Dance Beat: PBT News

February 6, 2011

PRIX NEWS. Well, as many of us know by now, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre did not have a representative in the finals at the Prix de Lausanne. But Anwen David and Aviana Adams succeeded in spotlighting the growing reputation of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School just by being the first local dancers selected for this prestigious international competition. When the dust had settled, Brazil’s 16-year old Mayara Magri, who was not only the crowd favorite, but deservedly took the gold medal. (Check out her version of Black Swan above.) There were a few other things to note:

Talent to Spare. Things were leaning toward Mayara, who already has a competition history and Youtube presence, and her age group. In the final, only two of the girls were over 18. As it turned out, six (!) were in the 15-16 year old category and one other, Japan’s Yuka Horasawa, received a scholarship. So the competition was hot and heavy in the Pittsburgh students’ category.

Battle of the Sexes.The judges selected 12 boys to participate in the finale, where it was apparent that very little separated most of the contestants. One American, Derrin Watters from Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, took home a scholarship.

From the East. There was no doubt that the Asians know how to compete. Between Japan, Korea and China, there was a strong contingent that, as usual lately, does well in the finals. Given the popularity symbolized by the Japanese dancers, it seems strange that these talented students can’t gravitate to a viable professional company in their home country.

Pittsburgh Connections. While Aviana and Anwen may have been the first students to participate at the Prix, PBT has provided some winners with a professional forum for their talents, including former principal dancers Ying Li (1985) and Pablo Savoye (1981). Local ballet fans might also recognize former winners Jean-Christophe Maillot (1977) and Bernice Coppetiers (1988) of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. He choreographed and she originated the title role in “Romeo et Juliette,” which PBT performed several years ago.

Stellar Alumni. The Prix has served notice on dancers who have gone on to wildly successful careers, including American Ballet Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes, Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel and Diana Vishneva; New York City Ballet’s Edwaard Liang, Benjamin Millipied and Philip Neal; The Royal Ballet’s Carlos Acosta, Alina Cojocaru, Adam Cooper, Steven McRae (who performed a ballet, then a tap solo (!) on the 2011 program) and Christopher Wheeldon, among others. Alex Wong, formerly of Miami City Ballet and lately of So You Think You Can Dance, won in 2004.

A Very Good Year. The Prix began in 1973, but in 1980 scored with a bumper crop of winners — Patrick Armand, Leanne Benjamin, Deborah Bull, Alessandra Ferri, Gen Horiuchi and Nancy Raffa.

SEASONAL SURPRISES. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will put all of its eggs in one basket again for the 2011-12 season as it touts the North American premiere of Hamburg Ballet’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” American-born choreographer John Neumeier has forged an international reputation at Hamburg, giving the company its own distinctive style, and has plied his wares at such first-rate groups as Paris Opera Ballet, the Kirov and Stuttgart Ballet. It was there in Stuttgart that he choreographed Blanche DuBois on the considerable dramatic talents of ballerina Marcia Haydee. Artistic director Terrence Orr also announced another “Peter Pan,” electing not to bring back Septime Webre’s version, but to go with an unknown resident choreographer from Vancouver’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Jorden Morris. There will be the annual production of “The Nutcracker” (with the run extended by five performances) and the annual classical production, this time “Coppelia.” But, on an odd note for a major American company, Terrence did not have a single ballet to offer for the company’s debut at the August Wilson Center, only saying that it would be mixed repertory with live music. Does that mean that PBT will only use the orchestra for “Coppelia?” That would certainly be a step back in the ensemble’s artistic fortunes. The full schedule is “Peter Pan,” Benedum Center, Oct. 28-30; “The Nutcracker,” Benedum, Dec. 2-23; live dance and music at the August Wilson Center, Feb. 8-12; “Coppelia” with orchestra, Benedum, Apr. 13-15.

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