Ballet & Detroit, Just Like Pancakes and Maple Syrup, Right?

Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo (Photo © Roberto Ricci)

You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

~~~Merce Cunningham 

Last night in Detroit was special. Alessandra Ferri led a troupe of world-class ballerinas and danseurs in ten ballet dances – she being in three of them. Marco Pelle, a frequent artistic director and choreographer from Michigan Opera Theatre and New York Theatre Ballet said before Art of the Pas de Deux that a great artist takes you on “a journey” – and what a journey it was. Thank you, Ms. Ferri! With some contemporary music and some classics by Mozart, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky, Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alessandra Ferri and the other leading ballet dancers of their respective companies absolutely dazzled the audience.

Conductor David LaMarche led the orchestra, allowing the ballerinas and danseurs to concentrate on their job – wowing with their toes and legs and arms and minds. At one point, Alessandra just stopped and watched Herman Cornejo dance. I’d never seen contemplation being used so brilliantly during a dance number.

I first got into modern dance when I got back from a year in L. A. in 1981, starting my sophomore year at Michigan. My roommate was a dance major from NYC; and I enjoyed watching his performances along with the other student dancers on the bill at the Power Center or the Mendelssohn Theater in good ole Ann Arbor.

But this was the Mother of all Bills. Alessandra Ferri is one of only eleven ballerinas ever bestowed the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta. 

And it is a well-deserved honor. I feel blessed to have been able to see her twirl. Her partner in two of her ballet dances was the supremely gifted, aforementioned Herman Cornejo. The two of them have a wonderful chemistry. Like Laurel and Hardy. Like Jet Li and Bridget Fonda in Kiss of the Dragon. Like Lady and the Tramp. Like pancakes and maple syrup.

It was a night to remember. Misa Kuranaga’s dancing toes in “The Dying Swan”were breathtaking. She is an up-and-coming master. So is Oksana Maslova. Ms. Ferri brought in the heavy hitters for this Valentine’s Day Weekend Mash-Up.

If you’ve never seen a modern dance performance, you cannot possibly have a full appreciation of Art – for Dance is an indispensable piece of the puzzle that is Art.

Art is a messenger from the Planet Love.

So skip the whateverball game on teevy sometime and get thee to the Opera House if you have any interest in being a fully-realized being!

“Alessandra Ferri: Art of the Pas de Deux”


I used to be able to do “The Whip-poor-will,” a high-pitched note ala “The Tin Drum” that was loud and could carry for a good mile or more. I used it once when I got separated from my friends in the woods. I once released it when Elton John was singing “Crocodile Rock”at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor in 1979, an acoustically-perfect venue. I waited for the precise moment Elton sang his highest-pitched note in the song, aiming the sound at the center of the convex roof. A woman looked back in awe at me a few rows ahead of me as I did it – my mouth wide open; my eyes looking at her with a big smile of joy. Yes, it was that good; and, yes, I was louder than Elton – even with his electro-charged mic. Mike trumps mic.

Later my freshman year, I utilized it during the encore of an Iggy Pop concert at the Michigan Theatre. I thought it’d help the Iggster decide to get his bony ass out of The Green Room and back on stage. It sort of clashed with the more traditional noises the other fans made to urge Iggy back; but I didn’t care. I was showing off my mad skill. I kept doing it and doing it. He had just released “New Values.” Great album.

Finally some dude walked up to me and said, “That’s the most discounting sound I’ve ever heard in my life.” I didn’t really know what he meant by discounting; but, I could tell it wasn’t good. I stopped. Guilt works pretty good on me, sometimes. Iggy came back on stage, anyway. Iggy is cool.

During a solo ballet dance by Misa Kuranaga, a patron yelled out, “Bravo!” right in the middle in a very discounting way. I don’t think he knew how discounting he was being, either. Maybe we’re related. This man has a very bad habit of yelling “Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!”in a discounting way – overusing the word, making a mockery of his love for live performances – be it dance or opera. He is a regular. One lady said to him, “Stop it.”That was during the first dance. But during Misa’s solo dance, I finally had it, and said, just loud enough for him to hear me (he was in the row right in front of me, only one seat over), “Please.”For the rest of the evening, he only said “Bravo!”after the dances had concluded. I’ll give him that much.

I never said I was sorry to that man at the Michigan Theatre, or to Iggy for the discounting use of my Whip-poor-will. I’m sorry. 

Alessandra Ferri prances in the air with Herman Cornejo gracefully in the background.
The supremely talented Misa Kuranaga, Principal Dancer of the Boston Ballet, elicited awe from the sophisticated fans when she danced across the stage on her titanium toes.
Oksana Maslova, Principal Dancer of the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, is a superstar of ballet in the making.

The Detroit Opera House is located at 1526 Broadway Street
Detroit, MI 48226. For tickets and more information, visit

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