The ballet gala—both loved and hated for its ostentatious displays of virtuosic technique—is about to get a makeover at the hands of one who knows first-hand its strengths and weaknesses as a showcase of classical dance talent.
Svetlana Lunkina, the Bolshoi ballerina who now dances with the National Ballet of Canada as a principal dancer, has organized a star-studded event in which dancers from some of the world’s leading ballet companies will present masterpieces from the classical repertoire with the purpose of not just entertaining audiences but also enlightening as to the variety and range of the centuries-old art form.
“Our gala explores the creative highlights in the history of classical dance against a backdrop of larger global trends and cultural transformations,” says Lunkina during an interview in Toronto, where her Canada All Star Ballet Gala will have its one-night-only performance at the 3,200-seat Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on February 11, 2017.
“The program builds on established choreographic narratives from original productions through specific sequences chosen to highlight the dancers’ unique performance strengths and interpretive skills.”
The ballet gala—both loved and hated for its ostentatious displays of virtuosic technique—is about to get a makeover.
Serving as both artistic director and a performer in the international event, Lunkina hand-picked dancers from among the world’s leading ballet companies, assigning them work which best illustrates the artistic differences among the five major schools of ballet: French, Danish, Russian, English, and American. Participants include Eleonora Abbagnato from the Paris Opera Ballet, Isabella Boylston from American Ballet Theatre, Lauren Cuthbertson from the Royal Ballet in London, Ruslan Skvortsov from the Bolshoi Ballet, Alban Lendorf from the Royal Danish Ballet, and guest artists from the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto. Supplementing the strong cast of ballet principals will be young dancers, ages 17 to 20, representing the next generation.
By exercising complete artistic control, Lunkina has created an event that marks a departure from the way galas are usually organized, with the dancers dictating what they will dance and how—which explains why so many ballet galas tend to look the same. Dancers typically select crowd-pleasing excerpts from full-lengths like Don Quixote and La Bayadère whose pyrotechnical flourishes are guaranteed to bring the house down. Lunkina wants to do it differently, make the ballet gala less predictable and more artistically surprising and satisfying for both performers and the audience alike.
“I have taken a lot of time to ensure that this is a high-calibre event,” says Lunkina, who is already planning a follow-up gala spotlighting contemporary masterpieces for the fall. “This is the gold standard of ballet performances, not seen before in Canada.”
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