Sylvie Guillem

Sylvie Guillem CBE (born 23 February 1965 in Paris, France) is a French ballet dancer. She was the top-ranking female dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet from 1984 to 1989, before becoming a principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London. She is currently performing contemporary dance as an Associate Artist of London's Sadler's Wells Theatre. Her most notable performances have included those in Giselle and in Rudolf Nureyev's stagings of Swan Lake and Don Quixote. [...]

Sylvie Guillem: Interview and Rehearsals (vid)

Sylvie Guillem
Diva. Rebel. Perfectionist. And the most dynamic dancer of her era. Tim Adams meets the radical ballerina Sylvie Guillem

THE morning after the night before the world's greatest ballerina, Sylvie Guillem, is moving like the Tin Man as she collects a plateful of breakfast pastries in a Berlin hotel. She's 42 now, but she says her stiffness isn't much to do with age. Nearly every morning of her adult life has been like this. 'It would be nice to wake up and be able to walk to the bathroom,' she says. 'But even when I was 20 and at the Paris Opera I had to crawl down the stairs; it is only when I start to work and stretch that my body begins to recover again.' [...]

ALMOST uniquely for a ballerina, Guillem did not begin to dance until she was 11 or 12. 'Dancing was never my world. It was more like a challenge: let's see how far I can go, let's see what my body can do.' She is, she suggests, still looking for the limits. Having changed the rules on the classical repertoire with her iconoclastic strength of mind and body she is increasingly looking to contemporary choreographers for these challenges.

She says she saw Russell Maliphant's work and immediately wanted to try it because the language - which draws on martial arts and Brazilian capoeira - was completely different. 'When you do one more Cinderella or whatever, what is there to learn? Every part in the repertoire has a good side and a bad side and the more often you do the same ballet the more often the bad side comes out. If you want to give dance life you must give it fresh food, not keep going back to the garbage to look for old scraps ...'

Over the years it is this restless search for perfection that has given Guillem her reputation as a diva. I had been led to expect froideur, but even at this hour in the morning she presents a compulsive engagement. She clearly does not suffer fools, but she is impassioned and quick to laugh. The two words I write down in my notebook are 'vivid' and 'uncompromising', but she is full of charm, too. Having been discovered by Rudolf Nureyev at the Paris Opera in her teens, she walked out on her mentor to join the Royal Ballet at 24. At Covent Garden she earned herself the nickname 'Mademoiselle Non' because she insisted on redesigning her costumes, vetoing her partners; she clashed with the Royal Ballet's revered choreographer, the late Kenneth MacMillan. The reputation had nothing to do with ego and everything to do with a finite sense of time, she says.

'The career is short; I felt there were things I had to achieve for myself. That was why I left the Paris Opera. I can't let people use my time. I can't wear a costume I do not feel good in. I would not dance too well - it is logical. It was an ego problem with Kenneth MacMillan. One day I refused to do a ballet called My Brother, My Sister and that was it. I was the spoilt star, the French problem. I just wanted to dance well.' [...]
IF she is fierce about film, she can be vicious when it comes to photography. 'I heard a lot of "Who does she think she is?" But I am just somebody who did not want to look ugly or stupid in a picture. Why should I spend all my day working to present the best I can to let someone who takes one bad picture or one bad film destroy what I do? Newspapers were wanting to come into rehearsal, take any picture and choose themselves what to publish. To me that is a lack of respect.'

When Guillem was approached by French Vogue to be photographed seven years ago she was presented with a clutch of the world's best fashion photographers to choose from. She rejected all of them out of hand on the basis that they would not 'see who I was ... I knew I would end up as a mannequin. I would not do that.'

There is no vanity to her - 'I am like this tall asparagus' - and to prove the point she photographed herself naked for the magazine, a dramatic and candid view of a working, punished dancer's body. She coolly imagines it was the 'picture with the two legs apart and the camera in the middle' that mostly shocked people. [...]

A Diva Ballerina's Long Leap

EVER since Sylvie Guillem was a young gymnast, she has suffered from stage fright. “There’s a picture of me as a little girl,” she recalled recently, “and I’m waiting to go onstage, and I am biting the last bit of nail I have left on my finger.”

With age, she added, her fear has worsened. “Between what I know I can do and want to achieve and what the audience expects, it’s a lot of pressure, and it’s always adding up.”

Yet at 41, Ms. Guillem is reinventing herself. Having become perhaps the most celebrated ballerina of her generation, she is now becoming a contemporary dancer.

As they exit their 30’s, most dancers try to minimize risk to extend their time on the stage. But ballet’s reigning diva is embracing it. Only a handful of ballerinas make it past 40, so Ms. Guillem, bored by the classics and determined to test new forms and her own limits, is exploring her options while she still has them. And she is doing so by performing the most physically demanding movement of her career. [...]

TALK of Ms. Guillem has always centered on what her body can do. “She can take a leg to places I can’t begin to think about and make it look beautiful,” said Russell Maliphant, the Push choreographer, whose athletic, restrained style is culled from contact improvisation, hip-hop, capoeira and tai chi.

“She invented her body to some degree,” said the choreographer William Forsythe, who has made two works for her. “Someone else might have that body, but without Sylvie’s mind inside it, it wouldn’t be as interesting.”

Remarkably Ms. Guillem was 36 before she was sidelined by an injury. Now, “you listen to every kind of signal that your body sends you, whereas before, you didn’t,” she said. “It’s the school of life.”

But she acknowledged that her body will inevitably let her down; her keen mind can will it only so far. “I’m still exploring, opening my eyes to the fact that the journey will end,” she said bluntly. “I don’t blind myself, but I still have a few things I want to do.” There is one prerequisite: there has to be “a mystery,” as she puts it. “Doing new work, you see yourself differently. You learn what you’re afraid of.”

When she first worked with Mr. Maliphant, on his 2003 Broken Fall, a sensation at its premiere in London, she struggled with a step that her partners, William Trevitt and Michael Nunn, had already absorbed. “She had to go from kneeling down to standing up by throwing one leg behind her,” recalled Mr. Trevitt. “She went home and practiced it all night. She came in the next day covered in bruises, but she had cracked it.” Most dancers, he added, would have said, “ ‘I can’t do that, give me a different step.’ Sylvie has this determination not to be beaten by it.” [...]
SHE saw an opportunity in Sadler’s Wells, which has become a lab for new dance and boasts some of the hottest choreographers in Britain. Its artistic director, Alistair Spalding. was prepared to make her a partner. “We’ll say, ‘What do you want to do?’ ” he explained, “and create the circumstances to make it happen.”

And so they did. With Ms. Guillem in the house, Sadler’s Wells has had an upsurge in ticket sales, media attention and interest in Mr. Maliphant’s work. “Push” had its premiere to ecstatic reviews last fall and won the 2005 Olivier Award for best new dance. Its success led Ms. Guillem to join Sadler’s Wells as artistic associate in June and to set in motion a third project with Mr. Maliphant. She will no longer be listed as principal guest artist of the Royal Ballet, as she has since 1989. “I have no relationship,” she emphasized. “None.”

“Push” gives Ms. Guillem her first star showcase in New York. City Center hopes that she will bring in both the ballet crowd and new audiences, as she did in London. The work inaugurates the partnership between City Center and Sadler’s Wells. “I think dance is suffering because you still have a lot of ghettoes,” she said. “You’re either a classical dancer, or you’re a contemporary dancer and all that goes with it. I don’t like this veneration for one technique.”

The ballet stars Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov made a similar move into modern dance. Ms. Guillem shares their rare combination of glamour, artistry and box-office clout. But she is the first star ballerina to hire her own choreographers, negotiate her own contracts and work steadily outside her own company and tradition.

In the process she may also find a new audience. She regularly sells out opera houses in Europe and Asia, but Ms. Guillem is not a household name in America. In part that is because she has refused to cultivate her celebrity offstage, or perhaps because she wants to exert more control than others are willing to cede to her. “I don’t need to be known by people who just recognize your face but don’t know what you do,” she said. “I’m not someone who does anything and everything to be known.” [...]


Sadler's Wells, London
TWO years ago, when Sylvie Guillem first pitted herself against the hurtling athleticism and liquid stillness of Russell Maliphant's choreography, the effect was transforming. This most elegant of classical ballerinas seemed a new dancer. But if the chemistry is extreme when Guillem is performing Maliphant's choreography, it looks even more striking in this new programme when she's dancing with him. On the ballet stage this could never have happened - Guillem in point shoes would have towered over Maliphant's compact, quiet body. Yet from their first entrance, where Guillem crouches on Maliphant's shoulders then unwinds with flickering grace around him, the affinity between them is charged and immense. [...]

On the Edge (Sur le Fil), ft. Push

On Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant
PUSH, a collection of four pieces performed by Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant (who choreographed them) flattered and disappointed as much as it delivered. The opening night at the Sydney Opera House was the perfect example of a portmanteau program so patchy that a single answer to "Was it any good?" is hard to find.

There are moments of beauty that still move somewhere between my eyes and my brain, they are shapes or trajectories, movements that looked and felt perfect for an instant and in doing so sustained themselves long afterward. At the same time so much seemed familiar and predictable. Cliché is the enemy of art and in the trawl through familar tropes many stones were rolled and few left unturned.

Sylvie Guillem - official site

Invitation: Sylvie Guillem (hardcover)
Sylvie Guillem, in my opinion the most relevant female artist of today, has again pulled it off with this stunning "family album", correctly named Invitation. After "Sylvie Guillem" - the little book of photographs, which sold out completely in just a few weeks, it was clear that Guillem's fans were craving for more photographic details on the "artiste étoile".

With this new book, Guillem "invites" us to take a privileged seat and quietly realize her busy and most unusual life. Each photo, carefully picked, is in itself an isolated object that demands paused and profound contemplation. Her exquisite artistry oozes from every detail, every movement, and every second captured on film.

Also, important to mention and recognize, is the amazing talent of Gilles Tapie (French photographer) who has followed Guillem for many years, and because of whom this book was made possible. His work is raw and powerful at times, and gentle and almost ethereal at others...Some of Guillem's self-portraits are also included on this book, and her amazing ability to push the limits a bit further is prominent in those particular captures.

Documents on the subject of Sylvie Guillem are rare, may they be taped or printed, and are mere peek holes over a much greater reality. But this time, Guillem has opened a wide window over herself, and the invitation to let us watch her is sincere. The book itself is huge and heavy (about 400 photos), a clear proof that Guillem was willing to show a lot, and surely delivers with this masterpiece.

Two - choreagraphed by Russell Maliphant



When you can do nothing, what can you do? -Zen koan

[Why We Don't Help Others: Bystander Apathy]


Photog of the Year

The shortlist for the Digital Camera Photographer of the Year competition ("The world's biggest photo contest." - Telegraph) has now been announced, with the top images now appearing right here on PhotoRadar. The images were chosen by category judges and represent the best images from each category.

The Digital Camera Photographer of the Year competition this year received over 100,000 entries all vying for the £10,000 prize. Split into 10 categories including People and Portraits, This is Britain, Man-made and more, judging the competition this year proved exceptionally difficult. Here though, we present the Editor's Choice Shortlist for each category. You may recognise the work of fellow PhotoRadar members in this collection.

These short-listed images were chosen after much deliberation by a pre-selection panel, and will now enter the final judging stage. Commended images will be announced in November, with the category winners and overall winner being revealed in early December.

What the judges were looking for:
Despite the title of this category, pictures shouldn't just be focused on the latest clothing trends. Images should be shot in an innovative way and show experimentation on the part of the photographer. Judges will be looking for fresh, creative ideas that reflect contemporary styles.
Two Different Sides__Michael Novrianus Maikro

Dress Makes the Man__Elena Fantini

What the judges were looking for:
Pictures that make full use of mono digital-darkroom techniques. Any subject qualifies in this category - as long as the image is mono (toning is also permitted). Try to use the medium to its full advantage, with rich blacks and clean whites. Use dodging and burning techniques to add drama, experiment with high-key and low-key treatments and look for texture, shape and form.

Perthy Night__AA Los Banos

Stripes__Gabor Pozsgai

Light and Shadow__Pierre Pellegrini

What the judges were looking for:
Inspiring views of the world around us. Rural scenes, sprawling cityscapes, atmospheric coastal shots - it doesn't matter where your photograph was taken, but it needs to capture a powerful sense of place. The location itself doesn't have to be dramatic - great light, composition and creative camera techniques can all be used to transform an everyday subject into something truly memorable.
Early Morning Geometries__Tiberio Taverni

What the judges were looking for:
The 'anything goes' category. Images entered here should reveal an eye for an original picture, whether that's through an unusual take on a familiar subject, creative exposure or composition techniques and of course innovative image manipulation in the digital darkroom. Or a cunning combination of all these elements.
Exploding Face__Vincent Li


Carlos Acosta

Carlos Acosta (born 2 June 1973) is a Cuban ballet dancer. He has danced with many companies including the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. He has been a permanent member of The Royal Ballet since 1998, and in 2003 he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist, a rank which reduced his commitment to the Royal Ballet, enabling him to concentrate on a growing schedule of international guest appearances and tours. [...]

CARLOS ACOSTA - official site

UK TV News interview (vid)
His is a true rags to riches story...

Showing the World a Clean Pair of Cuban Heels
His one ambition was to be a footballer. Instead he has become an international ballet star.

The dazzling Carlos Acosta is the Cuban Billy Elliot, a poor kid who triumphed over prejudice and humble origins (his great grandfather was a plantation slave) to be hailed by ballet experts as the new Nureyev. Frankly, you couldn't make it up.

Acosta's home was the shanty suburb of Havana, where food was scarce, wages low and the teeming population queued for their daily food rations.

As Acosta recalls in his extraordinary memoir: 'You lived as part of a community, grateful for the achievements of the Revolution, even though you might secretly listen to the rock music that was synonymous with imperialism.' Amazingly this football fanatic, gang member and break-dance champ won a place at ballet school, forced there by his truckdriver father who saw ballet as a way out of trouble. [...]

At Senior Academy the pressures facing the teenage tearaway were heartbreaking. His mother became bed-ridden, his father was temporarily in jail, a sister was schizophrenic and he was repeatedly humiliated and insulted by teachers who accused him of being dirty and smelling bad.

He was too ashamed to explain that there was no one to wash his clothes, no hot water, that he was sleeping in a cockroach-infested shack. He recalls the teacher who took pity on him and gave him her son's cast-offs: 'For the first time in my life I discovered what it was to wear trousers without holes.' Then came his road-to-Damascus moment. Witnessing a performance by Cuban ballet star Alberto Torrero, Acosta was transported. From that moment he worked furiously. [...]

The crippling physical effort of becoming a ballet dancer, the slog, the agony of injuries, the rivalries and bitchiness are vividly evoked in Acosta's fascinating story. Despite terrible home-sickness, loneliness and low self-esteem, Acosta won every possible student medal and award. Snapped up by various ballet companies, he travelled to Europe.

Imagine his impression of Venice, London and Paris after the deprivations of Cuba. The affluence! The food! The freedom! Tucking into lavish reception banquets, he knew he'd come a long way from the day when his desperate mother roasted his pet rabbit for the family's supper. [...]

Acosta became the first black Romeo to dance at Covent Garden. He shook hands with Princess Diana. In America he was dubbed 'one of the sexiest Latinos in the USA'.

He also celebrated Christmas for the first time and was shocked by the phenomenal quantities of food.

As a party gift he received an expensive leather jacket which, in Cuba, would have taken him 20 years of dancing to buy. He realised that 'more money had been spent on this Christmas party than a Cuban surgeon could hope to earn during his entire lifetime'.

Western affluence and capitalist greed appalled him. He began to despise himself for splashing out on flashy designer get-ups which cost the equivalent of a three bedroom house in Havana. Long-haul travel and short-lived love affairs with tempestuous ballerinas increased his feelings of anxiety and insecurity. The shock of the new way of life, a serious injury, depression and homesickness brought him close to breakdown.

For Acosta there simply was and still is no place like home. Returning to Cuba, where power cuts could last 20 hours a day and soap was in such short supply that he kept bars in his car with which to bribe traffic cops, Acosta slowly rediscovered his passion for ballet. [...]

Reflecting upon the emotions of guilt and alienation that his dazzling career have brought him, he says: 'The real crime was having success and fame and nobody to share it with. I would have given everything up to have my family back.' Perhaps he should have stuck to football? But what a waste of his fluid beauty and breathtaking poetry-in-motion if he had. END

National Dance Awards: Carlos Acosta feature
Mike Dixon with an in depth appreciation and interview with the dancer who won the Best Male dancer award in 2003

HE LOOKS like a magnificent barbarian who has learned perfect manners. The bearing is princely, the demeanour gently courteous, but there is also a heady whiff of something dangerous in the air when he enters. Dressed anonymously in black trousers and roll-neck, Carlos Acosta sits awkwardly in a red armchair in the interview room of the Royal Opera House. As we shake hands he winks, not confidently, but shyly. It is difficult at first to correlate this almost diffident young man with the super-confident stage performer who sometimes exudes the air of a tiger just released from its cage. On stage he looks tall and heavily muscled. Ironically, here in the small room he looks somehow diminished. But that impression of a quietly smouldering fire does not go away. When he starts to speak, although he talks softly, the aura of power seems to grow… [...]

IT IS a poignant irony that Acosta’s greatest triumphs as a dancer have still been unwitnessed by his mother and father. Without his father’s influence the young Carlos might have been lost to the world of ballet, and might even have been killed in the dangerous milieu of street gangs. “At the age of ten I was mixing with people who were stealing, and the chances were that I would become a delinquent. My father thought that I might end up shooting somebody. With his eyes on the future he realised that there would be trouble. We lived in a suburb of Havana where it could be pretty rough. I wasn’t in a gang. We didn’t do drugs. But we didn’t go to school either.” Astonishingly, Carlos’ father decided to enrol him in the National Ballet School.

“My father had always liked ballet but in his youth, as a black man, he could not practise it. He thought it would be good for me as a career. It would have been nice of him to ask me what I wanted to do”…(he pulls a comic face)…“but thank God he made the right decision. My father was always a strong hand. When the school threw me out he went there to speak for me. He could have said that he was tired of running around after me and just given up. He could have taken me out of the ballet and put me in a regular school but he just kept pushing me. I did not like the idea of ballet. At the beginning I didn’t even know what it was! Then there was what my friends would say, because there was prejudice that ballet was not for boys. It was embarrassing. I would always rejoin the school with black eyes after fist- fights with boys who teased me. I became treated like the neighbourhood clown. But I was curious about dancing. I was always very physical and did a lot of sport, especially football. But we are all born to do one thing and you can’t go against destiny.” [...]
IN 1998 he made his debut with the Royal Ballet in London in Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. He seized the opportunity to extend his dramatic range and dance the leading roles in some of Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets: Manon; Gloria; and My Brother, My Sisters. He also showed an unexpected aptitude for comedy as Franz in Coppelia and Colas in Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardee. The male solos in La Fille Mal Gardee have defeated many talented dancers, as the Ashton choreography requires bravura technique allied to light ballon and fast footwork. Acosta, on the face of it, seemed physically unsuited to this role, being sculpted by nature for the muscular display of Corsaire or Diana and Actaeon. In the event he was a revelation, meticulously observing every tricky detail of the choreography. He has versatility as a stage artist and continues to surprise audiences with his unusual insights in familiar parts. “ I believe ballet technique is only a tool to express something. I am an all-round artist. I bring something special to everything I do. I enjoy literally every show and the enjoyment is contagious for the audience.” [...]

ON impulse, I tell Acosta that of all the performers I have seen, the one whom he resembles most is Rudolf Nureyev; sharing the same pantherine quality and the ability to ignite an audience. Suddenly, the proud eyes flash, he uncoils upwards in his chair and makes an overwhelmingly imperious gesture with his arms. “I know how to command the stage!” he declares. It is an electric moment, as Acosta transmutes within a nanosecond from modest-mannered dancer into a star. For a moment the Royal Ballet’s interview room is flooded with grandeur. It is the defining moment in our conversation, the sudden epiphany that offers the key to Acosta’s personality. The transition from dutiful son to grandee of the ballet, within the twinkling of an eye, is revelatory. One senses that the original uncomplicated Cuban boy is still unviolated by experience, that in essence Acosta is unchanged by the bruising demands of fame. He has developed the exile’s thick carapace of caution to protect himself. His sensors are finely attuned to detect criticism or lack of respect and to deflect those people who are only attracted by his fame. But as he talks about his family one is drawn to the inescapable conclusion that this tiger is a predator only by necessity. He is a warm, friendly individual who has learned to survive in a competitive jungle with values alien to his own. Not merely to survive, but to triumph. END

From Break Dancing to Ballet
THE day Carlos Acosta learned he was to study ballet, he climbed to the roof of his apartment, took a pigeon in his hands, stroked its feathers and sobbed. Today, Acosta is a star with the Royal Ballet whose name is not infrequently uttered in the same breath as Nureyev’s and Baryshnikov’s. That moment atop the pigeon roost, as he recounts in his memoir, “No Way Home,” marked his first step from indigence in Cuba to a life of fame and glamour. But here was the rub: The 9-year-old wanted to be Pelé, not a prince. And although this is a Cinderella story — ragamuffin running wild in the streets metamorphoses into ballet god — it is one in which the hero spends a dizzying amount of time pining for his position amid the squalor of the hearth. [...]

No Way Home: A Dancer's Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World
I'M NOT interested in dancing or Cuba. To speak plainly, I didn't expect to enjoy this book. But enjoy it I did.

From the cover, the book appears to be about the life of a fabulously talented dancer who begins his life in dank poverty in Cuba, and fight his way out of all that. Sounds like a well worn idea, right?

But it's far more interesting than that. Carlos Acosta actually didn't want to be a ballet dancer, and tried to stop being a dancer several times. He almost succeeded.

The book isn't really about dancing. You don't need to know anything about dancing to appreciate the soul of this man. Acosta could have had the same life and travels and written the same basic book even had he been a swimming star, a soccer star, film star, baseball star, a great break dancer or singer. The core question of the book would still have been the same: What use is ambition and earthly success if you lose your family and your sense of belonging in the world? Does having talent give you a responsibility to fulfill your potential?

Acosta comes off as a very likeable guy, even as he describes himself doing rather unlikeable things, at times. He is poor but does not hate poverty. He has troubles in his family but still feels that he belongs with them. He has troubles with his country but wants to stay. He acknowledges that he's in the minority-- that lots of his countrymen want to escape. He paints no rosy picture of life in Cuba. He sees the problems, he just doesn't mind them.

His family, teachers, and friends relentlessly push him to fulfill a destiny that they insist is his. At times he also becomes ambitious to dance well, but his thoughts always return to his family and the beloved dirty, terrible, dangerous neighborhood of his childhood. He travels far, but always finds a way to go back home. Perhaps the title should have been No Way to Stay Home.

I like Acosta because he doesn't buy into the philosophy of ambition for ambition's sake. Yet to please the people he loves he must leave the people he loves and appear to love something else. How he comes to terms with this makes for a book I felt compelled to read in one sitting.

Carlos Acosta: From Backstreets to Ballet
NOT just a virtuoso performer, it is Acosta's ability to connect with his audience that has made him an international star. Conversely, Acosta says his audience is what inspires him.

"When I find people that express how much my art makes them feel, this is priceless," he told CNN. "You can't buy that with money, you can achieve that only with art -- you really touch people. Once you do that it lives on forever."

The World of Carlos Acosta
Never throw away: Photographs of my family are special to me – particularly one of us at Santa Maria beach in Havana; and some photographs remind me of performances I have been in. Living in so many places, I have a habit of not hanging on to many objects. I have been here 10 years, but Cuba is my home. Now I have a house there, half an hour away from my family, bought as a ruin three years ago, and I go there five times a year. I might start having more things there.

Portrait of the Artist: Carlos Acosta, Ballet Dancer
If someone saw one of your performances in 1,000 years, what would it tell them about 2007?
THAT, against most people's prejudice, contemporary ballet does not emasculate male dancers. I represent power and masculinity in dance.

[Ballet.co.uk - Jul. 2003]
IT IS so fashionable to be a victim today. Whether tripping over a curb or your human rights, suffering is cool.
Cuban ballet star, Carlos Acosta, has never hidden his homesickness or the loneliness he lives with at the top of his profession as one of the world s most popular dancers. Now Acosta, 30, directs, choreographs and stars in a show about the price of fame.

Tocororo is a little boy (played by Carlos's 13-year-old nephew, Yonah) who leaves the poverty stricken barrios of his childhood, as did Acosta, but on maturity discovers his God given talent is a barrier. The real life Acosta, against all the odds, has become a one-man world heritage site thanks to his sublime gift of dancing; in his show his character must deconstruct his classicism to join the street cred crowd. Hmm. At one level a doubtful premise that chimes in with the anti-art lobby always on the look out for a good bit of dumbing down; at another, letting our hair down does us all a power of good.

Whatever he does Acosta's stage presence is warm, magnetic and utterly likeable and when Tocororo finally learns to relax and mambo with the irresistible on stage band, he conquers the world. Salvatore Forino's sets are sparse but instantly conjure up night club, shanty town and street corner. The central set piece in which Acosta goes earnestly Messianic and teaches his people that showing off on the drums is better than pasting each other, is mercifully short, but the dancing is endless. Mind you there is only so much you can say with a shimmy and a pelvic thrust, delightful though that may be, but boy, what dancers Acosta has recruited from the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba.

The love interest, Clarita, who turns the innocent boy into a man in the time honoured way, is Veronica Corveas, while Alexander Varona as the Moor is spectacular in that old fashioned eccentric Straw Man dancing sort of way.

As a choreographer, Acosta makes the mistake of using balletic principles of untold yearnings and mysterious forebodings to evoke atmosphere without story. You cannot be that poetic in a show, you just confuse the action - and the audience. But for spreading his wings and searching for a life after ballet, Acosta deserves all praise. And the fact that we would be happy to watch him dance the Railtrack time table helps him no end. -Jeffery Taylor [Former dancer, Critic and an Arts feature writer for the Sunday Express]

Khachaturian: Spartacus (Bolshoi Ballet) [Blu-ray]
FOLLOWING sensational performances in Moscow and London in 2007, the Bolshoi's production was re-staged and filmed in January 2008 in the Paris Opera's Palais Garnier, especially for Carlos Acosta. Carlos Acosta is one of the greatest male dancers of our time and has danced with all the major ballet companies of the world including the American Ballet Theatre, Royal Ballet, Houston Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet.

Acosta is Spartacus at the Bolshoi
IT IS one of the blockbuster ballets in the Bolshoi's repertoire. Tonight (6 August), Cuban superstar Carlos Acosta becomes the first Westerner to dance it on a British stage.

Spartacus is a sand-and-sandals epic which pits heroic gladiators against decadent patricians in a slave uprising in ancient Rome.

The story told in the ballet, with music by Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian, appealed to the Moscow regime for political reasons when it was first produced in 1956. Hollywood followed suit four years later in the movie starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier.

Even in post-Soviet times the ballet remains a Bolshoi staple. Expectations for the London shows are running high after standing ovations in Moscow when Acosta premiered last month.

All three of this week's performances at the London Coliseum are sold out.

Alexei Ratmansky, the Boshoi's artistic director, said it was an epic role that Acosta, 34, was destined to play: "The part looks as if it was created for him.

"It's very much his personality. He's very much like a superhero who could lead a group of people to anything - to freedom, to ideals. It seems to me that Carlos doesn't need to act it, it's just him."

The role is technically very demanding. Mr Ratmansky added: "Spartacus is one of the most difficult parts in the male repertory." [...]

A Hit at the First Manchester Festival, Returns
SALFORD, England — One of the highlights of the inaugural Manchester International Festival in 2007, it is said, was a program featuring the artistry of the Cuban superstar ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. Not surprisingly, he is back for the second festival, a boldly inventive celebration of the arts including 20 commissioned works over 18 days in and around Manchester.

On Thursday evening Mr. Acosta — with four other dancers and the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by André de Ridder — presented five ballets exploring the nature of the male muse in ballet here at the Lowry, a gleaming, chrome-plated theater complex that opened in 2000, and performed in three of them.

As a fan of ballet but not a critic, I am pretty easy to please. Almost everything dancers do amazes me. And the kinetic and charismatic Mr. Acosta, now a guest principal with the Royal Ballet in London, was predictably amazing. He danced in “Afternoon of a Faun,” a Jerome Robbins ballet to Debussy’s breakthrough orchestral work, “Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune,” of 1894; “Suite of Dances,” another Robbins work, to four pieces from the solo cello suites of Bach; and “Apollo,” a George Balanchine classic, to one of Stravinsky’s most subtly intricate and astonishing ballet scores.

At the ballet I am always fascinated by what choreographers and dancers can reveal about the music, especially if it is music I know well. In “Suite of Dances,” for example, as executed with a deft mix of playful athleticism and graceful fluidity by Mr. Acosta, Robbins draws out the jaunty energy and impish rhythmic gait of the Baroque dances that Bach evokes in the cello suites. Mr. Acosta conveyed the pirouettes and spinning Rococo flourishes in the music through loose-limbed, saucy turns and leaps. Responding to the choreography and to Mr. Acosta’s flirtatious gestures, the excellent cellist Natalie Clein found a bit of the Swingle Singers in these formidable solo works. [...]
The orchestra was at its best in “Afternoon of a Faun.” Robbins, in updating the original scenario about a narcissistic faun, had to look no further for a modern-day equivalent than a ballet studio. Mr. Acosta portrayed a dancer, working alone, examining himself and his every move in a mirror, here the invisible fourth wall of the stage. A female dancer (Ms. Cao) arrived. Or did she? Might she have been a product of the man’s imagination?

It was eerie to watch Mr. Acosta and Ms. Cao in a dance of cautious seduction, mostly staring into the audience (at the mirror) rather than at each other. The piece captures the ambiguity of attraction. Are these dancers intrigued by each other or by the idea of seeing themselves as desirable?

In any event, I heard Debussy’s astonishing 10-minute piece as if for the first time, for which I thank Robbins, Mr. de Ridder and — especially, on this night — Mr. Acosta. END

Rushes: Glorious Projections of Passion and Pain
THERE is a chorus of couples in grey, who appear like a Constructivist frieze of happiness, against which the tormented central drama is played.

That centres on Carlos Acosta, who obsessively pursues a red-frocked Laura Morera through the mesh, as a neglected Alina Cojocaru looks plaintively on. The pas de deux for this central trio are extraordinary: twisting, contracting, slithering adventures of emotion and pain.

As Acosta's passion slips into violence, Morera flings herself into his arms as if trying to fly through his flesh. She disentangles herself from him, pushing him gently away, butting him with her head. A hand is repeatedly raised in warning.

At the close, the screens rise, and under a sharp, yellowish light, Cojocaru finally gets her man in a duet whose complex couplings suggest both despair and a tiny glimmer of hope. It is raw, beautiful, and danced with the kind of commitment that suggests it will only grow in performance. [...]

Cuba Libre!
He's Cuba's second most famous son, but when principal dancer Carlos Acosta brought the Royal Ballet home, there was a shock in store for Havana's classical dance lovers
MORE than anyone else on the Royal Ballet's tour of Cuba, Tamara Rojo knows what bringing this company home means to Acosta: "He has improved Cuba's reputation so he deserves the love Cubans have for him. I am so happy for him."

The week-long tour is a massive undertaking, with a 150-strong crew of ballet teachers, stage crews, costumers and wiggers, conductors, pianists, physiotherapists and, of course, dancers, 80 of them. Battling heat, antiquated theatres and even an outbreak of swine flu, the company is performing several excerpts, a couple of short ballets, and a full three-act staging of Kenneth MacMillan's 1974 classic Manon, the vast majority deliberately taken from its modern repertoire. [...]

THE night before, Acosta and Rojo's performance of Le Corsaire had been projected on to an outdoor screen so that Habaneros could watch for free. Thousands turned up, packing on to the steps of the Capitolio, and I was amazed to see urchins sitting transfixed at my feet. I tell Acosta this, and he grows ever more animated: "Can you imagine? People are concentrating. And it's ballet... ballet! It's not a world cup, it's ballet."

He sees this tour as one of the highlights of his life. "One of my biggest accomplishments. You cannot dream of having the Royal Ballet in Havana." Lack of resources and the suspicion of those in authority could have killed the dream, but it did happen, and the story of how is, in the words of one of those involved, astonishing: "Nothing ever happens in this country - but this did."

There is a belief in Cuba that high art can exist at the heart of any nation's life. It's a belief that we in Britain seem to have lost and yet which, by asking the Royal Ballet to visit, Cuba appears to be attempting to regain. "Dance is the true religion," Acosta says. "You put your health at risk, and the money's no good." [...]

MUCH of it comes down to Acosta who, while his colleagues defected, held faith with his country and never criticised Castro. Partly this is because of his determination to remain close to his family. "Carlos is the boy born in Los Pinos, a poor slum on the outskirts of Havana," says (novelist) Miguel Barnet. "And however much he travels, he remains there; the boy who stole mangoes from the trees." [...]
IT'S evening, and the city has failed to cool. Beautifully dressed Cubans fill the road outside the Karl Marx theatre. Cuba's high society, those who live "life in the pink", are here. Amid the 5,500 audience, I spot Leonardo Padura Fuentes, Cuba's equivalent of Ian Rankin, and Fernando Alonso, the man who accompanied Alicia Alonso around the country all those years ago. And there is Alex Castro, Fidel's son, with his charming wife. Yes, it's La Vie en Rosada. But there are many more who have queued for days and paid $1 a ticket.

Behind the scenes, Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta are preparing for one of the most extraordinary performances of their careers. There are yells when they first appear on stage, and at the end, when Rojo falls and Acosta follows, the crowd leaps up, many in tears, clapping until their hands ache. It turns out that Cubans adore Kenneth MacMillan's choreography. [...]

"SOMETIMES as a dancer you feel victimised," Rojo tells me. "While it's a privilege to dance, in our society irrelevant things are well rewarded. In Europe we produce cheap television that is unchallenging. It has become a way for uninspiring people to turn into celebrities of nothing. Dancing is not so well rewarded. You give 20 years of your life, but you will walk away with nothing. Just memories." She pauses and smiles. "Which are beautiful." [...]

SITTING above Havana, gazing over a city slowly being rebuilt, (dancer) Edward Watson suggests that back in Britain the link between dance and reality has become tragically worn, that in our wealth we've lost the understanding of what a tour like this should mean. "Here, people come to be entertained," he tells me. "In London, too many come to criticise, to form their opinions, but here they just come for a good time." END


Ballet: The Secret Lives of Dancers
They were once the toast of society. But modern-day corps de ballet endure punishing working hours, crippling injuries, terrible pay and little job security. Then why do it? Richard Johnson spent a day with the Royal Ballet’s finest to find out .
SINCE the death of Rudolf Nureyev, there have been no 'superstars' in ballet. He was about so much more than the dance, which is why he went on to become one of the most photographed men of the 20th century. Born to an impoverished family in Russia, he ultimately died on his private island purchased with the millions he made during his dance career. That was in 1993, but he remains an inspiration to this day. [...]

SOME are studying choreographers' notations. The notations are a ballet's steps, written down on a musical stave – a balletic score, in effect. Each line of the notations represents a different part of the body, and abstract symbols show how each part moves during the dance. As any dancer will tell you, in their darker moments, the choreographer is the real star of ballet – the dancers are just the ones who dictate how brightly that star shines. [...]

THE dancers are very huggy and kissy. And in such an intimate job, it's inevitable that relationships happen. Most, though, look elsewhere – even if it's not very far. Mara Galeazzi married a Royal Ballet stage technician. 'He always says to me, "You have so many beautiful men around you all day, with perfect, toned bodies. Why do you choose me?" He is very big, and strong, but I say to him, "That's the beauty of it – I see so much perfection every day.'" [...]

FINDING out the limits of what is possible can be painful. The ideal ballerina has toes that point outwards. The 'turnout' is the cornerstone of classical ballet. It begins at the hip and moves down to the knee, the tibia, the ankle and the foot. But if the leg isn't turned out naturally, it can be done by stretching, which can take its toll. From the number of straps and supports, it's clear that every dancer nurses some sort of injury. [...]
THE dancers spend the class studying every aspect and angle of themselves in the mirrors. 'It's a visual art,' Pennefather says, 'so we're always aware of how we look. It's not vanity. Although there are some people who are vain. Who build up, not for strength, but for appearance. I've never done that. You should only do what's necessary. But you do want to look right in the part.'

The dancer Gelsey Kirkland actually felt compelled to go one stage further and had plastic surgery to improve her onstage 'line'. She had her earlobes trimmed and her nose reduced, and silicone implants in her lips and breasts. In her tell-all autobiography, Dancing on My Grave, Kirkland details her struggles with cocaine, eating disorders, and a choreographer who made her pop amphetamines while issuing dictates like 'must see the bones'. The dancer Heidi Guenther – who died in 1997 as a direct result of an eating disorder – was an exceptional case, yet to talk to young dancers working today, anorexia and bulimia are as much of a problem as they ever were. [...]

THESE days, there is certainly more science. The dancers do Gyrotonic, an exercise system that uses specially designed wooden machines with rotational discs and weighted pulleys to strengthen their muscles with flowing, circular movements. Gyrotonic looks like pilates but is more like yoga in its origin and breathing techniques. And their bodies are monitored throughout, by computer.

'Sports scientists are getting interested in how we train,' says Cuthbertson, 'and how we fire certain muscles. In the olden days, if someone was injured they would just go away and, when they felt better, come back. Now, because of the science, we know what we're going to achieve by rehabbing properly after an injury. But when we're on stage, we don't care if we're firing some muscle or not. We just want to move people.'

Which is where the acting comes in. When everything else is about technique, it's easy to forget about the acting. 'You spend years and years at school,' Cuthbertson says, 'trying to make your best frappe, or your développé to the left a bit higher, or your arabesque a bit more extensive. Suddenly you join the company and the first thing is you're acting. You're not being this ballerina you trained for. You are pretending to be a peasant, a whore or a gipsy.' [...]

SOME principals at the Royal Ballet negotiate salaries for themselves – some appoint an agent. 'When I started out,' Pennefather says, 'I was on £1,100 a month. Now they start on something like £1,500 a month.' As dancers move from first artist to soloist to first soloist to principal, they get a rise. But the biggest rise is from principal to highly paid media darling.

Nureyev was the wealthiest man in ballet, with an estate, estimated in Vanity Fair, at $80 million. Other estimates were noticeably less, at between $15 million and $25 million. But there are reports as late as 1977, the heyday of the 'dance boom', when the Kirov émigrés were making up to $10,000 a performance, that Nureyev still demanded cash payments on occasion and still got them. Sylvie Guillem made thousands for every show she did in Japan. But there's only one Sylvie Guillem.

And, these days, it seems society only has room for one Sylvie Guillem. During the golden age, of course, the great ballerinas were the toast of all society. 'I do sometimes wish I was in on the Ballet Russes,' Cuthbertson says. 'On that train with Diaghilev. When ballet was fashionable and pioneering and something that people looked up to. Nowadays, to a lot of people, it's something that belongs in a museum.' END

Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
Monica Mason's choice of Wayne McGregor as the Royal's house choreographer bears its first fruit

SOMETIMES the unlikeliest people come up with the wildest ideas. Dame Monica Mason's appointment of Wayne McGregor – a cybergeek who grew up without going near a ballet class – to a post once filled by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan might have seemed counterintuitive. But Mason knew success when she saw it. And Chroma, McGregor's last work for the Royal Ballet two years ago, was the most dangerously thrilling thing to have happened on the Opera House stage in years.

So McGregor's first main-stage work as house choreographer has had plenty to prove – and not just that he is capable of producing another hit. It matters almost more that the company's dancers are fired up by association. The opening moments of Infra make it dazzlingly clear that they are. [...]

INFRA (Part 1) / (Part 2) / (Part 3)
This choreography is incredible and it is beautifully performed. The moving images at the top only take away from it in my opinion. Why are they there?
I think it's because the piece is all about 'beneath the surface' (what's going on inside people and between them) the images at the top literally show being beneath the surface.
Okay that makes a lot of sense. Wow, what a brilliant choreographer!

The Making of INFRA (Part 1) / (Part 2) / (Part 3)


Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez (born January 26, 1981, Barquisimeto, Venezuela) is a Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He is currently the Conductor and Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles, California. [...]

Gustavo Dudamel, violin

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL - official site

[Pic via]

60 Minutes biography
"The music saved me. I'm sure of this."


El Sistema, Venezuela's 34-year-old music tuition program

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra

Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel performs with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra during a free concert at the low-income neighborhood of La Vega in Caracas - 08/02/09 [Images.Google.com]



Proms Go Caracas for Venezuelan Musicians
This week's world-class line-up will have to work overtime if it wants anything like the ecstatic reception received by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra.
NONTHELESS, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra - the culmination of hundreds of years of musical tradition - is going to have to work overtime if they want anything like the ecstatic reception that greeted the Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela last night. Under their magnetic chief conductor Gustavo Dudamel - himself just 26-years-old - this 200-strong band of young musicians from Latin America perfectly illustrated Henry Wood's ideal of "democratising the message of music and making its beneficent effect universal".

That these outstanding young performers should be appearing at the Proms at all is nothing short of miraculous, the result of an overwhelmingly successful programme - El Sistema - designed to turn around the lives of Venezuela's young people through the power of music. In a country where 38% of the population is officially below the breadline, it is astonishing to think that the number of orchestras has rocketed from two to over 200 in the last few decades, with more than a quarter of a million children now taking part in this incredible social experiment.

The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is the culmination of this initiative, and they are truly a force to be reckoned with. Their slogan is "Play and fight!" and, in Shostakovich's 10th Symphony last night, that's exactly what they did. More than any other group of musicians I've seen, these guys played as though their lives depended on it. Perhaps, in some ways, they did. END

WHAT a cruel and tragic youth scheme. Taking a group of young people from the poverty line and indoctrinating them in classical music where they will discover it's just about the toughest, most competitive, and most unfair profession in the world which does not seem to be able to escape from its terminal global decline.
The idea that classical music will positively transform their lives is a naive illusion. Young people should be discouraged from classical music if we genuinely care for their best interests. One or two might just be talented and lucky enough to develop a career from this scheme, but for most it will lead to nothing but frustration. -Outbrow

OUTBROW- Though you evidently write from long, bitter experience, I would submit to you that a "career" in classical music is rather besides the point for these kids.
Have a look at Lisa Blackmore's article in the independent about El Sistema: Redemption Songs (08/17/07). I think the opening anecdote about Legner, the 13-year-old gun-toting crack dealer who reinvented himself as a clarinet teacher after four years in the programme, speaks volumes. "If music had not arrived, I wouldn't be here today," he says. I'd say just one success story like that vindicates El Sistema's existence.
I'd also be interested to know, however, exactly what happens to these kids once they "graduate". Presumably they can't be in a youth orchestra forever. Several have obviously gone on to international careers, and there is apparently a very large audience for classical music in Venezuela, but you're right: there will never be enough long-term career paths open to El Sistema's 270,000 alumni.

OUTBROW does have a point, if narrowly cynical, about all those Venezuelan kids going into music and what they'll do afterwards. From a narrow, profession-driven viewpoint, that is a valid concern. I would submit, however, that teaching kids the skills, intellectual and social, that are needed to work in an orchestra can apply to many other fields outside of music as well, like business or medicine. Ideally, at least from this side of the pond, the vision is to have music as integral a part of children's upbringing as sport and athletics.

BBC Proms 2007: Why I'm Worried About Gustavo
[Telegraph.co.uk - 08/16/07]
Young conductor Gustavo Dudamel has had a dizzying ascent to fame, but Geoffrey Norris warns that his talent needs careful nurturing

Gustavo Dudamel is a musician of precious and precocious talents. At the age of only 26, he has already conquered the hearts of concert-goers worldwide.

Two years ago, he made his London debut at the BBC Proms, deputising for the indisposed Neeme Järvi with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra snapped him up as its principal conductor, a post he assumes next month.

In the last season alone, he has appeared with such VIP orchestras as the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic and the Philharmonia in London, as well as conducting Don Giovanni at La Scala in Milan. New York, San Francisco and Berlin beckon.

He reappears at the Proms this weekend with his Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra from Venezuela. And in two years' time he will take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen in charge of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Can this be a healthy way to carry on? Let me say at the outset that I am not by nature a doomsayer. Quite the reverse, in fact; but I am certainly one to urge caution when a rise to stardom has been so quick and so prodigious. In this celebrity-driven age, the temptation to go for a quick fix is very real, particularly when a musician is so personable and newsworthy.
His is admittedly an extraordinary story of success through the humanitarian campaign known as El Sistema, established in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu with the aim of involving youngsters from poor families in the playing of music, and giving them something to aspire to in a climate where drugs, disillusionment and crime are rampant.

The Simón Bolívar Orchestra is itself a manifestation of Abreu's dream; one of its double bass players, Edicson Ruiz, is now in the Berlin Philharmonic; and Dudamel travels the globe as an ambassador for the principle that triumph can be wrested from adversity.

The danger creeps in when his achievements are sensationalised, or when the mass of publicity outstrips his actual attainment. Not everything he does is flawless. Nor would you expect it to be in one so young, and the more circumspect reviews of his concerts have balanced praise with the pointing out of failings.

Guest-conducting here, there and everywhere might be useful in getting your name known, but it can also feed the media frenzy and does not necessarily contribute to the consolidation or broadening of technique and repertoire.

From that point of view, the Gothenburg appointment seemed an astute move, giving him a base from which to develop his craft with a strong management team prepared to nurture rather than exploit his gifts.

The high-octane Los Angeles job seemed on the face of it to overstep the mark, until it is remembered that Salonen was only 34 when he went there and that the city's 50 per cent Latino population will give Dudamel a link with potential audiences.
The crucial thing is for Dudamel to be given time to mature naturally. He is a realist and knows that he is still - and will be for decades to come - on a learning curve. We as music-lovers must respect the fact that, however excited we might be by his infectious bonhomie on stage and his undoubted rapport with orchestras, he has not attained his full heights at the age of 26.

He has been wielding a baton since he was 14, and has had invaluable mentors in Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim and Simon Rattle. But he has a future over and above the here and now.

There are encouraging signs that this is appreciated where it matters. His agent and his colleagues in Gothenburg, Los Angeles and Caracas are keen not to play up to celebrity culture.

Whereas in years gone by the media hype was in a state of tumult, nowadays his publicity is under the watchful eye of the New York-based Mary Lou Falcone. Every week, her office is inundated with requests for interviews or profiles, but the answer is generally a polite "Not yet."

This is all to the good. Rather than seeing a talent prematurely burnt out through over-exposure, we ought to have the chance in 40 years' time of relishing a conductor at his peak. END

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms

Gustavo Dudamel and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall [NewYorkSocialDiary.com]

Gustavo Dudamel during a rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Dudamel, 26, will be the guest conductor of the Philharmonic in concerts through Tuesday at Avery Fisher Hall.

The Kid's Got Energy. Now Watch Him Conduct.
AND NOW, the real debut.

Gustavo Dudamel, classical music’s hottest young podium property, conducted several weeks ago at Carnegie Hall with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, his first appearance in New York.

This week he embarked on his maiden voyage with the New York Philharmonic, one of the oldest professional orchestras in the world.

How would this sometimes demanding bunch take to the tender 26-year-old Mr. Dudamel, who leaves a plume of hype behind him? How would this boyish, hyperenthusiastic wunderkind approach these musicians? Some are old enough to be his grandparents and have been in the Philharmonic as far back as the days of Bruno Walter, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein.

Answers came in a visit to rehearsals this week at Avery Fisher Hall before yesterday’s opening concert and performances tonight, tomorrow and Tuesday. [...]

And how did the players react?

Of a dozen interviewed, including some of the oldest and most recent members, the reaction was unanimously positive. But several said that Mr. Dudamel’s inexperience showed and expressed the caveat that an ultimate judgment would have to await his conducting of other composers such as Mozart and Haydn.

“He’s tremendously talented,” said Glenn Dicterow, the concertmaster. “He knows what he wants and is not afraid to ask for it.”

The musicians praised his energy and charisma, his authentic musicality and his capacity to listen carefully to what the orchestra was producing.

“Above all, I see a great joy in what he does,” said Mr. Drucker, the clarinetist. He and several others compared him to a young Bernstein.

The bass clarinetist, Stephen Freeman, said, “I see some of Lenny in him, just the exuberance, the abandon.”

Daniel Druckman, a percussionist, said of Mr. Dudamel: “He certainly hears everything, and he seems to have really good ideas. I think he’s terrific.”

Newton Mansfield, a violinist with the orchestra since 1961, said that more seasoning with high-caliber orchestras might allow Mr. Dudamel to talk less in rehearsal, communicate more with gestures and learn when to relax some of the tension in the musical line. But Mr. Mansfield added that Mr. Dudamel has “absolutely no problem getting the orchestra to respond to what he’s doing, and that’s a very important point.” END

Gustavo Dudamel: Passing the Baton to the Next Wunderkind
When conductor Gustavo Dudamel mounted the podium in his debut with the New York Philharmonic in November, he was carrying something special. Moments before he went onstage for the first of four concerts, the orchestra's archivist went to his dressing room to lend him a baton used by Leonard Bernstein. "I could not speak," says Dudamel. And he was speechless again, near the end of his last concert, when the baton suddenly snapped in two. But it wasn't a bad omen—even without that talisman, the comparisons to Bernstein (who broke plenty of batons himself) were starting to stick. [...]

Gustavo Dudamel, Better Than the Hype
Yes, Virginia, there is a Gustavo Dudamel. There has been so much hype around the 27-year-old Venezuelan conductor that you may well have had reason to wonder. But Dudamel is the real thing -- as Virginia, and Washington, got to see when he led the Israel Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center, courtesy of the Washington Performing Arts Society, on Tuesday night.

Dudamel is a wild child of music. The advance billing portrays him as a natural talent brimming over with musical understanding untrammeled by a big ego, and onstage, that's just about what you get. The cushion of springy curls bobbing over the emphatic movements of his arms as he gestures and leaps and exhorts certainly project a state-of-nature exuberance.

But engaging though all this be, the really good news is that he goes beyond it. On Tuesday, for all the rough edges -- and there are rough edges -- he conducted with tremendous emotional specificity. He brought to the music an eye for detail that may have overlooked technical niceties, but could find strikingly nuanced things to do with a single phrase: pausing for a microsecond to give a percussive chord an element of surprise, or unleashing the orchestra's forces only to pull them back again to round out a musical statement with unexpected elegance. [...]

Dudamel appears to deal with the hype by trying to spread the praise to his players. He did not even take a solo bow, but stood, instead, among the orchestra to receive what by now has become his expected due of thunderous applause. END

Linda Ronstadt Hails Gustavo Dudamel in Testimony on Capitol Hill
In a remarkable testimony by Linda Ronstadt to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment & Related Agencies Tuesday, the pop singer made an impassioned plea for government support of the arts. And Gustavo Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's soon-to-be music director, was her poster boy. [...]

In the United States, we spend millions on sports because it promotes teamwork, discipline, and the experience of learning to make great progress in small increments. Learning to play music together does all this and more. [...]


GUSTAVO DUDAMEL - LA Phil microsite
Bravo Gustavo! (game)
Ready to test your conducting skills? Use your keyboard to guide Gustavo as he conducts each section of the orchestra. Can you achieve the level of super maestro?

Walt Disney Concert Hall prepares for Gustavo's arrival

Welcome to Los Angeles, Gustavo!

Venezuelan Conductor Gives Lessons in Geography
On his first day as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel gave a lesson in geography, namely what constitutes America.

A reporter asked the 28-year-old classical music sensation what he had on his iPod, to which Dudamel answered that he loved Latin music and was listening to the likes of Venezuelan salsa star Oscar D’Leon and Dominican crooner Juan Luis Guerra.

And then the reporter said: “You are in America now, what Americans?” Dudamel didn’t miss a beat and shot back ”I am talking about Americans!” — to which the room packed with journalists erupted in laughter and clapping.

That Latin America is indeed part of America is something that Dudamel brings up often, but always with good humor and patience. At his news conference he reiterated that America is one — Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, the United States, all included. That message is likely to resound in Los Angeles, a city that is half Hispanic and home to millions who migrated from southern portions of the Americas. END

Gustavo Dudamel Webisode #1
A behind the scenes look at Gustavo's first days as LA Phil's Music Director.
The word on the street is this guy is kind of a rocker in the world of conductors. -Jack Black

Panorama: On the Red Carpet at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Eloisa Maturen, wife of Gustavo Dudamel, arrives to photographers' flashes for Dudamel's inaugural performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's music director.

Right up top! Right up top!
Second row, right here!
To your right, please!
Way up high!
Excuse me, can you look right back here?!
Over the shoulder! To your left!
Let's see those earrings!

Panorama: Taking in the Dudamel Concert from Out of Doors
A crowd in the Music Center plaza watches Gustavo Dudamel on a giant plasma screen as he conducts his first formal concert as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street.

Dudamel Wows 'Em on Opening Night
[LATimes.com - 10/08/09]
THURSDAY night was a win-win for Los Angeles.

A dressed-to-the-nines audience, dappled with civic movers and shakers, eschewed the Dodgers' thrilling conclusion and instead experienced Gustavo Dudamel’s thrilling beginning at Walt Disney Concert Hall as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Both, as it turned out, were celebratory moments to savor.

At 7:18 p.m. the 28-year old Venezuelan launched into City Noir, John Adams’ filmic, jazz-inflected 35-minute paean to Los Angeles commissioned by the Philharmonic.

The bright, sensual presentation of the piece drew a sustained standing ovation, not always the treatment audiences afford contemporary classical music. It also earned Dudamel an embrace and several hugs from composer Adams, who seemed very pleased with his work’s world premiere performance.

After the intermission, Dudamel dipped into Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The orchestra rendered a stately, burnished reading that again brought listeners to their feet after the final crescendo sounded at 9:18 p.m. Dudamel came out for five bows, which he took not from the podium but among his orchestra. Under a cascading shower of magenta and silver foil confetti, he then made the universal signal for “Let’s go get a drink,” and the evening morphed into a party outside on a closed-down Grand Avenue.

The concert was broadcast live on KUSC-FM and simulcast on video screens to hundreds who had spread picnic blankets throughout the Music Center plaza and took seats inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The concert will be shown Oct. 21 on PBS' Great Performances. END

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic: The Inaugural Concert
(PBS preview)

He's the hottest young conductor on the scene today - "The Dude" - Gustavo Dudamel...

Gustavo Dudamel Lights Up LA
The arrival of the world’s hottest young maestro, Gustavo Dudamel, at the Los Angeles Philharmonic caused a sensation
DEBORAH BORDA (chief executive of the orchestra) denies that Dudamel’s ability to reach the Latino part of Los Angeles influenced her decision. But, given that 48 per cent of the Los Angeles population is of Latino origin, that has to be a plus. More important to her is his connection with El Sistema, which the LA Phil has seized on as a model for its own project. It has already set up the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), and it was this orchestra that formed the centrepiece of Dudamel’s debut at the Hollywood Bowl the previous Saturday.

“It was such a moving experience, to see 18,000 people there,” says Borda. “It was like a picture postcard of Los Angeles’s cultural diversity, and the other great thing was that it was all about the youth of this city. We had jazz bands, we had gospel choirs, and then finally Gustavo came on stage with all these little seven- and eight-year-olds of YOLA, with all their moms and dads in the audience.”

This is all fine and dandy, but can a man born and raised so far from the nerve centres of the classical tradition and who never attended an élite conservatoire really compare with the older maestros that head other American orchestras – Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco, Riccardo Muti in Chicago, Charles Dutoit in Philadelphia?

The people who can answer that question best are, of course, the players. “There are lots of conductors out there who have great ideas, but when they get up on the podium they seem total idiots,” says the LA Phil’s concertmaster, Martin Chalifour. “But the great thing about Gustavo is that he has a great technique; he’s very clear with the baton. And he’s absolutely driven to find the emotional heart of the music.”

I see evidence of that myself at the rehearsal. “No, you should start later, and wait more at the top,” Dudamel says of a particular sliding phrase in Mahler’s First Symphony, whose tendency to sentimentality he clearly wants to nip in the bud. It takes several goes and more fine-tuning to get it right, but when he’s satisfied he jumps up and says “Good!” with such unbuttoned joy that the players can’t help laughing.

The next day, at the concert, that tremendous energy and joy carried all before it. The entire be-furred and tuxedoed audience hollered and rose to its feet, and a rain of glitter came down from the ceiling. LA has a new star, and it’s clearly going to make the most of him. END

Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic Inaugural Gala (pics)

Gustavo Dudamel Concert Gala (pics)

Dudamel's Great, But He's Not the Whole Show
IT'S NOT unusual for a global city to recruit an international talent like Gustavo Dudamel to conduct its symphony orchestra. (Alan Gilbert, the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic, is the first native New Yorker to hold the post since the institution was founded in 1842.) What is unusual is how the Los Angeles orchestra is using the high-culture, Venezuelan-born wunderkind to build a rapport with this city's native-born Latino masses. Gauging from the widespread, deliriously upbeat hoopla -- and taking into account Dudamel's exceptional qualities and charisma -- maybe it'll even work.

But L.A.'s cultural elite shouldn't mistake the Dudamel phenomenon for a solid strategy to reverse its historic negligence toward the city's Latinos. [...]

The philharmonic leadership knows that it -- as with all major local cultural institutions -- must engage more Latinos if it is to survive in the future. The initiative is as much about building audiences as it is about producing musicians, and the big public push behind such an ambitious, long-term program is long overdue. Which brings us back to the issue of historical negligence.

Will the elites' latest, brightest foreign hire undo a tradition of local cultural neglect? Dudamel's star quality and his own proclivities could go a long way in that direction. But he would be the exception that proves the rule. Other institutions seeking to connect with an ever more diverse and ever more Latino city can't rely on finding their own perfect Dudamel. So if they want to diversify their staffs and their audiences, they should start looking in their own backyards. END

Fantastic. One of the brightest points on this locality (LA Phil) manages to capture one of the most promising talents, in an era of declining donations and support from the "elite" - and you put it all down to race. Nice. Just once, Mr. Rodriguez - try to understand that music can transcend all of the categorization you refer to - Venezuela has proven that - and that Mr. Dudamel's enthusiasm and remarkable music maturity can only enhance a world class orchestra for all of us.

Gustavo's Recording of Mahler Symphony No. 1 Tops Billboard Classical Charts
[GustavoDudamel.com - 11/04/09]
GUSTAVO DUDAMEL’s latest recording, Mahler: Symphony No. 1 From The Inaugural Concert with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic, has debuted in the number one spot on Billboard’s Classical Traditional and Classical Overall charts. The album is available exclusively through iTunes on the DG Concerts label. END

[KBAQ.org - 05/03/09]
New Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel is a believer in music education—so much so that the Philharmonic is announcing a new fellowship program proposed by the 28-year-old conductor that would allow the four fellows to spend six weeks with Dudamel, the Philharmonic, and guest conductors. They will assume responsibilities normally given to an assistant conductor—like subbing for Dudamel if he gets sick—the fellows also will lead the orchestra’s youth symphonies and possibly community concerts. The first four winners have been named—they are: Diego Matheuz, Concertmaster of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Christian Velasquez, Music Director of Venezuela’s Aragua Juvenile Symphony Orchestra, David Afkham, Assistant conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Perry So, the Assistant conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic. END

Gustavo Dudamel - The 2009 TIME 100
With what appears to be unlimited talent and charisma, Gustavo Dudamel has invigorated the sometimes staid world of classical music. His performances are ecstatic affairs, with musicians and audiences unable to resist his infectious joy. His concerts often end with his hugging each member of the orchestra.

Edinburgh Festival 2008: Gustavo Dudamel, the Man Who Made the Swedes Swing
You can be the best musician in the world, but the instinct to keep the attention of hundreds of people is impossible to learn. It's something natural. I think this is the secret of a good conductor.

Blazing Trip to a Scaffold with Dudamel
The Gothenburg musicians clearly adore their young conductor, who takes up the post of Chief Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic next year. They play with zest rather than finesse, at their best in exciting fortissimo gusts and storms that made up for some poor woodwind intonation and less than tip-top ensemble throughout.

How YOLA is Changing Lives
Last Saturday in Los Angeles, conductor Gustavo Dudamel made his debut with a new orchestra. Not some chamber-scale off-shoot of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he takes up the music directorship in a few months, but a group of about a hundred children, aged from 7-14, who play with YOLA, the Youth Orchestra of LA.

Gustavo Dudamel: A Maestro and His Magic Simón Bolívar Orchestra
He was sitting, half-sitting, standing, bouncing on both feet, goading, correcting and running up the aisle of the Royal Festival Hall to conduct behind the front stalls. If it was no ordinary orchestra rehearsal, then that was because he is no ordinary conductor.

Gustav Dudamel: The Natural
So what makes Dudamel so special? The role of a conductor is at once comprehensible and untranslatable. The task is dauntingly clear: to mold about 100 anarchic artists into his own, singular vision. To do so, he must use only visible cues with musical players necessarily attuned to the aural — a sort of sign language not for the hearing impaired, but the hearing enhanced.

Philharmonia Orchestra: The Sound Exchange: Gustavo Dudamel
Videos: Conductor's Academy (We join Gustavo Dudamel as he works with three young conductors), Interview 08 and Interview 06

The New York Times: Gustavo Dudamel
NYT articles, photos, audio and video.

Daylife.com: Gustavo Dudamel
Articles, photos, video and tweets.

Growing up in Barquisimeto, Venezuela [LAPhil.com/Gustavo]

The maestro at work


The Promise of Music
The Promise of Music is a full-length feature film about the story of Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The film documents Dudamel preparing his orchestra in Caracas for their upcoming concert at the Beethovenfest in Bonn, 2007. Following different young musicians in their day-to-day lives, the film shows how classical music has the capability of changing both the individual and their environment.

I will be forever thankful to Mr Sanchez and Gustavo Dudamel for this beautiful picture of my country and its people. This DVD shows what Venezuelans are capable of if only they are allowed to develop their potential. Besides this, the Bonn Concert is just fabulous. The Eroica performance can be rated with those of the great orchestras of the world. I had listened to some previous recordings of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and Mr Dudamel and thought they were OK, but this one changed my mind completely. From now on I will get any future recordings from these young and amazing people.

Gustavo Dudamel: Discoveries
IF YOU are looking for a gift for someone beginning their odyssey into classical music, you could do worse than send them the latest DGG sampler release of repertoire standards spiced with two dances by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. Why? The conductor is Gustavo Dudamel, product of Venezuela’s world-famous El Sistema who has just taken over the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The orchestra is the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, and except for two or three instances of strange horn sounds, you’d be unlikely to detect that the players are anything less than first-class. [...]

El Sistema: Music to Change Life
AS I AM in the music field in Mexico,trying with others to make the same project work here, I was able to see this extraordinary documentary several months ago. It was a private showing, and almost the entire audience, friends,maestros, musicians, were weeping through it - deeply moved and filled with hope.
They'd already seen or owned "Tocar y Luchar", the first beautiful film on El Sistema, but now Maria Stodtmeier and Paul Smaczny have gone deeper, and have captured what is beyond words. Their general response of unmitigated admiration for El Sistema's founder, José Antonio Abreu whom Claudio Abbado calls "a saint".
And now, when you see what musicians, such as the true ambassador Gustavo Dudamel,the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, to mention just a few, have emerged from the project,you'll marvel at why it took more than thirty years for us in North America to catch on.

El Sistema has expanded since the first film exposure, and to me, part of the miracle is how children play as if they were adults - no passage of time seems present. Their dedication - theirs and that of the teachers and staff who work with Abreu - is almost surreal. Where did all these old souls in children's bodies come from? Is this what happens when they're given a chance to experience classical music? When you listen to their wisdom, so beautifully reflected in the many levels of the project, you'll probably be speechless. And hopeful.

There's a great deal more to say about this remarkable documentary which I hope anyone with the least interest in changing the world, orders sight unseen. Paul Smaczny of EuroArts, who has produced the world's finest concert films on DVD, together with the brilliantly sensitive Maria Stodmeier, have done us all a great favour.
I thank them a thousand times over...and when you see some of the little touches - such as a hawk slowly hovering over dense and sprawling Caracas, free and soaring on the wind - you'll understand the spiritual message of the film far beyond words.

El Sistema (trailer)
It was my first day in the chamber orchestra so I wanted to be early, but I got shot in the leg so I couldn't go...

Salzburg, 2008