The dance competition MAB (Maria Antonietta Berlusconi), has reached its sixth edition. It was born after the premature death of Silvio Berlusconi’s sister whose love for ballet led to her opening a large dancing school in Milan. Surprisingly, The Principessa Dancing School even has its own Artistic Director, Roberto Fascilla, who was a Principal at La Scala of the Fracci generation. He is also the Artistic Director of the MAB Prize.
For the finals, the Teatro Manzoni, just around the corner from La Scala, was full of the theatre’s current and past dancers. Carla Fracci, who was presented with a Career Award during the evening, was also on the jury. Liliana Cosi and Anna Maria Prina (long serving director of La Scala’s school) were also judges and Luciana Savignano was among the audience. With Anna Maria Grossi and Bruno Vescovo – often seen as a couple onstage in ’80s and ’90s – along with Oriella Dorella, Aida Accolla, Luigi Sironi and Walter Venditti it had the atmosphere of a school reunion, Fracci still the Head Girl.
With a parterre like this one, it was encouraging to see so much young talent on the stage. I often loath these events and my mind wanders as yet another Don Q variation is being performed. However I am delighted to report that most of these young dancers managed to grab my attention and some were very promising indeed, heading their way to the top. Here are the names to watch:
Of the tiniest – though some had feet that indicated how much growing lays ahead of them! – the slight Rebecca Luca showed precision, musicality and a cute personality.
The 14 to 17 year-olds that caught my eye, and that of the jury, were a technically impressive Linda Giubelli, a luminously beautiful Chiara Tartaglia and an assured and polished Camilla Cerulli.
You’ll have noticed that up to now I have mentioned only female names, in fact, only one boy was present among the under eighteens. Yet, in the over eighteen group, there was a surprise: of the six dancers, five were male! Highly unusual and very encouraging. Three stood out: Cristiano Zaccaria from the Wiener Staatsoper Ballettschule, Yuri Mastrangeli from Rome Opera Ballet and the immensely interesting Francesco Costa from the Vienna company. It should be underlined that at 24 Costa is at the outer limit for this competition, but he is exciting, communicative and witty in his dancing. He was apparently a break-dancer before moving into the world of ballet, and some of those streetwise tricks were certainly handy for his number, set to the Flight of the Bumblebee, where he was comically tormented by a bee… presumably of the bumble variety.
Costa and Zaccaria, along with Alex Kaden, also from the company in Vienna, featured in the choreographic section of MAB 2015. Various pieces were startling in their difficulty – in a sub-Balanchine sort of way – and yet the highly disciplined young dancers performed them with aplomb. It was Costa, Zaccaria and Kaden, however, who stole the show in a highly original piece by Alessio di Stefano. When the title was announced – “La Fontaine”- I though it might have something to do with Margot. So wrong. It was… wait for it… set in a men’s toilet. Yes, I know this was a competition with young children participating, but take my word for it, there was nothing lewd or crude about it: it was clever and funny, varied in its movements and pace, the boys danced it with verve, and it brought the house down. The piece deservedly won first prize, as did Costa for his bee number.
MAB 2015 showed that dance is alive and well in Italians, it is just not quite so healthy in Italy. Most of these dancers will have to leave the country to work… several already have.