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2, 2-15: Pas de Deux Love
Making Contact With the Stars at the NY State
By Albert Lee
Copyright 2000 Albert Lee
The pas de deux
is a curious artifact--a curio, almost--that has strangely endured
into the twenty-first century. No doubt it is supremely important
in a ballet. It is the point of contact, emotionally, with the audience--a
cynosure of high drama and character development. Everyone will
ooh and ah at pageantry, but the pas de deux can make or break an
Yet I've often
found the form alienating to watch, embodying as it does a kind
of mannered love I find hard to understand. Love is messy, so it
can be upsetting to watch a trompe l'oeil of it, as if it were an
unwelcome reminder of the evening's fakery. That's why I never expected
to come out of the New York State Theater smiling after seeing eleven
of them, deracinated, at the "Stars of the Twenty-First Century"
gala on Monday, despite its star-studded cast.
of a museum retrospective, it was a night packed with verve and
wit and style. I was stunned. The evening was a Valentine's Day
event, and among the hoary balletomanes there were many tuxedoed
young men with dates in attendance. The dancers included members
of the American Ballet Theatre and the Kirov, Bolshoi, San Francisco,
and Paris Opera Ballets. This audience was prepared to love, and
the evening's artistic director, Nadia Veselova-Tencer (this is
her eighth such gala), could have gotten away with much less.
pulled together a fantastic evening of Petipa ("Sleeping Beauty,"
"Le Corsaire," "Swan Lake," "La Esmerelda," "Don Quixote") and Balanchine
("Apollo"), studded with newer works like Carolyn Carlson's absinthe-soaked
"Diva" (set to Maria Callas) and William Forsythe's coolly modernist
"In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated."
included Susan Jaffe, Marcelo Gomes, Charles Askegard, and Gennadi
Saveliev of ABT; Anna Antonicheva and Yuri Klevtsov of the Bolshoi;
Marie Agnes Gillot, Agnes Letestu, and Jose Martinez of the
Paris Opera Ballet; Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky of the Royal
Ballet; and Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre of the San Francisco
Zelensky stood out as a crowd-pleaser, thanks to his dashing Corsaire.
The muscular, charismatic Marcelo Gomes continues to amaze. How
do danseurs find the time to emote while supporting, catching, and
lifting their partner? All that grunt work and Gomes still fleshes
out the joy.
If there was
a good-natured competition unfolding through the evening, Antonicheva
and Klevtsov of the Bolshoi emerged as clear winners, in the pas
des deux from Yuri Gigorovich's "Spartacus" and Agrippina Vaganova's
"Diana and Acteon." I don't know if it's the potatoes and vodka,
but these Russians make the Americans and Europeans look anemic.
"Wow," my friend whispered when Antonicheva strode onto the stage.
She's a power nymph with curves and mile-long legs that move as
expressively as if they were arms. As for Klevtsov, I've never seen
such a brawny dancer move so agilely. He is an apostle of alpha
masculinity, without the crudity and brimming with effortless grace.
Are these two married?
I watched them
all in awe. As I left the theater, and the memory of what I had
just seen began to evaporate, I realized that the pas de deux may
not convey love, but it does convey beauty, which is a different
kind of love.
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