Carreño Dance Festival delights and disappoints

Unfortunately, I have yet to master the technique of managing my expectations. This isn’t the first time I have looked forward to a performance for months only to have my hopes dashed when things were not what I anticipated. (See my post from last week.)

The Carreño Dance Festival 2012 debuted on Friday, Aug. 24, and we were treated to a dazzling performance of the second act of Giselle, a ballet classicfeaturing Jose Carreño as Albrecht, and Julie Kent of the American Ballet Theater in the eponymous role. Carreño has the mature carriage and emotional depth to create a truly heart-rending performance, even though he may not have leaped as high or for as long as the junior dancers who performed later in the evening. Kent as Giselle returns from a premature death as a ghost to protect her true love Albrecht, like an ethereal butterfly simultaneously floating across the stage and bearing the heavy burden of her circumstances.

I could have watched the performance of Carreño and Kent over and over; and I felt that the dance students who accompanied the principals acquitted themselves beautifully. I wanted to shout, “g-gain, g-gain,” as my daughter Daphne does when she wants me to read her favorite story over and over. When the curtain fell, I was even more disappointed to learn that none of the other advertised principals would be performing (save amazing contemporary dancer, Rubinald Pronk) for the remainder of the evening. 

According to the program, Misty Copeland (the first African-American female soloist for American Ballet Theater) and Taras Dimitro (of the San Francisco ballet) were both unable to perform due to injury. I had been under the impression that all of the principals would headline the show, and the young participants in the Carreño Dance Festival would serve as the background dancers as they did during Giselle. This would have given them the chance to perform with the crème de la crème of the dance world without the requirement of carrying the performance. Instead, with the exception of a short piece by Pronk, the remainder of the evening exclusively featured dance students selected from around the world to participate in the Carreño Dance Festival.

There is no question that the majority of the students were immensely talented, and a few stood out from among the corps. However, as much as I love to support emerging talent, this was a very uneven way to round out something called “Festival of Stars.” It was like going from imported dark chocolate to Hershey’s kisses. It is accomplishment enough to perform on the stage with world-renowned dancers before you have embarked on a professional career, but to carry the bulk of an evening’s performance is the very definition of a tough act to follow.

As I mentioned, there were several stand-out performances, most notably a young man whose seemingly endless pirouettes caused the audience to cheer. But then as the curtain was falling, he jutted out his hand to wave to the audience. This was adorable and endearing, but was not the act of a professional dancer. Give me an inspired performance by seasoned dancer Carreño any day. But ballet is a young person’s game, so it is wonderful that Carreño and the rest of the faculty are passing on their gift to young talent.

Someday, I’m sure I will be clamoring for tickets to see some of the graduates of Carreño Dance Festival perform. I’m delighted that this festival is part of our Sarasota landscape; and I look forward to seeing what they do in years to come.

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