International Evenings I

I suppose since this last weekend’s events have always been billed as International Evenings of Dance the variety that came to life onstage should not have come as too much of a surprise. I have always loved going to galas- the excitement of flipping through your program to see what comes next, the tangible rise in audience energy and theater temperatures, the roar and ovations that arrive on the dot for exemplary displays of virtuosity, the dresses, the perfumes, the intermission chatter. And they are quite predictable, in a wonderful way- at least the ballet ones - there’s your Romeo and Juliet balcony scene to bring the drama, your Don Q pas de deux or some other 19th century variation, usually some Balanchine thrown into the mix. This is the stuff of galas, the backbone of ballet, what devout balletomanes thrive on and mark time by.

 

But for the second year in a row that I have been so lucky to be at these performances, the International Evenings galas at Vail have been anything but predictable. Musical selections for the works performed ranged from Chopin to Ingrid Michaelson; Duke Ellington to Philip Glass; mambo to Drigo. Styles of dance ranged from contemporary ballet to modern dance, and from ballroom dance to purely classical ballet and then some memphis jookin’. The result was a delicious sampler of every kind of movement. There was something for everyone, and for this reason I feel like it’d be the ideal evening to introduce someone to the art of dance. When you see a gala run smoothly between an excerpt from the romantic Lady of the Camellias, a sexy, flashy mambo number, a Graham ode set to traditional spiritual music and the crowd-pleasing thirty-two fouettes from Black Swan pas de deux - and around you you see an incredibly diverse and happily rapt audience - you wonder if the standard gala formula could be rewritten to become this varied and inclusive.

There was not one free seat in the entire amphitheater and the lawn was packed with families, couples and friends huddled together on blankets. It’s truly a magical environment and it’s fascinating to observe the shift in energy as the night goes on. At the beginning, you’ll hear some rustling here and there, the pop of a champagne bottle and the clashing of cubes in its companion ice bucket, a child squealing with delight. By intermission the sun has set and the audience has settled into a blissful, moonlit quiet. Unsurprisingly the second act on Friday was punctuated by Bach, Camille Saint-Saens, Phillip Glass and Gyogi Ligeti: the strains of the cello, played by the great Mike Block, and the piano, played by the brilliant Cristina Pato (who earlier in the night led the Celebrate the Beat! kids on the Galician Bagpipe!), provide the most perfect accompaniment to this evening idyll.

I loved Matthew Prescott’s piece, “Falling,” which he performed with Misty Copeland (Soloist, American Ballet Theatre). Maybe I’m biased: I adore Ingrid Michaelson (”Lets get rich and give everybody nice sweaters and teach them how to dance“…some of the best lyrics ever written) and her song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was made for contemporary gala fare like this. The pas de deux was light, moving, and beautifully danced by Matthew and Misty, whose flowy pastel dress showed off beautifully sculpted legs and long arches that told the story as well if not better than Ingrid’s lyrics.

Misty Copeland and Matthew Prescott perform "Falling," choreographed by Prescott to the music of Ingrid Michaelson. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Misty Copeland and Matthew Prescott perform "Falling," choreographed by Prescott to the music of Ingrid Michaelson. Photo by Erin Baiano.

I love the white pas de deux from Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias and was excited to see it danced by Bouchet and Bordin, from Neumeier’s own company in Hamburg. Here they are, intense even in rehearsal:
Helene Bouchet and Thiago Bordin of Hamburg Ballet rehearse a pas de deux from Lady of the Camellias, at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Helene Bouchet and Thiago Bordin of Hamburg Ballet rehearse a pas de deux from Lady of the Camellias, at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Erin Baiano.

 

Also beautiful was The Orchard, choreographed by Festival Director Damian Woetzel to the music of Philip Glass. Carla Korbes and Tyler Angle danced. The piece reminded me a bit of Robbins’s Afternoon of a Faun. Set onstage, practically amidst the Rockies, is a spare ballet barre, and a piano stands at the side. The two dancers come together slowly, moved by a mutual fascination and curiosity, and the ballerina floats as though through water in her partner’s arms for much of the piece. It ends with both seated at the piano, picking out a few of Glass’s notes. As the lights dim, she rests her head on his shoulders.

Tyler Angle and Carla Korbes perform Damian Woetzel's The Orchard. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Tyler Angle and Carla Korbes perform Damian Woetzel's The Orchard. Photo by Erin Baiano.

 

I got to film Carla and Cory Stearns of American Ballet Theatre rehearsing the Act II Pas de deux from Swan Lake on Friday: watch the video montage here- Carla Korbes and Cory Stearns rehearse White Swan Pas de Deux. Carla and Cory are so visually stunning together and have wonderful chemistry, particularly for dancing together for the first time. I hope that they’ll get a chance to dance again together soon.

It’s easy to see that dancers love coming to Vail - it’s such a beautiful and unique experience to perform outdoors. And added perks: Misa Kuranaga and Herman Cornejo spent a few hours during the afternoon relaxing in the woods behind the theater and icing their feet in the cold creek water!

The beautiful Ford Park: a creek behind the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Erica Sheftman.

The beautiful Ford Park: a creek behind the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Erica Sheftman.

Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns watch other dancers onstage from the lawn at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, on a break during rehearsal for International Evenings of Dance. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns watch other dancers onstage from the lawn at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, on a break during rehearsal for International Evenings of Dance. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Stay tuned for more musings, photos and video from International Evenings II and UpClose Premieres! Wheeldon, Fang-Yi Sheu, Lil’ Buck, Clifton Brown, Wendy Whelan, ballroom …so many more to discuss.
Erica Sheftman

 

 

Comments


  1. David

    Thank you very much for this post. Great photos and well written.

    Aug 18, 2011 @ 13:45

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