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Indianapolis City Ballet's Evening with the Stars Delights

It is an amazing amalgamation of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping performances that belie the posh title of the event.

Indianapolis City Ballet held its fifth-annual gala-style dance showcase on Saturday at the Murat Theatre. In brief, Evening with the Stars is an event meant to celebrate classical and contemporary ballet. In reality, it is an amazing amalgamation of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping performances that belie the posh title of the event. (A quiet night of soft music and superficially lovely dancing this is not. This writer would suggest retitling the show Bad-ass Ballet, but that wouldn’t be so dignified.)

This year’s lineup featured 19 of the best dancers from around the world (including one Indianapolis native!), set to perform 17 vignettes—short dances that ranged from excerpts of large-scale classic ballets to groundbreaking new contemporary works.

Pre-show, the audience was bubbly and expectant, even more energized than most are before a rock concert. And for good reason: Anyone within earshot of the ballet community knows that if you’re going to attend one dance event in Indianapolis, this is the one to choose.  

The show opened with 14-year-old Indy native Demitra Bereveskos (student, Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York), who bravely—and beautifully—performed a variation of the “Vision” solo from Sleeping Beauty. On the heels of that classic, and as a complete counterpoint, Robert Fairchild (principal, New York City Ballet) danced a dramatic contemporary solo to no music at all.

The show ramped up from there.

It’s difficult to pick favorites among so many stellar performances, but midway through the first act, Tiler Peck (principal, New York City Ballet) and James Whiteside (soloist, American Ballet Theatre) took the “Pas De Deux” from Le Corsair, traditionally a very showy piece, to an astronomically high level. Both executed so many consecutive fouettes (this writer lost count around 20) that the audience cheered. And by the time intermission arrived—several awe-inspiring dances later—anyone could have left satisfied.

But had you departed, you would have missed up-and-comer Miko Fogarty’s beguiling solo from La Esmeralda. The 16-year-old is already a star in her own right—you can see her in the documentary First Position. Do stream it on Netflix, or look for her locally, as she’s training at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory.

What's more, the newly engaged Peck and Fairchild premiered a piece, Rest Beloved, created specifically for them by renowned choreographer Cherylyn Lavagnino. Audience members gasped out loud at the superhuman lifts performed by Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly in Mono Lisa, an industrial, contemporary piece set to an angry samba of typewriter keystrokes. That pair, both principals with the Stuttgart Ballet, performed with a raw vigor that is usually masked in ballet. In one of many breathtaking moments, Reilly lifted Amatriain by her outstretched right leg, and once airborne she leaped over her extended limb with her other leg. (Yes, that actually happened.)

Elsewhere, Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith (both principals, San Franciso Ballet) danced a shimmering, soft pas de deux with a giant swath of gossamer fabric—folding, wrapping, and bunching it over, around, and under themselves. Gillian Murphy (principal, American Ballet Theatre) and Whiteside performed a quintessential take on Black Swan Pas de Deux to wrap up the show.

It was beautiful. All of it.

In the past five years, those involved with Evening with the Stars have established it as one of the best performances money can buy in Indianapolis. If you have a limited budget for the arts, save now for the November 22, 2014, performance at Clowes Hall. Seats went for $35 to $85 this year, each a downright steal for the experience.


Photos by Gene Schiavone and courtesy Indianapolis City Ballet