The ‘end of term' show by La Scala Theatre Ballet School was of an exceptionally high level this year. This was exceptionally important as it was dedicated to the memory of Loreta Alexandrescu, a much-loved teacher at the school who died prematurely last February. She began working with the school's students in 1988 and, even though she was undergoing treatment, she managed to continue teaching until last Christmas. La Scala's Academy has decided to award the scholarships of the Dance Department in her name.
The school's director, Frédéric Olivieri, created a new Etudes/Class Ballet style piece to present the whole school called, appropriately, Presentazione. Set to Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor (played beautifully by Paloma Martin and Da Won Ghang) it gave each senior student a moment to shine as well as lots of opportunities to appreciate the progress of each year. For six girls it was the first time on La Scala's stage for they have been welcomed into the school after leaving their homes in Ukraine.
Matteo Levaggi adapted his Largo – created in 2007 for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève – again to Bach's music, this time the Suite n.1 in G major for cello (played by Sofia Bellettini). It highlighted the talents of three of the most outstanding dancers in their final year: Vincenzo Romano, Lorenzo Lelli and Anna Letizia Joly. All three are polished and ready to take their first professional steps and played easily with Levaggi's off-axis positions and lifts, and gave their all to the virtuosic opportunities.
Valentino Zucchetti, the first soloist and choreographer at the Royal Opera House, created the third piece on the programme for eleven boys and three girls drawn from the final three years of the school. Canone Allegro uses the first movement of Mendelssohn's Concerto for violin and orchestra, op. 64. Zucchetti says: “The choice of a ‘canon' choreography is interesting because it allows you to ride the wave of certain musical structures. I wanted to bring the boys to a high technical level while also stimulating their interpretative skills. It required them to dance with vibrant energy as is demanded by Mendelssohn's urgent rhythms.” The eleven boys rose to the challenge, coping well with Zucchetti's often tricky sequences, and were well-matched by the three girls who joined them. It is obvious that Zucchetti revels in creating classical structures with a twist, and also enjoys devising mathematical formations of dancers having groups supplant other groups with exhilarating speed and flow. It is a very satisfying piece that will surely be present in future shows. Giovanni Andrea Zanon played the violin superbly.
Courageously, the last work was George Balanchine's Serenade, which the choreographed revived by Patricia Neary. I say ‘courageously', because the piece is a cornerstone of 20th century ballet, though its first performance was for students of the School of American Ballet, in 1934. This is the fourth time that La Scala's school has performed the ballet; the previous times were in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
As it was Balanchine's first original ballet created in America it has become a central and essential part of the New York City Ballet's repertoire. The George Balanchine Trust says: “Originating it as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet.”
Like so many of Balanchine's ballets, Serenade underwent many reincarnations, the last version presenting four movements: Sonatina, Waltz, Russian Dance, and Elegy (though the last two movements are reversed in respect to Tchaikovsky's Serenade for strings score). It is worth underlining the names the young dancers – among the 28 in the cast – who shone so brightly during an accomplished performance: the Waltz featured Matilde Pupita and Andrea Tozza, both in their final year; the Russian Dance saw final-year student Asia Matteazzi; and the Elegy presented Rebecca Luca, in her penultimate year, together with final year student Lorenzo Lelli.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.