New York has a number of great ballet schools and it’s always exciting to attend their performances, wondering which dancers will make it to the ballet major leagues. One such school is Ballet Academy East (BAE) founded by Julia Dubno in 1979. Prominent alumni of BAE include NYCB Principal Dancer Chase Finlay and Soloist Erica Periera, and ABT Corps members Puanani Brown and Hannah Marshall, along with dancers in major companies worldwide.
BAE had its Studio Showing Thursday through Saturday at the Ailey CitiGroup Theater with a very unique repertory. While most ballet school performances stick to standard classics, BAE presented four new works specifically created for the school (one by NYCB Principal Dancer Ashley Bouder), in addition to Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations (1961). Also innovative is that the new works are by female choreographers, in short supply in the male dominated ballet choreography world. With the innovative material, the dancers demonstrated a high level of advanced technique Friday with expressive dancing, dramatic nuanced touches, and nicely synchronized corps work.
Artistic Director Darla Hoover, who danced at NYCB from 1980-1991, stages Raymonda Variations for the Balanchine Trust. The highest levels 8-9 students performed the challenging work with great expressiveness in solos and unity in corps work. The piece consists of 12 female dancers and a lead couple. The 12 dancers dressed in pink perform corps work at the beginning and end of the ballet, and break out and perform solos in the middle along with the lead couple.
Leads were Mary Watters and Alejandro Andrade. Alejandro was impressive with strong technique and a relaxed upper body with flowing arms. He displayed great beat work, particularly his entrechat six with great articulation, form and space between beats. Also impressive were his grand jetés which showed great extension, and pirouettes which consisted of multiple controlled double pirouettes to a triple pirouette. The solos for the female start with lyrical flowing steps and end with more athletic movements. Mary navigated her difficult solos with great musicality.
The pink corps members performed solos in the middle of the work. The solos were generally well done with a few rough spots, but the ladies worked their way through problems reasonably well.
Claudia Schreier premiered her work Charge, set to Piano Concerto: III by Dutch composer Douwe Eisenga, performed by 22 level 8-9 dancers. Claudia, a Harvard graduate, was named 2015 Dance Magazine Reader’s Choice Award Nominee for Best Emerging Choreographer. Charge is an interesting, high energy work, with never a dull moment. She uses the dancers in various combinations, sometimes in quick bursts as they move in and out of the action. The work is full of high level ballet technique, with quirky modern twists. Eisenga’s score is a classical/pop fusion with a frenetic pace at times. Claudia’s movements mimic the intensity of the music, a great dance interpretation of the score. In slower sections of the music, dancers form a diagonal or an X pattern, then break away in various assortments. Parts of her work remind me of Alexei Ratmansky’s third section of his Shostakovich Trilogy, Piano Concerto #1.
Jenna Lavin, a former Miami City Ballet Soloist teaching and choreographing works at BAE since 2003, premiered her work (S)EVEN, set to Schubert’s Piano Trio no. 2 in E flat major, Opus 100. The work consists of seven level 7 females. There are numerous solo dances, most done with nice phrasing and timing to the Schubert score.
The program featured a new work by NYCB Principal Dancer Ashley Bouder with an odd title Mozart’s Little Nothings set to Mozart’s ballet score Les petits riens. The work consists of 13 dancers ranging from 12-15 years of age with various ensembles and solos. Steps were basic, but with interesting combinations and praising, consistent with Balanchine’s works. Ashley makes heavy and engaging use of symmetric patterns; for example, dancers in one single file on one side of the stage performing the same steps as dancers on the other side of the stage.
The first work of the evening, Barcarolle by Jenna Lavin displayed the great potential of the 10-12 year old dancers, as they showed off basic ballet steps with great enthusiasm.