I went to the YAGP “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” gala on Tuesday night, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I was blown away by the variety and beauty of the dancing, especially by the likes of SFB’s Yuan Yuan Tan, NYCB’s Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht, and Gallim Dance. The Bolshoi star Ivan Vasiliev and Ballet Nacional De Cuba’s Viengsay Valdes finished the evening with the Don Quixote pas de deux, and I have to admit that, having never seen either of them perform, I was anticipating it with excitement.
If you don’t know already, anyone with access to YouTube can see that Valdes and Vasiliev are both incredibly powerful dancers, and power was on full display Tuesday night. She balanced for eons and inserted triple pirouettes into her fouette sequence, while he launched himself into the air to display incredible tours, double cabrioles, and maybe even some jumps he invented himself. The audience was practically beside itself, gasping and cheering every time one of these dancers astounded us. It does make me wonder, though, whether these tricks are really necessary, and if these two great artists were sacrificing their artistry in favor of tricks.
It’s clear that both of them, especially Vasiliev, had modified the choreography to allow them to put their skills on display. As I watched him execute these amazing feats one after the other, I started to feel like the flow of the piece was being interrupted by them. I like to be dazzled as much as the next person, but it seemed to me that the pas de deux had ceased to be a whole, and that we were just watching the dancers go onstage, do fabulously difficult things, and exit again. The music just happened to be from Don Q. I think unbridled fireworks like the ones I saw that evening are fine for galas, but I wouldn’t like to see them inserted into an evening-length performance. When I go to see one, I like to enjoy the work as a whole, without interruption to its stylistic continuity.