Dancer of the Year Awards : Gala Performance – Olga Smirnova, Oksana Skorik, Steven McRae, Xander Parish

In the famous town of Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the most acclaimed dancers from across the world come together for the annual dance award.  

The dancers and choreographers honoured in this 42nd year of the award include: Ana Laguna and Mats Ek, Olga Smirnova, Steven McRae, Xander Parish, Oksana Skorik, Christopher Wheeldon, Alvaro Dule, PieJu Chien-Pott, Mariko Kida, Carlo di Lanno and Guiseppe Comuniello. Click here for full list of honours.

Positano Premia La Danza "Léonide Massine"
Positano Premia La Danza “Léonide Massine”

Alvaro Dule

The star studded gala programme of dance started with an incredible performance by Alvaro Dule of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance called Partita, a contemporary dance piece created especially for the event. Alvaro is a truly gifted dancer, with malleable movements, endless arms and a torso that bends, curves, and snakes with a tantalising flow, which then he flicks and points sharply in contrast making his movement beguiling and unpredictable. It is this physicality, his control and the endless lengths to which he sends his body that draws us adoringly to him. Alvaro’s beauty, strength and complete physical commitment together with his expressiveness is a breathtaking combination and after a short piece we are left wanting more and more of Alvaro.

Alvaro Dule
Alvaro Dule

Balanchine’s Diamonds

Balanchine’s Diamonds was performed by the divine duet of Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin who together embodied the essence of the order and grandeur of Imperial Russia that was Balanchine’s inspiration for the third act of Jewels. Olga is simply stunning, her pointe work, pirouettes, arabesque penchée and her grace captivating. And with Olga’s diamond tutu sparkling against the moon filled sky over Positano together with Balachine’s wonderful choreography was a perfect setting for the evening.

Christopher Wheeldon

Choreographer of the year award winner, Christopher Wheeldon flew in from New York for just one night to attend the gala event. It was his first time visiting Positano and he spoke to The Wonderful World of Dance saying that “although we don’t produce works for prizes, it is however an honour to receive this award at such a prestigious event – and it’s not bad picking up the award in beautiful Positano!”

Wheeldon’s piece Duet was performed by Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga, Principal Dancers with the Dutch National Ballet (music by Maurice Ravel).  Duet was both moving and explorative, revealing an expressive narrative style that transcends technique and draws upon the romance of the dialogue between the dancers as they perform classical steps laced with contemporary ballet movements that draw the two together beautifully. Anna and Jozef resonated Wheeldon’s choreography with their  strong, muscular and gracefully physiques creating melting lines and difficult shapes and lifts. Wheeldon and the audience were no doubt moved by the dancers performance of this gorgeous piece.

Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga
Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga

Steven McRae

Amongst stars of stars, Australian Steven McRae won the hearts of the Italian audience with his infectious vitality and virtuosity. Steven’s first performance, Les Lutins, dazzled with countless pirouettes and grand movements filled with composure and precision. Steven is the master of his own instrument, his body, he moves with sumptuous control and confidence. He dances with joy and enthusiasm, there was nothing held back even on a stage that has been drenched by the earlier rain and presented difficulties for all the dancers throughout the evening. Steven choreographed and performed his second piece, Czardas, an explosive, Fred Astaire inspired, adrenaline roaring tap sensation that wowed the crowd. His performance was sexy, charming and cheeky as he tapped across the stage sending echoes of his tapping across the Positano mountains. Steven had the audience eating out of his hand and they gave back with their cheers and applause. Steven was a superb choice for the Dancer of the Year on the International Scene.

Steven McRae
Steven McRae

Contemporary dance

It was a night filled not only with ballet greats, but also honoured the world’s best contemporary dancers. Martha Graham’s Cave of the Heart was performed by the Contemporary Dancer of the Year, PeiJu Chien-Pott. PeiJu with her long hair tied tight on her crown embraced and exuded Martha Graham’s movements delivering them with unrelenting conviction. With personality and expressiveness she performed two pieces from Cave of Heart exploring shapes, writhing and shaking, feeling the pain of the shattering and destructive power of love. Moving and captivating it was a perfect balance to the classical ballets. Also honoured was the contemporary dancer, Guiseppe Comuniello, who is a well known Italian blind dancer who performed a conceptual, contemplative piece. He was awarded Contemporary Dancer of the Year on the Italian Scene.

PeiJu Chien-Pott
PeiJu Chien-Pott

Ana Laguna surprises

The evening’s most prestigious honour, the Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented to the legendary Ana Laguna and Mats Ek for their contribution to dance. Ana Laguna has often been described as Mats Ek’s muse, but together they are more, it is a their partnership in life and in art that has changed the landscape of the ballet. The Swedish choreographer Mats Ek recognised for reworking the great classics, often creating works for and with Ana Laguna. Ana is a formidable Spanish dancer who is renowned for her unique interpretations, sensitivity to her roles, and her incredible talent. We spoke with Ana, who is intelligent and insightful –  we will be publishing our interview shortly, click here to receive a notification.

Ana Laguna surprised the audience by performing the nurse in Romeo & Juliet with Japanese dancer, Mariko Kida of Royal Swedish Ballet, the first recipient of the Benois-Moscow-Massine Positano Award. The Premia Positano Leonide Massine award has this year been twinned with the Prix Benois de la Danse in Moscow. The Prix Benois de la Danse was established by Bolshoi dancers Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory and Regina Nikiforova. We spoke with Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory about the Ballet Prize – we will be publishing our interview with this legendary and visionary ballerina shortly, click here to receive a notification.

Ana Laguna and Mariko Kida
Ana Laguna and Mariko Kida

Swan Lake

The glittering gala featured two further performances from Swan Lake. The elegant Oksana Skorik together with the talented Xander Parish performed the White Swan pas de deux. After seeing Oksana perform Odette/Odile at London’s Royal Opera House, I was so excited to watch her extraordinary flexibility and divine graceful interpretation of the most famous role in ballet. Oksana and Xander danced beautifully and even with the challenges of a slippery stage they displayed emotion as well as high développés, pirouettes and swirling swan arms with that famously bendy back. Xander was a strong Prince whose stature complemented Oksana’s delicate and extraordinary svelte body. A stunning pas de deux, a beautiful Mariinsky moment!

Oksana Skorik and Xander Parish
Oksana Skorik and Xander Parish

Finally, it was Olga Smirnova that brought the prestigious gala event to a close with her breathtaking and dramatic portrayal of the Dying Swan. Olga performed Odette’s last moments of her impending death as betrayed, broken and fragile. Each movement of her arm almost her last, Olga slowly and delicately folds Odette’s delicate arms to the floor and in that poignant moment a feather falls from her tutu as she finally and sadly moves no more. Olga Smirnova was crowned the Dancer of the Year on the International Scene and she performed as the ultimate Swan Queen.

Olga Smirnova
Olga Smirnova

Legendary history

This fabulous gala award event has a long tradition with dance and artistic legends: Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Gianni Versace, Maurice Béjart, Vladimir Vasiliev, Ekaterina Maximova, Natalia Makarova, Carla Fracci, Luciana Savignano, Elizabeth Terabust, Alessandra Ferri, Eleonora Abbagnato, Roberto Bolle, Alicia Alonso, Uliana Lopatkina, Ivan Vasiliev, Natalia Osipova, and Yuri Grigorovich.

Positano has long been the favourite of the greatest dance artists of the last century and the beautiful streets have been walked by greats such as Sergei Diaghilev and Vaslav Nijinsky. Leonide Massine and Rudolf Nureyev loved the area so much that they bought the picturesque islands of Li Galli – Nureyev spent the last 25 years of his life on the island buying it from Massine.

The Positano prize was started in 1969 and is directed by Daniele Cipriani under the Honorary Presidency of Albert Testa.

For more information visit: www.positanopremialadanza.it

Photos by Arkimedia Lab Communication

by Savannah Saunders

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