The Charleston Concert Association, a non-profit arts organization now in its 75th year, has been bringing national and international acts to Charleston since 1936. Anyone can appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into sustaining an organization for that long. Excellent programming, dedicated patrons, and efficient staff are the keys. The Ballet Grand Prix was a prime example of the excellent programming.
The Youth America Grand Prix is a scholarship competition for aspiring dancers. The finalists get to participate in the Ballet Grand Prix ‘alongside’ professional dancers. You can see the obvious talent in the young dancers, but I was a little disappointed that they never actually danced in the same pieces as the professionals. The first half of both acts featured the youth, the second half featured the professionals. The only way you get better is to dance with people who are better than you, so it seemed like a bit of a disservice to the youth.
The incredible physicality of the dancers was immediately apparent. These are machines performing at top speed. The choreography used the movement rather than a story line to further the routines, and since my days of dancing there seems to be a really positive shift in modern styles of ballet. The fluid movements have a sharp precision to them, which pleases me much more than the flowy, frou frou style of days gone by.
As the Concert Assocation’s core membership seems to be a much older demographic, I was initially surprised at how well some of these more modern, sometimes sexually suggestive pieces were received. This just illustrates the point that a quality product will always reach an audience, even if they aren’t necessarily inclined towards it at first.
The most outstanding professionals brought my point home. Drew Jacoby & Rubinal Pronk, of Jacoby and Pronk, performed two incredible ballets. Elisa Carrillo Cabrera and Mikhail Kaniskin of the Berlin State Opera Ballet were another outstanding duo. I actually groaned when they came out in very modern looking costumes, but their choreography won me over with a fantastic blend of classical movements with a contemporary twist. The audience agreed with me on all these accounts.
Charleston audiences need a little more exposure to quality dance. It is not necessary to clap every single time the dancers do something slightly above and beyond. You end up clapping over the movement of another dancer and not giving them their due. On the flip side, I’ll take those overenthusiastic clappers any day over empty seats.
Check out the final performances of the Concert Association’s season Romeo & Juliet by the Russian National Ballet Theatre on March 7, The King’s Singers on March 15. All performance at Gaillard Auditorium, 7 pm. www.charlestonconcerts.org