Wendy Perron, editor in chief of Pointe's sister publication, Dance Magazine, is currently in Moscow at the Benois de la Danse. Here, she shares her impressions of the 2012 event.
For the first time in its whole 20 years, the Benois de la Danse award in choreography went to an American: Lar Lubovitch. For the few Americans in the audience, it warmed our hearts. The prize for best performance by a female dancer went to Alina Cojocaru (who was unable to be there) and for a male dancer, it was tied between Matthias Heymann of the Paris Opéra and Carsten Jung of the Hamburg Ballet.
The Benois is better known in Russia and Europe than in the U.S. But American dancers like Marcelo Gomes and Julie Kent have been awarded in the past.
There's been a festive atmosphere at this two-day event, helped by the fact that it took place in the newly gilded Bolshoi Theater. (I'm talking about the dazzling inside. The outside has been painted a dull beige, a downer considering its former buttercup yellow.)
Chandeliers are everywhere, and the ones that line the balconies remain lit at low levels even during the performance. Kathleen Breen Combes, who was nominated this year for her role as Juliet, and Nelson Madrigal (her Romeo) told me at the after-party that while performing, they liked being able to see some light on the audience. They could use a face as a spot, as opposed to the usual blackness one sees from the stage. (They thought it was because of more side lighting and less front lighting onstate, but then I told them about the chandeliers.)
Another interesting thing they mentioned is that backstage there was a monitor showing a section of the audience, so you could see exactly how excited or bored the audience was getting. They weren't too sure they liked that. In any case, their bedroom scene (Cranko's version) was beautiful.
Other quick notes on the performances: Laetitia Pujol, another nominee, was lovely and piquant as Cinderella in an excerpt of Nureyev's version. Yevgenia Obraztsova aced Kitri; she's a Gelsey-like combination of childlike delicacy and strength and speed. John Neumeier's excerpt from his new ballet Liliom, with a park bench and a balloon as street lamp, was both poignant and charming. Hamburg's Helene Bouchet, a previous Benois winner, was fabulous in it. Dutch National's Matthew Golding had springy jumps and quiet landings in the Black Swan pas de deux with Anna Tsignakova. She threw in some doubles into her fouettés.
Tonight is the gala, with Marie-Agnes Gillot's solo, Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk, Svetlana Zakharova doing Eddie Liang's new piece (she was glorious in it in rehearsal), and more of Bouchet and Pujol.
And the judges are a famous bunch. It's nice to see Alessandra Ferri, John Neumeier, Laurent Hilaire, Manuel Legris and Jorma Elo strolling around Moscow. (See the photo I snapped of Ferri at St. Basil's in the Red Square.) The jury is chaired, as always, by Yuri Grigorovich, revered everywhere in Russia.