Ballet Grand Prix’s young dancers and their mentors shine in varied program

By Lawrence Budmen

Jose Manuel Carreno and Melanie Hamrick were among the dancers in Ballet Grand Prix, presented Thursday night at the Fillmore Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach.

The newly revived Concert Association of Florida presented Ballet Grand Prix, a pastiche of dance vignettes, Thursday night at The Fillmore Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach. An outgrowth of Youth America Grand Prix, a major ballet scholarship competition, this new touring production features emerging teenage dancers who are mentored by ballet luminaries from major international companies. The program featured a plethora of eager young dancers sharing the stage with their mentors.

The quality of choreography and dancing in this genre of dance gala is usually highly varied; yet there were more than enough balletic pyrotechnics on display to elicit the cheers of an enthusiastic audience. Even the recorded musical soundtrack was produced with clarity and devoid of distortion.

Cuban-born Jose Manuel Carreno, long a Miami audience favorite now in his final season as a principal dancer at American Ballet Theater, danced a riveting solo turn to Schubert’s Ave Maria, a poetic and restrained creation by Israeli choreographer Igal Perry. Long known as a virtuosic dancer, this beautiful vignette revealed Carreno’s lyrical poise and noble line.

The team of Elisa Carrillo Cabrera and Mikhail Kaniskin, both members of the Berlin State Opera Ballet, gave two of the most breathtaking performances of the evening. Caravaggio is a sensual, modernist pas de deux of surprisingly spiritual sweep by Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti to a throbbing, radiant score by Bruno Moretti. Cabrera and Kaniskin were paragons of grace and remarkable athleticism and stamina in this moving and beautiful work.  By contrast, the duo exhibited speed, energy and showbiz flair in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, a high energy romp with rhythmic soundtrack by Thom Willems.

American Ballet Theater’s Michele Wiles and New York City Ballet’s Charles Askegard were the beautiful romantic couple in George Balanchine’s delightful period setting of The Man I Love from Who Cares, Hershey Kay’s arrangement of Gershwin’s music recalling the heyday of the Hollywood musical. Askegard’s superb lifts and the duo’s ballroom ease were the essence of beauty. They were rhythmically incisive in the premiere of Song by former American Ballet Theater ballerina Susan Jaffe but the choreography and Max Richter’s score seemed more appropriate to a pop-music video.

The Mariinsky Ballet team of Oksana Skoryk and Igor Kolb gave a vivid demonstration of the Imperial Russian style in the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake, the immortal collaboration of Petipa and Tchaikovsky. Skoryk shone impressively in the female variation, her light, fleet attack a model of classicism. Surprisingly Kolb substituted a less familiar male solo from Yuri Grigorovich’s 1970’s Bolshoi Ballet revisionist production. In a dance world that is increasingly globalized, it was wonderful to see dancers who have preserved their national stylistic identity.

The kinetic duo of Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk channeled romance in contemporary terms through modern dance master Alonzo King’s Splash, the couple’s movements and energy as striking Leslie Stuck’s rock-infused mix of Nino Rota and Francis Poulenc fragments. Jacoby and Pronk are a magnetic team, beautiful and heart stopping in motion.

Among the many youthful dancers on display, Brazil’s Nayara Lopes, age 19, was mesmeric in Because I’m Free, an old-fashioned solo display, and the team of  thirteen-year-old Miko Fogarty and fifteen-year-old Sam Zaldivar exhibited solid technique in the flashily classical Flames of Paris and the relentless rhythms of Remix, Phillip Glass’ minimalism envisioned in high-voltage fashion by Russian choreographer Viktor Kabaniaev.

For a terrific finale, the popular Carreno was joined by American Ballet Theater’s Melanie Hamrick in the tour de force Don Quixotepas de deux, Carreno’s rapid leaps and spins exuding fire and excitement. The elegant Hamrick was no less sensational, her solo line seamless and her pointe work always accurate and exciting. The entire company took the stage in a rousing Grand Defile, the combination of youth and seasoned brilliance bringing the curtain down on a high note.

Posted in Performances

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Fri Feb 25, 2011
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