Six Bolshoi Ballerinas Take California
Six Bolshoi-trained primas perform new works by Mauro Bigonzetti and six other choreographers in “Reflections” at OCPAC.
Picture this: You’re standing in a studio with world-famous ballerinas Maria Kochetkova, Yekaterina Krysanova, Natalia Osipova, Polina Semionova and Yekaterina Shipulina, and they’re all waiting for you to make a dance for them.
Are you dreaming? No: You’re Mauro Bigonzetti, rehearsing CINQUE for January’s “Reflections” spectacular at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, the glittery “Reflections” features six exceptional women alumnae of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy (Olga Malinovskaya is the last) in new works by Karole Armitage, Aszure Barton, Bigonzetti, Jirí Bubenicek, Lucinda Childs, Jorma Elo and Wayne McGregor, as well as repertoire by George Balanchine and Nacho Duato. The ballerinas are occasionally partnered by the Bolshoi’s Vyacheslav Lopatin, Denis Savin, Alexander Volchkov and Ivan Vasiliev. It’s A-list all the way.
Bigonzetti found his embarrassment-of-riches cast for CINQUE a bit daunting. “It’s been a great privilege to work with these prima ballerinas, but it’s difficult to put together five stars and do something that suits all of them together,” he says. “The most important thing in a dance like this is to capture the character of the dancers.”
His solution is a two-part work playing on the idea of the five senses, set to various pieces by Vivaldi, which allows each of the ballerinas to be herself. “It’s almost a little joke, the two sections,” he says. “The first part is five sad and boring women, simply dressed. The idea is that they’ve lost one of their senses. In the second part they’ve rediscovered that sense and are completely transformed into glamorous ballerinas in tutus.”
New Times: Boston Ballet
Just two years ago, a financially unsteady Boston Ballet was forced to reduce its size by nine dancers. Now the company is on the rebound: This season it welcomed 19 new members—adding five dancer positions—and promoted a crop of talent from within.
The revamped troupe has dancers from all over the world, including new members from The State Ballet of Georgia, Corella Ballet and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. “I had auditions in Amsterdam, Rome, Monte Carlo, New York and Boston,” says artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “I saw about 1,300 dancers! Augmenting our home-grown talent with dancers from all over is one of the ways I keep our standards up.” One notable new addition is 21-year-old corps member Keenan Kampa, who is the first American to graduate from St. Petersburg’s Vaganova Academy. “An American from Russia—imagine that,” Nissinen says. Boston Ballet’s nine promoted dancers include brother and sister pair Lia (now a principal) and Jeffrey (now second soloist) Cirio.
Companies across the country have made similarly sweeping changes to their rosters for the 2010–11 season. Houston Ballet welcomed nine new dancers, including former Boston Ballet principal Melissa Hough; San Francisco Ballet has 12 new faces, including former Bolshoi Ballet member Artem Yachmennikov; and six dancers were promoted at Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Douglas Martin’s New-Old Nutcracker at ARB
Douglas Martin’s first task as the new company director of New Jersey’s American Repertory Ballet was to revamp the company’s annual Nutcracker, and he wanted to include a bit of the old along with the new. “I’m re-choreographing the snow scene and Act II, but I’m reviving the party and battle scenes from the Nutcracker that the company’s founders, Audree and Bud Estey, did nearly 50 years ago,” he says. Martin has also hired eight new dancers, several of them New Jersey natives.
A New Studio for Calegari and Cook
Husband and wife team Bart Cook and Maria Calegari, former principals with New York City Ballet, have spent years traveling the world setting ballets for The George Balanchine Trust—and now they’re bringing that expertise to their own backyard. This September the couple opened CaleCo Ballet Studio in North Salem, NY. “We bring the energy and experience we gain on our trips back to our young dancers,” Calegari says.
Though the school accepts children as young as 3, it also offers pre-professional training in Balanchine technique. “We have several talented students who are in that in-between place, where their parents don’t want to send them to the big city yet,” Calegari says. “Our classes are small and personalized, so we can give them what they need,” Cook adds. “We can prime them for auditions at institutions like the School of American Ballet, if that’s the path they choose.”
ABT Tackles Ratmansky’s Bright Stream
Fresh off its debut of Alexei Ratmansky’s new Nutcracker (see p. 64), American Ballet Theatre will present The Bright Stream this January at the Kennedy Center. The ballet first won Ratmansky acclaim here when the Bolshoi Ballet presented it on a U.S. tour in 2005. The original version of Bright Stream, performed in Leningrad in 1935 with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov, was quickly banished by a disapproving Stalin. Ratmansky, now ABT’s resident choreographer, created his cheerfully comic take on this story of love on a Soviet farm collective for the Bolshoi in 2003. ABT will also present Bright Stream as part of its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Ballet All Over:
Watch the Bolshoi on the Big Screen
You’ve probably heard about the “Opera in Cinema” program, which broadcasts live opera performances to movie theater screens across the country. Beginning this December, you’ll be able to catch live broadcasts of the Bolshoi Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet at a theater near you, too. The Bolshoi’s classic Nutcracker kicks off the “Ballet in Cinema” series December 19. Visit emergingpictures.com for show times and locations.
Ballet All Over:
NY Export: Opus Jazz on DVD
Looking for the perfect gift for a dancer or dance lover? The artfully shot NY Export: Opus Jazz is out on DVD November 23. A reimagining of Jerome Robbins’ “ballet in sneakers,” filmed on location in New York City, it offers intimate portraits of the 18 New York City Ballet dancers in its cast
and celebrates the timelessness of Robbins’ choreography. Find the DVD at factorytwentyfive.com.
Pointe Shoe Profile
Houston Ballet’s Amy Fote
Brand: Bloch, Inc. Heritage
Size: 5 no X
Years Wearing This Shoe: Almost two
Padding: “I cut off the foot section of an old pair of tights (from the ankle down) and fold it around the tops of my toes. I find this absorbs sweat, so I rarely get blisters or have to tape my feet. I also use a gummy pad on both of my big toes.”
Break-in Process: “I bend the heel section of the shank numerous times, until it is very pliable. I also apply rubbing alcohol to the box to soften it so it molds to my foot, and cut the satin off the toe so it’s less slippery.”
Number of Pairs She Uses: “Depending on what I’m dancing, I can go through a pair a show (which I then use for class or light rehearsals) or a pair a week.”