YAGP Gala presents a delightful mixture of dance prodigies and top dancers from around the world.
All week the city has been buzzing with visiting dancers from top international dance schools. Recently, I’ve been encountering the YAGP people quite a bit around the city in classes at Peridance and Steps. Now, I get to see them perform at New York City Center for the gala performance. YAGP attracts dance school personnel from top schools to recruit and award scholarships.
Since its birth eleven years ago, the YAGP has grown into being the largest competition for student ballet scholarships worldwide. Dubbed the “internet of the dance world” for connecting a diverse population of dancers around the globe, YAGP became a member of the Conseil International de la Danse (CID) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005. More than 25,000 dancers worldwide have participated in YAGP workshops, competitions and audition classes, and more than 250 YAGP alumni dance with major companies around the world. Most outstandingly, over two million dollars in YAGP scholarship funds have been contributed to dance schools worldwide to aid in furthering dance education.
Full of energy and witty phrases, Peter Sagal from Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! on NPR hosts this year’s 2010 YAGP Gala. He even attempts to demonstrate some of his own knowledge and ballet technique, amusing the audience by showing off each ballet foot position and his favorite steps. Peter Sagal hysterically announces the start of the show doing a penché while holding the mic in one hand and grabbing onto the curtain for support with the other before dashing away as the music begins.
The evening opens with a cute cowboy dance by a ten year old boy. Apparently not being from New York City he probably is unaware that it is illegal to have toy guns that appear real. Perhaps his holsters do indeed contain real guns which he brandishes about between double tours.
A youthful girl with long limbs performs a contemporary dance number, “Wild Horses.” Although, perhaps a bit too provocative in short shorts for her age, she certainly has lovely split leaps and a nice trot. Many of the young dancers performing have incredible technique, but their expressions, though plastered on with practice, cloud with anxiety and pressure as they prepare before a turn or other virtuosic display.
A twelve year old boy from Japan delightfully sticks out in his playful routine with a mop. The story is typical: a cleaning man becomes playful and starts dancing around with his mop, only to return to cleaning. Untypical is his expressiveness, which is endearing as he falsely prepares for turns, teasing the trick-hungry audience. Another twelve year old from Italy displays exquisite line, interspersing contemporary movements with clean classical technique, easily whipping out double sauté basque turns and more than five pirouettes.
With a costume obviously inspired by the dress worn by Bjork at the Grammy’s, a bronze medalist rail-thin fifteen year old girl of China, Shang Yao Qian, performs an interesting contemporary solo entitled “Black Wing.” This awesomely awkward girl is adorned with long limbs and beautiful “cashew” feet, a perfect representation of an ugly duckling struggling to grow into a graceful swan.
Silver medalist, Zhao Wan Ting, explodes into sensual gestural choreography, alternating with walking, almost strutting sequences. Grand Prix champion, William Bracewell performs with calm delicious port de bras. Although after seeing a few hops, I wonder if his performance had been better during competition rounds; but, I forgive him quickly as he elegantly arabesques. Besides, this is an educational competition program whose purpose is not to find perfection, but to aid in its perpetual pursuit.
Next on the program, I am delighted to see Russel Ferguson, champion from So You Think You Can Dance, take the stage to show us what krumping is all about. In this special surprise guest artist appearance, Russel Ferguson wobbles his rotating legs in and out while simultaneously popping his chest. His incredible control shines through his isolations.
Peter Sagal returns to preface the finale number, in which a large number of students dance together. He explains how Youth American Grand Prix brings together over 2,000 dancers from around the world to compete and study dance for one week together, in a sense, creating a “UN of dance.” All practiced soloists, the young dancers still try to outshine each other… Despite the chorus staging, they do not dance together (which could be a result of short rehearsal time). It is, however, mesmerizing to see so many young dancers take the stage at one time and finish in an elaborate tableau.
Intermission sends streams of dancers, parents, teachers and industry people into the lobby where refreshments of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries are served to celebrate the conclusion of this year’s YAGP. The intermission is extended for the socializing to take place. Everyone is abuzz with excitement about the talent just witnessed and the awaited post-intermission performances of the more celebrated, professional dancers.
The second half of the Gala performance features today’s stars, YAGP alumni that now perform with top dance companies from around the world.
Opening is the Act II pas de deux from Giselle, danced by Paris Opera Ballet ‘s Mathilde Froustey and Mathias Heyman, the perfect pair to match old classical style. The couple gives generous lovely port de bras. In The Moment is a contemporary piece with ABT’s Michelle Wiles and Tulsa Ballet’s Wang Yi dancing round a chair, accompanied by a live on stage singer, Aurora Barnes. Yearning, sharp and contrasting movement choreographically builds the urgency of this dance.
Another passionate pas de deux is with Isabella Boylston-what extension!- and Blaine Hoven of ABT in Sognato, using music by Schubert. Following is another pas de deux, Parting, choreographed by Yuri Smekalove, who is partnered by Yevgenia Obraztsova, both of the Mariinsky Ballet. It is Yevgenia Obraztsova’s New York debut, and she is welcomed with an abundance of cheers and applause. Joaquin De Luz of NYCB dances Five Variations on a Theme with music by Bach. With lovely sustained attitudes and a casual air, Joaquin De Luz delivers magnificence.
Ballroom World Champions Slavik Kryklyvyy and Anna Melnikova tear the stage apart in Jive eliciting many screams of excitement from the audience. The number includes standard ballroom elements- exposed skin, undulating hips and accentuating air bites. The step-tap looks stunning with the right degree of foot bevel, though the over-twisting of the wrists I find almost grotesque.
From American Ballet Theatre is Joseph Gorak with his billowy shirt adding fluidity to his arm movements in the solo to Nocturne, music by Chopin.
Rubinald Pronk of Morphoses dances L’effleure as a solo because his partner, Shirley Esseboom of Nederlands Dans Theater, is ‘stuck in traffic’ according to the announcement by Peter Sagal. Rubinald Pronk is a dramatic presence on stage-his fluid portebras and red flowing pants look like spilling blood. Gorgeous music by Vivaldi seems to pour through Rubinald Pronk- undulating the torso, articulating through his limbs, lengthening into breathtaking lines. He is so stunning by himself, one easily forgets that Rubinald Pronk is dancing what is supposed to be a duet, not a solo. A rose stays delicately in his mouth the entire dance, only to drop at the last moment.
Donizetti,choreographed by Manuel Legris, is performed by Mathilde Froustey and Mathias Heyman, the only couple to do more than one spot on the Gala program. Joaquin De Luz returns to the stage with Tiler Peck to perform Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. The American classic makes the audience roar up in applause, and the dancing couple are radiant, bursting with energy.
Polina Seminova of the Berlin State Opera Ballet and Marcelo Gomes of American Ballet Theatre dance the pas de deux from Manon, an amazingly executed, beautifully portrayed love scene.
Closing this fabulous evening is Sarah Lamb and Sergei Polunin from the Royal Ballet with the pas de deux from Diana and Acteon. Sergei Polunin delights the crowd with amazing effortless jumps.
YAGP proves again to be the must see ballet performance. Bringing world premieres of new dance work and the world’s best dance talent to one stage, YAGP Gala is a delightful highlight to a wonderful program that offers so many opportunities to young dancers.
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Lea McGowan
Performance: Youth America Grand Prix 2010 Gala “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow”
Venue: New York City Center, New York City
Performance Date: Friday, March 26, 2010
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