Thu, Apr 16, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Flying feet and crossed fingers

Wang Tzer-shing is keeping her fingers crossed that the Eighth International Ballet Star Gala shows go off without a further hitch this weekend — she has had enough ups and downs to last a lifetime

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

American Ballet Theater principal Xiomara Reyes, who retires from the company next month, is returning to Taipei to dance in the 8th International Ballet Star Gala at the National Theater on Saturday and Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Art Wave Inc

Years of ballet training — and performing — have given Wang Tzer-shing (王澤馨) apparently unflappable poise, something she has basically been surviving on while trying to organize the Eighth International Ballet Star Gala program.

Recruiting dancers for the two shows — Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the National Theater in Taipei — were a headache from the beginning because April is a busy time for the world’s top ballet companies and finding principals or soloists who could get permission from their troupes to make a short trip to Taiwan was difficult. It also meant the dancers would be arriving just a day before the first show, limiting time for rehearsals and tech run-throughs. However, this weekend is all the National Theater was able to offer her.


Wang’s job became even more nerve-wracking at the beginning of this month because she lost four dancers to injuries — not to themselves, but to others in their companies that forced them to stay home to perform: Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae from the Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet principals Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan all had to bow out. This required a lot of back and forth between Wang and possible replacements and between the dancers and their company directors.

However, the four replacements she came up with pack quite a lot of star power: American Ballet Theater (ABT) principal Xiomara Reyes, who appeared in the 2011 gala and then with the company in Taipei the following year; New York City Ballet principals Ashley Bouder, who was here in 2009, and Gonzalo Garcia; and Ulrik Birkkjaer, a 30-year-old principal dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and Los Angeles Ballet, the last two newcomers to Taipei.

Performance Notes:

What: Eighth International Ballet Star Gala

When: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm

Where: National Theater, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Admission: Tickets are NT$1,200 to NT$6,000, available at NTCH box offices, online at and at convenience store ticketing kiosks

Birkkjaer was so determined to come that he will spend just one night in Taipei. He is dancing in a performance of Swan Lake in Copenhagen tonight, gets on an airplane tomorrow morning, arrives in Taipei early on Saturday and then has to leave on Sunday night after the matinee.

“All he is going to see of Taipei is the airport, the theater and his hotel room,” Wang said in an interview on Monday night.

Reyes’ appearance is extra special because she is retiring from ABT next month at the age of 42 — stepping down while still at the height of her powers, judging by the ecstatic reviews for her performances in Agnes de Mille’s classic Rodeo last month at the Kennedy Center.

Just when Wang thought she had everything sorted out, with the replacements confirmed and the program rearranged, she received a telephone call on Sunday morning from Svetlana Lunkina of the National Ballet of Canada to say that her partner, Evan McKie, was injured and would not be able to come. McKie then called to apologize; he had hurt his back.

More calls and texting ensued. Lunkina still wanted to come, but she and McKie were scheduled to dance a pas de deux from Giselle and Mask Duet, a new piece specially choreographed for the Taipei shows by British choreographer Douglas Lee. Lunkina could still do the Giselle excerpt, but needed a new partner, and she offered to perform Mikhail Fokine’s classic solo, The Dying Swan as her second piece.

Wang suggested Mariinsky Theater principal Igor Kolb as a partner — he’s a veteran of three galas who was already on this year’s program to do two solos — and Lunkina agreed. Wang then contacted Kolb, who said “sure” to partnering Lunkina, but still wanted to do both solos.

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