By Susan Romero
Balanchine, Robbins & Beyond…A Gala Benefit for the Manhattan Youth Ballet (MYB) was a magical evening with performances from the youngest wobbly-legged students to seasoned dancers from the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. There is something innocent and fresh about young ballet dancers, and the gala performance inspired a joie de vivre in the audience and made me want to do try an arabesque. The audience bonded over collective “Bravos” for the expert leaps and pirouettes of the professional ballet dancers, and the heartwarming smiles of budding ballerinas. We came together like a family watching our children bloom from their first lessons to becoming prima ballerinas.
“MYB is really about family,” said Rose Caiola, a fomer dancer and actress, who founded the ballet academy in 1994, and is now the Executive Artistic Director. The hallmark of the MYB, a non-profit organization, is to provide high quality instruction in a nurturing and supportive environment. “They really care,” said Sophie O., one of the 10 year-old ballet dancers who clearly has a bright future ahead of her. One need only look at Sophie’s smile and the faces of other MYB students, to see that the MYB philosophy works. Throughout the evening, from the reception, to the performance and after party, it was clear that MYB has a genuine family atmosphere.
The gala performance included works by the MYB dance company as well students from all levels of the school from age 8 to 23. Beginning with “Carnival Suite,” a piece choreographed by Marina Stavitskaya, the audience was treated to a feast of sorbet colored tutus in pink, orange, green and purple. This work was followed by Nicole Graniero of the American Ballet Theatre, performing a marvelous solo excerpt from “Walpurgisnacht Ballet,” choreographed by George Balanchine. The evening also included some modern dance pieces performed by the highest level students.
Lauren Lovette & Daniel Ulbricht
The highlights of the evening were Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” performed by Lauren Lovett and Daniel Ulbricht of the New York City Ballet, and “Interplay,” a Jerome Robbins work, performed by some of MYB’s highest level students, along with members of the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program. Lovett and Ulbricht, who is also the Artistic Advisor for MYB, danced on air fluidly and effortlessly. Interplay was a fun, ballet meets Broadway piece with popular show tunes interspersed throughout the work. The dancers performed gymnastic like moves along with classic dance steps, wearing bold colored costumes that lit up the stage.
The performance ended on a high note with the energy of Interplay infusing the young dancers’ disco after party with an electric buzz. Watching groups of dancers huddled together rocking to “Moves Like Jagger,” I felt their joy at just being together, and realized that MYB is more than a ballet academy. It is a home.
For more information about MYB visit http://www.manhattanmovement.com or call 212-787-1178.
Manhattan Movement & Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023