Royal Ballet's principals promise regal dance


Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 1:51 a.m.
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Principal dancers with Britain's Royal Ballet will perform Saturday at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Special to The Sun
Principal dancers with Britain's Royal Ballet will perform Saturday at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
It's for real - Saturday evening's "Principals and Soloists of the Royal Ballet" is honestly that. While the highest-profile Royal Ballet stars most adored in the States - say, Carlos Acosta - understandably aren't on the bill, plenty of dancers from the company's elite do indeed form the formidable cast.
Four Principals, a former Principal, three First Soloists, and three Soloists comprise the scheduled artists from Great Britain's premiere dance troupe.
This is the most prestigious ballet company to ever tour a top-tier ensemble through my hometown, with the Phillips Center tickets priced far more affordable than tourists find at the Royal Opera House.
The touring production is organized by Andrew Ward, who has produced similar galas in the United Kingdom. In 2003, he created Dance Forward, a dance promotion company. (As a dancer in his own right, Ward won the 1976 Prix de Lausanne and created roles in works by legends such as Kenneth MacMillan, Rudolph Nureyev and Jerome Robbins. Ward was selected by Sir Frederick Ashton to appear in "Rhapsody" alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov.) At home in Covent Garden, London, the Royal Ballet performs classical warhorses as well as contemporary works. Saturday's 7:30 p.m. lineup reflects this.
At press time I received two anticipated programs, from the Phillips and from Ward, respectively. Although these differed from each other slightly (which only adds to the intrigue), both listed a World Premiere from choreographer Liam Scarlett as opening the second Act. The work is a solo, with fellow Principals Sarah Lamb or Marienela Nu--ez expected to create the role.
Lamb, a former Principal with Boston Ballet, joined Royal Ballet in 2003, with which she has performed Odette/Odile, Aurora and the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Nu--ez, a native of Buenos Aires, joined the company in 1999. Her repertoire with the company includes the above roles as well as fellow classics Kitri, Swanilda and Lilac Fairy.
Male Principals on the bill are Thiago Soares, a Brazilian who joined the company in 2002, and Federico Bonelli, an Italian who joined in 2003 after being a Principal with Dutch National Ballet.
Notable dancers include First Soloist Lauren Cuthbertson, who in July made global headlines when she won the silver medal (the highest awarded in last year's female division) at the 22nd International Ballet Competition in Varna.
In addition to the Scarlett premiere, we can expect about 10 more selections from diverse and beloved works. Both mentioned programs indicated excerpts from the Act I pas de trois of "Le Corsaire," the Act I balcony scene of "Romeo and Juliet" and either the Act III solo or pas de deux from "Swan Lake."
Live piano will be performed by Philip Gammon, who will offer selections from "Elite Syncopations" (a 1974 ballet to Joplin pieces) as well as Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini."
Former Principal Wayne Sleep is both a dancer and choreographer for the event - his featured "Charlie Chaplin," set to Offenbach, has been popular across the pond. Works by past Royal Ballet directors Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan will also be presented.
Ashton, one of the 20th century's greatest choreographers, best personifies the British contribution to the art form. Last year's centennial of his birth was celebrated by dance companies and festivals worldwide.
His "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" will be performed; according to the Ward program, Ashton's "Monotones II" and "Two Pigeons" pas de deux are on as well.
The evening will close with "Napoli Divertissements." "Napoli" is the great ballet of Auguste Bournonville, the founder of the Royal Danish Ballet's famous continuous ballet tradition.
Unlike other romantic ballets such as "Giselle," "Napoli" has not been changed by succeeding generations of choreographers - it is danced today as it was over 150 years ago.
"Divertissements" is a ballet term that here refers to a group of dances put together for the purpose of showcasing several individual dancers in a series of separate numbers.
The reference also aptly extends beyond the Bournonville vignettes, to describe on the whole what intends to be an unprecedented evening of dance artistry for Gainesville.
Sarah Ingley can be reached at Scene@gvillsun.com.

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