Archive | August, 2014

That Kingship

27 Aug

Wikipedia has quite a bit on the King of Jerusalem, and how the title hopped from one faction to another, women sometimes being the link and holding sway for a number of years. The kingship lasted in the eastern Mediterranean only until 1291.

There is mention of Antioch, Tyre and Cyprus as well as monarchs as far west as
Sicily.

I remember when I was in Greece and took a tour bus into the Peloponnesus, seeing castle ruins on the crest of several hills and being told the Crusaders constructed tho battlements. They obviously lingered, probably past functional necessity or welcome sojourn. The layers of history and culture confronted me more sharply than in other stops. The list of rulers, marriages, yes, divorces,
offspring, and ages at death are in the best tradition of dynastic intrigue.

Reading further, it seems the claimants to the title are three dynasties with living descendants: the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, Bourbons represented by former King Juan Carlos and the present Felipe VI and what remains of the House of Savoy.

The King of Jerusalem

23 Aug

Jakobowicz, Hans Georg, King of Jerusalem.
Prater Publications, Washington, D.C., 2014, 148 pp., pbk
ISBN: 13-9780692025406
ISBM: 10-0692025406

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a website for Prater Publications, but I assume that Amazon.com can satisfy the curious regarding this new, brief novel with its elements of fantasy around one of the titles of the late Otto von Hapsburg, one-time Crown Prince of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

This label also serves as title to this fascinating little novel with its literate exchanges between Joshua, the central figure, his uncle Otto, and a parade of characters in New York City, Vienna, Salonika and Jerusalem.

At the novel’s commencement, Joshua is a translator for the UN, also writing dance notes and reviews. He was born to a Jewish mother who died when he was an infant and a Hapsburg father who was in the guerrilla forces in Greece during World War II and killed by the Nazis. Raised by a countess in the US, she informs him that his parents were married legally and also in a Greek Orthodox ceremony; he is a legitimate heir to the Hapsburg circle and to a fortune from his mother’s banking family. She also informs him that Otto von Hapsburg wants to meet him.

Covering the late 70’s, gay sexuality in New York City is given graphic coverage with the same precision that buildings, rooms and dressing habits are afforded. It’s informative and easy to picture.

A ballet premiere is reported in the early pages, Vienna Waltzes, also memorialized by Costas’ beautiful photograph on the cover, with an acute view of the ballet reception following. For some reason George Balanchine, its creator, is not mentioned by name. There also is a performance in a loft, created by a young German choreographer with whom Joshua has several sexual encounters and adversarial conversations. Through him, Joshua encounters pro-Palestinian advocates, rabid variety.

At a lavish farewell party before Joshua flies to Vienna to meet his royal uncle, nothing seems left to chance or bereft of momentary physical comfort; for the program, noted dancers Mimi Paul and John Prinz appear. It’s reminiscent of, an update of one of the Marquis de Cuevas’ extravagant ball.

The encounter with Otto von Hapsburg allows for exposition of viewpoints, dovetailing exactly with Hapsburg’s post-World War II advocacy for a united Europe, and the principal reason that he wants Joshua to assume the title. The author takes care to convey Joshua’s assessment of the Hapsburg appraisal, and later, as Joshua negotiates with various factions in Jerusalem.

Landscapes are described with unusual care and felicity, principally Vienna and its outlying country and Jerusalem, its layers and ambiance. Having attended a Jerusalem wedding in 2007, I found myself remembering much he described.

Hard to say what I liked best. Gay or straight, Jew, Gentile, Palestinian, it’s accurate, quite a worthwhile read.

Thoughts on the 2014 USA IBC Gala, June 28

20 Aug

The June 28 IBC Gala definitely had its moments of excitement, gratification, surprises plus lapses in taste and, to use old—fashioned terms, breeding and courtesy. These rips in the social fabric largely lay in Caucasian behavior, not amongst the visitors. And, my dear, the wearing apparel! You’d think me a character in the back row of the Confederate ball when Scarlett O’Hara Hampton danced with Rhett Butler for one hundred dollars in gold!

The dancers participating in the Gala started with Peter LeBreton Merz’ heroic effort to accommodate sixty two dancers on the Thalia Mara stage, dancing to Wolfgang Amadeuz Mozart’s overture to Cosi fan Tutte under the title Fete de Ballet. Merz accomplished this by waves of arriving and departing lines, traveling circular jetes for the men, then having to partner young girls, spreading the task in one or two brief ensembles. The sound of toe shoe boxes were prominent, making me realize that the Thalia Mara administrators may have a problem in their marley floor. There is a spot down stage right where “here’s a river and here’s a lake and here’s where you make a big mistake,” the fate of several contestants during the three rounds.

The Junior Best Couple, Yasmin Lomondo and Gustavo Carvalho of Brazil, both of whom garnered Bronze medals for Junior Women and Junior Men, performed the Grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker. Notable in their interpretation is the courtesy and rapport between them. Lomondo looked at Carvalho at each appropriate moment, seeming to draw radiance from each exchanged glance, enough to make one believe totally in romance.

Paulina Guraieb Abella of Mexico, who shared the Women’s Junior Bronze, followed with a variation from Paquita,made memorable by Park Sae-Eun of Korea in 2006 requiring stroking of the arms, pirouettes ending in exact fifth positions and brief bourrees and a sudden finish. Large-boned, Abella, though not yet a dancer of nuance, dances with strong, clear and confident movement.

Mackenzie Richter, U.S.A., Junior Women’s Silver, brought Trey McIntyre’s Excerpt from Bad Winter to Chaplinesque life, her arm gestures deftly punctuating the plaintiff sounds of Arthur Tracy singing “Pennies from Heaven.”

Eum Jinsol [Korean style of family name first] sliced through the air in Solor’s variation from La Bayadere where sissonnes commence the variation followed swooping side movements, circling the stage with low flying jetes, ending in the spin of pirouettes. Eum’s elevation and swiftness is admirable, although any motivation of this variation by anyone I’ve seen dance it is a mystery. Solor is in a dream, probably induced by opium; my guess is he’s floating in his ghostly reunion with Nikiya. I suspect this early manifestation of Marius Petipa’s skill with women in ensemble never was all that strong on motivation, even though this was precisely the historical period of The Great Game between Britain and Russia for influence in Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush. Such connections are likely to elude junior contestants.

The Junior Women’s Gold, Gisela Bethea, unfortunately was not allowed to dance the Grand Pas from the Sleeping Beauty, but instead repeated Matthew Neenan’s Excerpt from “The Last Glass” with her partner Michal Slawomir Wozniak, and, clearly, made it memorable as a beguiling young woman a flutter with reciprocated love.

The Junior Men’s Gold, He Taiye [again the Asian style of address] from the People’s Republic of China, wearing impeccable white with gold accents on the tunic started the variation of The Nutcracker Grand Pas de deux. On the small and slender side, He was infinitely correct and precise, ending in a flourish, a near waist-high a la seconde.

Since the Senior Golds medalists are permitted two appearances, their selections are divided between classical and contemporary, evidence of the worthiness of their selection. For Shiori Kase of Japan, it was Trey McIntyre’s Excerpt from “Robust American Love,” danced to the Tiger Mountain Peasant Song for which she wore a diaphanous black redingote over a white unitard. To an unforgiving series of steps, Kase brought a Madame Butterfly sensibility without sacrificing strength or correctness, her koto-string like plaintive interpretation an acute touch for the demonic verbal ending.

The Senior Male Gold was awarded to Hansol Jeong of Korea and his classical selection was Basilio’s variation from the Don Quixote wedding pas de deux . Resplendent in black with elaborate gold accents on the shoulders and sleeves, Hansol danced crisply, with a serious expression. After a spectacular series of pirouettes, the audience roared its excitement and Hansol permitted himself a smile of satisfaction, almost as if he had completed a set of bold black strokes of calligraphy. The smile, curving devilishly at the ends, made me wonder what his interpretation would be like in the full-length Don Quixote. Short or long, the audience roared approval.

Tamako Miyazaki and her partner Ariel Breitman completed the first half of the program with the Esmeralda Pas de Deux, enabling her to demonstrate her prolonged talent for balancing, supported by Breitman whose own flourish and presentation made Miyazaki look just that much better.

Le Corsaire got its opportunity with the best Senior Couple, Ha Ji-Seok and one of the senior female bronze winners Jung Ga-yeon. Slender and classical, their rendition sizzled with intensity.

Senior Men’s Bronze Ivan Duarte danced his contemporary solo Field Boy to the Theodorakis’ music starting slowly, deliberately like most Greek male dancing, increasing to the frenetic in the portrait of a Charlie Brown type of guy.

Senior men’s silver winner Yun Byul danced the Acteon variation from Esmeralda’s Diana and Acteon Pas de deux, another Korean whose pleasure and intensity compensated for his tall, slender build.

Displaying Rendez-vous, Nicolas Blanc’s prize for choreography, were Senior Bronze medalist Aaron Smyth and Cara Marie Gary.

Shiori Kase, Senior Women’s Gold danced Medora’s variation from Le Corsaire, again in her elegant blue tutu with the same warm correctness that marked every step she displayed during the competition.

It was left to Hansol Jeong to dance one of the Trey McIntyre solos for the seniors, the excerpt from (serious) which he did with the off-handed, distinct flair that had marked all of his dancing.

Completing the program Was senior women’s Silver Irina Sapozhikova with Joseph Phillips dancing the Don Quixote pas de deux with their seeming relaxed presentation, he with special emphasis in his tours and she waving her fan aloft during her very correct fouettes executed to the four corners of the stage, sometimes single, sometimes double. The couple gave the evening a just finale.

Following the second intermission the awards were distributed, following a tribute to Executive Director Sue Lobrano who leaves her position in September with plans for a December wedding. It brought forth IBC’s Haley Fisackerly to present her with an IBC citation. When the Gold Medals were awarded, the respective national anthems were played, the Gold, Silver and Bronze recipients arrayed in Olympic fashion on a pedastal.

Shall I gossip on or stick to the subject on stage? Let’s go with the gossip, displaying the dubious side of my character. To start, I know styles change and individual tastes vary. But I wonder whether women, budding, in full flower, or slightly wilted regard themselves as part of a visual landscape that includes other humans with eyes for line, proportion as well as curves. My mother, when she permitted herself to be snotty would comment, “She has her youth to recommend her,” when observing a young woman with too tight a dress to move easily or shoes breaking a natural walk. When the awards for scholarships were announced and teen-agers walked across the stage to accept a certificate for study which just might lead towards a coveted tutu, classical or romantic, what were they thinking? Wedge-shaped shoes making a noise, shoes hinderiing their walk, and skirts? At least two looked like fugitives from the swimming pool. It occurred to me fashion magazines and store mannikins specialize in poses and postures which have nothing to do with motion. And these young things are engaged in an endeavor celebrating beautiful,sustained movement! It very much looks like clothing notes may need to be included for those enrolling in IBC USA’s International School in 2018.

I would like to believe that talent and taste are bosom buddies. There might even be a seminar for students on make up off, as well as on stage, and a specialist analyzing facial contours, and how to minimize less than perfect proportions off stage as well as on. Certainly the days have passed, so well recorded in Alexandra Danilova’s memoir, Choura, when dancers on tour or in an engagement in a city were expected to wear hats, silk stockings in addition to current style. The idea was to convey glamour and a certain mystique. Styles have changed, but expectations do linger.

That said, it was gratifying to register the Asians never lacked for manners; a bow to the teachers and the jurors and then to the audience, the Koreans notable with politeness mingled with pleasure at their success.

It took Claudia Shaw some time to close up her taping equipment, so by the time we mounted the steps at the Mississippi Museum of Art for Entergy’s Grand Prix Ball, we could hear it loud and clear in the Garden the Museum has built on what was once a parking lot between their building and their former location. Entergy clearly is new to post Gala IBC entertainment; the food had virtually disappeared for anyone fifteen minutes past the portal opening.

Our compensation came the following day when the medalists came to claim their DVD’s, a clump of handsome young Korean medalists. Tamako Miyasaki with Shiori Kase autographed a DVD, a gift to 2010 International Dance School teacher Arleen Sugano and her mother Kimiko Sugano, who had served as an interpreter in 1990.

2014 USAIBC Results, June 27, 2014

20 Aug

These comments will see the website not quire two months following the announcement of winners for the 2014 USAIBC Competition. In thirty-five years technology has devastated “scoops”, Facebook and YouTube almost decreeing “sayonara” to ritual and decorum.

The IBC Staff, Jurors, finalists, seeded dancers, coaches, press, family, friends and IBC volunteers gathered on the Mezzanine to learn the results of 8 sessions of Round I, 3 sessions each of Rounds II and III. Vicki Blake Harper, a six- competition press and public relations veteran, had managed to print the three page announcement to supply the press with the data.

The third page was nearly full listing scholarships and positions with junior companies of U.S. companies before the perfunctory notice of the Gala, and statements by Edward Villella, Jury Chair, and Sue Lobrano, Executive Director.

Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet offered full scholarships for 2015 Summer Intensive to Blake Kessler, Matthew Griffin; from the People’s Republic of China Taiyu He and Yue Shi plus Gustavo Carvalho from Brasil. Griffin, He, Shi and Carvalho are also designated to continue into the Joffrey Studio Company.

The Joffrey also offered positions in the Joffrey Company for the 2015-2016 season to the Koreans Dae Han Na and Jeong Hansol. The two Koreans are still students, Dae Han Na of Korea National University of Art, Jeong Hansol of Sejong University.

Trainee and company contracts, 2014-2015, have been offered by Ballet West to semi-finalist Anita Sineral-Scott, U.S.A; Makenzie Richter, U.S.A. with Houston Ballet’s Second Company; Texas Ballet Theater to semi-finalist Paula Alves, Brazil; Memphis Ballet offered Matthew Griffin, U.S. a trainee position for 2014-2015.

Matthew Griffin also garnered a full tuition scholarship for Colorado Ballet’s 2015 Summer intensive and a one-season contract with Columbia City Ballet.

Gisele Bethea, U.S.A., has been offered a full scholarship and stipend for the fall 2014 and a Studio Company position, Spring 2015 with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.

Finally, Olga Marchenkova and Ilya Artamonov, Bolshoi Ballet dancers from Russia, are invited to dance leading roles in South Mississippi Ballet’s 2014-2015 production of The Sleeping Beauty.

In all, these opportunities count as much as the following awards:
Robert Joffrey Award of Merit: Daniel Alejandro McCormick-Quintero, representing Mexico, but a student at San Francisco Ballet School,$1,000.

Jury Award of Encouragement, Female: Romina Contreras from Chile, $500.

Jury Award of Encouragement, Male: Yue Shi, People’s Republic of China, $500.

The Choreographic Award went to Nicholas Blanc for Rendez-vous, danced by finalist Aaron Smyth, Australia. Both Blanc and Smyth are affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet, Blanc a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, then ballet master with the Royal Scottish Ballet before assuming the same position with the Joffrey Ballet. The Award brings with it $2,500.00

For the Best Couple Awards, the Junior went to Yasmin Lomondo and Gustavo Carvalho of Brazil; scarcely surprising since they were the sole couple participating throughout in the junior division, courteous and attentive as well as exact and musical. Both receive $1,000 each. The Senior Best Couple were
from Korea, Ji-Seok Ha and Ga-yeon Jung.

Announcement of Medals start with the Bronzes. The Jury is permitted to award two Bronzes and two Silvers for either men or women and this occurred amongst the Junior Women’s Bronze, the Men’s Bronze, the Women’s Senior Silver. The list went as follows:

Junior Women Bronze: Yasmin Lomondo, Brazil and Paulina Guraieb Abella, Mexico, each $1,500.

Junior Men’s Bronze, Gustavo Carvalho, Brazil, $1,000.

Junior Women’s Silver, MacKenzie Richter, U.S.A., $3,000.

Junior Women’s Gold, Gisela Bethea, U.S.A., $5,000.

In the Senior Division, the Awards lined up as follows:

Senior Women Bronze: Ga-Yeong Jung, Korea, $3,000

Senior Men’s Bronze: Aaron Smyth, Australia and Ivan Duarte, Brazil, each $3,000.

Senior Women’s Silver: Irina Sapozhnikova, Russia, and Tamako Miyazaki, Japan, each $5,000.

Senior Men’s Silver: Byul Yun, Korea, $5,000.

Senior Women’s Gold: Shiori Kase, Japan, $8,000

Senior Men’s Gold: Jeong Hansol, Korea, $8,000.

Missing from this roster were some dancers I liked enormously but who apparently took too much liberty in their classical variations. Jurors, enjoying coaching lineages stretching back almost to the time the classical repertoire was being established at the Maryinsky and Bolshoi Theatres in St. Petersburg and Moscow, or managed to acquire similar guidelines through migrating teachers or lengthy observation, pick up on such deviations. Generalized performances may permit such liberties; competitions do not and should not. As a result, one or two riveting dancers remained in the finalist category and the anguish was apparent
on their faces as the press conference terminated.

Adding my own opinion, there were several dancers already dancing with ensembles or companies. Beyond the requirements in classical variations, the professional rigors gave those competitors an edge in sheer performing skills; in the instance of the senior women it definitely showed. One or two other dancers revealed growing pains amongst the jurors manifesting such physical adjustments in degrees of reticence.

At the Gala, the medalists achieving gold status will dance twice, one classical variation and their contemporary selection.

2014 USAIBC Round III, Session I, June 24, 2014

17 Aug

Row O is the last in the orchestra, now divided by a center aisle at Thalia Mara Auditorium in Jackson where the First Session of Round III commenced last night. Amy Brandt of Pointe Magazine, one-time Milwaukee Ballet member and dancer with Suzanne Farrell’s ensemble, sat beside me, just in from an extra wait at O’Hare in Chicago. On the aisle was Rhee Gold of Dance Studio Life.

Amy’s connection with me was Fiona Fuersner, one time San Francisco Ballet soloist and her brilliant dancing, so well remembered, in the third movement of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Lew Christensen’s Divertissement d’Auber, again with Michael and the late Virginia Johnson. For Rhee Gold the ties are with Cheryl Osseola, the magazine’s editor, and Rita Felciano, dance critic for The San Francisco Bay Guardian.   The connections make for quick and pleasant.

As readers probably know, Round III requires two classical variations of soloists, and one classical pas de deux for couples in the two sections prior to the contemporary round. It makes for a long evening and a longer night for Claudia Shaw who assembled individual DVD disks for each competitor, in addition to producing a master for the USA IBC administration.

With thirty-one finalists, this session saw five juniors and five seniors; two of the latter in pas de deux. Three of the women elected this form. Blake Kessler,  and Steven Loch, chose the Act III male variation from Sleeping Beauty, with its opening pirouettes ending in a darting, low a la seconde, ending with a swift menage of turns. Kessler’s passé preparations could have been more defined.

Taiyu He chose the male variation from The Nutcracker, tidy, crisp, precise. So Jung Lee of Korea danced the almost cobwebby delicate Princess Aurora variation from Sleeping Beauty with correct and musical style, causing me to measure her taller formality to my indelible memory of Margot Fonteyn.

Mizuho Nagata, with Ogulcan Borova as non-competing partner dashed off the Le Corsaire pas de deux, Nagata choosing a flowing, knee-length blue chiffon garment. If I can embellish the word accurate with acute, Nagata demonstrated it, though her overall attack struck me as a trifle metallic.

Daniel Alejandro McCormick danced his own Nutcracker prince, his greater length providing a softer contrast to Taiyu He, an invariably fascinating diversion for the balletomane. Andile Ndlovu’s choice of the same variation was accomplished with definite nobility.

Steven Loch’s Prince’s costume shimmered with a ruff at the neck – a dashing figure. His tours seemed very rushed at upstage center, but the finish was elegant and stylish.

Shiori Kase of Japan essayed that holiday staple, The Sugar Plum Fairy variation – gracious, elegant and delicate of gesture., as close to spun sugar as a dancer can get.

After the first Intermission, Blake Kessler bared his chest in the male variation from Le Corsaire. His delivery was smooth, but demonstrated little emphasis.

Taiyu He and So Jung Lee split Victor Gvosky’s Grand Pas Classique between them. Both phrased the movements well, dancing clearly and without affectation. Lee delivered the battements en avant with steely calm, sending the audience roaring, but I ached for her toes on that supporting foot! She definitely aced it.

Daniel McCormick also bared his chest but as Acteon in Aggripina Vaganova’s famed Diana and Acteon pas de deux from Esmeralda. His multiple turns were clear, and he executed multiple turns with unforced panache.

In the second pas de deux of the evening, Arianna Martin danced Corsaire with Nayon Rangel Iovino. He approach again made me believe she was channeling Alicia Alonso, though I have seen Alonso in the role. My scribbled notes remark “good fouettes.

Andile Ndlovu chose the male variations from the Nutcracker’s grand pas de deux and the Acteon variation from the Diana and Acteon pas de deux in Esmeralda, phrasing well, quite elegant.

Steven Loch’s second variation was Solor’s from La Bayadere, a choice which reinforced his classical abilities, but gave little hint of his range. This was compensated by his own choreography in the contemporary section, Chained: My Struggle With Mental Illness, a prolonged essay of agony, fear and fight.

Irina Sapozhnikova, elected Le Corsaire, Medora and the Slave, with her non-ompeting partner, Joseph Phillips, where she was slightly crisp, well phrased and during fouettes, spun singles and doubles, executed to the four corners, staying more or less in one place through the challenge.

Shiori Kase’s second variation was also Medora’s variation, marked with a deep blue tutu, the skirt larger than normal, the tunic and skirt surface dusted with brilliants. Again, her musical phrasing was notable.

While I mentioned Loch’s contemporary solo, my memory fastened on Taiyu He’s Cupid, portrayed as quite the trickster, while So Jung Lee’s Prayer as evocative of the human will, persisting in the face of harrowing conditions, hers seeming to evoke the Korean War.

Daniel A. McCormick’s offering was choreographed by Parrish Maynard, one of San Francisco Ballet School’s instructors, and a former company principal. Titled Between The Lines, McCormick held a brick-like grey object which defined space; he held it, placed it on the stage, worked around it; at the end he held it once more.

Arianna Martin’s contemporary followed, choreographed by her non-competing partner Nayon Rangel Iovino, danced to Vivaldi music with the title of Inner Layer.  The choreography was an extended exercise in stretching and twining Martin clothed in what looked like grey practice trousers, and it seemed to occupy every second alotted to a contemporary entry.

Andile Dnlovu’s own choreography, Wandering Thought, certainly displayed versatility and seriousness of purpose. I did feel, like Loch’s essay, an earnest and  great personal investment in the performance, which have been assisted by an outside critical yet empathic eye.

Sapozhikova’s contemporary was titled La Manana de San Juan, choreographed by Pavel Glukhov. The Latin theme was reflected in the brown-patterned costumes, a fair amount of heel-toe and lateral emphasis in the choreography, and, as I remember, a sombrero. The tone was light, its execution clear and modest, as mild as Diego Pisador composed it.

Shiori Kase’s solo ending the evening was Moon Cry to the spare sounds of the bamboo flute, the  shakuhachi, choreographed by her coach Antonio Castilla, also ballet master for English National Ballet. She commenced on her knees in a short purple-hued kimono. Reticence, longing and despair flowed through the spare sound, ending, of course, in the same traditional posture, if in despair. It  was  a surprising delicact, an elegant end to Session I.

N.B.  this somehow never made it from Draft and Preview to Published Status.  My apologies to the competitors and any other individuals mentioned.

 

2014 USAIBC Round III Session III, June 26, 2014

15 Aug

This final session opened with Aaron Bell who had been featured prominently in the ballet documentary “First Position.” He chose two divergent classical variations, the flashy one last,the men’s variation from Sleeping </em>Beauty as a beginning and the Slave’s variation from Le Corsaire as his second. At present, his attack is more suited to the Prince Desire role, clean, correct, somewhat self-effacing. A thoughtful, intelligent dancer, his excellence also conveyed a neutral quality. This also was conveyed in Vista, Steve Rooks’ setting to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” A long time observer remarked she thought Bell needed to attend classes with other students. I have no way of knowing if that situation pertained, but the observer was thoughtful and caring.

He was followed by Jinsol Eum dancing the same variation, slender, equally correct with touches of distinct elegance, an impression cemented with Solor’s variation from La Bayadere’s Kingdom of the Shades.

Partnered by Michal Slawomir Wosniak, Gisele Bethea essayed Sleeping Beauty’s Act III pas de deux with amazing felicity. I had no trouble believing she was a princess on the occasion of something momentous. Her port de bras and gestures over her low petite battements looked like the results of a coaching session with Margot Fonteyn, their progressive rise winning me over.

Romina Contreras with Sebastian Vinet selected Victor Gsovsky’s Grand Pas de Deux,,looking authoritative in the opening. Unfortunately, Contreras lost balance visibly initially in her variation, though she finished with aplomb. Her general demeanor led one veteran competition observer to comment, “Not this time, but in five years she’ll be a ballerina.” Vinet, a former member of San Francisco Ballet, cuts a handsome figure, but something happens in his torso distorting line and phrasing, though partnering Contreras with skill and empathy.

Seniors Jeong Hansol and Kota Fujishima danced as if they had telegraphed across the Straits of Korea; both danced the male variation from the Nutcracker’s grand pas de deux and Acteon’s variation from Esmeralda’s Diana and Acteon pas de deux by Agrippina Vaganova.

Three senior pas de deux followed with one non-competing partner. Byul Yun with non-competing partner Heewon Cho elected the Diana and Acteon pas de deux as did as did Tamako Miyszaki with non-competing partner Ariel Breitman. In between Melissa Gelfin elected Le Corsaire with non-competing partner Telmo Moreira. Clearly, fireworks were preferred for the senior pas de deux.

The contemporary third of Session III possessed a share of surprises. Jinsol Eum danced Juhyun Jo’s take on Pink Martini’s “But Now I’m Back”; black shirt, trousers and jacket topped by a black Fedora adjusted from time to time for emphasis, while Eum’s lean, flexible body angled, lunged and jumped with considerable panache.

Gisele Bethea’s selection, Imagine, left me with a vague impression of excellent execution, but exactly what was being evoked?

Two unusual choices of classical music for a competition were reflected by Romina Contreras and Sebastian Vinet who danced to Jaime Pinto’s essay to a Claude Debussy Sonate 1. The second was non-competing partner Telmo Moreira’s use of Frederick Chopin’s Lady of the Camellias Black pas de deux for finalist Melissa Gelfin, the former was as quiet and lyrical as Moreira’s setting was turbulent.

In between Jeong Hansol’s interpretation of Jong Ni Lee’s Napoli March of Thomas Beckman was titled Forgot Something. Terribly obvious, what was missing were Hansol’s trousers with the music providing the background for maneuvering and exposing the social and visual embarrassment for the spectacled forgetful male, accented by bright red shorts. The audience responded with chuckles, laughter, guffaws and much applause.

Ending the competition, Tamako Miyazaki with Ariel Breitman performed Tamas Krizsa’s Last Days to Max Richter’s music of the same name, an apocalyptic interpretation to music sounding much the same, enhanced by the lighting plot. One could only surmise that such feelings might be felt momentarily at the press conference the following morning.

USAIBC Round III, Session II June 25, 2014

15 Aug

What lingers in my memory from Session II, Round III, were pas de deux from both junior and senior ranks, the first being the junior couple from Brazil, Yasmin Lomondo and Gustavo Carvalho in the Nutcracker pas de deux. Garnered from the website of the company where they are members, their performing record is substantial; it clearly shows. Beyond this practice, however, their demeanor was something of a revelation;courtesy was present, courtliness by Carvalho was consistent, and Lomondo was not only demeure, she was secure enough emotionally and technically to relate visibly with Carvalho. Theirs was a dancing dialogue, making me sigh with pleasure, even remembering two months after the start of that two-week marathon.

Yue Shi and Paulina Guraieb Abella chose the Nutcracker variations also, the run of three such proving informative, Shi the male variation, with reticence but essentially elegant, Abella the female solo, quite confident with nuance missing.

Mackenzie Richter elected the third act variation from Sleeping Beauty. Secure, precise and nicely phrased, I did not get the feeling she was celebrating Aurora’s marriage. Jumping ahead to her second variation, the variation from Grand Pas Classique, she looked just fine in that sang froid display of technique, if her fragile frame emphasized the difficulties.

After Ga-yeon Jung and Ji-Sook Ha danced the Le Corsaire pas de deux, Medora and the Slave, both Mengjun Chen and Ivan Duarte danced the male variation from Raymonda, Chen emphasizing the correctness and precision while Duarte amped up the elegance and panache.

For their second variations Yue Shi and Mackenzie Richter chose their respective variations from Grand Pas Classique with Paulina Guraieb Abella in between dancing Diana’s variation from the Diana and Acteon pas de deux from Esmeralda. Abella’s confidence did not include those small, telling touches I remember Tatiana Legat instilling in Sarah Lamb’s beautiful rendition in 2006.

The second of the senior couples competing included Aaron Smyth, representing Australia with non-competing partner Cara Marie Gary, both dancing with the Joffrey Ballet. It was Grand Pas Classique again with Gary solid footed; Smyth, the finalist, partnered well, but for all white satin with gold trim and double tours, looking like other roles suiting him better.

The fourth finalist to elect Grand Pas Classique, Mengjun Chen, provided a correct rendition, followed by Ivan Duarte in minimal clothing as Acteon in that Esmeralda pas de deux Diana and Acteon, and giving it his all.

Closing the second part of Session II saw the two Cincinnati Ballet dancers, Sirui Liu and Rodrigo Almarales in the Diana and Acteon pas de deux, with Almarales looking like the fleetest hunter that ever stalked for deer. Liu was a lithe, attractive Diana if sketchy where a few details would have enhanced her interpretation. Almarales, an example of power in pause, or stillness, executed a daring horizontal stretch in the finale, adding to his exciting presence; the audience just roared.

Coming to the Contemporary section, most finalists danced a further demonstration of their own special capacities, the musical choices ranging from classical music to lesser known pop tunes, doubtless favorites in other countries, the choreography created by someone else. Paulina Guraieb Abella’s solo created by Alberto Mendez, and titled Soledad, used a score by Ernesto Lecuona, an effective preening, hair-tossing, arm-stretching set of postures, the mood increasingly stormy.

Yue Shi’s Clown of a Backstage, choreography by Aimin Cui, and Ivan Duarte’s Field Boy, created by Marissa Marttin to Mikis Theodorakis’ Sirtaki Zorba’s Dance, displayed comic/frantic qualities, each dancer thoroughly absorbed.

Choreographically, the two most interesting pieces of the evening were danced by the finalists from the Cincinnati and Joffrey companies, interpreting pieces by skilled choreographers familiar to me. Nicolas Blanc fashioned Rendez-vous for Aaron Smyth and Cara Marie Gary to Rene Aubry’s Apres La Pluie, and Sirui Liu and Rodrigo Almarales to Val Caniporali’s Caprice, a take on one of Nicolas Paganini’s compositions to the same name. Blanc’s pas de deux was a swaying, torso-moving exposition of encounter, flirting, ultimately connecting, while Caniparoli’s was more chic, in dress and approach, tongue in cheek. Elizabeth Tienkin Sullivan, a one time dancer with San Francisco Ballet when Michael Smuin was co-director, remarked to me, “It was just like Val.” With both these choreographers having affiliation with San Francisco, it felt like a fitting close to the evening.