Tag Archives: Joseph Phillips

San Francisco Ballet School’s 2015 Student Showcase

27 Jun

The May 28 program for the annual San Francisco Ballet School recital at the Yerba Buena Center’s Lam Research Theater listed sixteen faculty members and eight pianists. Four of the faculty were guests, current or former principals with the company. The wonderful Brian Fisher was listed for Contemporary Dance, with Leonid Shagalov for Character Dance.

The parents and assorted relatives attached to the dancers behaved like parents in any audience where offspring are involved and contact with other parents is fairly frequent. It’s one of the closest things to neighborhood that San Francisco can muster, perhaps outside of The Ethnic Dance Festival or other studio recitals. All anything extra is needed are trestle tables and pot luck contributions and country America would be shining clear.

Using a medley of Alexander Glasunov’s melodies, Parrish Maynard devised a handsome display of the students from level 2 to level 8. Not quite a defile or a full one-act ballet, it none the less felt and looked like something grand, while at the same time remaining the very personal pull of seeing earnest young faces, mostly smiling, presenting the tradition moulding their bodies and minds into exponents of Louis XIV’s ecole de danse. It was the best such presentation of the school’s students in my memory.

Capping this display before intermission was James Sofranko’s sprightly, musically adept interpretation of a Mozart Symphony. Sofranko, a SFB soloist and a graduate of the Julliard School of Music, provided unerring touches of colloquial movement to augment a thorough exposition of classical technique with formations and movement patterns underlying the benefits of his Julliard schooling. I could watch back to back a dozen times and still find delight.

Senior student Benjamin Freemantle’s work Bare to music by Laure Romano Bare followed Intermission, danced by two couples and six corps. The women wore long flowing garments with generous swaps of color, evoking attempts at tie dye. Handsome dancers, swirling skirts and frequent entrances and exits, but mood or emotion failed to visit this early choreographic effort.

Patrick Armand staged Vasily Vainonen’s Flames of Paris pas de deux, danced to Boris Asafyev’s music. The dancing pair were Chisako Oga and Haruo Niyama, both small, energetic, engaging and technically highly proficient. It’s my understanding the Niyama is yet to see sweet sixteen, but brimming over with the chops to deliver this Soviet era evocation of the French Revolution.

Having seen photos of Vakhtang Chabukiani in the role as well as seeing its comparatively recent popularity at the Jackson Competitions following Joseph Phillip’s successful rendition, It’s hard to discern a knowledge of the work’s back story and unlikely the dance world will make Simon Schama’s book on the Revolution required reading. This is not to denigrate May 20’s highly competent rendition, but to mention a need for the dance world to investigate any historical roots of what is portrayed, particularly in this country with its short history.

Tina Le Blanc staged Helgi Tomasson’s Bartok Divertimento for Natasha Sheehan with Francisco Sebastao, Blake Kessler and Daniel Domenach.

Kenneth MacMillan’s Soiree Musicale to Benjamin Britten’s music, created to honor Dame Ninette de Valois’ 90th birthday, received its American premiere with S.F. Ballet School’s students. With two principals, a male pas de quatre, two sets of six couples and a dozen corps members, it was a major undertaking on a relatively small stage. It would be good to see it staged at the Opera House or even Stern Grove where sight lines are less overwhelmed and the dancers enjoy a modicum of space; the stage at Lam Research Theater is too small.

As in all other numbers Soiree Musicale was a noble effort, competently performed and emblematic of the strides shown by the current crop of teachers and students at the school. The confidence and nascent wisps of elegance one hopes to see deepen each following spring, with the fervent desire that there will be enough ensembles to absorb the evident talent.

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 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 USA IBC, Round I, Sessions III and IV, Monday, June 15, 2014

9 Jul

In familiar form, Odd Numbered Sessions in Round I were scheduled for 2 p.m., Even numbered sessions a6 7:30 p.m.

Session III

So Jung Lee, #11, Jr., Korea, opened afternoon session, Paquita variation, arms delicately stroked; pirouettes need closing precise fifth. Rare to witness total grace in variation; no one yet equals Say Eun Park, 2006 competition.

Zoe Briscoe, #12, Jr., U.S.A., Coppelia variation with utter accuracy, control, correctness at expense of music message– exhilaration before wedding.

Monica Bulbuena, #13, Jr., Peru, Coppelia variation with charm, gave something of plot; could use additional sparkle.

Miranda Wienecke, #14, Jr., U.S.A., danced perky Flames of Paris.

Young-Grace Choi, #15, Jr., U.S.A. Paquita variation requiring fouettes with grand a la secondes.

Ye Lim Choi, #62, Sr., and Dae Han Na, #85, Sr., both Korea, La Fille Mal Gardee, correctly credited to Jean Dauberval, four composers. Garbled notes record excellent male solo, effervescence.

Shiori Kase, #64, Sr., Japan, female variation Don Quixote, followed by Guillaume Basso, #65, Sr., France, male version of familiar pas de deux, distinguished by the use of hands.

Takahiro Hayashi, #66, Sr., Japan, same variation; for a small man; audience with elevation, a bit of dash.

Intermission

So Jung Lee, #11, Jr., Florine variation from the Blue Bird Pas de deux, very correct reading,; lacking “learning” quality.

Zoe Briscoe, #12, danced correct Paquita variation; largely academic.

Monica Balbuena, #13, Jr., Florine variation from Blue Bird pas de deux. Technically correct, graceful.

Miranda Wienecke, #14, Jr., wore full-skirted, bobby tutu of gold-edged scarlet; danced a Paquita variations, considerable charm.

Younji-Grace Choi, #15, Jr., selected Coppelia variation.

With non-competing partner Joseph Phillips, Irina Sapozhnikova, #47, Sr., Russia, Don Quixote pas de deux; distinguished war horse with balances, full use of fan. Tone warm, devoid of tricks, gratifying.

Shiori Kase, #64, Sr., Odile’s variation, Swan Lake with assurance, correctness, motivation.

Guillaume Basso, #65, Sr., presented Albrecht’s solo, Act II, Giselle. Stronger than initial variation, last pose, pleading, almost recumbent effective.

Takahiro Hayashi, #66, Sr., all bounce, jump, turning Fille Mal Gardee male variation.

Session IV

Megan Wilson, #16, Jr., U.S.A., spirited rendition of Princess Florine, Blue Bird pas de deux.

Savannah Louis, #17, Jr., U.S.A., white tutu Paquita variation, no hesitation, good attack.

Olivia Gusti, @18, U.S.A., Coppelia variation, showed phrasing.

Mizaho Nagata, #19, Jr., Japan, with non-competing partner Ogulcan Borova, silvery white tutu, coronet, fussy rendition Coppelia Wedding Pas de Deux, hands flicking minus reason, no sense of reason for the dance, fouettes traveling excessively.

Daniel A. McCormick, #20, Jr., Mexico, loosely knit young man, male variation from Flames of Paris, suitable heroic gestures.

Mengjun Chen, #71, Sr., PRC, dressed in buff-color vest, trousers, Fille Mal Gardee variation good ballon, finish

Mozart Mizayama, #73, Sr. Brazil, leaned into Fille Mal Gardee variation; zest; energy, inflection reminiscent of Alexander Grant, Royal Ballet appearances in San Francisco.

Olga Marchenkova, #77, Sr., Russia, Bridesmaid variation, Don Quixote, selection strange to me. Black bodice, yellow skirted tutu, long legs elegantly displayed.

Jayson Sarino Pescasio, #78, Sr., Philippines danced male Fille Mal Gardee variation cleanly, good jumps.

Intermission

Megan Wilson, #16, danced Paquita variation correctly, transitions abrupt.

Savannah Louis, #Louis, #17, Jr., gave Princess Florine lovely port de bras; not yet motivated.

Olivia Gusti, #18, Paquita variation, tall, coltish.

Daniel A. McCormick, #20, Male Paquita variation, in white and elegant, minor flub.

Ga-yeon Jung, #68, Sr., Ji-Seok Ha, #83, Sr., Korea, Don Quixote Pas de Deux. Heavy on the sequins. Multiple turns, no fan in sight.

Mengjun Chen, #71, Sr., Flower Festival in Gensano variation. Sole dancer of variation in competition; very correct, ballon good.

Mozart Mizuyama, #75, Sr., Swan Lake, Act III variation; opening tours impressive, finish debonair.

Olga Marchenkova, #77, Sr., Grigorovitch variation, Black Swan, Act III. Nicely phrased; variation not my favorite.

Jayson Sarino Pescasio, #78, Sr., Grigorovitch variation, Prince Siegfried, Act III, Swan Lake.

Changes ; Jackson, Mississippi, 2014

7 Jul

Yes, there were changes, particularly losses in the individuals who made the Competition first happen. Gone is Thalia Mara, the visionary for whom the Civic Auditorium was renamed; gone also was Robert Joffrey the jury chair for the first three Competitions, 1979, 1982, 1986; Warren Ludlum, the attorney sharing Harvard Law School with Max Thelen, Jr., the connection providing my decision to attend the first Competition through print-maker Phyllis Thelen, Max’s wife, and Warren’s wife, Helen. Missing also is Karlen Bain, who assessed herself as the first “local” Executive Director for the 1986 Competition; her assistant, Sue Lobrano, stepped up to the plate when Travis Bain’s job took him away from Mississippi.

I think that was the last time Frankie Keating climbed around backstage to record the dancers. I remember Estelle Sommers telling me that Frankie broke her foot in Moscow when the IBC Committee went to the Moscow Competition, hoping to enlist Yuri Grigorovitch on the 1986 Jury. The aid of Olga Smoak made that presence possible, Nina Ananiasvili and Andris Liepa representing the USSR and being awarded the first of just three Prix de Jackson’s being awarded competitors, all of them foreign-trained by the bye. Despite the fact Keating was a native of Mississippi, the Competition never asked her to display her record of those first years.

More recent changes include the loss of veteran supporters like Martha Underwood; she organized the hospitality part of the Competition, providing host families not only for the V.I.P.’s but also for the contestants. They ran errands, entertained them at dinners when schedules permitted, some remaining life-long friends with their charges. I well remember a Fourth of July picnic out near a small pond or lake which Martha assembled for those remaining over the national holiday. Marilyn Beach organized the car pools for some five competitions; now she and Ann Cook marshal the volunteer ushers who fill the programs for each session.

The press room also has changed, though the location in the Mississippi Arts Building is along the same corridor, looking out at the stark patio separating the building from Pascagoula Street. The Museum moved to a building behind the auditorium and in the last fours years a garden and extensive patio with stage has covered the bare space between the two cultural buildings, eliminating some of the parking spaces where Competition professionals like Claudia Shaw used to park. Walking along Lamar Street past the Arts Building, the approach to the Museum is gracious with plantings grouped with donors identified. Where border and walk ends, the patio space opens up and you just know it was planned for parties, at least in the summer and early fall. It was utilized for the Grand Ball following the Gala Performance.

From four computers in the press room, it now provides two for writers; access to a printer is through the press personnel. Telephones, still available in 2010, are absent. Cell phones are the instrument of choice and expectation, a little difficult on a hold out like me. I missed some events because of my tardy acceptance of technology. The press office equipment is lent to the Competition like the vans and cars chauffeured by volunteers; their number has dwindled along with the scheduled runs of school buses ferrying dancers to rehearsal halls and the students to classes. 2014 was the first year that the Fourth Estate, writers, photographers, videographers did not spend a Friday lunch with USA IBC Officials.

Budget constraints were manifested in other ways. The Flame was lit at the opening ceremony, by Joseph Phillips, Junior Gold medalist 2002, with appropriate gravitas and flourish. In 2014 it did not burn during the day outside the auditorium.

USA IBC’s Tenth Opening Ceremony, Thalia Mara Auditorium June 14, 2014

5 Jul

Opening Ceremonies are known for honorifics; USA IBC’s Tenth such was no exception; speeches, mercifully short preceded a handsome display of past and present to familiar music played by the Mississippi Symphony directed by Ramona Pansegrau.

The slightly yellow-hued printed pages named the event The Gertrude C. Ford Opening Ceremony. Ford was serious about the arts, a student of Shakepearean literature and an accomplished musician, and married to Aaron Lane Ford, an attorney and one time U.S. Congressman. Established in 1991, The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation’s focus is on education, health and youth services, 2008 assets listed as over $45 million. Support of music is a consistent theme; in the recent Thalia Mara Auditorium renovation, the orchestra pit bears Ford’s name.

Comments about the renovation are elsewhere, including the post-Ceremony reception.

This year a quartet from the Mississippi Chorus replaced the usual soprano soloist leading the Star Spangled Banner, sparing us the possibility of screeching at the high notes. The honors for the U.S. flag and Mississippi State were accomplished by the Germantown High School Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard, notable for the quartet’s varied size and serious demeanor.

Twenty-five year veteran Sue Lobrano’s opening remarks were followed by Tony Yarber, the handsome African-American Mayor of Jackson; short, congratulatory, welcoming. He was followed by Haley Fisackerly, Board Chair of the USA IBC and completed by 1982 Senior Gold Medalist Janie Parker, representing Luigi, the Tenth Competition’s Honorary Chairman. She stated her qualifications arose from classes in modern dance and jazz in Atlanta, Georgia prior to study at the North Carolina’s School of the Arts.

Down came the screen to run Celebrating 35 Years at the USA IBC. Edited by John Stockwell of Times Fly Productions, the audience was treated to glimpses of Thalia Mara teaching class, a brief second or two of Robert Joffrey, and a kaleidoscope of winners. The video warrants being attached to the USA IBC Web page.

Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance #4 provided the background for the ninety some competitors to march down Thalia Mara’s left aisle, cross below the stage and step up, the first of any group or a single competitor bearing the flag of the country represented. Garbed in black sweats and hooded jackets courtesy of Capezio Ballet Makers, Inc., youth and its energy caught the throat, swelling the chest with near patriotic fervor, the pleasure of their massive presence.

Flags ranged behind them, the competitors stood as the Jurors and the Dance School Faculty were introduced to the strains of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Included were the Competition’s Host and Hostess, Wes Chapman and Susan Jaffe. Finally, to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Joseph Phillips, USA IBC’s Junior Gold Medalist in 2002, strode with distinct measured stride down the same left aisle, climbed the stairs to lit the Competition Torch, raised back stage center. Everyone clapped and it was time for intermission.

Complexions, the New York City-based company of thirteen dancers, founded by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson in 1994, was the post intermission invited company, dancing a 2013 Rhoden choreography titled Innervisions, to a suite of Stevie Wonder songs, the work partially supported by the NEA and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, partnering with the City Council.

What a talented mix of dancers that Complexions presents demonstrating multi-culturalism at its best and most skilled! From all parts of the U.S. – Long Island, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington State, Ohio were represented; not surprisingly, a number of the locations have high schools emphasizing the arts. Cuba, Japan and Korea also contributed to the mix. Women whose thighs or height precluded membership in any company of note’s classical corps de ballet yielded nothing in technical brilliance, phrasing or presence, to their more willowy sister dancers. They plunged briefly into the arms of partners or in equally short sisterhoods to the over-miked voice of Wonder. As baseball rookies or contract players, the men’s walk and physique yielded nothing to those already in the game. The collective energy level spilled across the footlights as easily as simulated fog, but did not dissipate; it continued throughout the disparate choreography performed. There was no sonata allegro form in the dance witnessed and perhaps just one discernible ensemble phrase of any length. Virtually everyone commented on one small dancer performing downstage left whose ability to fall to the floor and raise himself with equal swiftness testified not only to a flexible spine but abdominal muscles of major flexibility; he was mesmerizing. Little wonder that, beyond the loose format, the audience gave Complexions a roaring ovation, standing.