Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Prix de Benois de la Danse. Held every spring at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, the prestigious international awards ceremony recognizes dancers, choreographers, composers and designers for their extraordinary work on and off the stage. This year's laureates, chosen by a jury, were announced during an awards ceremony last night, followed by a star-studded gala featuring many of the nominated artists.
Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Benois de la Danse. The glamorous awards ceremony, held each year at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, recognizes the year's best dancers and choreographers around the globe. The 2017 nominees were announced yesterday, and they include some of our favorite dancers, including two Pointe cover stars!
Two principal ballerinas from U.S. companies, American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera and Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga, were nominated for best female dancer. Abrera who graced our December/January cover, was nominated for her debut as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It's heartening to see this longtime ABT dancer receive the star treatment she deserves since her promotion to principal in 2015. Kuranaga, who was our August/September 2012 cover star, is being recognized for her performances in not one, but two roles: Tatiana in Onegin and Medora in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire.
With its glitz, glamour and funny statues, the Benois de la Danse has a lot in common with the awards show it’s often compared to: the Oscars. While we’re all for gowns and red carpets, we prefer tutus and opera houses—much like the Bolshoi Theatre where, on Tuesday, Yury Grigorovich announced the jury’s winners.
The nominees, hailing from countries and companies worldwide, were recognized for their outstanding achievements in ballet performance and creation. But there could only be a few victors. So, without further ado, the awards for the 2016 Benois de la Danse go to:
Best Female Dancer
Alicia Amatriain of Stuttgart Ballet (Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar named Desire and The Devil in The Soldier’s Tale)
Hannah O’Neill of the Paris Opéra Ballet (Title role in Paquita)
Best Male Dancer
Kimin Kim of the Mariinsky Ballet (Solor in La Bayadère at POB)
Yuri Possokhov (Hero of Our Time, Bolshoi Ballet)
Ekaterina Krysanova of Bolshoi Ballet
Great Partnering Artistry Prize
Oleksandr Ryabko of Hamburg Ballet
Lifetime Achievement Award
John Neumeier, choreographer and Hamburg Ballet artistic director
Edward Watson of The Royal Ballet
Ren Dongsheng, (Emperor Yu Li, Beijing Dance Academy)
It seems like the jury couldn’t pick just one winner for the Best Female Dancer and Best Choreographer categories. (How does one rate different degrees of flawlessness?) The Americans—Amar Ramasar, Sara Mearns and Justin Peck, all nominated for Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes—didn’t top the list. But Yuri Possokhov is a bit of a Russian expat in America; he’s been San Francisco Ballet’s resident choreographer since his retirement from the company in 2006.
With the busy spring performance season well underway, we’re already keeping an eye out for potential 2017 standouts.
The Benois de la Danse, the ballet world's prestigious prize, has announced the nominees for its 24th edition, including male and female dancers, choreographers and more. Past winners have included Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson, Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova, choreographer Wayne McGregor—the list goes on and it's a veritable who's-who of the ballet world.
This year, the nominees for best female dancer are: Oxsana Skorik of the Mariinsky Ballet, Alicia Amatriain of Stuttgart Ballet, Rebecca Bianchi of Rome Opera Ballet, Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet, Gina Tse of the Royal Swedish Ballet and Hannah O'Neill of the Paris Opéra Ballet. Nominees for best male dancer are: Dmitry Zagrebin of the Royal Swedish Ballet, Kimin Kim of the Mariinsky Ballet, Hugo Marchand and Josua Hoffalt of the Paris Opéra Ballet, Amar Ramasar of New York City Ballet and Alessandro Rigo of Festival dei Due Mondi.
A record number of choreographers were nominated this year, and they include: Mauro Bigonzetti (Cinderella, La Scala Ballet), Zhang Yunfeng (Emperor Yu Li, Beijing Dance Academy), Benjamin Millepied (Clear Loud Bright Forward, Paris Opéra Ballet), Justin Peck (Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, New York City Ballet), Alexander Ekman (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Royal Swedish Ballet), Johan Inger (Carmen, Compañia Nacional de Danza and One on One, Netherland Dance Theater), Yuri Possokhov (Hero of Our Time, Bolshoi Ballet) and Maxim Petrov (Le Divertissement du Roi, Mariinsky Ballet).
It's kind of mind-boggling to contemplate the sheer variety of style and expression included in this list. And it's exciting to see how ballet can develop and morph across time and space, while maintaining the emotional essence that hooks generations of audience members and aspiring dancers.
Who on this list is your favorite? Was anyone overlooked this year? Let us know in the comments. Of course, everyone's a winner in the eyes of Pointe magazine editors, but we can't help pulling for our hometown heroes at NYCB. The world will find out who receives each prize on May 17, during the ceremony at the Bolshoi theater.
Who would have guessed a member of The Beatles would be nominated for the Benois de la Danse? Sure enough, Sir Paul McCartney is one of two composers in the running for the prestigious award, which is celebrating it's twentieth anniversary this year. An international jury led by Yuri Grigorovich and John Neumeier will make the final selections, to be revealed at the Bolshoi Theater on May 22. Here are the rest of the nominations:
Patrick De Bana – Marie Antoinette, for Vienna State Ballet
Jean-Guillame Bart – La Source, for Paris Opéra Ballet
Lar Lubovitch – Crisis Variations, for Lubovitch Dance Company
Chung Eui-Sook and Daniel H. Byun – Interview with Isang Yun, for Arzid Modern Dance Company of Seoul
Boris Eifman – Rodin, for State Academic St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre of Boris Eifman
Kathleen Breen Combes – Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Boston Ballet
Olga Esina – The title role in Marie Antoinette, Vienna State Ballet
Kim Ji-Young – The title role in Giselle, Korea National Ballet
Alina Cojocaru – Julie in Liliom, Hamburg Ballet
Sara Mearns – Honorata in Ocean’s Kingdom, New York City Ballet
Euguenya Obraztsova – Kitri in Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet
Laëtitia Pujol – The title role in Cinderella, Paris Opéra Ballet
Matthew Golding – Prince and the Mouse King in Nutcracker, Dutch National Ballet
Vladislav Lantratov – Basil in Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet
Lee Dong-Hoon – Albert in Giselle, Korea National Ballet
Chase Finlay – The title role in Apollo, New York City Ballet
Mathias Heymann - Zaȅl in La Source, Paris Opéra Ballet
Carsten Jung – The title role in Liliom, Hamburg Ballet
Michel Legrand – Liliom, Hamburg Ballet
Sir Paul McCartney – Ocean’s Kingdom, New York City Ballet
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.
The nominees for the 2013 Benois de la Danse Awards were announced today at a press conference in Moscow—and they include a former Pointe cover star, several exciting up-and-comers and many other big names. Here's the complete list:
Hans Van Manen – Variations for Two Couples, Benjamin Britten, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Stevan Kovács Tickmayer, Astor Piazolla. Dutch National Ballet.
Justin Peck – Year of the Rabbit, Sufjan Stevens. New York City Ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon – Cinderella, Sergei Prokofiev. Dutch National Ballet.
George Williamson – Firebird, Igor Stravisky. English National Ballet.
Gudrun Boyesen – Marguerite Gautier in The Lady of Camellias, Frederic Chopin/John Neumeier. Royal Danish Ballet.
Maria Kochetkova – Tatiana in Onegin , Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky/John Cranko. San Francisco Ballet.
Ksenia Ovsyanick – The title role in Firebird, Igor Stravinsky/George Williamson. English National Ballet.
Ekaterina Petina – Broken Fall, Barry Adamson/Russell Maliphant. Bavarian State Ballet.
Olga Smirnova– Nikia in La Bayadère, Ludwig Minkus/M.Petipa, version by Yuri Grigorovich; Aspicia in Pharaoh’s Daughter, C.Pugni/P.Lacotte after Marius Petipa; Anastasia in Ivan the Terrible, Sergei Prokofiev/Yuri Grigorovich; Principal in Diamonds of Jewels, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky/George Balanchine. Bolshoi Theatre of Russia.
Anna Tsigankova – The title role in Cinderella, Sergei Prokofiev/Christopher Wheeldon. Dutch National Ballet.
Taras Domitro – Lensky in Onegin, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky/John Cranko. San Francisco Ballet.
Matthew Golding – Prince in Cinderella, SergeiProkofiev/Christopher. Wheeldon. Dutch National Ballet.
Vladislav Lantratov – Solor in La Bayadère, Ludwig Minkus/Marius Petipa, version by Yuri Grigorovich; the title role in Ivan the Terrible, Sergei Prokofiev/Yuri Grigorovich.
Alban Lendorf – Armand Duval in The Lady of Camellias, Frederic Chopin/John Neumeier. Royal Danish Ballet.
Tigran Mikayelyan – Third duo in Goldberg Variations, Johann Sebastian Bach/Jerome Robbins. Bavarian State Ballet.
Vadim Muntagirov – Prince in Sleeping Beauty, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky/Kenneth MacMillan. English National Ballet.
Edward Watson – Principal in Fool’s Paradise, Joby Talbot/Christopher Wheeldon. Royal Ballet, London.
The awards will be presented May 21 at the Bolshoi Theater. Congrats to all the nominees!