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
Essential oils sometimes get a bad rap. Between the aggressive social media marketing for the products and the sometimes magical-sounding claims about their healing properties, it's easy to forget what they can actually do. But if you look beyond the pyramid schemes and exaggerations, experts believe they have legit benefits to offer both mind and body.
How can dancers take advantage of their medicinal properties? We asked Amy Galper, certified aromatherapist and co-founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies:
Karen Azenberg, a past president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, stumbled on something peculiar before the union's 2015 move to new offices: a 52-year-old sealed envelope with a handwritten note attached. It was from Agnes de Mille, the groundbreaking choreographer of Oklahoma! and Rodeo. De Mille, a founding member of SDC, had sealed the envelope with gold wax before mailing it to the union and asking, in a separate note, that it not be opened. The reason? "It is the outline for a play, and I have no means of copyrighting…The material is eminently stealable."