A Tribute to Retiring  BSJ Dancer KAREN GABAY

By Iride Aparicio

Pictures courtesy of Ballet San Jose

Karen Gabay

KAREN GABAY   Photo by Chris Hardy

SAN JOSÉ, CA – On the evening of April 21, at the S.J. Center for the Creative Arts, Ballet San José pay tribute to Principal Dancer KAREN GABAY, who is retiring after 34 years as a dancer.  Her “Tribute” included video projections of her past performances, a dance of tangos she choreographed,  a Pas De Deux  from a ballet by Ravel that she danced and choreographed and seven  Grand Pas de Deux from THE NUTCRACKER, Act II which she danced with each one of the seven different partners in the company who have shared the stage with her in past performances: MAXIMO CALIFANO, RUDY CANDIA, JEREMY KOVITCH, RAMON MORENO, ANTON PANKEVITCH, RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ Y MAYKEL SOLAS.   

KAREN will continue her relationship with Ballet San José, as its Ballet Mistress and choreographer, and, if not publicly, continue dancing in “Pointe of Departure” the Ballet Company she established with BSJ Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez in the year 2000. And for her devote audience, those fans who attended the ballet just to see her dance, KAREN GABAY will continue performing "in their minds."

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During the Christmas Holidays, they will  remember her,  gliding gracefully on the stage dancing in punte, as she looked  adoringly at the wooden nutcracker held in her arms in the famous ballet  “The Nutcracker” ballet choreographed by Dennis Nahat.

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Or they will remember her, looking adoringly into the eyes of her prince, in her role as the innocent Giselle, in the Ballet of the same name. And when people speak about Pavlova’s Giselle, Karsavina’s  Giselle, or Markova’s Giselle, some of the greatest  dancers who interpreted the ballet, they will add to their  list the  KAREN GABAY’s Giselle.

During the years DENNIS NAHAT worked as Artistic Director of Ballet San José,  KAREN danced  many lead roles in  his choreographies which included many classical ballets and some comic works. KAREN  was a great dancer but also a good actress. She "lived" each one on her roles and added to each one of them a very expressive face. Karen was also a pro dancing her pantomime.

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AS “the Pig-tale girl”  GABAY admires  the soldiers

As GABAY dances with DALE, in FIRE BIRD” we can detect she is happy by the expression of joy in her face.

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In ROMEO AND JULIET, (shown in the picture bellow) One can detect the sadness in her eyes as she embraces ROMEO danced (in the picture) by Ballet San José Principal Dancer MAYKEL SOLAS.

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But in was in her  “solo dancing” that  KAREN  expressed best her artistic talent in every part of her body.  In the way she moved her legs, slowly or fast around the stage. In the position of her arms, in the position of her hands, even in the placement of her fingers

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 GABAY in DON QUIXOTE  Photo by Dale Dong

When KAREN danced alone, all her poses looked picture perfect. She danced so smoothly that she looked as if she were moving on air. And she always gave the audience the feeling that all her steps, that probably required years of practice, were natural to her, that  standing perfectly straight on her toes was easy, that doing fast splits as she jumped,  did not pull the muscles in her legs and that spinning in Pointe did not hurt and maybe even cause her feet to bleed.

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And she was masterful executing her Pas de Deux, synchronized with her partner in every single step, again making her movements looked effortless.

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She apparently knew that her Pas de Deux were beautiful to look at, because she ended her Tribute night with “AMOUR GITAN”  a Pas de Deux that she choreographed and danced with MAYKEL SOLAS

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And appropriately, with “AMOUR GITAN”,a sensual dance she choreographed, using the Music of MAURICE RAVEL, interpreted that evening by violinist LEV POLYAKIN, and pianist GEORGE LOPEZ, and danced it with her often dance partner BSJ Principal Dancer MAYKEL SOLAS. And  performing a gypsy dance KAREN GABAY dressed in red, the color of passion, bid goodbye to her career as a dancer.

After “2-2 TANGO” number, a series of tango dances that she choreographed and danced in one of them with RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ, this time dressed in black, she stood alone at the center of the stage as each of the dancer and other members of Ballet S.J. walked towards her and handle her a single red rose.  Holding her flowers in her arms as rose petals rained on her head from the top of the stage and in the auditorium the audience stood in her honor, KAREN  remained standing at the center of the stage in front of all the people from Ballet San Jose. The audience applauded louder, cheering her as they waited   for her to talk.  But ballerinas do not speak, they dance, and KAREN was no exception. Before her final curtain, without uttering a single word, KAREN GABAY smiled waving her hand as the curtains closed.

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GABAY center with Cast of BALLET SAN JOSE       Photo by Robert Shomler