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Ballerina Absoluta: Gala Tribute to Legendary Natalia Makarova at Lincoln Center

May 5, 2012

Natalia Makarova, YAGP’s Ballerina Absoluta: Gala Tribute to Legendary Natalia Makarova Photo by Liza Voll Photography

On Saturday, April 28th at the David H. Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center Natalia Makarova was honored by the Youth America Grand Prix. After defecting from the Soviet Union in 1970, she rose to become one of the most celebrated ballerina’s of her day, even winning the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award in 1983 for her performance in On Your Toes, choreographed by George Balanchine.

A larger than life image of Ms. Makarova was projected on a screen that covered the back of the stage. Selections from documentaries of Ms. Makarova discussing her life, her roles, her challenges and her triumphs was projected as dancers performed the roles and the dances she was most known for beneath as she looked on.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Friedemann Vogel “White Swan Pas de Deux” from “Swan Lake” Photo by Liza Voll Photography

The “White Swan Pas de Deux” from “Swan Lake” was performed brilliantly by Yuan Yuan Tan (San Francisco Ballet) and Friedman Vogel (Stuttgart Ballet). Ms. Tan’s arms rippling as if she meant to take flight. Ekaterina Kondaurova bends and contorts as she flows into point work that was swift and intricate in William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”.

Mauro Bigonzetti’s “Serenata”, danced by Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasliev, principal dancers with both of the Mariinsky Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, held us transfixed. Ms. Osipova seemed fascinated with Mr. Vasliev, not sure if she wanted him to stay or go. He would grab her as she threw herself into his arms, He carries her around as if a doll in his arms, inverted or sideways, her leg twitching as he puts her on her feet. In the end she grabs his shirts, collapses over him and they curl together as if to sleep.

….The above video is the Second Act Grand Pas de Deux from Giselle.  Filmed at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 2, 1977.  Natalia Makarova is Giselle, Mikhail Baryshnikov is Albrecht, Martine Van Hamel is Myrtha.  John Lanchbery conducts.  Choreography by Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa.  Production by David Blair.  Sets by Oliver Smith.  American Ballet Theater….

Act II began with the “Grand Pas de Deux from Giselle”, a role Ms. Makarova was known for. Again it was Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasliev; I wondered at the sheer artistry and chemistry between them. Ms. Osipova’s Giselle was so light and airy she seemed weightless. Mr. Vasliev variations were masterful and without fault.

Diana Vishneva, also a principal dancer of the Mariinsky Ballet and ABT, and Marcelo Gomes (ABT) danced a steamy ”Bedroom Pas de Deux” from “Manon”. Ms. Vishneva both coy and flirty draws Mr. Gomes to her enticingly. Mr. Gomes is so handsome he makes for the perfect Des Grieux, who could not fall in-love with him at first sight.

…The above video is Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes in the “Bedroom Pas de Deux” for “Manon”….

Tamara Rojo, the new Artistic Director of The English National Ballet and Sergei Polunin, whose controversial and sudden departure from the Royal Ballet has had him in the news much of late, performed a sublime “Black Swan Pas de Deux”.

To my disappointment, David Hallberg, principal dancer with both the Bolshoi and ABT was underutilized, appearing only briefly in a section of “La Bayadère” with Ms. Kondaurova. Though brief, still a brilliant performance and I longed for more…

Ekaterina Kondaurovaq & David Hallberg “Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere” Photo by Liza Voll Photography

We did not see Ms. Makarova till the end of the program, led from the wings by ABT’s Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. Everyone was on their feet, a shower of love and adoration for Ms. Makarova. Unless you actually saw Makarova dance it is hard to grasp the breadth and scope of her talent, but this all to brief reminiscent gave those new to her and those familiar a glimpse of the brilliance of one of the greatest ballerina’s of a generation.

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