The Best of 2012: Part 1: ‘Dance Memories, 10 Favorites of 2012’ by Carolyn Kelemen

Alicia’s star still shines the brightest

Alicia Graf dancing in ‘Memoria.’

Off stage, she is a stunning five foot 10 inch woman with incredibly long arms and legs that go on seemingly forever. When she dances, she stretches her arabesques and lengthens her leaps so she looks even taller – at least seven feet from the tips of her toes to the top of her wild mass of dark brown hair. Gutsy, original, a sensation just walking onto the stage, she’s Columbia native, Alicia Graf Mack, with the world famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House Feb. 5-10, 2013.

Alicia can do astonishing feats – classical ballet, modern spirals and falls, and her signature one leg stretched toward the ceiling while the other remains balanced for as long as she wants it to be there. Few dancers jump higher, turn faster or with as much snap, crackle, and pop.

Open up the New York Times and you’ll see her in the ads, soaring high towards the heavens. Visit Manhattan and you’ll find her on billboards throughout the city. She’s graced the cover of Dance Magazine and Brides – and has written copy for national publications – still my fondest memory took place at the Ballet Royale Studio last winter when Mack paid a visit to her mentor Donna Pidel. Watching her demonstrate a simple ballet step to the tiny ballerinas gathered around her…a rare treat, indeed.

Now directed by Robert Battle, the Ailey troupe features Alicia in most of the repertory for the upcoming engagement. Look for the stunning brunette holding that big umbrella as she leads the church ladies in the rocking finale of Alvin Ailey’s Revelations.

Daisha Graf. Photo by Amy Dunn.

Alicia’s sister Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is making waves in the entertainment world with gigs in New York City and the West Coast. She can be seen in the 3-D version of the film Step Up and Step Up 2 the Streets.

Sona Kharatian (The Queen of Hearts), Maki Onuki (Alice), and Jonathan Jordan (The White Rabbit), in The Washington Ballet’s ‘Alice (in Wonderland). Photo by Brianne Bland.

Other women who wowed us in 2011 include The Washington Ballet’s Maki Onuki and Sona Kharatian, both standouts in Alice in Wonderland and Dracula. While Maki is delicate, yet fierce in her technique, and has this ability to float in her partner’s arms. Sona is gorgeous, sexy and her dancing always on-the-money. Catch these high-flying ballerinas twice in February at the Sidney Harman Hall: L’Amour (Love, baby) is scheduled February  13-17, 2013 and Tour de Force: Stars & Stripes on February 21-29, 2013..

Rasta Thomas and his wife Adrienne at the company party, held at Biwa.

Adrienne Canterna is part of the “Pretty Girls in Dance,” who in turn are part of the Bad Boys of Dance, led by her husband, Rasta Thomas. Together on stage at Montgomery College a few months ago, they sizzled – she with her split leaps in the air and he perfecting those shaggy hip-hop steps. My favorite moment came in a dance medley of songs about mothers, as Rasta’s mom watched her son intently. Alone on stage, he performed his signature backbend, and back-to-back flips without ever touching the stage.

Xander Parish and Maria Shirinkina.

If you saw her you would never forget Maria Shirinkina of the Mariinsky Ballet Company during the company’s engagement at The Kennedy Center last winter. To dance the title role of Cinderella (especially when the choreography is so different from her classical training) this Russian prima ballerina took it to another level. The image of her floating across the castle ballroom (while the prince watches from afar) still lingers.

Victoria Hulland performed Anna Pavalova’s “Dragonfly” solo.

For Nutcracker followers, two Sugarplums stand out. Victoria Hulland as Mable Ringling in the world premiere of John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker at the the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida.

Violeta Angelova.

L’Etoile Ballet/The Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland brings in guest artists to dance in the annual production of The Nutcracker. So far Violeta Angelova ranks high on my list. Let’s hope they bring her back for the spring performance. Meanwhile, you can see Ballet Sarasota at the Kennedy Center in June.

If the New York City Ballet is the quintessential American ballet company – energetic, athletic and bright – then Suzanne Farrell is the absolute embodiment of its style. When her company performed a November Balanchine program at The Kennedy Center, the spirit of her mentor, surely smiled approvingly from the wings. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet celebrates its 11th anniversary at the Kennedy Center in 2013.

Alex Ketley.

Local dance artist, Alex Ketley, created a wonderful piece for the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. The sought-after choreographer worked with a man in a wheel chair and his able-bodied partner – a smashing success that should be repeated for future shows. Watch video highlights of his work.

Rob McClure in ‘Chaplin.’ Photo by Joan Marcus.

And look out for Rob McClure who plays Charles Chaplin in Chaplin on Broadway. Here is an amazing triple-threat who walks the high wire, tap dances, and swings a cane like only Charlie Chaplin could do. The show closes soon and will tour. Let’s hope he dances into DC.


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