YOUTH AMERICAN GRAND PRIX GALA 2016
May 2, 2016
In “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow,” the Youth America Grand Prix uses the fast-paced gala format to showcase the competition finalists in the first half, and then show us what their future might look like, with many guest artists that include YAGP alumni dancing in the second half. With little time and many moving parts, the evening was uneven and had several sound or technical mishaps. Nonetheless, the level of technique and polish in many of these students is impressive.
A young man whose Broadway-like pizzazz and strong technique (three double saut de basques in a row) encapsulated the feel of competitions and our fast-paced, sound bite world: getting everything in, in sixty seconds or less. Another winner (who also looked to be maybe 12 or 13 years old) from Portugal delivered a dynamo interpretation of Le Corsaire, with an ease and control recalling the incisive abandon of Peter Schaufuss. (Dancers’ names are easy to miss: announced, or sometimes projected on a screen but not printed, presumably because they have just been selected). But the most mature performance came from a dancer from Fernando Alonso’s school in Cuba, in Don Quixote. His double inside passé tour hung in the air, with a sharp rotation but soft landing, all with style and confidence. The programming smartly alternates between classical variations and contemporary pieces, and the two young women that performed an excerpt by Ohad Naharin showed an understanding of his quirky use of the spine while embodying the intriguing animal-like movement with full commitment.
The gala was hosted with humor by Irina Dvorovenko, and Angel Corella, two much-admired former principals with American Ballet Theatre (a company that hires frequently from YAGP). A very touching film tribute to Shelley King, an administrator and mentor of the YAGP community, brought a reflective moment to the line-up. In the second half, Ms. King’s daughter, Rebecca King (a soloist with Finnish national) danced a contemporary ballet duet by Peter Quanz dedicated to her mom, with Amar Ramasar of New York City Ballet, with lots of turns and fluid, emotional lifts.
Technical difficulties, lack of context, and a series of last minute replacements made for some uneven dancing and choreography throughout the evening. A short acrobatic number opened the second half with dizzying flips and head spins that also featured ABT principal Stella Abrera, but did not showcase her gifts. Stuttgart Ballet principal Daniel Camargo danced well in an overwrought contemporary solo but had trouble partnering Sara Lane in Diana and Acteon. Hannah O’Neil and Hugo Marchand of the Paris Opera Ballet seemed a bit tense for their New York debuts, while Bolshoi principals Ekaterina Krysanova and Artem Ovcharenko delivered an excerpt from Marco Spada in front of a projection of Versailles.
Michaela DePrince and Edo Wijnen were charming and a bit winded by the end of Balanchine’s Tarantella. The high points of the show were Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet, in a high-flying solo that took us beyond technique, and Carlos Dos Santos’ intricate and charming choreography for over two hundred YAGP dancers of all ages, who impressively managed to enter, cohere into gigantic formations, and exit, all with joy and aplomb, reminding us of dance’s cross-generational appeal as a labor of love, with intangible rewards.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Roberts