Dance Matters: The Benois Goes Modern

Every year the Benois de la Danse gathers top dancers from around the world in a whirlwind two-day event in May. For its 20th anniversary, held at the lavishly restored, czarist-flavored Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the Benois, known more in Russia and Europe than in the U.S., attracted a full house both nights.

The award in choreography went to Lar Lubovitch, the only dancemaker in the U.S. to be so honored. When receiving the award, he said, “I make dances, which is a crazy thing to do. What’s crazier is that the world allows me to do it.”

The winning ballerina was Alina Cojocaru (who could not be there) and the male prize was tied between Mathias Heymann of Paris Opéra Ballet and Carsten Jung of Hamburg Ballet.

The program included Lubovitch’s mesmerizing sculptural duet from Meadow and Neumeier’s wistful falling-in-love scene (with bench and lamppost) from Liliom, danced by previous Benois winner Hélène Bouchet and Jung. The Bolshoi Ballet contributed a section of Don Quixote led by a sweetly proud Yevgenia Obraztsova, a 2012 nominee.

The gala, on the second night, featured dazzling ballerinas. To emphasize tradition, it was bookended by excerpts from Sleeping Beauty and Balanchine’s Diamonds. POB’s magnificent Marie-Agnès Gillot (see July cover story) performed a quirky premiere, by Stéphen Delattre. The most striking piece was Distant Cries by Edwaard Liang, which he had set on Bolshoi superstar Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Merkuriev, also of the Bolshoi. The choreography’s liquid quality, flecked with accents, brought out Zakharova’s elasticity as well as her daring.

The jury, chaired by Yuri Grigorovich, included Neumeier, Jorma Elo, Alessandra Ferri, Laurent Hilaire from POB, Manuel Legris (now heading Vienna State Ballet), and Kim Joo-Won of Korea National Ballet. These luminaries made the walk from the hotel to the theater full of impromptu meetings and conversations. —Wendy Perron


Kate Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis in Lubovitch’s Meadow. Photo by Mikhail Logvinov, Courtesy Benois.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

December 2020