Top dancers pay tribute to Ilona Copen

March 23, 2011
NYU News
Amy Zhang

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NYU Skirball held a dazzling gala performance hosted by the New York International Ballet Competition in honor of the organization's founder, Ilona Copen, who passed away last year. Known for combining classical ballet with modern dance, the NYIBC put together a dynamic repertoire featuring leading dancers of companies including the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Supporters of Copen, students and ballet lovers filled the theater, many excited in anticipation of the show

"I absolutely love ballet," Johann Sckar, 37, said before the performance. "I can't wait for the gorgeousness of the dancers to hit me!"

The performances included duets and solos featuring renowned dancers and finalists of past competitions, including José Manuel Carreño, Victoria Jaiani and Junio Teixeira. The juxtaposition of grace and raw power of the classical ballerinas in pieces like "Dying Swan" and the energy of the modern dancer in "A Song for You" brought shouts of "Bravo!" and standing ovations from audience members. Throughout the pieces, many spectators couldn't contain their sighs of awe.

NYIBC artistic board member Susan Janetta voiced her pride and admiration of Copen.

"This was Ilona's baby," Janetta said. "And seeing such different companies coming together to dance in her honor is truly wonderful."

Gallatin sophomore Mara Driscoll, a ballet dancer herself, was thoroughly impressed. "It was absolutely amazing seeing some of the biggest stars tonight," she said. "The talent all-around was beautiful."

As further tribute to Copen, the NYIBC introduced the recipients of their first annual Ilona Copen Award. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, both distinguished dancers, were given the award.

Jennifer Cosen, 17, has been dancing for the past 6 years. This was her fourth time at an NYIBC performance.

"I'm still in shock," she said. "Whenever I come to NYIBC's events, I always go home believing I can do this. I can fly like they do. It sounds corny, but I dream of being like these dancers. They're my inspiration."