Archive | July, 2014

2014 USA IBC Round III Classical Choices

16 Jul

With the completion of Round II, the jury’s point system for Rounds I and II was discarded. With Round III the jury started a new set of points. I make the assumption that most readers are familiar with the choreographers
and the composer.

Solo Competitors were required to dance two variations, one from A, one from B. Couples to dance one pas de deux from either A or B. The choices are listed below.

A. Raymonda: Act II, Variation IV; Male Variation; Pizzicato Variation, Act I

B. Grand Pas Classique: Grand Pas de deux; Male Variation; Female Variation; Coda

A. Sleeping Beauty, Grand Pas de deux, Act III, Aurora and Prince; Male Variation, Female Variation; Coda

B. Le Corsaire; Pas d’Esclave; Merchant Variation;Slave Girl Variation.Pas de deux, Medora and the Slave; Male Variation; Female Variation; Alternate Variation (Dulcinea or Gamzatti); Coda.

A. Swan Lake; Pas de deux, Act II (White Swan); Variation of Odette.

B. La Bayadere; 1st Shade Variation; 2nd Shade Variation; 3rd Shade Variation; Variation of Solo;
Golden Idol Variation

A. Nutcracker; Grand Pas de deux; Male Variation; Female Variation; Coda.

B. Esmeralda; Pas de Deux, Diana & Acteon; Male Variation; Female Variation; Coda.

From Raymonda, only the male variation was chosen. Swan Lake, Act II was not danced at all, nor was the Pas d’Esclave from Le Corsaire. Also ignored were the Shade variations from La Bayadere. While I am not familiar with the neglected dances from Le Corsaire, I am fully aware of just how difficult the Shade variations are from La Bayadere and the difficult choice of Swan Lake, Act II. The latter is definitely a woman’s role, and its choicewould have been made at the outset only with a non-competing partner. Also quite missing was any choice of the Golden Idol Variation, again from La Bayadere, perhaps the clearest example of character dancing from amongst the Round III selections. The men, clearly, were not interested.

2014 USA IBC Round II Results, June 23

14 Jul

The contestants were winnowed to thirty-one from fifty-four, Asia did very well, Latin American representation appreciable also. Statistically, the Republic of Korea garnered six for the finalists out of the original nine. The People’s Republic of China’s dancers numbered four, a total of ten Asian finalists; Japan added four, with a roster of fourteen Asians out of the thirty-one competitors advancing. In my opinion, that says a great deal about the seriousness with which Asians approach ballet

Further it is interesting that three of the Japanese contestants have affiliation with British or U.S. companies, giving them a critical edge in the contemporary ballet choreography assigned for Round II. Korea National University of the Arts [KNUA] train in modern dance as well as classical ballet. The lone finalist from down under, Australia, Aaron Smyth, is a member of the Joffrey Ballet. South Africa’s finalist, Andile Ndlovu, dances with Washington Ballet.

Brazil’s contestants number two juniors and one senior; Cuba has both genders in the senior division, Chile, one, and Mexico, two, are both represented in the junior division; nice going.

These statistics are all probably boring to readers, but in this tenth competition in Jackson, it reflects the growth of training and performance in Latin America along with the importance of the Jackson-based competition to Latin dancers to be seen and possibly to win scholarships or contracts. At Prix de Lausanne some of the sponsors give scholarships with recipients choosing what schools they want to attend. Here at Jackson, the choices are specific to school or company. In the past, happily, company directors have made selections from dancers seeded early; one of the more notable examples was Amy Marie Briones from the San Francisco Bay Area. Dennis Nahat selected her for an apprenticeship out of the Gala Introduction, the last he choreographed for Jackson. Briones, a strong, brilliant technician still in her early twenties, has worked herself up to soloist status with Ballet San Jose, now dancing under the direction of Jose Manuel Carreno. Nahat told me about others he had chosen, including the recently-retired Ramon Moreno, a bronze medalist from Cuba, “I take dancers who like to and are willing to work.” Moreno, a wonderful character dancer as well as admirable technician, also received an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for his performances for the 2009-2010 season.

If I had my way, I would have included a fourth Brazilian senior, Mozart Matsuyama, one of the two most striking males in this competition, the other being Rodrigo Almarales of Cuba. Either one simply has to appear on stage, pause, allowing the audience to see them, before launching into the necessary steps to the chosen music. I probably have mentioned this before, but the real dancer, for me, is one so at home in their bodies that the classical training is a garment refining the natural impulse to move, there to refine the talent, not to restrict the mover to a rigid bearing nor confined like a Victorian girdle.

2014 USA IBC More on Round II Choreographic Selections

14 Jul

For the Press Briefing Monday morning, June 23 at Jackson’s Clarion Ledger, jury chair Edward Villella explained the raison d’etre for assigned choreographic selections seen during Round II’s three sessions. As artistic director of the Miami City Ballet, Villella came regularly to Round III and the Gala of prior Competitions; in some instances to Round II also, which up to and including 2010 this round was a choreographic free-for-all. The pieces were either choreographed by the contestants or created by their teachers. Even with restrictions when the works had been created, few, if any, contestants chose a work in company repertoires, although the 1979 Competition enjoyed a Lew Christensen solo from Scarlatti Portfolio, danced by David McNaughton, and possibly others from European repertoire. In subsequent years, some European contestants utilized dances created for other competitions to demonstrate interpretive versatility.

Villella stated he was not impressed by most Round II selections; well he might. In addition to cavorting to pop tunes, some costumes flirted with nudity, a foretaste of the shorts-wearing teen-age students attending this year’s International Ballet School; shorts frequently seemed to be the garment of choice at performances and some social functions usually considered somewhat formal. Though not quite a prude, the sessions made me wonder about the future of the art and the mind-set of some contestants. What a dichotomy when romantic tutus are in a ballet company’s standard repertoire!

Villella mentioned, when approached for the job of jury chair, he expressed his desire to see works by contemporary choreographers which would challenge the dancers, maintain technical skill and foster evidence of individual interpretation. Chosen for this task were works from Trey McIntyre for solos, two for the men, two for the women, one each in the junior and senior categories, two pas de deux by Michael Neenan for seniors and one for the juniors. The costumes also were specified, simple, undistracted by sequins or ruffles.
McIntyre’s choreography, one of the more off-beat of current choreographers, used excerpts from Bad Winter and Leatherwing Bat, which, not seeing the full ballet, says nothing about the charm of the music. Bad Winter employed a vintage-sounding vocal by Steven Tracy of “Pennies from Heaven” for junior women and the delightful Peter, Paul and Mary folk tune, “Leatherwing Bat” for the junior men.

For the senior males, McIntyre selected Book Trio music from Henry Cowell’s Book Trio “Four Combinations for Three Instruments and Trio in Nine Short Movements” under the title (serious.) The senior women got an excerpt from Robust American Love, “A Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” performed by Fleet Foxes.

Michael Neenan’s selections included a ‘Thirties style pas de deux from Penumbra to music by Alberto Ginastra, and a Switch Phase excerpt by “Café Tacuba” from Brooklyn Rider’s Passport album, a selection of angst and tension. The sole junior pas de deux, The Last Glass excerpt, Beirut’s “Un Dernier Verre” but sung in English was suitably gentler. `

Seen once, the choices allowed audience and jurors to assess the competitors’ interpretive abilities. Over the three sessions, this decision manifested wisely, the interpretative edge going to dancers familiar with American predilections for lyrics or dramatic tension. I remember most junior selections and the pas de deux, the senior women’s selection dimmer in my impression. Seniors numbered twenty-three, juniors twenty-one, with twelve senior pas de deux, only six for the juniors. Fifteen juniors danced solos, eleven seniors performed alone.

The Last Glass, the junior pas de deux, featured the girl frequently with her back to the audience, once or twice in broad a la seconde en pointe spider-like in movement, lifted, dancing pirouettes; in the end en pointe, back to the audience, right foot beating delicately on the calf of the supporting left leg, to convey, apparently, the fluttering response of reciprocated young love. Of the juniors, just two junior Brasilians, Yasmin Lamondo and Gustavo Carvalho, danced this pas together into the finalist category. Romina Contreras of Chile, with a senior partner, also made the cut from this pas de deux. The remaining junior males interpreted Leatherwing Bat and the junior women Bad Winter.

For Bad Winter the junior women were required to wear black trunks, a striped stretch tunic covered over by an exaggerated white jacket with wide lapels and lengthy tie-like closing. Standing stage center-back, the dancer started to edge forward foot parallel to the stage, three such movements before the reedy rendition began. The body moves to face back, arms raised to make an incomplete square; some not-quite pirouettes follow before the words “Pennies from Heaven” are heard. There is a jaunty salute and one starts to think “Charlie Chaplin” or “Danny Kaye” as the dancer rolls on the floor under the admonition of not being under a tree. There is another movement upstage, some demi-pointe pirouettes before the dancer lifts the white front tails above her head, falls on her back and lifts her feet as the lights are cut.

Likewise, in Leatherwing Bat, the young men had an elaborate jacket, multi-colored, perhaps the several-hued wings of a parrot, in white tights, lifted their arms like wings, moved the forearm sometimes like semi fores, head twitched bird like, sidewise body lunges, some technical bravura in service to the quirky, occasionally rhyming, bird specie litany, the slightly bouncy rhythm seeping into the pulse. It was one of McIntyre appealing folk themes, easy to appreciate, the men’s interpretive grasp equally clear.

(serious), the McIntyre selection for senior male soloists, combined precision of execution, unexpected gestures in unexpected postures with beautiful, classical movement erupting from the quirky sections. From upstage center, the dancer stood, extended their arms, inspected their hands bending forward, wrapping them around legs in a la seconde, head and body, apprehensive of being followed. The movement heads downstage right, crosses over to mid-stage right, small inflections interspersed with turns and semi-crouching steps. At the finale, the dancer falls to his knees, and falls between the curtains. Interpretation ranged from the totally precise of China’s Mengjun Chen to the controlled frenzy of Ivan Duarte from Brazil.

Matthew Neenan’s pas de deux were easily understood. After all, the two dancers need to react to each other; that necessity alone helps assessing interpretive strength. Combined with steps and music, it provides an accurate appraisal of range. The excerpt from Penumbra, danced by six couples, specified the women wear a floor-length skirt but allowed the women to choose, red, mauve, filmy tulle and uneven-length black. In contrast to Switch Phase, emotional controversy was comparatively minor, though the woman drags herself across the stage to grasp her partner’s legs toward the end, after having lain prone with the suggestion of completed love making. There was a spectacular lift and a startling head-first drop of the woman; in the end man and woman have embraced.

Switch Phase is stormy and the man gets as good as he gives; they turn, head touching head; there is one magical moment when the pair touch each other’s forefingers moving from hip to chest before going into other movements, signaling a cautious recognition of the other’s separate being requiring respect. After the lifts, or supported arabesques, there is upright, body-to-body contact and resolution. Phrasing again was the key to the effectiveness of each presentation. Melissa Gelfin, USA, and Arianna Martin, Cuba, gave distinguished interpretations as did Aaron Smyth.

These three sessions, replete with excitement; revealed the choreography as choices, physical forms of understanding over technical competence. The thirty-one finalists were the result.

N.B. The above was written during the Competition; the prior entry on Round II was written in San Francisco

The Three Fellas: David, Richard and Todd

13 Jul

The three fellas, David, Richard and Todd, are photographic muskateers; all three were at Jackson in June, 2014 for the fifth time; alphabetically David Andrews, Richard Finkelstein, Todd Lechtick. The three are admittedly bonkers on dance and particularly ballet. Finkelstein and Lechtick are now official photographers for the USA IBC since Hubert Worley resigned from the position. Initially, all three came from the Rockies and Los Angeles.

Finkelstein, a theatre designer in his other life, three years with the University of Colorado, now resides in Harrisburg, Virginia where he teaches theatre deisign at James Madison Unniversity. Lechtick spends working hours at a University of California, Los Angeles affiliated clinic as a medical technician, and David Andrews runs a radio business near Denver. Andrews is the only one of the three who has yet to build himself a web-site. Finkelstein and Lechtick have image and bio-filled websites well worth visiting.

Because they float in and out of the press room, or linger to exclaim over a recent shoot, comment on the dancers, compare notes on cameras or check the roster of events, they have become part of the intrinsic ambiance of a Jackson Competition for me; I would sorely miss their absence. Richard and Todd verge on being Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee is size, Richard the one with glasses; David Andrews flirts with Beanstalk height.

Brief exchanges with them vary. Richard and Todd extolled two competitors’ classes taught by juror Nina Ananiasvili, one of the 1985 Prix de Jackson winners, now artistic director of the Georgian National Ballet after a career including lauded appearances with American Ballet Theatre. Todd’s website includes his images of her teaching. After the first class, substituting for jury chair Edward Villella, who was diagnosed with pneumonia, Olga Smoak murmured with awe, “She was channeling Raissa Strutchkova, her coach.” Richard said he had never seen or heard anyone teaching so firmly in such a positive, accepting manner. Todd’s images, taking during the second competitor class, show her dancing full out at moments. Moments like those make the raison d’etre for their showing up every four years, to spend inordinate hours recording social events, classes at the International School, in addition to performances. Thrifty USA IBC administration gets full value; Richard shows up each competition with photographic reproduction equipment he makes available, gratis, for what he produces. He provided images for me when I was reporting for the British web-site

Richard and Todd were housed at Cabot Lodge, courtesy of the Competition. Richard was seen trudging out the automatic doors at 7 a.m. to process pictures, Todd not much later. Every evening Richard had a handsome still image of a dancer on view in Thalia Mara’s foyer, and possibly a dozen or two more to interest the dancers.

David’s contributions have been quieter, still important. Until this year when the organizers changed procedures, he could be counted on to hand out tickets to the International School student, sitting in Belhaven’s Student Lounge, or chatting with Claudia Shaw at the table where a video monitor screened the official video record from the night before. David and Todd could be found at Belhaven’s cafeterias at noontime. For Richard, it was a hamburger at the Lamar, where I remember the late, wonderful Patrick O’Connor, responsible for getting Edwin Denby’s reviews into their first book form, exclaiming over the vigor of Yannis Pakieris. sharing the men’s silver with David McNaughton in 1979, Jackson’s first competition.

Todd recorded three lunches sponsored by USA IBC, the first on Dance for Parkinson’s Patients; the second on George Balanchine; the third on Women in Ballet with the 2014 women jurors. The words “special,” “privileged;” mean something to him. After years photographing around Los Angeles, helping Dwight Grell with his noted collection of Russian ballet material, Yvonne Mounsey paid for Todd’s initial airfare to Jackson as thanks for his devotion to her school. “She knew I was doing this primarily for the love of the art.”

David is more laid back about his photography; that doesn’t mean he’s less involved. Back in Colorado he photographs the Colorado Ballet and many recitals. “The fathers seem to have taken over,” he observed about the drop in copies of what he videotapes in the Denver area. He drives from Denver to Jackson; until this year, stayed in one of the rooms at Caldwell Hall made available to Competition lovers. This year he holed up at the King Edward Hotel, run by the Hilton Hotels, known as the Hilton Garden Inn, remarking laconically about the valet charges for his car and the fact he didn’t really notice the sound of the trains that passed his window at least once a day. He taped the second Ananiasvili class; I look forward to the historic record.

2014 USA IBC Allowed A Brief Exchange with Hae Shik Kim

12 Jul

Vicki Harper-Blake said she wanted to defer interviews with jurors until Round I was over, so it was not until Saturday morning, June 21 I met Hae Shik Kim, juror from Korea, in the Marriott Hotel lobby, sitting at two heavily upholtsered, high back=chairs with a stone table between on which a Wi-Fi access accessory was attached. Though officially retired from the Korean National Academy of the Arts, KNUA, Hae Shik still teaches, taking company rehearsals, especially when organizing Galas for younger students to display them in Seoul and elsewhere.

Using a phrase from my mother’s generation, Hae Shik Kim always is “well turned out.” Occasionally it might be a set of trousers, but usually it is a dress with a gauzy jacket, monochrome in shade, tiny pleats revealing she patronizes Korean establishments selling Issaye Miyaki designs. “They pack so easily and always look good,” is her comment. This year Miyake apparently added multi-hued circles to his offerings.

I keep seeing her name on the jurors’ list of various international competitions, so I asked her how many she attended. “1998 Jackson was my first competition. This is my fifth here. I have gone to competitions as a juror to Helsinki, Luxembourg, Prix de Lausanne, Nagoya – a very strong competition; Shanghai, New York International, Toulouse, South Africa. Then there is the yearly Seoul International Ballet Competition, where I am listed as artistic director. More recently there was the Beijing Competition, the first for adults; they also have one for the Academy, the young dancers. Jana Kurova had a competition in Prague I attended as a juror, and, of course, there now is Youth America Grand Prix.“ The recitation is enough to list Hae Shik as Madame Competition.

Hae Shik came into my orbit through a Leslie Friedman feature in Dance Teacher Now, the precursor of today’s Dance Teacher, when Leslie subbed modern dance classes at Fresno State University. Married to Joo Ick Kim, a professor in the Agricultural Department of the University, Hae Shik was teaching ballet classes at the University. Having trained at the Royal Ballet School following her graduation from Ewha University in Seoul, the first Korean to enter the British training center, she later danced as a soloist for the Zurich Opera under Nicholas Beriosov, then for Fernand Nault at Les Grands Ballets Canadien before marrying and moving to Fresno. Hae Shik told me she arrived in England with two English words in her vocabulary.

Shortly after Leslie’s feature was published, Hae Shik was invited to become the Artistic Director of the Korean National Ballet (KNB) In 1994, I suggested her name to Jana Kurova as a good candidate for The Czech National Foundation and the annual Gala she was planning. We met at the 1995 Gala; a friendship ensued, and in 1998 Hae Shik joined the jury at Jackson for the first time.

One of the great charms about the Kims is Joo’s support of Hae Shik. When Hae Shik flew to be interviewed for the directorship of KNB, Joo went with her, appearing with her at the interview. “We are a team,” she said. “This is the American way,” Joo asserted, “I cannot allow my wife to fail.” This unorthodox approach, even for Americans, paid off; Joo continued his support, long distance by enrolling his classmates from the university, important figures in finance and business at the time, to support the company and productions. Some even served as supers in Russian-style productions such as Le Corsaire.

Shortly following KNB’s production of La Bayadere, staged with the assistance of Maria Kondratieva, retired Bolshoi principal, Hae Shik was asked to create the dance department of the newly-founded Korea National University of Arts, KNUA. Starting from scratch, funds permitting a spectacular physical sports medicine clinic with the best and latest equipment, Hae Shik invited noted international teachers and coaches to Seoul for the advanced students; pre-collegiate students were also permitted to attend.

Hae Shik’s vision has paid off. Without surfing other competitions to record honors awarded Korean dancers, the progress in training and resulting artistry, the USA IBC record reads: 1998: Ji-Yun Park, Senior Women’s Bronze; 2002: Eun Ji-Ha, Dance Magazine Scholarship; Sung Yi Han, Eun Ji Han, Junior Bronze; 2006: Sae Eun Park, Junior Women’s Bronze; 2010: Seo Hye Han, Joffrey Award of Merit; Ki-Min Kim, Junior Men’s Silver; Ji Yon Chae, Junior Women’s Gold; Ji Yon Chae and Ki-Min Kim, Best Junior Couple. In anyone’s list, it’s a healthy record. Hae Shik informed me “Ki-Min Kim is now a soloist at the Maryinsky Ballet.”

The Kims continue their two-country travel with a new residence in Las Vegas. Hopefully, San Francisco will see more of the Korean talents whose foundation was laid by Hae Shik Kim.

2014 USA IBC Round II, Session III, June 22

11 Jul

The final session of Round II followed Stierle Showcase matinee at Jackson Academy. Report later.

Rounds II and III were evening performances only. Crowd little thicker, still somewhat sparse.

Session III

Sirui Liu, #90, Sr., PRC, Rodrigo Almarales, #76, Sr., Cuba, Excerpt from Penumbra. Almarales elected an open shirt; Liu an ombre skirt; emphasized sexual tension.

Ami Naito, #28, Jr., Japan, Excerpt from Bad Winter. Rushed beat, seemed mechanical.

Jeong Hansol, #92, Sr., Korea, Excerpt from (serious). Beautiful jump; danced it like abstract painting.

MacKenzie Richater, #29, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Bad Winter. Got the comic, spirit very well, even to slight salute with bow.

Kaori Fuku, #94, Sr., Jun Tanabe, #72, Sr., Japan, Excerpt from Penumbra. No notes.

Gabrielle Chock, #30, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Bad Winter. Seemed to rush beat.

Jessica Assef, #95, Sr., Brazil, NCP Lamin Dos Santon, Excerpt from Penumbra. Dressed in lavender gown; Santon voted for the open shirt.

Aaron Bell, #31, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat. Very classical rendition; fully articulate, reticent in presentation.


Heewon Cho, #98, Sr., Byul Yun, #100, Sr., Korea, Excerpt from Switch Phase. Well danced; caught tension through phrasing.

Jinsol Eum, #34, Jr., Korea, Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat. An foreigner nearly captured U.S.
regional idiom; Korean folk dance tradition helped.

Kota Fujishima, #99, Sr., Japan, Excerpt from (serious). Good but not exceptional.

Gisela Bethea, #35, Jr., U.S.A., NCP Michal Slawomir Wozniak, Excerpt from The Last Glass. Well danced; impression still slight

Melissa Gelfin, #101, Sr., U.S.A., Telmo Moreira, #80, Sr., Portugal, Excerpt from Switch Phase. Very strong interpretation.

Romina Contreras, #38, Jr., Sebastian Vinet, #73, Sr., Chile, Excerpt from The Last Glass, very lyric quality.

Tamako Miyazaki, #102, Sr., Japan, NCP Ariel Breitman, Excerpt from Penumbra.> Good, but less impressive than Round I classical.

There clearly was a sense of “round up.” following the last variation, and tension for the dancers.

Those advancing will have the cumulative scores from Round I and II discounted, and will be subjected to entirely new scores for Round III. They will enjoy a $1,000 stipend from a local foundation to assist in travel expenses.

2014 USA IBC Round II, Sessions I and II, June 20, 2014

11 Jul

For the solo competitors, Trey McIntyre provided one each for women and men, junior and senior, and Michael Noonan, one each for juniors and two alternate choices for seniors. Where a junior competitor was involved, almost always a junior, the junior choice was selected. My understanding was that both choreographers worked with the dancers, and gave them background relating to the excerpts. McIntyre could be seen in the audience throughout Round II, and expressed pleasure at what he had seen. A companion mentioned that his explanations of the work had been limited to an hour; whether that was true of any coaching I am not certain.

The selections for Round II were:
Trey Mcintyre:
Junior Women: Excerpt from Bad Winter: Music: “Pennies from Heaven”
Senior Women: Excerpt from Robust American Love: Music: Tiger Mountain Song
Junior Men: Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat: Music: Leatherwing Bat
Senior Men: Excerpt from (serious) Music: Excerpt from Book Trio

Michael Neenan:
Junior Couple: Excerpt from The Last Glass: Music: Un Dernier Verre
Senior Couple: Excerpt from Penumbra: Music: Danza De La Moza Donosa
Senior Alternate Choice: Excerpt from Switch Phase: Music: Le Muerte Chiquita

Session I>

Rieko Hatato,#2, Jr., Japan, Ilya Artamonov, #89, Sr., Russia, Excerpt from The Last Glass.
Lyrical pas de deux where the woman spent much of her time with back to the audience, once in a broad a la seconde on pointe. At the end, back to the audience, the girl’s right leg was in a low passe, foot and toe shoe beating on supporting calf of left leg.

Hitami Nakamura, #52, Sr., Japan, Excerpt from Robust American Love. Danced demi-pointe with long open-front covering with arms, dark against a white Milliskin tunic; seemed a choreographed soliloquy on unrealized romance, a haunted solo.

Katherine Barkman, #4, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Bad Winter. Danced to a vintage sounding delivery of Pennies From Heaven, striped torso band, black trunks and white coat with lengthy front tabs, contradictory with touches of Chaplin or vaudeville, ending up on the back downstage right with legs in table fashion and coat pulled up.

Arianna Martin, #54, Sr., Cuba, Nayon Rangel Iovino, #70, Sr., Brazil, Excerpt from Switch Phase.Pas de deux of angst, push, pull, a moment when the woman is held head down, frequent lifts as if man is showing he’s in charge; magical moment when pair touch one of the other’s fingers;rare equity. Showed appropriate intensity.

Paula Alves, #6, Jr., Brazil, NCP Fellipe Camarotto, Excerpt from The Last Glass. Alves’ long legs assisted emotion and phrasing.

Gantsooj Otgonbyamba, #55, Sr., NCP Ganchimeg Choijil Suren, Mongolia, Excerpt from Switch Phase. Otgonbyamba performed like a different dancer; rendition very intelligent.

Blake Kessler, #9, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat; dance followed the lyrics, wonderful tune. Dressed in tunic made to resemble multi-hued bird’s wings; folksy phrasing and quality of movement.


Yui Sugawara, #58, Sr., Japan, Excerpt from Robust American Love. Good job, nicely phrased, catching plaintive quality, shi kata ga nai

Taiyu He, #10, Jr., PRC, Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat, very classical rendition, well phrased, probably did not pick up on the vernacular nature of lyrics.

Andile Ndlovu, #60, Sr., South Africa, Excerpt from (serious); one word note: superb.

Sa Jung Lee, #11, Jr., Korea, Excerpt from Bad Winter; another one word: superb.

Steven Loch, #61, Sr. U.S.A., Excerpt from (serious); good interpretation less emotional.

Olivia Gusti, #18, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Bad Winter. Note: she got the message.

Ye Lim Choi, #62, Sr., Kae Han Na, #85, Sr., Korea, Excerpt from Penumbra; couple happy in style of Rogers-Astaire, girl in long dress with flowing skirt.

Session II

Irina Sapozhnikova, #63, Sr., Russia, NCP Joseph Phillips, Excerpt from Penumbra. Clear relationship, choreography had hobbled moments, very together.

Mizuho Nagata, #19, Jr., Japan, NCP Okulcan Borova, Excerpt from The Last Glass. Cheery rendition – should it be based on the lyrics?

Shiori Kase, #64, Sr. Japan, Excerpt from Robust American Love. One word; understands.

Daniel A. McCormick, #20, Jr., Mexico, Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat. Got the lyrics, control in phrasing gave extra touch.

Ga-yeon Jung,#68, Sr., Ji-Seok Ha, #83, Sr. Korea, Excerpt from Switch Phase. Quite perfect technically, some emotion in spots, but overall cool.

Yue Shi, #21, Jr., PRC, Excerpt from Leatherwing Bat. Technically lovely, minus sense of lyrics, probably too regional America

Aaron Smyth #69, Sr., Australia, NCP Cara Marie Gary, Excerpt from Switch Phase.danced with dramatic tension; finger touching a climax.

Yasmin Lomondo, #24, Jr., Gustavo Carvalho, #39, Brazil, Excerpt from The Last Glass.
As tender, correct as Round I dancing, but adapted to musical quality.


Mengjun Chen, #71, Sr., PRC, Excerpt from (serious) beautiful movement without emotional thread.

Yoshiko Kamikusa, #25, Jr., Japan, Excerpt from Bad Winter. Almost gets lyrics; nicely phrased; touches of Chaplin

Mozart Mizuyama, #75, Brazil, Excerpt from (serious) got the tension; warm audience response.

Paulina Guraieb Abella, #26, Jr., Mexico, Excerpt from Bad Winter; nice, Cantinflas touch.

Olga Marchenkova, #77, Sr., Excerpt from Robust American Love; lyrical, expressive, not dramatic.

Victoria Wong, #27, Jr., U.S.A., Excerpt from Bad Winter; quite good

Ivan Duarte, #82, Sr., Brazil, Excerpt from (serious). Amazing portrait; tension, anxiety
strong audience response.

2104 USA IBC, Round II, Pre-Selected Contemporary Works – Pas de deux and Solos

10 Jul

Sometime the evening of June 18 the International Jury at Jackson’s International Ballet Competition determined who among some 90 entrants advanced to the Semi-Finals or Round II. The competitors were given one selection to learn. Choreography by Trey McIntyre and Matthew Neenan was assigned; solos by McIntrye, pas de deux from Neenan, which the semi-finalists subsequently interpreted before the audience and the jurors.

This practice is not original to international ballet competitions. I believe the first such selection occurred with the Paris International Ballet Competition when Cyril Lafaurie was in charge. [Following LaFaurie’s retirement, the Competition has not been held.] A second example was the New York Competition during the directorship of Ilona Copen; in the New York instance, the selections were classical. There may have been a contemporary component but I cannot be certain.

There are advantages to the arrangement; prime among them is the opportunity to see how the semi-finalists interpret the same material. A second advantage is one of taste and skill. While many young contestants had teachers and coaches willing to assemble music and an idea to display the dancer to advantage, in the 90’s, some of the offerings were just god-awful, with an increasing use of pop tunes frequently painfully interpreted and giving jurors and audience little sense of interpretive skills, but much information about technique and tricks. The down side? The repetition potentially gets on the nerves, while revealing a dancer’s interpretative gifts.

2014 USA IBC Round I Eliminations, June 19

10 Jul

Though this will tardily posted, listed by country were fifty-four contestants finding a spot in Round II of the Competition where they performed one of two works by Trey McIntyre or Matthew Noonan. It reflected the interest in serious training and performance by country, whether by size or comparative budget, plus, of course, the costs of transporting a contestant, costuming and rehearsal equipment overseas or across country. Earlier I listed the companies from which senior dancers have elected to compete, an advantage if the contestant is foreign-born but already residing in the United States. Currently fourteen of the dancers advancing to Round II are affiliated with a company in the United States. This means a visa in place and some familiarity with contemporary U.S. lifestyle – hazards or benefits. Since 9/11 visa hurdles have been major.

The numbers game follows. Fifty-four dancers will participate in Round II; eleven from Japan, ten from the United States, nine from the Republic of Korea, seven from Brazil, four from the People’s Republic of China, three from Russia. That makes forty-four. Then the breakdown is two each from Chile and Cuba, two from Mexico, one each from Australia, Mongolia, Portugal and South Africa: total 54. For those following cultural taste and political history, the Asian presence reflects the enormous changes from mid-twentieth century to the present, based on due diligence and emphasis on excellence in traditional Asian cultures, both marked by status and talent. Further data of interest: eighteen competitors are senior men; fourteen senior women. Only seven are junior males. with fifteen junior females advancing to Round II.

Examining gender categories provide other emphasis: Japan, Korea, the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia are reflected among the chosen men; Japan, Korea and the PRC are represented by women; again Japan and Korea in the junior women. Korea sent one junior male. One veteran balletomane and competition observer quipped, “China and Korea haven’t brought their dancers just to collect certificates of participation!”

2014 USA IBC Competition Round I, Sessions VII and VIII, June 18, 2014

9 Jul

Round VII

Aaron Bell, #31, Jr. U.S.A., Coppelia,; classically correct, very well phrased; legs seemed to have sprouted with need to consolidate coordination.

Arcadian Broad, #32, Jr., U.S.A., Flames of Paris; strong, muscular dancer, seems to rush, push variation.

Alexia Basso, # 33, Jr., South Africa, Paquita; looked sweet, vulnerable; coaching sacrificed musicality for excessively correct positions.

Jinsol Eum, #34, Jr., Korea, Paquita variation; small, compact, muscular dancer.

Jessica Assef, #95, Sr., Brazil, NCP Lamin Dos Santos, Giselle Pas de Deux, Act II; adequate; did not rouse me.

Seitaro Tatsumi, #96, Sr., Japan, Act III, Swan Lake; overly restrained.


Aaron Bell, #31, Jr. U.S.A., Flames of Paris variation; good phrasing; delivery continued loose.

Arcadian Broad, #32, Jr., U.S.A., Coppelia variation; rushed beat; good turns, zilch interepretation,
no difference from earlier variation.

Alexia Basso, # 33, Jr., South Africa, Flames of Paris variation; legs, clear, precise; arms need work.

Jinsol Eum, #34, Jr., Korea, Flames of Paris variation; nailed it, heroics et al. Audience responded.

Seitaro Tatsumi, #96, Sr., Japan, La Fille Mal Gardee; long-waisted dancer, pink vest, grey tights, accurate, slight stumble at finish.

Anna Porter Wilkes-Davis, #97, Sr., U.S.A., NCP Journy Wilkes-Davis, Giselle, Act II; accurate, did not engage me.

Heewon Cho, #98, Sr., Byul Yun, #100, Sr., Korea, Don Quixote Pas de Deux; no notes.

Round VIII

Gisela Bethea, #35, Jr., U. S.A., Michael Slawomir Wosniak, # 84, Sr., Poland; Giselle, Peasant Pas de Deux; clean, tad sedate, but canny choice, totally competent

Kathleen Videira, #36, Jr., South Africa, Paquita variation; clean, promising, but arms. arms!

Daniela K. Maarraoui, #37, Jr., U.S.A. Paquita; very good beginning, nice transitions; ending flubbed but recovered.

Romania Contreras, #38, Jr., Sebastian Vinet, #73, Sr., Chile, Blue Bird pas de deux; she conveys sense of style, his turns off, ballon okay; good costuming.

Kota Fujishima, #99, Sr., Japan. La Fille Mal Gardee; good jumps, nice presentation, not much interpretative quality


Kathleen Videira, #36, Jr., South Africa, Coppelia; costume, sequins! coronet! port de bras lack fluidity

Daniela K. Maarraoui, #37, Jr., U.S.A., second Paquita variation; nice fouette turns, calm presence.

Kota Fujishima, #99, Sr., Japan, Don Quixote variation; counted 6-7 pirouette turns; am I really at a wedding?

Melissa Gelfin, #101, Sr., U.S.A., Telmo Moreira, #88, Sr., Portugal, Don Quixote pas de deux;
fouette turns, mostly one spot, spectacular. White tights made him look chunky.

Tamako Miyazaki, #102, Sr., Japan, Ariel Breitman, #67, Sr. U.S.A., Esmeralda pas de deux;
Breitman understated, clean; Miyazaki balances phenomenal, thrice; neither overplayed. Audience near ecstatic; great end to Round I.