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Second Annual Dance Against Cancer at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center

May 18, 2012

Daniel Ulbricht & Lauren Lovett in George Balanchine’s “Embraceable You”. Photo by Erin Baiano

Cancer affects us all! It has affected my life more than once, I lost my grandmother and my aunt to Cancer, and my cousin is presently battling Breast Cancer and for my cousin it has it’s been a difficult struggle.  So it was  an honor to attend the Second Annual Dance Against Cancer at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center on May 7th. The event was produced by New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht and Manhattan Movement & Arts Center’s Erin Fogarty.

It is rare to have such esteemed artists appearing together in such an intimate setting as MMAC. The evening began with a video of Daniel Ulbricht and Erin Fogarty discussing the significance of the event and how it had affected not just their lifes but the lifes of many of the dancers who was performing in the evening’s program. It was a touching moment to the beginning of the event.

Most of the major companies in the NYC area was represented, NYCB, ABT, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey as well as a stellar performance from three students from The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. Many of the dances seen are part of the repertory presently being seen during NYCB’s Spring Season. A grateful thank you must be given to The George Balanchine Trust for allowing the works to be shown.

Teresa Reichlen & Craig Hall in Christopher Wheeldon’s DVG: Danse à Grande Vitesse. Photo by Erin Baiano

The first dance of the evening was an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon’s DVG: Danse à Grande Vitesse, with music by Michael Nyman. The duet danced by Teresa Reichlen and Craig Hall, both from NYCB, gave an electrifying performance.

I was so excited to find out that Michaela DePrince, from the must touted and rightfully so, dance documentary First Position was to perform. She, along with Skyler Maxey-Wert and Jason Ambrose, are students with The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.

The three danced a new work from the upcoming dancer and budding choreographer Jason Ambrose entitled Leave-Taking with music by Max Richter. This was one of my favorite works of the evening, the performance by all three dancers, each incredible young, all still in their teens was as masterful, poised and polished as that by the renowned dancers sharing the evening’s program.

Michaela DePrince, Skyler Maxey-Wert & Jason Ambrose, in Jason Ambrose’s Leave-Taking. Photo by Erin Baiano

Michaela DePrince, how she has not been scooped up by ABT is a puzzling dilemma that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, for she has the makings of a truly great ballerina and a future star. Her presence draws the eye, and she does not move, but flows from one position to the next, every move executed with impeccable technique.

Skyler Maxey-Wert at fifteen is someone to watch. His performance was so powerful that he did not just dance but exploded on to the stage. He is a young dancer with surprising capabilities, his side Grand Jeté stretched out more than the usual 90%, and his développé à la seconde was up by his ear. I am very excited in hopes of seeing him dance again.

Jason Ambose held his own with these two, his tight compact build blending into and around his own choreography. The trio was a rousing success and I foresee a brilliant future for Mr. Ambrose, as he develops into a double threat, a great dancer and brilliant choreographer. Leave-Taking was a work of great maturity and an emotional depth unexpected in one so young. Bravo to you Jason, and Bravo to both Skyler and Michaela, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.

Joshua Beamish performed a solo from his work Allemande, which premiered last year at the Joyce Soho. This is a very contemporary and complex piece of choreography; beginning with a circular motion of an angled arm to his shoulder that is expanded upon and is a continually explored motif throughout the work. He never stops moving, constantly changing direction and focus with the use of twists, turns and pirouettes, sometimes quick small flat footed steps are used for transition. The work is evidence of the mastery of Mr. Beamish’s use, not only of the body as a tool but also his ability to create steps and movements, intricate and commanding. The music for the piece was JS Bach, as performed by Yo-Yo Ma.

Herman Cornejo & Carrie Walsh In Cornejo’s Two Sunsets. Photo by Erin Baiano

We were privileged to the World Premiere of Two Sunsets choreographed by Herman Cornejo, a duet he created for himself and Carrie Walsh. It is an emotionally charged work that echoes of a deep passion, and that passion is mirrored in Mr. Cornejo’s extraordinary, but to short solo. Ms. Walsh is in a white tunic with long draping bell sleeves and Mr. Cornejo, shirtless in white jeans, gave the work a current feel. Ms. Walsh danced with such aplomb and beauty she was breath-taking.  It is a great work that shows great promise for Mr. Cornejo as a choreographer.  After the performance I got to meet Herman Cornejo, the highlight of the evening for me…

Clifton Brown gave an emotionally charged performance in Talk, choreographed by Fredrick Earl Mosley to Roberta Flack. He grabbed us from the start and pulled us in.

Maria Kowroski & Amar Ramasar in Balanchine’s Agon. Photo by Erin Baiano

I am not a big fan of Balanchine, I appreciate his contributions and significance but it’s just that not everybody likes everything. Usually I don’t like Balanchine, but Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar had me reevaluate this in their performance of a duet from Agon. It is a great neo-classic work with intricate foot work and bodies contorted in knots of subtle beauty. Both Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Ramasar gave wonderful performances. It should be noted that Ms. Kowroski’s mother passed from Breast Cancer.

Daniel Ulbricht with Ashley Isaacs, Lauren Lovette, Anthony Huxley & Harrison Ball in Peter Martin’s Mess Around. Photo by Erin Baiano

Daniel Ulbricht performed twice in the evening first with Lauren Lovett in Balanchine’s Embraceable You to the music of George Gershwin. Embraceable You was huge hit with the audience, cute, playful and fun. In Mess Around, an excerpt from A Fool For You, choreographed by Peter Martins to the music of Ray Charles , he just stole the show. His turns a la seconde were dynamic as he whipped around to our amazement. With his boyish good looks and the dazzling smile, whose heart could he not steal!!!

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