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Sergei Danilian Presents "Ardani 25 Dance Gala" at New York City Center

- Onstage with the Dancers: Special Events
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Sergei Danilian
(Ardani Artists Website)

Ardani 25 Dance Gala

New York City Center
(New York City Center Website)

Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre)
Joaquin De Luz (New York City Ballet)
Friedemann Vogel (Stuttgart Ballet)
Denis Matvienko (The Mariinsky Ballet)
Philipp Stepin (Mariinsky Ballet)

An ensemble from the Mariinsky Ballet
“Impresario” Film by Charles Evans, Jr.

Dimitri Dover on Piano
Host: Guillaume Côté (National Ballet of Canada)

Production Supervisor: Michael Vool (Ardani Artists)
Lighting: Antonio Marques (Ardani)/Alexander Naumov (Mariinsky)
Wardrobe Supervisor: Nadezhda Vasilieva (Mariinsky Theater)
Management: Andrey Gonyaev
PR & Public Relations: Ellen Jacobs Associates
Producers: Sergei Danilian, Gina Ardani

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 20, 2016

Clay (2015): Music by Darius Milhaud, Choreography by Vladimir Varnava, Lighting Design by Igor Vints, Costumes by Irina Varnava, Performed by Victoria Brileva, Yulia Kobzar, Zlata Yalinich, Maxim Zyuzin, Alexey Nedviga, Yury Smekalov.

Tristesse (2014): Music by Frédéric Chopin (Études), Choreography by Marcelo Gomes, inspired by French poet, Paul Éluard, Lighting Design by Antonio Marques, Dimitri Dover on Piano, Performed by Marcelo Gomes, Joaquin De Luz, Friedemann Vogel, Denis Matvienko.

Le Divertissement du Roi, Ballet in one act, 2015): Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Choreography by Maxim Petrov, Scenic Plan by Bogdan Koloryok, Lighting Design by Konstantin Binkin, French translation by Julia Montel, Sketches by Jean Berain and Lodovico Burnacini, Performed by Philipp Stepin, Vasily Tkachenko, Denis Zainetdinov, Yevgeny Konovalov, Andrey Arseniev, and Soslan Kulaev as Master of Ceremonies.

Once again, Sergei Danilian presented an engaging and eclectic dance program at New York City Center, called Ardani 25 Dance Gala, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Ardani Artists. This international ballet and modern dance production company was founded by Sergei Danilian and his wife, Gaiane, in 1990. The Anniversary celebration began in 2015. By this writer’s count, tonight’s event was also the 25th review, on these pages, of an Ardani Artists event. My previously reviewed Ardani productions, in which Sergei and Gaiane brought the crème de le crème of Russian ballet to New York, included numerous Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg events, Sergei’s unique Kings of the Dance events, a Diana Vishneva featured event, numerous Kirov Ballet events, two Les Ballets de Monte Carlo events, and several Mikhailovsky Ballet events. Much of each audience (tonight as well) is composed of Russian ballet fans, living in the New York, tristate region. Most notably, each Ardani event has been fascinating and, in its own way, thrilling to experience.

Tonight’s program was originally marketed with photos of Diana Vishneva in the role of King Louis XIV, in Maxim Petrov’s Le Divertissement du Roi. Those press posters and photos had Ms. Vishneva in a gown, impersonating a man (the King) in the gown, as was the custom in the day. However, due to an injury, we saw a Mariinsky Soloist, Philipp Stepin, dance the role of King Louis XIV, in the expansive, hooped gown (see below), and, in a way, that worked out quite well. The drawback to this 2015 choreography was the intermittent curtain interludes, with Soslan Kulaev, in a hat with plumes and velvety britches, reading treatises in a very poor French accent, looking awkwardly smug. The audience seemed to be squirming increasingly, at each of his entrances. Recorded music was by Rameau. The male quartet, plus Mr. Stepin, performed in hooped, red-gold-brocade costumes, then without the “skirts”. Mr. Stepin had his solo in the large, golden gown, then a dance outside the hooped skirt, followed by a dash offstage with the skirt fastened from the back again. The backdrops were sketches by Jean Berain, Lodovico Burnacini, and Antonio Cesti, for baroque productions in Paris and Vienna.

The evening had opened with Charles Evans, Jr.’s tribute film about Sergei and Gaiane, called “Impresario”, and performers from Ardani Artists’ Kings of the Dance, among others, spoke highly of their collaborative experience and the generosity of the Danilian duo. Filmed performance clips were included. Guillaume Côté, of National Ballet of Canada, who has been favorably reviewed on these pages, had introduced the film with his own tribute as well. The opening ballet, contemporary in ballet slippers, was Clay, by Vladimir Varnava, music by Milhaud. The image was warm and languorous, as dancers held onto each other, like a centipede, or perhaps like straphangers in a train. The performers glowed in Igor Vints’ lighting. The costumes were brief, nude leotards, designed by Irina Varnava. During the 20-minute dance, they moved eloquently in solo and ensemble shapes.

The second work of the three-dance program was Marcelo Gomes’ Tristesse, with the Chopin score masterfully performed on piano by Dimitri Dover. This was the pièce de résistance of the Gala. Mr. Gomes has choreographed works in the past, performed at American Ballet Theatre, where he’s a beloved and renowned Principal, but he’s now growing into an elegant ballet designer. Joining Mr. Gomes in the ballet were fellow Kings of the Dance performers, Joaquin De Luz, of New York City Ballet, Friedemann Vogel, of Stuttgart Ballet, and Denis Matvienko, of The Mariinsky Ballet. Mr. Gomes and Mr. De Luz have been consistently praised on these pages for well over a decade. Each Chopin Étude had its own unique personality, inspiring sequential dances, in quartet, duo, and solo. Moods of joy and grief were displayed with passion and eloquence. The duo of Gomes-De Luz exuded emotionality from high to low, while the duo of Vogel-Matvienko exuded tranquility and intimacy. I can see this ballet taking on new interest with each shift in casting. Kudos to all.

The Cast of Vladimir Varnava's "Clay"
in Ardani 25 Dance Gala
Courtesy of Michael Khoury

Marcelo Gomes and Joaquin De Luz
in Marcelo Gomes' "Tristesse"
in Ardani 25 Dance Gala
Courtesy of Michael Khoury

Friedemann Vogel and Denis Matvienko
in Marcelo Gomes' "Tristesse"
in Ardani 25 Dance Gala
Courtesy of Michael Khoury

The Cast of Maxim Petrov's "Le Divertissement du Roi"
in Ardani 25 Dance Gala
Courtesy of Michael Khoury

Philipp Stepin in Maxim Petrov's "Le Divertissement du Roi"
in Ardani 25 Dance Gala
Courtesy of Michael Khoury

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