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The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

Classical Showcase

The Winter Performance
Universal Ballet Academy
4301 Harewood Road NE
Washington, DC
Saturday, December 13, 200

by George Jackson
copyright © 2003
George Jackson

Recitals by the Universal (formerly Kirov; originally Universal) Ballet Academy have gained a reputation for classical purity and professional polish that is matched by few other schools around the world. These showcases occur two or three times a year just before breaks in the academic schedule and they are long, lasting sometimes three hours or more. This year's winter performance was relatively brief, just two and a half hours. Often the starting number is a demonstration class but this time it was Classical Composition by Nadig to Glinka music that served as a classroom based entrée for six young women. There followed 32 other numbers, 18 of them by (or after) Marius Petipa. All the Petipa selections were classical, not from his character dances, for arguably even Raymonda's solo is upper class at its core with the folk ingredients elegantly, imperially transformed (An Na Yung had the requisite authority). Among the dancers lit up by Petipa were Ian Lindeman (in the Paquita trio), Emily Bicks (in a Don Quixote Act 3 solo, and very finished for someone so young), long limbed Sae Hyun Kwon (in the Vestalka solo to music presumably by Gasparo Spontini and not Sposini; although M. Ivanov is listed as composer for Petipa's ballet on the Vestal Virgin topic, this could have been from the Spontini opera), Kenya Nakamura (in the Giselle Peasant Boy variation), Brooklyn Mack (powerful in a Le Corsaire solo and partnering lyrical Sofia Dahlgren in the duo), Sasha De Sola (another Corsaire variation), Mikayla Williams (simple, fresh and elegant in a Sleeping Beauty Prologue solo) as well as Mara Thompson, Emily Drexler, April Giangeruso and Hee Kyung Bae. The dancers in Petipa ensembles struck the right balance between individuality and uniformity.

Other classical or neoclassical choreography was by Alexander Gorsky (an Alonso edition of a La fille mal gardée solo, danced with spunk by Mathias Dingman), Lev Ivanov (the metronomic Little Swans quartet from Swan Lake), Vassily Vainonen (Flames of Paris duo with bright Kiri Chapman and Maxim Clefos), the Legat brothers (the ballerina solo from the Fairy Doll trio, danced by Brianna Stinebaugh), Leonid Lavrovsky (a Pizzicato to Delibes music, danced by Caitlin Miller and Katie Wee), Vakthang Chabukiani (a doubled male variation from Laurencia with Ryosuke Ogura and David Harvey), Vladimir Djouloukhadze (another doubled variation, this one to Offenbach music for young Travis Bagget and Philip Slocki), and Vassily Vainonen (the floral ensemble waltz from The Nutcracker Act 2, which served as the evening's finale).

A pleasing aspect of the program was the stylistic attention given different choreographic conceptions. Gorsky's Ocean and Pearls Trio from Little Humpbacked Horse is often danced as if it were Petipa softened. It is art nouveau choreography, which should have firm linearity but with tendrils. Shane Wuerthner and his partners, Angela Zint and Anna Cannon had the stylization at their fingertips and elbows. Remember what a hard time Suzanne Farrell's dancers had adapting to Maurice Bejart's ecstatic manner a couple of seasons ago? Dingman mastered the passion and did so with nobility in Bejart's Sertaki to Theodorakis music.

The program's character numbers were aptly balletic. Djouloukhadze's Young Sailors' Dance to Offenbach showed off the academy's team of very young boys. Both of Luke Newton Mason's dances, the trio Gypsy Love (music: Maria Delmar Bonet) and the women's ensemble Rom Peru (music: Grovi) introduced sexy rhythms in a balletically compatible way. Even the acrobatic, fake sentimental solo Nostalgia (Palazios' choreography with Mara Thompson) wasn't as unsuitable as some nonclassical numbers have been in the past.

Yelena Vinogradova and the academy's repetiteurs—Alla Sizova, Ludmila Morkovina, Jacqueline Achmedow, Angelina Armeiskaya, Anatoli Kucheruk and Djouloukhadze—could be a bit more adventurous in choosing choreography. How interesting it might have been this year to have seen the Flames of Paris duo next to its American cousin, the Liberty Bell duo from George Balanchine's Stars and Stripes. After all, this is the year of the Balanchine centennial. Why not do Josef Hassreiter's Drum Majorette variation from the original version of Fairy Doll next to the Legat brothers' solo? This year is an Ashton centennial too, and something from Ondine might have matched and contrasted neatly with Ocean and Pearls. I'd also like to see these pristine dancers try the Ballet Russe choreographers—Nijinsky, Nijinska, Massine, Romanov, Lichine. What the staff shouldn't do, however, is to stray too far from Petipa classicism. They have updated it a bit, of course, and extensions are higher than before yet tastefully so. The consolation of classical dancing remains a singular pleasure, one that this performance gave viewers.

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 12
December 15, 2003

©2003 George Jackson




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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on October 7, 2003