Ballet's Next Generation

This weekend I was lucky enough to catch a performance of Protégés III: The International Ballet Academy Festival. This was the third time The Kennedy Center invited students from distant corners of the world to show off their elite training in our nation's capital.

The program started with a charming piece from the Royal Danish Ballet School, which strung together excerpts of Bournonville's most famous ballets with little vignettes of the dancers whispering, shyly flirting and giving each other soft kisses. I don't think I've ever seen a piece that felt so perfectly suited to the young teenagers who were dancing it. What struck me most though, was how elegant the male dancers were. Although the girls looked a bit stiff, the guys had a really nice sense of refined épaulement, and moved with an easy upper body carriage supported by strong technique in their lower bodies.

Next came Tokyo's New National Theatre Ballet School—and they blew me away. I'd never heard much about this school (the ballet program has only been around since 2001), but the dancers looked like seasoned pros. Their director is Asami Maki, who trained at Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and the School of American Ballet, and she's turning out some great talent. The students were completely in sync with one another, and had a great sense of musicality. The girls showed off fluid upper bodies, and the boys dazzled with powerful jumps.

Julio Bocca Foundation School of the Arts' mission places a strong emphasis on exchange between art forms, which was clear with their mix of short pieces. The dancers started out barefoot, accompanied by two singers, and ended in pointe shoes. Although these dancers were not as advanced as the others on the program, they gave a heartfelt performance. 

The big finale was reserved for the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, which performed Leonid Lavrovsky's Classical Symphony to Prokofiev. These students, led by the sublime Joy Ann Womack (from Texas) were simply jaw dropping. They brought so much energy to the stage, backed up by nearly impeccable technique. I can't wait to see how they grow once they become professional.