Indianapolis City Ballet presents "Evening with the Stars 2011," its third annual gala performance by soloists and principal dancers from major companies nationwide on Sept. 10, with an added attraction on Sept. 9—"Young Stars of Ballet."
"The performers on the Young Stars of Ballet program include "stars of today and tomorrow," explained Kevin Hesse, Producer/Executive Director, Indianapolis City Ballet. "They are medal winners from international competitions along with principal dancers and soloists from American Ballet Theater, including Michele Wiles, Daniil Simkin and Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews and Charles Askegard from New York City Ballet."
Corps de Ballet dancers participating as "Young Stars" include Jackson Dwyer and Emma Hawes from National Ballet of Canada, Alexandre Hammoudi from ABT, Keenan Kampa from Boston Ballet and Alexey Popov from The Marinsky Ballet. Aaron Smyth appears as a Guest Artist
"We are very pleased and honored to have three emerging Indianapolis-based talents among the event's soloists — Chris Lingner, Hannah Sink and Demitra Bereveskos," said Hesse.
Linger and Ashlee Dupree are reprising their pas deux to "Just the Way You Are" from Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out
touring company. Linger also is part of Carlos Dos Santos' Grand Defile. He commented, "My experience with Carlos Dos Santos has been fun. It's amazing to see all of the dancers from all of the different studios working so well together to bring Carlos' piece to life. It's a rare opportunity for the dance community to be united on such a grand scale and I'm glad to be a part of it."
One hundred five area dancers from local schools appear in the Grand Defile choreographed by Carlos Dos Santos. Hesse describes it as a spectacle marked by a flurry of activity, precise choreography, quick transitions, humor and virtuosity.
Jolinda Menendez, the event's performance director, and Hesse selected Young Stars of Ballet artists in consultation with Franco DeVita, Principal of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet and Artistic Director of ABT II, Larissa Saveliev, founder and director of the Youth America Grand Prix, Mavis Staines, Director of the National Ballet of Canada School and Gailene Stock, Director of The Royal Ballet School.
This year's Evening with the Stars is themed as "International Stars of the American Ballet" and includes soloists and principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boyleston, Paloma Herrera , Marcelo Gomes and Daniil Simkin; from Joffrey Ballet: Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani; from New York City Ballet: Joaquin DeLuz, Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbrecht ; from San Francisco Ballet: Maria Kochetkova, Damian Smith and Yuan Yuan Tan.
Also appearing are Guillaume Coté
, Guest Artist in Residence of the National Ballet of Canada, and Conrad Tao, pianist at Julliard School of Music.
"In preparation to launch our residency company with performances next September we focused on the dance scene in America and found a great mix of American and foreign dancers at the top of the international world of ballet and have been fortunate to pull together a stunning program from classical to contemporary," said Hesse, adding, "In fact, we've got some of the hottest contemporary choreographers on the program this year including Jorma Elo, Edwaard Liang, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, a work by ABT's Marcelo Gomes and a new commission from Margo Sappington with music by Michael Jackson, which will be on both the Friday and Saturday performances and has a great contemporary look."
Danill Simkin, who thrilled last year's audience with his signature solo "Les Bourgeois" returns to headline both Friday and Saturday events.
Simkin was born in Russia to a ballet family. In 1990, the family left for the West and settled in Wiesbaden, Germany, where Simkin from the age of six often appeared onstage dancing alongside his father Dimitrij Simkin. At ten, Simkin began his training under the direction of his mother, Olga Aleksandrova. At 12, he began participating in ballet competitions and galas around the world and, at the same time, he finished his academic education. Simkin's awards include the Senior Gold Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi in 2006, Grand Prix International Ballet Competition Helsinki 2005 and First Prize and Gold Medal at the 21st International Ballet Competition in Varna 2004. He joined the ballet company of the Vienna State Opera in 2006 as a demi-soloist. In 2007, he danced his first principal role, Basilio in Don Quixote, as a guest with the Lithuanian National Opera. Simkin joined American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist in October 2008. His technical virtuosity is matched by an electrifying and endearing personal quality that immediately connects him with the audience.
Hesse underscores Simkin's commitment to people. "We want to give these young and emerging stars of ballet an opportunity to perform on a program and participate in rehearsals with today's stars so when I mentioned the Young Stars program to Daniil he graciously and excitedly joined the program – telling me, 'I'm happy to do it for the kids.'"
Joining Simkin in returning from last year's gala performance are Marcelo Gomes (ABT) and Damian Smith and Yuan Yuan Tan (San Francisco Ballet).
Hesse emphasized that the "weekend of dance" recognizes the important role that teachers play in the development of an artist and thus honors "Master Teacher to the Stars" David Howard. Cynthia Harvey, former Principal Ballerina with American Ballet Theatre and a former Howard student, will present the ICB Award to Howard. Howard is celebrating his 45th year of teaching dance in America. Born and educated in England, Howard's career began as a child performer in radio, films and commercials. Later, working as a principal dancer at London's famed Palladium Theatre he had the honor of appearing in a Royal Command Performance before Queen Elizabeth II. He joined Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, now The Royal Ballet and was promoted to soloist status. Howard danced with the National Ballet of Canada and appeared in London's West End musicals, among them Bob Fosse's Little Me
. He performed in cabaret throughout Europe and was featured in many television productions.
After a successful performing career, in 1966 he was invited by Rebekah Harkness to join the faculty and later direct the Harkness Ballet School in New York City. In 1977, Howard opened his own school adjacent to Lincoln Center. His classes have become the mainstay in the professional training of many notable dancers.
"We have a relatively diverse audience [in Indianapolis] and we would like to engage and entertain while deepening their knowledge and curiosity of the entire artform of ballet," said Hesse. "I think the Young Stars program is especially valuable as it gives young audience members a chance to see their contemporaries flourish - hopefully imparting inspiration. For others, the Young Stars program is a chance to see the most exciting young professionals and advanced student prodigies before they are stars.
According to Hesse, "Indianapolis City Ballet is committed to developing a robust outreach program that engages audiences of all ages including providing education materials about the ballet." Inside the Theatre
and Making a Ballet
, can be accessed at www.indianapoliscityballet.org
"In the end, we continue to work as a relatively new member of the dance community of Indianapolis, seeking to grow the community and provide unique opportunities for dancers and audience members alike," concluded Hesse.
Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone