Category: Hal de Becker - To The Point


By: Hal de Becker


A spirited performance and an announcement of new leadership highlighted the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre’s annual pre-professional spring concert at Ham Hall last weekend.


Three different performances utilized the academy’s nearly 400 students. The one I attended was a full length adaptation of the Petipa/Gorsky ballet classic Don Quixote.It was performed by a mostly student cast that was seemingly inexhaustible in number and energy.


All the dancers were well rehearsed.They remembered their choreography, stayed in character and gave every indication of enjoying themselves.Especially impressive were those sections of the ballet when 30 or more dancers performed together on pointe with near perfect unity.


A number of academy dancers executed the famous backbend jump with one foot touching the back of the head that once ‘belonged’ almost exclusively to former Bolshoi prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.


The leading roles of the coquettish Kitri and her amorous suitor Basilio were performed, respectively, by NBT academy graduate Ariel Triunfo and Jefferson Payne, a guest artist from Boston Ballet School. Their Act III grand pas de deux was stage by NBT’s artistic coach the former prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory.


As Kitri, Ms. Triunfo’s acting was stylish and her turns and pointe work strong. But some of her leg positions, particularly to the back in the Act III duet, were droopy.Her next performances will be with NBT’s professional company where she has been accepted as a trainee.


Mr. Payne, although smaller in stature than his partner, supported her smoothly and with strong overhead lifts and reliable stability in pirouettes.His solo variations included double saut de basques and assembles (traveling aerial turns) and rapid pirouettes a’ la second (consecutive turns with one leg extended to the side).


As always in these productions, the tiny tots were delightful, especially as Cupids with little bows and arrows and wearing their hearts on their sleeves.


The ballet’s original choreography was, of course, adjusted to fit the skills of the young dancers whose smiles and youthful charm often compensated for some careless footwork and imprecise positions.


The production’s hundreds of costumes were in colors and shades as breathtaking and varied as an Impressionist painter’s palette. Their construction was attributed in the playbill to “Parents” all of whom deserve special praise for the exceptional accomplishment.


Most of the numbers in the ballet were credited to outgoing Academy Principal Anna Lantz. Additional choreographies came from talented faculty members Dodie Askegard, Shara Bergal, Diana Crossman and Monika Rostomian.


At the conclusion of the performance an announcement was made naming the Academy’s new co-directors: Monique Meunier and Nilas Martins. The husband and wife team are renowned for their dancing and teaching, choreography, coaching and management skills.

Ms. Meunier was a soloist with American Ballet Theatre before becoming a principal dancer at New York City Ballet.She is described by Heather Watts, former NYCB principal and contributing editor at Vanity Fair Magazine, as “…one of the most brilliant ballerinas of her generation…and a leading voice in dance education in America today.”


Mr. Martins, who trained extensively in the Danish and Balanchine methodologies, was also a principal dancer with NYCB. He later directed and performed worldwide in his own troupe, The Nilas Martins Dance Company.He recently completed a fellowship in Arts Management at The Kennedy Center.


They have each danced leading roles with numerous ballet companies and worked with many of the world’s most celebrated choreographers. They have taught throughout the world at prestigious academies and universities and have served as repetiteurs for the George Balanchine Trust. Their knowledge and experience encompasses every component of the world of ballet.


The couple was selected following a national search and NBT has since been congratulated for its decision by numerous luminaries of the dance world including Kay Mazzo, co-chair of the NYCB’s School of American Ballet, and Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet.


Beth Barbre, NBT’s Executive Director and CEO, praised Monique and Nilas for “…having excelled at the highest levels of our profession” and expressed her conviction that with their “vision and skills…they will build the Academy into one of the nation’s leading ballet schools.”


The new directors will begin their duties in August at the start of the Academy’s fall season.They will oversee the faculty and student body; be in charge of policies and procedures; establish a syllabus; and of course teach.


In the meantime they are busy house-hunting for themselves and Skylar -- their six month old baby ballerina.