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Neglia Ballet performs memorable gala-style mixed repertory program

Buffalo doesn’t get too many star-studded ballet productions gracing its stages, so Thursday evening’s second annual “Dancing To Live” presented by Neglia Ballet artists at Nichols School’s Flickinger Performing Arts Center was something special.

The gala-style mixed repertory evening to benefit TargetCancer Foundation and Neglia’s CityDance public schools program, was jam-packed with adroit performances by an international cast of local and guest dancers.

A series of short classical and contemporary solos and pas de deuxs, the delightful program began with award-­winning Lithuanian choreographer Egidijus Domeika’s “Romantic Pas de Deux” danced by fellow Lithuanians and principal dancers with Rhode Island’s Festival Ballet of Providence, Mindaugas Bauzys and Vilia Putrius. The married couple, familiar to Buffalo dance audiences from past Neglia productions, were solid in their performance of Domeika’s very classical and technically demanding choreography set to music by Rossini. With a radiant smile, Putrius zipped through various turning movements and little hops on one leg, while partner Bauzys powered through a barrage of spins and leaps.

Promising Neglia Ballet student Yuha Tomita from Japan showed her spunk in the first of two solos she danced Sumire Sakai’s contemporary work “A La Volette.” In this solo and later in Viktor Plotnikov’s funky-quirky “DeRap,” Tomita danced with plenty of personality. But like many student dancers still finding their way, her performances appeared rushed.

Whereas Tomita’s stage inexperience shone through, the opposite could be said of the first of two nearly flawless performances by veteran dancers Sergio Neglia and longtime partner Silvina Vaccarelli, a principal dancer with Argentina’s Teatro Colón Ballet. In the famous “White Swan” pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” the pair looked like the great romantic-style couples of old in a polished performance emotive of wanting and heartache and exhibiting a high level of classicism and stage presence rarely seen nowadays.

Next, representative of the athleticism and technical prowess prevalent in today’s ballet, former Joffrey Ballet dancers Yumelia Garcia and Ogulcan Borova gave a supercharged performance of Yuri Possokhov’s “Bell,” set to music by Rachmaninoff. Upside down lifts, sinewy leg muscles and plenty of visual punch characterized the deft performances of the two dancers who appeared at the top of their game.

Classical ballet with a Danish flair followed in a charming performance by an effervescent Marybeth Hansohn and partner Tanner Schwartz in the pas de deux from August Bournonville’s 1858 ballet Flower Festival in Genzano. Hansoln floated across the stage in delicate jumps, turns and beautiful footwork, while Schwartz bounded through leaps and beating jumps (calves beat against each other as one leg passes in front of the other).

After another mesmerizing performance by Bauzys and Putrius in Ilya Kozadayev’s melancholy contemporary piece “Moonlight,” set to music by Beethoven, Garcia showed off her incredible balance and Borova his fabulous partnering skills in the bedroom pas de deux from the ballet Le Corsaire. Their dancing was bold and invigorating.

Rounding out the thoroughly entertaining production were Neglia and Vaccarelli in an encore performance of Plotnikov’s “From Earth” performed by the pair at last year’s “Dancing To Live.” Once again the two dancers were simpatico in their movements together. A far cry from the earlier “Swan Lake” pas de deux in style, the contemporary ballet duet was nonetheless brilliant and brilliantly danced. Fluttering hand moments, humorous facial expressions and gestures, and marvelously constructed movement phrases made this ballet the perfect closer to a memorable evening of dance.

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