American Ballet Theatre NY Summer Intensive

Final Performance

by Kate Snedeker

August 1, 2003 -- LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, New York City

As August began, American Ballet Theatre's New York Summer Intensive program concluded with its traditional final performance that highlighted the varied and wonderful talents of the nearly 250 teenaged participants. Selected during a nationwide audition tour earlier in the year, these budding ballerinas and danseurs were divided into seven color-coded groups for five weeks of intensive study at American Ballet Theatre's studios in lower Manhattan.

The final performance was an opportunity for family, friends, teachers, and even the press to see the young dancers exhibit their newly acquired and refined skills in excerpts from classical ballets as well as more modern dance selections. The large selection of pieces, which included new ballets by summer intensive teachers Leslie Browne, Roberta Mathes, Johan Renvall, Daniel Baudendistel, Duane Cyrus, Hilary Cartwright and Elaine Kudo, provided a chance for nearly every student to grace the stage with their enthusiastic and solid dancing.

In excerpts from the second and third acts of Marius Petipa's classic "Swan Lake," girls from the youngest three divisions danced to Tchaikovsky's flowing music. Whether in white leotards and skirts for Act Two or colored leotards for Act Three, all danced with enthusiasm and good form. The younger dancers were also featured in Frederic Franklin's staging of Dance of the Hours, an excerpt from another of the great story ballets, "Coppelia." In this excerpt, the lines of young dancers in multicolored pastel leotards danced with graceful energy to Leo Delibes' music.

Marius Petipa's choreography was also featured in selections from three of his other ballets. Older dancers from the violet level class were precise in the Jardin Animé section from "Le Corsaire," while the trio of Victoria North, Jennifer Lee and Roman Zhurbin led the indigo level students, the oldest in the program, in an elegant and poised performance to Glazounov's music in an excerpt from "Raymonda." Newly selected ABT Studio Company members Melanie Hamrick and Jackie Reyes were among the featured dancers in a precisely and impressively performed excerpt from Paquita (music by Minkus). Green level dancers returned in the prologue of "Sleeping Beauty," with energetic dancing in the solos and pas de trois for the fairies.

Johan Renvall's "Rhapsody," set to classical music by Eric Rogers, was the first of the new pieces. "Rhapsody" seemed to have its roots both in Balanchine and Petipa, and provided the young dancers with an excellent introduction to some of the basic tenets of classical ballet. The piece incorporated partnering, including both lifts and supported turns, as well as corps and solo work into a flowing ballet. The dancers were outfitted in sea green leotards with long flowing skirts for the girls and grey tights and tops for the men.

The male talent was highlighted in a series of men's variations, led off by an exuberant and powerfully danced Fire Dance from Petipa's "La Bayadere." Two of the younger dancers, J. Mark Giragosian and Joseph Gorak combined for an impressive duet based on Frederick Ashton's choreography in "La Fille Mal Gardée," and were followed by a quartet of dancers in the Men's Dance from "Raymonda." Concluding the variations were solid performances of solos from "Swan Lake" by two of the newest ABT Studio Company members, Blaine Koven and Arron Scott. Koven danced a controlled and elegant rendition of Siegfried's Act III solo, while Scott was high flying and crisp in the Act I solo for Siegfried's friend Benno.

New choreography continued with Roberta Mathes' "Demisado Corazon" (Too Much Heart), set to latin flavored music by Faithless and Willy de Ville. In character shoes and black leotards and tights, the dancers leaped and gyrated to the infectious beat, adding multi-colored, fringed skirts for the second section. The choreography was clearly based on the dance rhythms of salsa, flamenco and even mambo, with lots of hip action, leaps, and flowing but edgy movement. It was well performed with zesty enthusiasm by the youngest, red level, dancers. "Fantasy," Daniel Baudendistel's contribution (set to music by Franz Liszt), had distinctly Balanchinian influence, with dancers outfitted in simple black and white, and the choreography intriguing and challenging without being overly intricate. The polished cast was led by Angelina Zuccarini and Matthew Murphy.

Duane Cyrus captured the innocence, talent, and giddy energy of the younger dancers in her "Portable Terpsichore," set to Bela Bartok music. Former American Ballet Theater principal Leslie Browne's "Variations on Roccoco Theme" was a elegant ballet, with beautiful lifts and a frequent motif of turns and poses in attitude derrière. The ballet ended with the cast clustered around the lead couple, the polished Eduardo Permuy Gonzalez and Mary Thomas, poised in a gorgeous press lift. Hilary Cartwright's "Whirlpool" was a swirling mass of blue and green, the dancers leaping and turning across the stage in leotards with black short shorts. The piece also ended with a striking lift: as the music by Enigma ended, two male dancers lifted Samantha Chang by her outstretched arms, slowly revolving as the last few notes of the song faded into silence.

Providing a moving and powerful end to the afternoon was the intense "Children of the Drum," Elaine Kudo's balletic interpretation of Kodo Drumming. The intense and powerful cast, made up of the dancers in the indigo level, was led by Blaine Koven and Victoria North. The women, mostly in red short-length unitards, and the men, in black unitards with straps crossed in back, performed with a wonderful intensity and maturity, bringing a real depth to Kudo's choreography. Koven was especially impressive in a series of turns in second.

As American Ballet Theatre does not have a year-round ballet school, most of these summer students will head back to hometowns across the country (and in some cases, across the world), to continue their ballet studies at ballet studios, small and large. However, five exceptional students will remain in New York City, having had the great honor to be selected as members of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. As members of the Studio Company, they will perform across the country as a group and supplement the American Ballet Theatre corps during the Met Season, with the potential to become apprentices and eventually dancers with the company. This year, Michael Murphy, Arron Scott, Blaine Koven, Jackie Reyes, and Melanie Hamrick were chosen for the ABT Studio Company, and will join returning members and new members selected outside the New York program for the 2003-04 season starting in September. Congratulations to them and to all the dancers in the ABT New York Summer Intensive!

Edited by Lori Ibay

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