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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July 2021