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Rising Stars of the Erik Bruhn Prize

Winning this year's competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize, hosted by the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, were two dancers from San Francisco Ballet, soloist Angelo Greco, 23, and corps de ballet dancer, Natasha Sheehan, 17. Together they performed a captivating pas de deux from “Giselle” for the classical repertoire, and danced a contemporary duet choreographed by fellow company member Myles Thatcher.

Angelo Greco and Natasha Sheehan of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras

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The Erik Bruhn Prize is a unique competition in that, as the legendary dancer Erik Bruhn and former artistic director of the National Ballet willed, it emphasises artistry—oversplits can stay home, for the most part. Two young dancers from each of the five participating companies (this year, the Royal Ballet, the Hamburg Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet and SFB) are selected by their artistic director; and the judging panel in turn comprises the directors—although they are forbidden from voting for their own. The twelfth prize showed a wealth of talent, with individual choreographic voices and sparkling performances from the dancers. Angelo Greco shares his thoughts on dancing and his experience at the Prize.

Angelo Greco and Natasha Sheehan of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras
Angelo Greco and Natasha Sheehan of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras

When did you know you wanted to dance professionally?

I realised when, aged 13, I started dancing for fun but could immediately feel, deep within myself, that doing it would be for life.

Classical or contemporary?

Classical dance comes first, for me. I do like contemporary dance, too, but for now I prefer dancing the classical repertoire, as I feel it belongs to me more.

You joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist recently. How do you find dancing in the States as compared to Italy?

Compared to Italy, here in the States—particularly at San Francisco Ballet—I get the opportunity to dance a lot more. Moving over here has been a fundamental step in my life and my career, not only for my dancing, but also for my personal growth as an individual. Different language, different culture, different way of seeing and living life...

How was your experience at the Erik Bruhn Prize?

The Erik Bruhn Prize experience has been wonderful and emotionally intense. I had the opportunity to meet dancers my age coming from the most diverse companies, such as the Royal Ballet, the American Ballet Theater and the Hamburg Ballet. Together, we shared profound emotions, we had fun and most importantly, we tried to show our talent at the best of our abilities. I must confess that, because of anxiety, I had trouble sleeping for two nights in a row, but this is part of the game in this wonderful art (called dance). Personally, I never feel ready before a performance but it is precisely this form of insecurity that pushes me to always give all of myself. In any case, the Erik Bruhn Prize will forever be remembered by me as an invaluable experience that I will keep forever close to my heart. I must truly thank my director, Helgi Thomasson, for giving me the opportunity to participate and for guiding me through the rehearsals. I must also thank people, like Patrick Armand, Sofiane Sylve, Maria Kochetkova and Lorena Fescu, whose help was essential during rehearsals. Last but not least, special thanks to Myles Thatcher for having created, on Natasha and me, a contemporary pas de deux that enriched us artistically, through the discovery of new dynamics and movements. Thank you so much to all these people, from the bottom of my heart!

What have been your favourite roles to dance, and what would you like to dance in the future?

Thanks to Makhar Vaziev, during my time at La Scala, I had the chance to interpret many great roles, my favourites of which have been Basilio in Nureyev's “Don Quixote,” Romeo in MacMillan's “Romeo and Juliet” and Lescaut in MacMillan's “Manon.” One day, I would really love to dance “Giselle” in full.

Angelo Greco of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras
Angelo Greco of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras

Quando hai capito che volevi diventare un ballerino professionista?

Nel momento in cui, all'età di 13 anni ho iniziato a ballare per gioco, ma dentro di me avevo già capito che quella sarebbe stata la mia strada e la mia vita.

Angelo Greco of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras
Angelo Greco of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras

Classico o contemporaneo?

Il classico, pr me, viene prima di tutto. Mi piace anche il contemporaneo, però per ora preferisco concentrarmi sui balletti classici, mi appartengono di più.

Di recente sei entrato nella compagnia del San Francisco Ballet come solista. Come consideri l'esperienza di ballare negli Stati Uniti rispetto a quella di ballare in Italia?

Rispetto all'Italia, qui in America—in particolare al San Francisco Ballet—ho la possibilità di ballare molto di più. Il mio trasferimento qui a San Francisco è stato un passo molto importante per la mia vita, non solo per la danza, ma anche per una mia crescita personale. Lingua diversa, cultura diversa, un concetto di vita diverso . . .

Come valuti la tua esperienza al Premio Erik Bruhn?

Ammetto che, per due notti, non sono riuscito a dormire, a causa della forte agitazione, però questo fa parte di quest'arte meravigliosa. Personalmente, non mi sento mai pronto, prima di uno spettacolo, però questa mia insicurezza mi dà la forza per spingere sempre al massimo. Ad ogni modo, è stata un'esperienza bellissima, che porterò sempre con me. Ringrazio tanto il mio direttore, Helgi Thomasson, chem i ha dato questa grandissima possibilità e che mi ha seguito durante le prove. Ringrazio anche (persone come) Patrick Armand, Sofiane Sylve, Maria Kochetkova e Lorena Frescu per l'aiuto prezioso durante le prove stesse. Non per ultimo, un grazie anche a Myles Thatcher, per aver creato su me e Natasha un passo a due contemporaneo che ci ha aiutato molto nello scoprire nuove dinamiche e movimenti. Grazie di cuore!

Quali sono stati, finora, i tuoi ruoli prediletti, e quali vorresti interpretare in futuro?

Grazie a Makhar Vaziev, al Teatro alla Scala ho avuto modo di interpetare diversi ruoli importanti in diversi balletti. Tra questi, ho particolarmente amato interpretare Basilio nel “Don Chisciotte” di Nureyev, Romeo nel “Romeo e Giulietta” di MacMillan e Lescaut nella “Manon” di MacMillan. Un giorno, mi piacerebbe ballare “Giselle” per intero.

Angelo Greco and Natasha Sheehan of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras
Angelo Greco and Natasha Sheehan of San Francisco Ballet. Photograph by Karolina Kuras

Penelope Ford

Penelope is the founding editor of Fjord Review, international magazine of dance and ballet. Penelope graduated from Law and Arts with majors in philosophy and languages from the University of Melbourne, Australia, before turning to the world of dance. She lives in Italy.



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