Ballet galas showcasing the world's top dancing talent are in vogue. They have been popping up in cities all around the world from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, and as of February, Toronto courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada's principal dancer Svetlana Lunkina.
More than three decades at the helm of San Francisco Ballet has sharply attuned Helgi Tomasson to the political mood of his high society season opening gala attendees.
Eight years ago, with the gala held one night after Barack Obama’s inauguration as president of the United States, Tomasson closed with George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes.” Last Thursday, on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the only red, white and blue to be found were the Bastille Day colors on Vanessa Zahorian’s sash in the pyrotechnic pas de deux from “Flames of Paris.”
International ballet competitions have become a somewhat necessary evil in the ballet world. Brought to popular culture’s attention by movies such as First Position, they are, by all accounts, high impact events. Artistic directors from world-famous ballet companies line the judging panels to the watch ballet’s rising stars train, perform and compete.
At the Roman Amphitheatre in Fiesole, a town on a hill that dominated Florence from above, the sidereal luminosity of a cloudless night, married with the soft (for once) hum of the cicadas and the breathtaking roman and etruscan stones reminiscent of classical artistic glory, provide the ideal setting for a dance gala.
There must be whooping. Lots of it. An abundance of whooping, cheering, hooting, and thunderous applause. This is what celebrations need in order to make them celebrations. And to make a performance a gala event: so it was for the Australian Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which I had the fortune of seeing twice.