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Youth America Grand Prix Gala 2014, "Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow", at David H. Koch Theater

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Youth America Grand Prix Gala 2014
Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center

Larissa Saveliev: Founder and Artistic Director
Gennadi Saveliev: Founder and President
Hosted by Hilaria Baldwin

Featuring Renowned Guest Artists
Winners of YAGP Ballet and Contemporary Dance
Scholarship Competition for Students
Press: Jonathan Marder and Company, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 10, 2014

This thrilling annual event brings out many of the top winners of the Youth America Grand Prix, as well as dance performance virtuosos, often called Prima Ballerinas and Premier Danseurs. There was no shortage of virtuoso tonight, as the evening began with a recent feature, a Juilliard instrumental student performing a classical solo work. Elizabeth Aoki played “Paganiniana” by Nathan Milstein, with astounding maturity. Seven works were presented as part of the Fifteenth Anniversary “Stars of Tomorrow”, plus a YAGP Alumni piece and the requisite “Grand Defilé”.

Three 10 year-old students from Portugal danced the Pas de Trois from Legat’s Fairy Doll, music by Bayer. They were quite poised. Aviva Gelfer-Mundl, 12, from the USA, danced a Variation from Petipa’s Paquita, music by Minkus, and Harrison Lee, 14, from Australia, danced a Variation from Vainonen’s Flames of Paris, music by Asafyev, with confidence and wide kicks. Following was an ensemble of men, ages 13-23, from Mexico, who performed “Legion”, choreographed by Jaime Sierra. This was a wild, energized event, with brief costumes, featuring men falling into groups of arms. The already boisterous crowd at Koch Theater, filled with the hundreds of YAGP competitors, teachers, and families, became even more vocal. Right on the heels of this excitement was Haruo Niyama, 17, of Japan, who danced a Variation from Petipa’s La Bayadere, music by Minkus. He was muscular and focused. Madalyn Woo, 15, of the USA, danced “Incognito” by Asuka Kondoh, a rippling, lovely piece. Cesar Corrales, 17, of Norway, danced a Variation from Petipa’s Don Quixote, music by Minkus. He exuded spark and stage presence. Many of these student works and performers had been seen last night in the Finals, and it was good to see them again, in a more relaxed mode.

Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle, from New York City Ballet, both YAGP alumni, danced Jerome Robbins’ In G Major, music by Ravel. David Aladashvili accompanied on piano. This is a slow, esoteric, sophisticated work. This duo, wearing white, is often seen onstage, and the dancers’ natural chemistry and comfort kicked in. It was a boost to the audience to see such successful alumni, both renowned principals, whose home stage is the same, Koch Theater. Carlos Dos Santos, Jr., as always, choreographed the “Grand Defilé”, bringing out hundreds of students, in ensembles and together, to music by Tchaikovsky. From the tiniest to the tallest, boys and girls leaped, twirled, fouettéd, and jumped to and fro. The frieze, with all dancers ending in one choreographed still, is always a highpoint. The noise level rose to highest volume in accolades.

After intermission, the “Stars of Today” appeared, in eight dazzling spectacles. The amazing Linda Celeste Sims, of the Ailey Company, paired with Daniil Simkin of American Ballet Theatre, for Ailey’s Pas de Duke, music, of course, by Ellington. They seemed mismatched, with Ms. Sims so muscular and propulsive in presence, but Mr. Simkin, a whirlwind of a diminutive dancer, left his mark, in wild abandon. The two seemed to really enjoy this. Mathias Heymann, of the Paris Opera Ballet, danced a solo from Nureyev’s Manfred, music by Tchaikovsky, in a flowing white shirt, with eloquence and elegance. For the next piece, the house came down, as Olga Smirnova, of the Bolshoi, and Evan McKie, of the National Ballet of Canada, partnered in the Pas de Deux from John Cranko’s Onegin, music by Kurt Heinz-Stolze, after Tchaikovsky. Ms. Smirnova threw herself about, in this dramatic rendering, with Mr. McKie equally theatrical and charismatic.

Misty Copeland of ABT with Paul Barris, Alexander Demkin, and Roman Kutskyy, all ballroom guest artists, danced a World Premiere Ameska, choreographed by Derek Hough, music by Ameska. If anyone wondered about the future of Ms. Copeland, a Soloist at ABT, rest assured this dancer is dynamite. This dance was sexy, vivacious, and feverish, with Ms. Copeland en pointe, and the men lifting her and transporting her from shoulder to shoulder. Each performer, here, was eye-catching. Next, an ABT ensemble, of Skylar Brandt, Sarah Lane, Lauren Post, Katherine Williams, Luis Ribagorda, Calvin Royal III, and Gabe Stone Shayer danced Being Natasha, another World Premiere, choreographed by ABT Corps dancer, Gemma Bond. Music was by Karen LeFrak. With three women and three men, this dance was stylized and interesting, but not the impassioned fare usually staged at these Galas.

Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, of Bavarian State Ballet, danced the “White Swan Pas de Deux” from Petipa’s Swan Lake, with majesty and monumental spirituality. I wish we could see more of this duo. Following were Nicole Loizides and Steven Ezra from MOMIX, performing one of my favorite works, Millennium Skiva, choreographed by Moses Pendleton, electronic music by Cynthia Quinn. Male and female dancers, attired head to toe in silver, on expansive skis, bend forward, back, fall, rise, switch places, in an atmospheric, riveting performance. Tonight’s finale was by Iana Salenko of Berlin State Ballet with Joseph Gatti, a Principal Guest Artist, in the Pas de Deux from Don Quixote. Mr. Gatti, who was reviewed on these pages, when he won the New York International Ballet Competition in 2005, and also as a member of the ABT Studio Company, danced with mesmerizing momentum and energy, in this highly energized Pas de Deux. Ms. Salenko exuded style and exuberance. Kudos to all, and kudos to YAGP on its Fifteenth Anniversary. .

Olga Smirnova and Evan McKie
in "Onegin"
Courtesy of Siggul/Visual Arts Masters

Misty Copeland with
Paul Barris, Alexander Demkin, Roman Kutskyy
in "Ameska" (WORLD PREMIERE)
Courtesy of Siggul/Visual Arts Masters

Iana Salenko and Joseph Gatti
in Pas de Deux from "Don Quixote"
Courtesy of Siggul/Visual Arts Masters

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at