Ballet school performances and competitions are great fun, providing insight on the future of ballet. I remember seeing a young Sarah Lamb when she was at Boston Ballet competing at the Youth America Grand Prix competition in New York over 10 years ago. Also, 13-year old Isaac Hernandez dazzling the crowd with a Don Q variation that would put many adult dancers to shame. Sarah and Isaac are now Principal Dancers at The Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, respectively.
Ellison Ballet, run by former San Francisco Ballet Soloist Edward Ellison, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a performance at Symphony Space Friday evening. Dancers consisted of his students, aged 12-19 and two alums. By the high level of dancing exhibited by some of the dancers, I would expect to see a few of them on much larger stages at major ballet companies very soon.
The first segment of the program consisted of familiar pas de deux and solos often seen in ballet competitions: Harlequinade, La Esmeralda, Don Quixote, Grand Pas Classique, Raymonda, Giselle. The quality of the solos ranged from very good to so-so. Standout performances included Melissa Chapski’s Paquita variation, Rachelle di Stasio’s Raymonda variation, and the Grand Pas Classique pas de deux with Juliette Bosco and Theophilus Pilette.
The above dancers have great credentials; Melissa was awarded contracts at the Het Nationale Ballet Second Company and the Dresden SemperOper Ballet Apprenticeship; Rachelle is an Ellison Ballet alum now dancing at the ABT Studio Company; Juliette finished first in the Junior Women’s category at the recent Youth America Grand Prix along with scholarships at The Royal Ballet School, Princess Grace Academy, and Orlando Ballet School; Juliette and Theophilus finished second in the Grand Prix pas de deux category at Youth America Grand Prix.
Melissa and Rachelle have a similar build and style, reminding me of NYCB’s Teresa Reichlen. Both are tall with long legs and great extension and line with great control. In addition to their solid technique, they were very expressive with radiant smiles that revealed joy in their dancing.
Juliette and Theophilus excelled at the difficult Grand Pas Classique. In one tricky diagonal, Julliette balanced in passe while Theophilus stepped aside and performed a double tour as both went to the knee in unison. While both have solid technique, they could work on their expressions and interaction with the audience as they seemed dour at times, in deep concentration during this tough pas de deux.
Update: After posting this review, I found out that Juliette is only 12 years of age! WOW! Given her technique, I thought she was in her late teens, ready to join a ballet company. Her dream is to dance for a Russian company at the Mariinsky Theatre. She is off to a great start in achieving that goal.
Theophilus has a powerful leaping ability, with nice high double tours to a deep plie. Also notable are his jetes with a nice split accentuated by his gorgeous arched feet. Juliette’s solos displayed her solid turning ability with a fouetté section interspersed with turns in second and multiple pirouettes.
Next was Ellison’s production of the one act Carmen, which debuted in 2006 with the Rochester City Ballet. Primary characters are Carmen (Emily Neale), Don Jose (August Atahu Generalli), and the bullfighter Escamillo (Kevin Zong). The one-act ballet moves quickly: the fickle Carmen and temperamental Don Jose meet and Don Jose is enamored by her. After a fight with tobacco dealers, Carmen is arrested. In jail, she seduces Don Jose and he releases her from jail. She escapes, but they meet up again. Carmen is caught in a love triangle between Don Jose and the bullfighter Escamillo, her true love. After being rejected by Carmen, Don Jose stabs her and she dies in his arms.
Emily and August were outstanding as leads Carmen and Don Jose, demonstrating superior dramatic capabilities far in excess of their age. I sometimes find that young dancers focus on technical aspects while the dramatic part lags behind. Not so with this pair as they demonstrated a wide range of emotions. August reminds me of ABT’s Marcelo Gomes; tall, good looking, with solid technique put to good use in dramatic portrayals. Likewise, Emily combined her stunning looks, charm, and grace as she seduced Don Jose (and likely most men in the audience). The pair was compelling in this role as they connected with the audience as the crowd roared with approval in several sections.
Kevin as Escamillo showed off his great leaping ability with several 540 jumps (a step that originated from the Martial arts that is a turning kicking step) and hitch kick jetes. As in his Flames of Paris solo earlier, his turn section lagged behind his great leaps.