The Highs and Lows of the Benois de la Danse
Uliana Lopatkina and Andrey Yermakov in Hans Van Manen's Trois Gnociennes. Photo © Mikhail Logvinov.
The Benois de la danse is a major international dance prize for ballet professionals but little known in the States. Produced in cooperation with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, this year the nominees include dancers from Italy, Germany, the U.S., England, Norway and, of course, Russia. Winners included Christopher Wheeldon in choreography (for The Winter’s Tale at The Royal Ballet), the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and The Royal Ballet’s Edward Watson. (For a complete list of winners, nominees and jury members, click here.) In some years the U.S. was not represented on the jury, but this year Desmond Richardson, who is a beloved performer in Russia, served as a juror. I attended the two-night Benois celebration, May 26–27, as a guest of the Benois.
Clifford Williams in Dwight Rhoden's And So It Is. Photo © Jack Devant.
High points • Alexandra Ekman, European dancer/choreographer: For his Thoughts at the Bolshoi, he cleared the sometimes musty air at the Bolshoi Theatre by switching on bright white lights, walking on with a bench under his arm, and prancing around the stage impishly—even devilishly. Quirky and speedy, he somehow made running around in circles a witty, comic act.• The Bolshoi’s Olga Smirnova: Ravishing in a swooning duet from Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Taming of the Shrew, partnered by Semyon Chudin.• Clifford Williams of Complexions: Amazing suppleness and power in Dwight Rhoden’s And So It Is, matching the elegance of the Bach harpsichord music.• Ivan Vasiliev: Tragically distorted as the Hunchback, he brought a great pathos to a duet with La Scala’s Nicoletta Manni from Roland Petit’s Notre Dame de Paris.• John Neumeier’s Desire: A sleek and heartfelt duet to Scriabin, danced beautifully by Hamburg Ballet stars Silvia Azzoni and Alexander Riabko.• Uliana Lopatkina of the Mariinsky Ballet: transfixing in Hans Van Manen’s meticulous yet bold Trois Gnociennes. I felt like I was in a snow globe with her, her partner (Andrey Yermakov) and the Satie music. Her Dying Swan was a statement of pristine, unaffected beauty.• Hamburg Ballet’s Alexander Riabko: As the man gone mad in Roland Petit’s Arlesienne, he held tension in during the first half, then burst into dashes and leaps across the stage to Bizet’s famous music.(The programs also included works by Ashton, MacMillan, Ek, Grigorovich, Schläpfer, Cranko, Nureyev, Gzovsky and Petipa.)The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Brigitte Lefèvre, and the first joint Positano/Benois Laureate, Ana Laguna, was on hand. (For more about Positano, where I am a member of the jury, see my previous posting here.)
Low Points • The fact that only one of the five winners (Svetlana Zakharova) was present to accept the award.• The obnoxious claqueur, meaning the man who yelled "Bravo" loudly and led the rhythmic clapping only for the Russians, not for any other dancers.• While Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, danced by the Bolshoi’s Evgenia Obraztsova and Chudin had a lovely expansive quality, the two dancers took bows between every section, slowing down the momentum of Balanchine's eight-minute gem.
For complete list of nominees, winners and jury members, and program credits, click here.
By Wendy Perron
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."