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Men Reign Supreme In 'Kings Of The Dance'

Claire Spera |
February 11, 2010 | 12:11 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Guillaume Côté in 'Kings of the Dance.'  (Photo by Gene Schiavone.)

In traditional classical ballet, male dancers typically take a backseat to the prima ballerina. This is precisely why "Kings of the Dance" is a must-see for ballet enthusiasts -- the production features two casts exclusively made up of eight of today's top male dancers, performing pieces by such renowned choreographers as Frederick Ashton, Boris Eifman and Christopher Wheeldon. 

Originally developed in 2006 by producer Sergei Danilian and premiered in New York City, "Kings of the Dance" proved such a mesmerizing evening that the project embarked on a 10-city Russian tour for the 2007-2008 season. This season's program includes several new "kings," in addition to some originals, who hail from every corner of the globe: Jose Manuel Carreño (Cuba, American Ballet Theatre), Guillaume Côté (Canada, National Ballet of Canada), Joaquin De Luz (Spain, New York City Ballet), Marcelo Gomes (Brazil, American Ballet Theatre), David Hallberg (U.S., American Ballet Theatre), Denis Matvienko (Ukraine, Mariinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg/formerly Kirov Ballet), Desmond Richardson (U.S., Complexions Contemporary Ballet) and Nikolay Tsiskaridze (Russia, Bolshoi Ballet). There's simply no excuse to miss this star-studded evening. 
A line-up like this consists of dancers who regularly travel the world to serve as guest artists with the top ballet companies. I recently spoke with Guillaume Côté via phone while he was on tour in Japan. A native of Québec, he has been a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada since 2004. 
Côté was first approached by "Kings" producer Danilian nearly four years ago when he was dancing with Italy's La Scala Ballet at Covent Garden, U.K. "Things didn't end up working out to do the project until last year," explains Côté, before adding, "but it was really flattering to be asked to do this project. The most exciting part is that no one Danilian recruits is a male diva...I was excited to get to know all these guys and work with them in the rehearsal process. It's a great opportunity to collaborate and build friendships." 
Côté explains men often feel a sense of isolation in the context of dance companies since the female dancers greatly outnumber the males: "In the male dancer's career, it's rare to come across other male dancers. To have so many great male dancers all in one show is the most special part of the experience."
Côté will make his Los Angeles debut in three of the production's eight pieces. In Christopher Wheeldon's "For 4," set to music by Schubert, he dances a quartet choreographed for the original "Kings of the Dance" production. "It's a piece we all had to work together to make happen," notes Côté of the necessary collaboration between Wheeldon and the four dancers in the work. "We all went to New York in October for two and a half weeks and worked together. This show isn't just a collage where people fly in the day before and put a show together...With this particular project they were clever at putting the pieces together. This was one of the most thrilling aspects." 
In "Proust Ballet," choreographed by the French-born Roland Petit originally for the Paris Opera Ballet, Côté and American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes dance a duet: "It's a pas de deux for men, very intense and powerful." The piece is particularly challenging, says Côté, because he first dances a five-minute-long solo before moving straight into the pas de deux. 
"It's tricky to keep the intensity going. I have to keep it alive throughout the piece. I've managed to rehearse (the work) a lot and perform it outside of 'Kings,"' Côté notes, explaining he's in Japan to dance the piece with American Ballet Theatre's David Hallberg. In the third piece Côté will appear in, Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato's "Remanso," he dances the role that was originated by Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Desmond Richardson. "I'm doing the role of Desmond Richardson, and he's like my hero!" Côté enthusiastically reports.
"When you have eight men in their prime all in one studio, you realize what your qualities are, but also what your failures might be. We all know the beauty of being a dancer is we keep learning all the time. The 'Kings' gala puts you in a room where you don't go, 'This is it. I'm good enough.' The main thing I'll come away with from this gala is wanting to work harder than ever before." 
WHAT: Sergei Danilian Presents "The Kings of the Dance"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-17
WHERE: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.



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