I’ve been reflecting recently on 2011. It’s been a hell of a year for me and my ballet experience has come along in leaps and bounds, both in terms of ‘doing it’ and ‘seeing it’. I wanted to do a review of the year (prompted by the awesome CloudDanceFestival’s suggestion) but so much happened I decided to do something a little different…
Welcome to the 2011 DaveTriesBallet Awards! Sit back, relax and have a look at some of my highlights of the past year. There’ll be three main categories of awards: Performances, Web and Personal Awards, followed by my top 5 performances and a very special award. [Unfortunately the budget can't stretch to a big fancy show, a celebrity host nor actual awards, but oh well..]
Favourite On Stage Couple: Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares!
Also shortlisted: Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, Julie Kent and José Manuel Carreño, Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin
Reason: When Soares and Nuñez dance together there is truly magic in the air. They are both fantastic dancers but together they become even more. They both convey the sheer joy of dancing through every step they take but are also capable of serious roles (e.g. Soares in Gloria and Nuñez in Manon). I was lucky enough to see them multiple times in the last few months: Diamonds, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty and every single performance was truly special. Add to that their real-life romance and an adorable “In Conversation” interview (available as an iTunes podcast) and they really are a perfect onstage couple!
Favourite Female Dancer: Tamara Rojo!
Also shortlisted: Ashley Bouder, Marianela Nuñez, Tiler Peck
Reason: As soon as Rojo walks onto stage you cannot take your eyes off her. For a single second. She commands every single inch of the stage and rightfully so. My first time watching her was in Sleeping Beauty with Federico Bonelli (another fantastic dancer) and I was left completely breathless after their performance. She handled the Rose Adagio like a walk in the park and then their Grand Pas de Deux was the stuff of dreams. I also saw her in Asphodel Meadows, partnered by the awesome Bennet Gartside and they were both resplendent. It is no wonder she is considered one of the world’s best ballerinas.
Favourite Male Dancer: Marcelo Gomes!
Also shortlisted: Andrew Veyette, Steven McRae, Federico Bonelli, Thiago Soares
Reason: I’ve only seen Gomes dance once, in The Bright Stream with ABT, but it was more than enough. It wasn’t the most impressive or expressive role, but Gomes imbued every single step with such musicality that was just fascinating to watch. I’ve never seen someone make so much from so little and it left me aching to see more. It is no surprise that Gomes recently won “Best Male Performance” in the Bessies (NYC’s dance awards). He is surely one of the greatest male dancers alive.
Favourite Adult Dancer Blog: Adult Beginner!
Also shortlisted: Leotards and the Buns in them, Pointe Til U Drop, Bead109
Reason: Right from the start, Adult Beginner has been a constant reassurance that I am not completely crazy in wanting to take ballet. She was one of the first ballet blogs I ever read and a year and a half later I still find myself laughing out loud like a lunatic at her posts! Not only that, but she’s an awesome artist, makes costumes for a living and we even did an interview together!
Golden Tweet Award: Bennet Gartside and Lauren Cuthbertson!
Also shortlisted: Ashley Bouder, BalletFriends, BalletBoyz
Reason: I couldn’t just have one winner for this! In the end, I decided on the pair of Gartside and Cuthbertson from the Royal Ballet. They are both doing great things through Twitter to help show ballet as being awesomely cool, as is the Royal Ballet (and the multitude of tweeters there). Bennet created the amazing “Royal Ballet, not what you think” video (which I talked about in my Ballet Coolness post) and Lauren was seen in the Royal Opera House’s latest “World Stage” campaign balanced in fifth relevé atop of a gymnastic balance beam! More importantly, both of them show that dancers are, at the end of the day, ‘normal’ people, which makes their performances even more special to me.
Favourite Dance Class: Partnering Workshop!
Also shortlisted: First class in Bath, class on Coliseum stage, last class with Douglas at PBS
Reason: This was a tough one! I’ve had some truly amazing classes this year but probably my biggest highlight was the partnering workshop that my teacher Edward Urwin put on with help from his fellow ARB dancer Marc St-Pierre. It was spread over two weekends (my original posts are here and here) and even though there was only a total of about 3 hours of class I felt like I learnt a mammoth amount. It was immediately obvious that Ed and Marc were consummate professionals at Pas de Deux technique and I felt so lucky that they shared it with us. In case you couldn’t tell from my posts – it’s not as easy as it looks!
Favourite Dance Experience: Coppelia/ENB Workshop!
Reason: There were two major dance highlights for me this year, so much so that I couldn’t even shortlist anything else! First up was my first ever ballet performance in Coppelia with Princeton Ballet School. That feeling of being on-stage, even though I only had a small, pretty simple part, was amazing. It made me instantly want to do more performing! I got another taste of that feeling when I took part in the ENB Petit Workshop which not only included an on-stage class at the Coliseum but also a chance to learn some of Petit’s choreography from Carmen. An amazing opportunity I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in.
Top 5 Performances of 2011:
I’ve somehow managed to choose a top 5 out of the (many many) performances I’ve seen this year and here they are in no particular order. I’ve been so very lucky to be able to catch so many performances but here are some of the highlights (and don’t even think of asking me to rank them!):
The Bright Stream (Marcelo Gomes, Paloma Herrera, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg)
I saw Bright Stream twice with ABT and loved it each time. Ratmansky has managed to choreograph a genuinely hilarious ballet. This was my first Ratmansky work and I was impressed at his attention to details and some of the shapes he created on stage. The scene with the Ballet Dancer dressing as a Sylph and dancing en pointe was side-splittingly funny, with the whole of The Met in fits of laughter. Not only comically farcical, it also required Hallberg (and Daniil Simkin in the other cast I saw) to be fairly proficient in his (rather large) pointe shoes. Knocking out triples however, it was clear this wasn’t an issue! Make sure you catch the Bolshoi live-relay of it in 2012.
Asphodel Meadows (Marianela Nuñez, Rupert Pennefather, Tamara Rojo, Bennet Gartside, Ricardo Cervera, Laura Morera)
I saw Asphodel Meadows as part of a triple bill at the Royal Ballet (with Enigma Variations and Gloria) and it completely blew me away. For a fresh-faced choreographer (Liam Scarlett is only 24 and is a First Artist at the Royal Ballet) the piece was astonishingly mature, especially in the three Pas de Deuxs, all evoking different sides to a relationship. Seeing the piece twice, this cast blew me away – unsurprisingly as it was the cast the piece was created on. The piece was only created last season and this was it’s first revival – here’s hoping it stays in the Royal Ballet repertory for many more years.
L`Arlesienne (Esteban Berlanga)
This was part of ENB’s timely Petit Triple Bill which I saw just days after Petit’s passing. I enjoyed all three pieces, but L’Arlesienne was the highlight for me – especially thanks to Esteban Berlanga’s performance. The story of the piece is of a man who still loves his ex-girlfriend yet is about to marry his fiancée. Eventually his past love drives him crazy and there is the most spectacular scene where he dances in his attic descending into madness. Berlanga’s performance was tangibly emotional and tore me apart. Amazing.
Highlights of CDF: Taste Water Again(James Cousins Dance Company), Don’t hate the player, hate the game (Tommy Franzén)
I thoroughly enjoyed all three days of Cloud Dance Festival and it was particularly fortuitous that two of my favourite performances were two of the only ones repeated over the weekend. First, Taste Water Again by James Cousins Dance Company was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was raw, emotional, physical, beautiful and so much more. The simple idea of soaking their clothes in water made the piece truly special and I would love to be able to watch it again. The second highlight for me was Tommy Franzén dancing Kristen McNally’s Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Originally choreographed for Thomas Whitehead, Franzén’s interpretation was electric and the piece was a telling snapshot of today’s youth.
Jewels/Metamorphosis (Royal Ballet/Ed Watson)
This was my first ever trip to the Royal Ballet and it more than lived up to my expectations! It was a rather mismatched pairing, starting with Balanchine’s Jewels. Although all three sections were fantastic, the Diamonds Pas de Deux between newly-married Thiago Soares and Marianela Nuñez was simply sublime. You could feel their love for each other in every movement and for a ‘plotless’ piece it still reduced me to tears. After a quick run down many flights of stairs I took my seat for Arthur Pita’s Metamorphosis. Ed Watson was shocking and fascinating in the role of Gregor Samsa and the whole piece was amazingly conceived and executed. A combination of dance, theater and visual art it was truly unique and fascinating.
Gratitude Award: All of my teachers
Finally, I want to give a special award to every single one of my teachers. Thank you so much for your patience in every class I’ve taken. In particular I want to give special thanks to Douglas Martin, Edward Urwin, Dena Moss, Stephanie Godino and Karen Paisley. These five have been my most regular teachers and have all shaped me in very different ways. They are all inspirational to me and I consider myself so lucky to have been taught by all of them.
I think I speak for all ballet students the world over when I say how thankful we all are for the hard work our instructors put into teaching us. I always make a point to say thank you at the end of every class straight after reverence, but want to take this time to say an extra-special THANK YOU to each and every one of them!
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my awards – let me know what your winners would be in the comments section! Oh, and I’m so honoured to announce I made the Top 20 of Dance Advantage’s Top Dance Blogs of 2011! Thank you for all your nominations, the final voting round is now open – if you want to vote for me just click here and find me under the Top 20 and Adult Dancer Blog categories. Both are separate votes so feel free to cast your vote in both
That’s it for 2011 – see you in 2012 with a post on my New Years Resolutions!
Until next time, keep dancing!