Above photo: Elisabeth Beyer and Charlie Clinton, Nutcracker. Ellison Ballet presented its Winter Showcase last week at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Ellison students, all in their teens, were impressive, demonstrating a high level of technique and stage maturity. The dancers are polished and at times the segments resembled work from a professional company. The school has great depth, with a number of dancers looking forward to professional careers (check out photos of the Friday Act I dress rehearsal on my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com).
Former San Francisco Ballet Soloist Edward Ellison founded the school in 2005, with a focus on Vaganova-based training (the Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951)). Although the school has been in existence for only 12 years, Ellison students are dancing at major companies, with former students at Paris Opera Ballet, ABT, San Francisco Ballet, Mikhailovsy Ballet (see my interview with Edward on the 10-year anniversary of the school two years ago). The performance of students at ballet competitions stands out; Ellison students won first and second prize awards in the Youth America Grand Prix in 2017, 2016, and 2015. The schools’ winning performances aren’t isolated to YAGP; earlier this year, fifteen year old Elisabeth Beyer took first place at the prestigious Moscow International Ballet Competition in the Junior Division.
The student showcase last week featured familiar segments from Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Flames of Paris, Harlequinde, Paquita, Le Corsaire with a few new works. Highlights among the many well-done segments:
- The male dancing in Storm, a work from former Australian Ballet Artistic Director Maina Gielgud. The work consisted of 12 male students to a score by Benjamin Britten. The work was infused with male bravura steps, with many Whoa!, OMG!, and “What was that?” moments as the guys showed off their stuff. Prominent steps included Daniil Simkin-style wide retiré pirouettes pulling in from second position (generally performed well), interesting variants of saute de basques, and “skater” pirouettes in which the dancer lowers his leg in retiré position as the turns progress. One dancer had a series of spectacular double jeté entrelacé (I didn’t catch the dancers’ name). All done with a high level of energy.
- Soprano Diane di Stasio’s lovely voice filled the theater accompanied by pianist Olga Bazilevskaya to Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria with Lola Crist and Koudadio Davis performing a touching duet. Diane, who is the school’s Administrative Director, has performed at Carnegie Hall and with New York Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera.
- The Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty was unique with several female dancers taking lead roles. Each of the ladies added a different touch in this iconic segment.
Although the performance was not flawless, with a few falls and some form issues, it showcased young talent dancing with authority and depth. The school continues to attract talent as I saw a number of new dancers. Given the performance last week, it is easy to predict that students will do well in ballet competitions in 2018 and will continue to land contracts at major companies.