The 2003 Positano “Leonide Massine” Prize Gala

‘A Woman,’ pas de deux from ‘La Sylphide,’ ‘Carpe Diem,’ ‘Where is the Moon?’ ‘The Dying Swan,’ excerpt from ‘Le Rouge et la Noir,’ balcony pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Come with Me to the Sacred Mountain,’ ‘La Mort du Cygne’

by Patrizia Vallone

September 6, 2003 -- Positano, Italy

This year’s Positano “Leonide Massine” Prize — instituted in 1969 — was awarded as usual on the first Saturday of September. The prize is awarded both to promising young dancers and to leading figures on the world dance scene, so it’s not unusual for dancers to receive it twice in their career – the first time when they’re just starting, the second when they’ve attained well-deserved fame. The Premio Positano seems to bring luck to those who receive it. For example, the very first awardee, Elisabetta Terabust, was young and almost unknown at the time, then went on to dance in all of the world’s most important theaters, and is now the director of the San Carlo Theater’s ballet company in Naples.

This year the gala performance that accompanies the award ceremony was graced by the luminous presence of Irma Nioradze, prima ballerina étoile of the Kirov Ballet.

The evening began with Nioradze performing “A Woman”, choreographed by Kyril Simonov to music by Ennio Morricone (of film-score fame), in which she danced the role of a modern, self-assured woman, looking very sexy in a sleeveless, clinging black dress. The audience was immediately impressed by this great ballerina’s elegance and beautiful Russian-school arms in her wonderful performance of an amusing modern ballet that is very different from her classical ballet roles.

Gaia Straccamore and Riccardo Di Cosmo, principals of the Rome Opera Ballet, danced the pas de deux from Bounonville’s “La Sylphide”. Though still recovering from the bad case of the grippe [“flu” – ed.] she’d caught days earlier, Gaia as usual had perfect aplomb in the difficult batterie typical of the Danish school. Riccardo, for his part, was at home with James’s grand jetés.

Then came “Carpe Diem”, a piece created — thanks to the insistence of Elisabetta Terabust — specifically for this occasion by Michele Merola. It was set to music by Vivaldi and was   performed by Roberta De Intinis and Domenico Luciano, both from the San Carlo Theater Ballet. In line with modern choreography, it blends academic ballet with contemporary dance, and the result is a very interesting and well-made confection.

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s excellent "Where is the Moon?" set to music by Skryabin, was in the same vein — academic ballet, with dancing on pointes for the ballerina and daring lifts mixed with contemporary dance steps. Bernice Coppieters and Gaëtan Morlotti from the Ballet de Montecarlo performed it very well.

A singular feature of this year’s gala was the presentation of two completely opposed versions of "The Dying Swan" : Fokine’s classical one and a new one commissioned by the Positano Prize organization, with the Swan danced by a man. Both versions were set to Saint-Saëns famous music.

"The Dying Swan" 2003 by and with Igor Yebra, began in silence. The dancer performed several classical figures, ending with a manège en tournant . Then the music came up, and Yebra danced the steps that Fokine composed for Anna Pavlova. Though performing the originally feminine steps, the male Swan doesn’t lose any of his virility as he abandons himself to death. Yebra, who was clad in a wisp of a costume, was much admired by the audience, and not only by the ladies.

The seduction scene from "Le Rouge et le Noir", set by Uwe Scholz to music by Berlioz, is a typical example of modern German ballet with all its virtues and all its many defects. It seems that certain choreographers when choosing the narrative genre are determined to translate every single word of the original text into dance. Are they afraid the audience won’t understand what’s happening on the stage? Nonetheless, the result is often pedantic and repetitive, and could do with some good cutting. The dancers, Vladimir Derevianko (director of the Dresden Ballet) and Olena Gorbatch, were very good and expressive.

The famous balcony scene from Kenneth MacMillan’s "Romeo and Juliet" needs no presentation. It was sensitively interpreted by Ambra Vallo — who received the Positano Prize in 1993 and is now principal at the Birmingham Royal Ballet — and Robert Parker.   Davide Agostini and Ilaria Cavagna, of the Kataklò dance company, presented "Come With Me to the Sacred Mountain", by Giulia Staccioli, an acrobatic piece typical of this company’s repertoire. The evocative lighting was by Andrea Zorzi.   Alessandro Riga, a promising pupil of the Rome Opera’s ballet school, who’d been admired last winter as Ophelia in "Hamlet, Prince of Dream", was unable to receive his award in person because he was abed with the grippe.

The evening wound up with Irma Nioradze in "La Mort du Cygne" 1905 ; that is, Fokine’s original choreography. Nioradze was a magical apparition silhouetted against the night. Her arms and hands sang, her sinuous back was gently arched and her whole body trembled in pain and resignation, thoroughly enchanting the audience, who went wild over her.

It goes without saying that the whole evening was a great success.

For Patrizia Vallone's interview with Kirov Ballet Principal Dancer, Irma Nioradze, click here.

Edited by Jeff.

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