Tag Archives: Neglia Ballet Artists

Neglia Ballet Artists’ Star-Studded Spring Gala Dazzled with Great Performances [REVIEW]


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Colorado Ballet’s Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos in Amy Seiwert’s “Traveling Alone”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Neglia Ballet Artists – Spring Gala
Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY
May 10, 2018

By Steve Sucato

Buffalo’s premiere evening of dance each year, Neglia Ballet Artists’ 2018 Spring Gala was a smorgasbord of top flight dancing well worth the price of admission.  Once again NBA artistic director Sergio Neglia and executive director Heidi Halt culled together a stellar line-up of guest artists and dance works worthy of a professional dance company many times NBA’s size.

The program opened however with a solo variation from the ballet Raymonda by one of Neglia Conservatory’s own rising stars, Maggie Weatherdon.  The statuesque teenager from Grimsby, Ontario, despite some nerves, showed control in her technique and footwork on pointe in the briskly-paced solo.

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Neglia Conservatory dancer Maggie Weatherdon in a variation from “Raymonda”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

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Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys in Paul Meija’s “Romanza Andaluza”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Next, frequent guest dancers, husband and wife team Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys, performed former New York City Ballet principal dancer Paul Meija’s pas de deux “Romanza Andaluza” to violin music by Pablo de Saraste.

The look of the pas de deux spoke of a matador and a señorita, while the close-quarter classical choreography evoked the feel of the “White Swan” pas de deux from Swan Lake.  Arms raised high over her head Putrius spun in and out of Bauzys’ arms and was lifted over his head in arabesque positions that had her lovingly looking down on him.  Both dancers radiated star quality in their dancing that combined grace and technical prowess.

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Neglia Conservatory’s Stephanie Waite in Victor Smalley’s “Under Her Skin”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

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Colorado Ballet’s Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos in the balcony scene pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

After the contemporary dance solo “Under Her Skin” by Victor Smalley danced by Neglia Conservatory student Stephanie Waite, Colorado Ballet principal dancers Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos performed the balcony scene pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet with choreography by former English National Ballet artistic director Derek Deane.  One of the more emotionally rich choreographic versions of the ballet, Deane’s passionate choreography fit perfectly on the girlishly giddy Benton as Juliet and the dashing Ramos as Romeo. Sweeping runs into each other’s arms, soaring lifts and dizzying turn sequences left one believing in the pair’s over-the-moon young love.

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Dancers Eun-Kyung Chug (front) and Seyong Kim in Takehiro Ueyama’s “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The program then switched gears stylistically in choreographer Takehiro Ueyama’s contemporary dance work “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape” performed by former Seoul Ballet Theater principal dancer Eun-Kyung Chug and former Metropolitan Opera Ballet dancer Seyong Kim.  Performed to a piano score by Johann Sebastian Bach, the gestural and calisthenic–like choreography for the pair appeared to outline a relationship between them that was fond yet distant.  The veteran pair danced solidly in the somewhat  unremarkable piece.

Weatherdon, who placed 1st in the Senior Contemporary Division at the 2018 Youth America Grand Prix dance competition, then returned to the stage this time in the  contemporary dance solo “Integer” by award-winning choreographer Viktor Plotnikov. Dancing to music by Zoe Keating, the rangy teen sliced through the air in fluid, angular dance moves that showed off her facility a dancer and gave a glimpse of her vast potential as a dance artist.

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Neglia Conservatory dancer Viktor Plotnikov’s “Integer”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Waite then took the stage in another solo, this time a variation from the ballet La Bayadere to music by Ludwig Minkus.  While Waite powered through the technically challenging solo with relative ease, her performance felt a bit flat and lacked personality.

Next, Benton and Ramos took another turn on stage in an excerpt from Sacramento Ballet artistic director Amy Seiwart’s “Traveling Alone”.  The contemporary ballet pas de deux set to music by Max Richter had everything the earlier “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape” lacked.  Seiwert’s captivating choreography was well-crafted, emotional,  and the chemistry and relationship between Benton and Ramos was anything but distant.  The pair had an ease to their dancing with Benton floating along in buoyant lifts and in dreamy turns on pointe.

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Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys in Putrius’ “Avere”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Putrius and Bauzys also came back for an encore in Putrius’ “Avere”.  Danced to music by Baroque Italian composer Giulio Caccini, the heartfelt contemporary ballet pas de deux swirled with graceful spins and tender embraces with only a modicum of clunky choreographic moments. One being Putrius lying on her back and walking her feet up the side of Bauzys’ body and then waiting for him, legs hovering in the air, to complete a solo dance phrase before walking them down again which served to briefly interrupt the sensual flow of the duet.  That being said, the pair’s dancing was fabulous as always.

Brilliance continued in arguably the best performance of the evening, Tulsa Ballet soloists Jennifer Grace and Joshua Stayton dancing an excerpt from Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong’s “Glass Pieces”.

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Tulsa Ballet’s Jennifer Grace and Joshua Stayton Ma Cong’s “Glass Pieces”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The exquisite lover’s pas de deux to music by Philip Glass unfolded with Grace (a perfect moniker for her dancing) twisting about on the stage floor before Stayton engaged her reposed body, causing her to arch her back and flutter one leg from the sensation.  The pair then deftly moved through a sequence of picture-perfect balletic poses that riveted one’s attention squarely on them.  Both Grace and Stayton were razor sharp in their dancing and left the audience mesmerized and breathless.

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Michele Costa and Sergio Neglia in Viktor Plotnikov’s “La Vida”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The bountiful program concluded with an encore performance from 2017 of Plotinikov’s “La Vida,” a work loosely based on NBA artistic director Sergio Neglia’s life and family. The work traces Neglia’s feelings in losing and missing his fatherArgentinian ballet star Jose Neglia who tragically died in a plane crash in 1971 when Sergio was young. In it, Eun-Kyung Chung portrayed Neglia’s grieving mother, Sergio, his younger self and a puppet controlled by Michele Costa represented the memory of Jose.  The very personal work was playful and charming at times, poignant and memorable.

Neglia Ballet Artists perform their 20th Anniversary Spring Gala, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 2019. Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center, 1250 Amherst Street, Buffalo. Tickets are $25/student, $75/general ($80 at door) & $100/patron and are available at http://negliaballet.org/gala/

Featured performances by:

Emily Bromberg & Ariel Rose  (Miami City Ballet)
– Former Neglia Conservatory student Adelaide Clauss & Tamas Krizsa (Washington Ballet)
– Vilia Putrius & Mindaugas Bauzys formerly of Festival Ballet in Providence
Sergio Neglia, Sherri Campagni, puppeteer Michele Costa and actor Nico Neglia in a new ballet inspired by Mozart and Salieri and choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov
– Current Neglia Conservatory Pre-Professional students Ava DiNicola, Adrien Malof, and Maggie Weatherdon

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neglia Ballet, Philharmonic give new life to ‘Nutcracker’


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Yuha Tomita as young Marie in Neglia Ballet Artists’ “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Neglia Ballet Artists.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

San Francisco Ballet founder and artistic director Willam Christensen, credited with the first complete performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet in the United States on Christmas Eve 1944, couldn’t have foreseen the love affair American audiences would have with the ballet in the decades since – making it one of this country’s most cherished holiday traditions.

Now a Buffalo holiday tradition, the seventh annual presentation of Neglia Ballet Artists’ “The Nutcracker” ballet Saturday night, November 28, 2015 in Shea’s Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Shea’s, once again reinforced that love affair with a magical production that excited the senses and warmed the hearts of audience members of all ages.

Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s well-known 1816 story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the mostly traditional production was conceived, choreographed and produced by Neglia Ballet Artists’ artistic director/principal dancer Sergio Neglia and executive director Heidi Halt.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score for the ballet, performed live by the BPO under the baton of associate conductor Stefan Sanders, the production in two acts – featuring a cast of some 120 characters – opened on the Christmas Eve party at the home of the affluent Stahlbaum family.

The lively party atmosphere introduced the audience to young Marie Stahlbaum, the ballet’s protagonist, danced by Yuha Tomita and her mischievous brother Fritz (Adrien Malof) as well as their mysterious uncle Drosselmeyer, portrayed once again by Irish Classical Theatre artistic director Vincent O’Neill. During the scene, the fresh-faced Tomita was full of life as young Marie. A fine actress and dancer, Tomita was a delight, as was the sister-torturing antics of Malof as Fritz. In giving Marie a Nutcracker doll during the party, Drosselmeyer set into motion a magical journey Marie would embark on during the rest of the ballet, beginning with a nightmarish battle of mice and men.

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(L-R) Brian Pagkos as the Rat king battles Sergio Neglia as the Nutcracker while Vincent O’Neill as Drosselmeyer looks on. Photo by Mary White.

Wonderfully lit by lighting designer Dyan Burlingame and costumed by Donna Massimo, the surreal “Battle” scene saw Marie’s Nutcracker doll come to life as the life-size leader of an army of toy soldiers who battled an army of pirate-outfitted rats.

The frenetic scene kicked the ballet into high gear with cheese-firing artillery and cavalry helping the Nutcracker (Sergio Neglia) defeat the Rat King (Brian Pagkos) and his cohorts and save Marie. At scene’s end, the Nutcracker was again transformed by Drosselmeyer, this time into a handsome Cavalier, danced by American Ballet Theatre corps dancer Jose Sebastian, and young Marie into an adult, danced by fellow ABT dancer, soloist Luciana Paris. The pair embodied a sense of youthful wonderment as they entered a land of snow, surrounded by dancing snowflakes to end the ballet’s first act. One of the ballet’s best group dances, the “Snow” scene, choreographed by Halt, evoked images of a swirling, snow-filled wonderland.

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The “Snow” scene in Neglia Ballet Artists’ “The Nutcraker.” Photo by Mike Benz.

Act Two saw adult Marie and her Cavalier arrive at the “Land of Sweets,” where confectionary-themed dances were performed for them by dancers from foreign lands. Highlighting those dances were: a sensual and sleek Mary Beth Hansohln and her steady partner James Graber reprising their roles in “Arabian,” Walter Garcia in the explosive “Trepak,” in which he barreled through a series of high-flying leaps and rapid-fire turns, and “Flowers,” another well-crafted group dance by Halt.

This year was only the second time Neglia did not dance the role of the Cavalier. His emotional and power-packed stage presence was missed but the handing over of the torch this time round to Sebastian proved the right move. With clean, elegant lines, jumps and leaps, Sebastian danced marvelously and was a solid partner to the stunning Paris. The pair’s dancing in the ballet’s “Grand pas de deux” was spellbinding. Paris’ beautiful facility and extension along with her precise footwork and grace as a dancer, put an exclamation point on Neglia Ballet Artists’ heartfelt and memorable The Nutcracker production.

Neglia Ballet Artists’ The Nutcracker continues 2 p.m., Today, Nov. 29. Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St., Downtown. $29-75. 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com, Shea’s Box Office or sheas.org.

A version of this review first appeared November 29, 2015 on The Buffalo News’ webstie: Click here to read. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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Neglia Ballet performs memorable gala-style mixed repertory program


Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from “Swan Lake.” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

By Steve Sucato
News Contributing Reviewer

Buffalo doesn’t get too many star-studded ballet productions gracing its stages, so Thursday evening’s (May 21, 2015) second annual “Dancing To Live” presented by Neglia Ballet Artists at Nichols School’s Flickinger Performing Arts Center was something special.

The gala-style mixed repertory evening to benefit TargetCancer Foundation and Neglia’s CityDance public schools program, was jam-packed with adroit performances by an international cast of local and guest dancers.

A series of short classical and contemporary solos and pas de deuxs, the delightful program began with award-­winning Lithuanian choreographer Egidijus Domeika’s “Romantic Pas de Deux” danced by fellow Lithuanians and principal dancers with Rhode Island’s Festival Ballet of Providence, Mindaugas Bauzys and Vilia Putrius. The married couple, familiar to Buffalo dance audiences from past Neglia productions, were solid in their performance of Domeika’s very classical and technically demanding choreography set to music by Rossini. With a radiant smile, Putrius zipped through various turning movements and little hops on one leg, while partner Bauzys powered through a barrage of spins and leaps.

Promising Neglia Ballet student Yuha Tomita from Japan showed her spunk in the first of two solos she danced Sumire Sakai’s contemporary work “A La Volette.” In this solo and later in Viktor Plotnikov’s funky-quirky “DeRap,” Tomita danced with plenty of personality. But like many student dancers still finding their way, her performances appeared rushed.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from “Swan Lake.” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in the White Swan pas de deux from “Swan Lake.” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Whereas Tomita’s stage inexperience shone through, the opposite could be said of the first of two nearly flawless performances by veteran dancers Sergio Neglia and longtime partner Silvina Vaccarelli, a principal dancer with Argentina’s Teatro Colón Ballet. In the famous “White Swan” pas de deux from Swan Lake, the pair looked like the great romantic-style couples of old in a polished performance emotive of wanting and heartache and exhibiting a high level of classicism and stage presence rarely seen nowadays.

Next, representative of the athleticism and technical prowess prevalent in today’s ballet, former Joffrey Ballet dancers Yumelia Garcia and Ogulcan Borova gave a supercharged performance of Yuri Possokhov’s “Bell,” set to music by Rachmaninoff. Upside down lifts, sinewy leg muscles and plenty of visual punch characterized the deft performances of the two dancers who appeared at the top of their game.

Classical ballet with a Danish flair followed in a charming performance by an effervescent Marybeth Hansohn and partner Tanner Schwartz in the pas de deux from August Bournonville’s 1858 ballet Flower Festival in Genzano. Hansoln floated across the stage in delicate jumps, turns and beautiful footwork, while Schwartz bounded through leaps and beating jumps (calves beat against each other as one leg passes in front of the other).

After another mesmerizing performance by Bauzys and Putrius in Ilya Kozadayev’s melancholy contemporary piece “Moonlight,” set to music by Beethoven, Garcia showed off her incredible balance and Borova his fabulous partnering skills in the bedroom pas de deux from the ballet Le Corsaire. Their dancing was bold and invigorating.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Viktor Plotnikov’s “From Earth.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Viktor Plotnikov’s “From Earth.” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Viktor Plotnikov’s “From Earth.

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Viktor Plotnikov’s “From Earth.” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Rounding out the thoroughly entertaining production were Neglia and Vaccarelli in an encore performance of Plotnikov’s “From Earth” performed by the pair at last year’s “Dancing To Live.” Once again the two dancers were simpatico in their movements together. A far cry from the earlier Swan Lake pas de deux in style, the contemporary ballet duet was nonetheless brilliant and brilliantly danced. Fluttering hand moments, humorous facial expressions and gestures, and marvelously constructed movement phrases made this ballet the perfect closer to a memorable evening of dance.

This article first appeared in The Buffalo News on May 22, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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