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.
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.
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.
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.
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.