when stars collide


When you look into the night sky- somewhere other than New York City, where man-made mountains compete for the brightest shine- you see stars. Romantic that I am, I can remember walking up the brick path to my rural childhood home after a long night of ballet classes, head hanging back with my chin turned up to the sky, gazing at the twinkling stars. I can also recall someone (likely my scientist father) telling me that the stars we look up to actually burn billions of lightyears away. Some of them, he noted, may even be finished burning by the time our eyes catch their glow. In a way, having traveled so far to meet our eyes, the stars we are seeing have become something other than themselves. Imagine a world where the stars we see could come together with their origin, morphing time and twisting ties in the form of a flawless flicker. Imagine all of this happening in a golden theater, beneath a colossal diamond globe which casts its amber light like a blanket on the velvet seats below. Welcome to The Stars of Today Meet The Stars of Tomorrow gala.

Gay Casalinho_YAGP2017STMST_GALA_VAM Photo 1.jpg

YAGP Finalists Avery Gay and Antonio Casalinho in Coppelia, photo by VAM Productions.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Skylar Brandt and Gabe Stone Shayer in Spring Waters, photo by VAM Productions.

It’s hard not to feel sentimental as the gilded curtain rises, knowing you are about to witness the collision of so many stars. Excuse my sap, but we bumped into ABT cool girl Isabella Boylston outside the theater and the Olsen twins ushered in right behind us, so my cortisol levels were just a weeeee bit spiked. Adrenal fangirl reactions aside, the magnitude of this performance deserves all of the reverence I can attempt to give in my wanting words.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

YAGP Finalist Diogo De Oliveira in Terra, photo by VAM Productions.

The evening began with fiery performances from the Final Round frontrunners, softened by Chloe Misseldine’s regal Queen of The Driads and punctuated by an energetic Coppelia coda from 2016 YAGP Grishko Model Search Winner, Avery Gay, and her dynamo little partner, Antonio Casalinho. The traditional YAGP Grand Défilé was all that you would expect it to be- a sea of vibrating legs and muscular-if not slightly awkward- port de bras. Over 300 students formed a ballet-shaped mass which folded into itself before blooming to reveal precious little Guine Ann in the center, like a pearl in an undulating oyster.

What followed was one of the best nights of ballet I have ever experienced.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

NYCB’s Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro in Carousel, photo by VAM Productions.

Starting with the sweeping French romanticism of the enchanting Tiler Peck and YAGP alumni/NYCB hunk Zachary Catazaro in the “Heaven’s Ballet” pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon‘s Carousel, the “Stars of Today” certainly did not disappoint. In fact, they exceeded expectations. Next up world ballroom champions Brittany O’Connor and Paul Barris took the stage serving sultry star quality, slipping in and out of complicated lift sequences like melting wax.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Brittany O’Connor and Paul Barris in Besame Mucho, photo by VAM Productions.

ABT’s little section of the evening featured a surprise, spritely solo from James Whiteside, as well as a breath of fresh air in the form of Spring Waters danced by Skylar Brandt and Gabe Stone Shayer (both YAGP alumni). There was an effective- perhaps just a tad excessive- futuristic concept piece of David Parsons choreography danced by the powerful Ian Spring and the ever-inspiring Tamara Rojo closing the evening with Cesar Corrales in Le Corsaire, but the show-stopper of the evening was absolutely the US Premiere of David Dawson‘s White Swan Pas de Deux. National Ballet of Canada dancers Svetlana Lunkina and Evan McKie moved with a fluid resistance to the air around them, as if their entire pas de deux existed under water. It was a sub-human blending of ease and intentional work, the sort of performance that elicits trance and total consciousness all at once.

This is what happens when stars collide.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Svetlana Lukina and Evan McKie in White Swan Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, photo by VAM Productions.



5 thoughts on “when stars collide

  1. What a well written review. An amazing event for sure. Great to see the youth blooming and such joy to see the gala with seasoned stars. Evan and Svetlana, from the National Ballet of Canada, are beautiful together in all they do. Quite the partnership. Dance Magazine …a cover?

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