Ballet 2000 Gala Pallais De Festivals Cannes, France December 8 The Ballet 2000 Gala, the last night of Cannes' biannual dance festival, was the highlight of the winter season in the French coastal city. The evening was well-suited to diamonds and furs, but despite these distractions, attention was focused on the bright stage talents, including a cadre of ballet dancers from some of the best ballet companies of the world. Everyone was in awe of 19-year-old Daniel Simkin, the exceptionally well-rounded dancer with rosy cheeks who doesn't appear to be more than 15. He's already being called the next Baryshnikov. Most of the Cannes Festival is dedicated to contemporary dance, so this ballet gala event was the exception. Artistic director Yorgos Loukos, who also directs the superb National Ballet Lyon and Athens, culled an impressive group of companies. Among the more alluring names was prolific Belgian choreographer Sidi Larby Cherkaoui. At only 30, he has already become one of the most original voices of international stature in contemporary dance. He put on his recent work Apocrifu, performed by three men (including himself), a puppet and the Corsican polyphonic male choir "A Filetta" on stage. As the latest maverick of contemporary choreography, he was approached several times by Suzanne Dellal and the TAPAC, but all contacts failed, mainly since the collective he was working with refused to travel to Israel. Now, Cherkaoui tells The Jerusalem Post, he is independent again and will gladly respond if approached. "You know, I'm Arabic in part," he said, "and it will be a great experience for me to come to Israel." For the past few years another dancer has also won the attention of the international press for carving his own niche within Spain's more progressive Flamenco. Israel Galvan, the son of an Andalusian dancing family, is a soloist. His Compania Israel Galvan includes him, a couple of musicians and a singer. His freestyle Flamenco is so wild, so musical and so poetic that the Cannes crowd stood on its feet, applauding loudly, hardly allowing him to leave. The talks with TAPAC that commenced only a month ago could result in his visiting Israel in one of the near future seasons. As expected, the evening with mega-star Sylvie Guillem, who has danced all the leading roles of classical ballet's repertoire with the top ballet companies in the world, was quite rewarding. Looking for further challenges, she ventured into contemporary dance independently and cooperated with British dancer-choreographer Russell Maliphant, a colleague from the Royal Ballet. It was an evening of solos and duets for the two, choreographed by Maliphant. Two Israeli choreographers showcased their work as well. Yuval Pick and his Guest Company, which resides and works in Lyon, and Emanuel Gat, who only recently moved with his group to Istres, a small town in West Provence. Gat's company performed K626, set to Mozart's "Requiem." Its simple visual austerity relied on swift changes of dance formation in contrast to the elaborate sets of Ballet Marseille's "Silent Collisions" or the dazzling costumes of Ballet Biarritz's "Les Creatures." Gat's company is the new kid on the block, and he's getting quite a lot of attention. Many were impressed and are now waiting to see him expand artistically. Israeli dance companies are making their mark abroad, and dance enthusiasts are taking notice.