fiona (a retired professional ballerina), became friends with "ZJ" when the ABT performed in Los Angeles several seasons ago. Fiona, being "Eurasian" (i.e., part Chinese) herself, was interested in this young dancer from China, and went back to the artists' entrance after that first performance to meet her. We've met several times since, and gone for apre-performance snacks near the LA Music Center. Fiona says that ZJ is what she calls "a miracle dancer", and looks to see her in more and more featured roles at ABT before too long. May it be sooner rather than later!

Link to comment

At Birmingham Royal Ballet there are a number of young dancers whom I enjoy watching very much:

James Barton is a beautifully neat dancer, very deft and an excellent actor. He made a wonderful debut as Petrushka last year - very moving - and is hilarious in Alaskan Rag. He, and another of my favourites - Nathanael Skelton (a very elegant dancer) - were the first two dancers from Elmhurst to be offered contracts after that school hooked up with BRB.

Callie Roberts has also caught my eye since she joined a couple of years ago. She has a vivacious stage presence.

Chris Rogers-Wilson has proved to have a real talent for comedy and has a smile that lights up the auditorium without the need for lights!

Jonathan Caguioa has a lovely warm stage presence and lights up every performance that he is in.

Link to comment

This thread hasn’t been active yet in 2010, but I thought it worth updating to say that Ashley Muangmaithong continues to impress in SFB’s current season. Her long svelte line always draws my eye when she’s dancing, and it seems that she has had more roles this year, so maybe Helgi Tomasson is noticing too. She has a quick attack in allegro pointe work and a wonderfully soft lyrical port de bras. On top of that she can look fashion model stunning just standing, as in the glamorous evening gown costume she wore in The Little Mermaid; in the tight black costume for Zanella’s Underskin she was simply a wow! Maybe, it’s her body type that I’m drawn too, but it’s also that of Yuan Yuan’s, which is probably why I focus in on Ashley too.

Link to comment

Thanks, terpsicoeur (great name, by the way!), for reviving this thread. You made me think of a very different kind of dancer from Ms. Muangmaithong, the Miami City Ballet crps member, Sara Esty.

This season, Esty has grown into a number of soloist and even principal roles, most recently the Girl in Yellow in Dances at a Gathering. Her joy of dancing, sunny temperament, and lovely technique are infectious.

I always look for her when the curtain rises, whether she starts out at the back of the stage or out in front.

Link to comment

Thanks Bart for a quick reply. Appears you have a very good eye if you spotted Sara Esty early as a corp dancer -- never seen Miami Ballet except on video but I love Dances at a Gathering. Your description of Sara makes me think of another SFB dancer fairly new to the corp: Sasha DeSola. Also like a splash of sunlight. Last program I saw her in was Tomasson's Haffner Symphony (a wonderful piece) and she was in a section (3rd Movement) with three girls and one boy (Vitor Luiz, and I loved the bit where Vitor partnered two of the girls in turn and Sasha comes up and taps him on the shoulder as if to say "Don't forget me!" So charming! Another corp dancer worth mentioning, in that section, and getting a lot of stage time this season, is Dores Andre. If I had to guess I suspect she might be the next girl promoted out of the corp. Oh, and I shouldn't neglect Shannon Roberts (so beautiful) and Courtney Elizabeth. All these girls catch my eye over and over again.

Link to comment

This topic is very nice,but it is only suitable for the New York City Ballet and the North American companies because their repertoires are mostly Balanchine,and he is the only choreographer who really gives attention to the corps de ballet,not counting the more recent choreographers of course.This does not work as well with European companies whose repertoires are not based on Balanchine,as can be seen from this thread where memorable corps dancers are all from the NYCB.Petipa,Macmillan,Cranko,Ashton,Bournonville do not shed so much light on the corps de ballet.That said,these dancers must be true artists because they shine onstage,even if they are only Girl No. 14 from the left.In the Royal I admire Sian Murphy,Lauren Cuthbertson,Christina Arestis,Kristen Mcnally,and Natasha Oughtred.In the Paris Opera:Alexandra Cardinal,who is one of the most beautiful woman dancing,and Veronique Doisneau,Juliette Gernez,and Aurore Cordellier.In the Stuttgart I like Katarzina Kozielska,and Vanessa Valdueza Tauroni who have to dance in the star-centric Cranko repertoire and still stand-out.

Why is this topic only suitable for NYCB and North American companies? I see nowhere any mention made of the greatest company in the world - the Mariinsky. And - as for Balanchine being the only choreographer who "really gives attention to the corps de ballet" - I completely disagree as imo Petipa is the master of choreographic composition for the corps de ballet, and Balanchine himeself acknowledged his huge debt to Petipa. Without Petipa there would have been no Balanchine. Just look at Petipa's use of the corps - as a framework, the inventiveness of the floor patterns made by the corps, the sheer technique and unanimity of style needed to dance his corps work impeccably. Petipa is master of choreography for the corps de ballet. No other choreographer could imagine or choreograph a scene of such genius as the entry of the shades in Bayadere, for example. It is a pinnacle of choreographic inventiveness and sublime in its simplicity. Petipa is the master of ballet. And imo the dancers who perform his choreography the best and as he would have intended, are those in the Mariinsky. Today's corps de ballet at the Mariinsky contains approximately 100 ballerinas, each of whom would be a soloist in any other company in the world. If we are to talk about particular dancers, then I must mention Yulia Stepanova, Nadia Batoeva, Anastasia Nikitina, Viktoria Krasnokutskaya and Dasha Vasnetsova. Dasha has been in the company for 8 years, still a coryphee but dances often in the corps, as do the first four, who were promoted a few months ago. Still in the corps are Oksana Marchuk, Viktoria Brileva, Margarita Frolova, Alisa Sokilova ... really the list is endless. All of these girls have amazing star quality and should already be principal dancers - in any other company in the world they would be principals. Such is the greatness of the Mariinsky, that even its corps de ballet contains dancers of this great calibre. So if you ask which are wonderful corps dancers and which is the greatest corps de ballet, then the answer must always be the Mariinsky has the best corps de balleet in the world, and any one of its corps de ballet dancers would be a soloist anywhere else.
Link to comment

Tiara, I totally agree with you from what I have seen. I was just watching one of my Raymonda videos last night, and Petipa's choreography (although maybe slightly changed by Sergeyev? Not sure) is so gorgeous you almost want to cry. With the Mariinsky my favorite moments are actually becoming the moments when the corps dances and the upper bodies of every single dancer is like ocean waves down to the fingertips. The famous Sleeping Beauty waltz is another breathtaking moment in Mariinsky videos. I think the "stars" are great to watch, but the corps is amazing also, almost a star unto itself!!! So lovely! Can't wait to get home and pop in a video tonight!!!!

Link to comment

The original poster argued that the choreography for the corps in Balanchine's work makes it that much easier for dancers to be recognized individually. Balanchine wasn't that interested in unison -- for the Mariinsky, corps unison is one of the goals -- and, on the whole, is a lot more dynamic than in the "after Petipa" choreography that Mariinsky dances most of the time. At NYCB, a senior corps role is "Concerto Barocco," the corps-only "Le Tombeau de Couperin," or Act II Divertissement couple in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," all of which demand and energy and dynamics that "Kingdom of the Shades," Wilis, and the white acts of "Swan Lake" don't; their virtues are different.

I've always found that, despite the unison, my eye is drawn to specific dancers in the Bolshoi, Mariinsky, and Paris Opera Ballet corps, even if I don't know who the dancers are.

I don't know what the contract structure is for the Mariinsky or Bolshoi these days, but once in POB or RDB, it's essentially a guaranteed contract until mandatory retirement age, and for the vast majority of dancers in the companies, they will remain corps for their entire career. At NYCB, there is a year-to-year contract, and the average career of a corps dancers is quite short. (There's economic incentive, or at least reward, to replace older corps members with new ones, as there are salary ladders that increase with longevity.) There is always a trade-off between experience and the new: performances by experienced dancers who've been performing in the corps of "Swan Lake" for two decades can be deep or rote, just as performances of new corps members can be energized or superficial. What is nearly universal is dancers' wish to be recognized and to dance featured roles, and being a lifetime corps members isn't what most aspire to, at least originally.

At NYCB Principals make up 28% of the company and Soloists another 11%. (The Mariinsky corp is 24% larger than the entire NYCB.) When nearly 40% of the company advances is in the upper ranks, apart from some Lifetime Achievement awards, to get there, they had to have plenty of opportunities for featured corps roles, demi-soloist and soloist roles, and, in many case, principal roles, opportunities which are rare for most Mariinsky corps members. The Mariinsky, Bolshoi, and Paris Opera Ballet companies, are very hierarchy oriented -- Nureyev caused a huge fuss when he broke ranks on this in Paris -- even though the Principals+First Soloist in the case of the Mariinsky (total of 27 vs. 24 for NYCB's Principals) are a much lower percentage of the company on the whole, which is not surprising, since the Petipa/Ivanov-based classics rarely have more than three leads and a handful of featured roles like "Peasant Pas" or Clemence and Henriette in "Raymonda," whereas a triple bill of "Concerto Barocco" (3 leads and fantastic small corps parts), "Agon (4 leads, four demi-soloists, and corps), and "Symphony in C" (4 leads, 8 demi-soloists, and corps) gives a lot of dancers lots of opportunities to be noticed.

As far as the Mariinsky having the best corps de ballet in the world, that would depend on the rep and the time. Both the Mariinsky corps and the NYCB corps have had their up and down years, and their schools have had bumper crop and fallow years. From film and the few performances I've seen of them live in the Balanchine rep, they certainly don't do Balanchine as well as the NYCB corps. From what I've seen of the Mariinsky on tour -- all in the post-Soviet years --I prefer the Bolshoi corps' combination of energy and technique, and their performances in "Jardin Animé" was the best corps dancing in any classic I've ever seen.

As far as every Mariinsky corps member being able to be a soloist in any other company in the world, I'd also disagree, and I think companies with their own company styles, like Paris Opera Ballet might also take issue with your assertion. Every Mariinsky corps member most certainly wouldn't be ranked as soloist at NYCB, either.

Link to comment

Helene, these are some very thoughtful comments, but this one took me by surprise.

(The Mariinsky corp is 24% larger than the entire NYCB.)

If you'd asked me, I probably could have said it was one of the largest corps, but I don't think I knew this particular comparison.

Link to comment

I suspect it makes going on maternity leave a lot easier to schedule than say, at PNB. On the other hand, the Mariinsky splits the company up to tour and present in St. Petersburg concurrently.

I'm only mentioning NYCB in terms of Balanchine performances, but there are other companies, like PNB and Ballet Arizona that do amazing work in Balanchine works in corps and featured roles -- they're not on four-eight weeks straight three times a year, so they tend to dance every performance as if it's a privilege -- and the San Francisco Ballet corps did a stellar job in the Balanchine "Coppelia." I've only seen Miami City Ballet on film.

Link to comment

I send my valentine to Nina Golskaya, because even when 80-85% of principals and soloists are not to my liking, seeing her in the corps gives me something to grab on to. She may be required to do only a little bit of dancing on the sidelines, but what stands out is her very genuine aura and sincere smile. This is especially valuable at the Bolshoi, where so many of the women come across on stage as aloof and haughty glamour girls, not exactly warm or friendly. Golskaya, on the other hand, restores my faith that the unaffected and real can exist in such a place.

Edited by volcanohunter
Link to comment
7 hours ago, ClaraFan said:

Betsy McBride of ABT (formerly a star at Texas Ballet Theater) is somebody I'd love to see in real life. I love her social media. She seems very talented and happy where she is.

Boy, I didn't even know this thread existed.

McBride is one of my new favorite dancers at ABT. I saw her perform a lot this past Met season, and she is indeed very talented with a wonderful onstage persona. I really hope to see her continually given bigger parts. I can definitely picture her as a soloist someday soon.

Link to comment

Among NYCB corps dancers, I truly admire Preston Chamblee, Roman Mejia and the sparkling Von Enck sisters. I recall a recent performance of Divert #15 in which the Von Encks were paired together in the corps movement (Rondo?)...mirrored perfection.

Other than NYCB - I've long admired the Mariinsky's Margarita Frolova, who graduated about 10 years ago top of her class (prof. Kovaleva) but, somehow, has remained in the corps despite a few solo opportunities (Cinderella sister, odalisque, and so on).

Link to comment

At NYCB, I like Devin Alberda a lot. His jumps are so buoyant and he has an elan and fluidity that stands out. I also often find myself watching Preston Chamblee, Christina Clark, Isabella LaFreniere, Roman Mejia, Miriam Miller, and Lydia Wellington.

At ABT, I like Joo Won Ahn, Kaho Ogawa, and Gabe Stone Shayer.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...