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Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow: Youth America Grand Prix

May 3, 2012

Misty Copeland in “Toccare” Choreography by Marcello Gomes, Photo by Liza Voll Photography

You could feel the excitement the moment you walk into the doors of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow presented by the Youth America Grand Prix on March 27th.

The events started with the introduction of the celebrity masters of ceremonies Ana Gasteyer  from Saturday Night Live and Brian d’Arcy James from Smash. They kept the evening light and moving along.

The Stars of Tomorrow was the first half of the program and we were grabbed right from the start as Geraldin Getzemani Chico Valerio, 9, and Salvador David Perez Enciso, 8, from the Haydee Barron Academia de Danza in Mexico performing “Croack,” choreography by Martha Sahagun.  One little tyke rolled on the stage lying on a skate board wearing green and was soon joined by another in green and yellow. They became animated frogs with amazing extensions and turns that stole our hearts as they frog-hopped about the stage. It was fun!

“Croak” Photo by Liza Voll Photography

The Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory from Florida, who had won the YAGP Outstanding School Award for 2011 performed Shostakovich Suite”, choreography by Richard Cook and staged by Peter Stark. There was such technical precision in this piece for twelve it was hard to believe it was not a professional company.

The Washington Ballet School from Washington. D.C. must be mentioned for their exceptional performance of  Cho San Goh‘s “Fives”. With all fifteen dancers dressed in red, the work was  filled with long lean lines, tight petit bourrées and the men looking strong as they flowed in and around the innovative choreography.

David Donnelly (16) from The Northern Cincinnati Youth Ballet in Ohio won the 2012 Outstanding Contemporary Dancer Award. His performance in “Ch’i”,  choreography by Susie Payne was remarkable. He had a strong presence on stage that blended his technical prowess to perfection in Ms. Payne contemporary piece. Bravo Indeed!

Kimin Kim (19) from the Korean University of the Arts in the Rep. of Korea was the 2012 Grand Prix Winner. He exhibited why in his Variation from Don Quixote”. His interpretation of Petipa’s classic variation was flawless, his turns impeccable and his leaps huge. He was a huge favorite especially with the YAGP young competitors who were seated in the First Ring. They made their presence known as only the young can, filled with youthful exuberance and a contagious sense of excitement.

The Stars of Today began with the World Premier of Justin Peck’s “Furiant”, danced by New York City Ballet’s Teresa Reichien and Robert Fairchild. Mr. Peck’s choreography had a sense of reckless abandon that was yet controlled and fluid. Ms. Reichien and Mr. Fairchild would weave together and then apart with smooth easy transitions, the piece filled with intricate footwork and unusually body positioning during partnering. It was enjoyable, but I need to see it again to fully be able to grasp the intricacies and nuances of the piece.

The New York Premiere of Fei Bo’s Life is a Dream I could have done without! Tamara Rojo was superb with her body’s use in the work but it was just too slow, the choreography dragging and going no-where.  And what was with the silver vase spotlighted throughout the dance (I have since discovered it was a fishbowl with a goldfish, still didn’t help…). To be honest, if that had been on television, I would have changed the channel and if I had a remote control with me would have tried too anyway just to spare us.

Herman Cornejo’s Tango Y Yo to music by Astor Piazzolla was everything one expects from Mr. Cornejo. He began with furious turns in second as only he can do. The YAGP young competitors loved him! He makes everything he does seem so easy and effortless.

Yolanda Correa Frias (Norwegian Ballet) and Yonah Acosta (English National Ballet) performed my favorite pas de deux, Le Cosaire and it was a show stopper. This being the New York debut of Mr. Acosta he made the most of it with his with dazzling turns and virtuoso jumps, he had everyone screaming after his first variation. Ms. Correa Frias thirty-two fouetté en tournant was awesome. In all, it was an energized crowd-pleasing duet.

But the highlight of the evening was the World Premier of Marcelo Gomes’ “Toccare”. Set to an excerpt from Ian Ng’s Grand Jeté for a Violin, played live by the violinist Charles Yang and pianist Dmitri Dover, and beautifully danced by ABT’s Misty Copeland and Alexandre Hammoudi with projected images by Jade Young, is a masterful work.

With the large projected image of a hand on a stomach behind the dancers, Ms. Copeland runs and slides on point as Mr. Hammoudi catches her. At one point she straddles his back as he is bent over and with both their arms moving they resemble some graceful insect.  Mr. Hammoudi carries Ms. Copeland in awkward positions, sideways bent angular. Ms. Copeland seems to throw a trantrum as she stomps in circles on point. The projected images often mirror what is happening in the dance but greatly magnified to consist of only body parts, such as flexed feet while be carried for Ms. Copeland and the positions of Mr. Hammoudi’s arms or hands on Ms. Copeland’s body. It is a genius of a work.

Misty Copeland in “Toccare” Choreography by Marcello Gomes, Photo by Jade Young

…A special thank you goes to Scott Schlexer, Marcelo Gomes’s manager, he was integral in bringing all the artists together for “Toccare” and helped make it the great success and the brilliant work that was witnessed. I so look forward to seeing again and hopefully soon!

“Toccare” Choreography by Marcello Gomes, Photo by Jade Young

Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin closed the evening with the pas de deux “Diana and Acteon” from “Esmeralda”. Ms. Rojo was brilliant, her turns drawing gasps from the crowd. I had been very excited at the prospect to see Mr. Polunin dance and I must say, after all I had read about his abilities, I was very disappointed. Most of the duet, he just looked bored and disinterested.

Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) is the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards over $250,000 annually in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition is held annually around the world and in New York City, and is open to dance students of all nationalities 9-19 years old.

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