MONACO DANCE FORUM – February 2011

Grimaldi Forum, Monte-Carlo – 17 February 2011

The Monaco Dance Forum is the brainchild of Jean-Christophe Maillot, director of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and was formed with the aim of assisting young dancers obtain the vital first engagement with a professional company. Company directors from around the world are invited to spend time in Monte-Carlo watching, and working, with the dancers during a week of classes, rehearsals and auditions, culminating in a performance of short works. It is hoped that in this way, dancers and directors are brought together without the stress of a formal audition and dancers are saved the problems and financial burden of international travel in search of work. The Forum, founded in 2000, was originally also a major dance event, presenting a huge and varied programme of performances, exhibitions, etc., but it has now re-formed after a break of a few years, to concentrate on the all-important ‘Springboard for Young Dancers’.

This year fifty dance students, small groups from schools in China, the USA, Russia, the Netherlands, Italy and France took part. Thirty-eight company directors (or their representatives) from companies including the National Ballets of Australia, Canada, Finland, and The Netherlands, as well as from companies in Saint Petersburg, Dresden, Pittsburgh and Hong Kong, made the trip to Monte-Carlo. The Princess Grace Foundation, created by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in 1964, has funded the Forum from the outset and continues a long tradition of royal patronage to the arts in Monte-Carlo. Applicants, limited this year to schools already known to the organisers, spent the week at the Grimaldi Forum, a huge waterside building incorporating several auditoria and rehearsal spaces. Leading teachers, such as Monique Loudières ( ex-Etoile of the Paris Opéra) and Jan Nuyts ( Ecole Mudra) gave the morning classes and the days were then spent auditioning, performing classical and contemporary variations. Each school prepared a short ballet to present at a public performance at the end of the week, attended by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Princess Caroline, now president of the Foundation.

Unfortunately, I must say that this was not a vintage year, and many of those taking part are not ready, or suitable, for professional engagements. The biggest impression was made by the three Chinese schools taking part; three young men from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts danced fluidly and confidently to a piece of music by Arvo Part, while the Beijing Dance Academy gave three contrasting pieces, excellently performed and imaginatively costumed. The Dance College Shanghai Theatre Academy was represented by two dancers, again meticulously rehearsed and well-presented. All works performed by the Chinese dancers were contemporary pieces, most of them best described as ‘imitation Wayne McGregor’, and although well stretched legs and feet were in evidence, it was difficult to judge the strength of their classical technique, or their ability to work in different styles. Talented Asian dancers were also to seen in works presented by the Kirov Academy in Washington and the Cannes Jeune Ballet. Alissa Stover from Cannes, dancing an excerpt from Napoli, was perhaps the most professional- looking dancer of the evening. Jeroen Verbruggen, a member of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, choreographed an enjoyable ballet for the local Academy of Dance Princess Grace, which presented the largest group of nine well trained dancers.

The Monaco Dance Forum has major new plans for 2012 when the event will include up to one hundred dancers, will be open to all schools, and for the first time, to individual dancers.