Tiler Peck's Aurora and thought nothing could positively top that wonderful Sleeping Beauty performance. Then last night I went back and saw Ashley Bouder's Aurora, and I realized that right now, the New York City Ballet probably has two of the greatest Auroras in the ballet world. I cannot choose between them -- they are both so wonderful. Brava to both of them!
Ashley Bouder has been dancing Aurora for a longer time, but she and Tiler Peck actually have a lot in common in that the challenges of this role hold no terrors for them. The confidence they exude from the minute they enter the stage never leaves, not for a split second. They are princesses, but both exude an unpretentious aura, as if they were the girls-next-door-who-happen-to-be-the-greatest-dancers-in-the-world.
Alistair Macauley had earlier in the week criticized Ashley Bouder for her "insolent balances" in the Rose Adagio. What he calls "insolent" I call awesomely kick-ass and rock-solid. Ashley knows a few tricks, I suppose -- in the final series of promenade/balance in fifth, she made each balance slightly longer than the last, and when she finally snapped out her arms and legs in arabesque, she held it just a hair longer than the conductor of the music, so the audience could focus on the final triumphant pose.
It wasn't just the Rose Adagio where Ashley's Aurora was incredible -- it was the bounciness of her jumps, the zippiness of her pirouettes, particularly the pas de chats, her quicksilver footwork in the Vision Scene, and finally, in the Wedding pas de deux, the insolent (and I mean this in the best way) way her fishdives seemed to fly up in an arc, and she just held those fishdive positions until the audience started applauding. But again, there wasn't the least bit of a sense that this was a circus -- it was simply a ballerina with complete control of the technical demands of the role.
Ashley wasn't just dancing in a vacuum. Lauren Lovette, who was just recently promoted to soloist, gave an absolutely enchanting, lovely rendition of Princess Florine. Daniel Ulbricht is of course a powerhouse jumper who had no problem with the rapid entrechats of his solo. But I loved how in this duet both dancers illuminated the story so clearly -- Lovette's arms, legs, and face were so expressive that even without any familiarity with the ballet I could have guessed that the bird was teaching the princess how to fly. I have a sneaking suspicion the next time Sleeping Beauty is revived Lovette will be among the Auroras.
Before tonight I'd never seen Janie Taylor in a tutu -- she usually does the more neo-classical repertoire. As the Lilac Fairy she had a little trouble with her variation, which was played at way too fast a pace for her, but she looked absolutely stunning and was more expressive than the technically solid but aloof Teresa Reichlen. Taylor made more use of her arms in beckoning the "good spirits", and her mime was more articulated.
Prince Desire is basically a cavalier role, without much dancing of his own to do. In this version he doesn't even get his usual emo solo in the woods before visions of Aurora and the wood nymphs show up. Andrew Veyette is also, let's face it, not the world's most exciting dancer. He's kind of stiff and wooden in both facial expression and upper body. But Veyette was a great partner for Bouder in the Wedding pas de deux, supporting her in her extremely high, awe-inspiring fish dives. His variation has some problems towards the end, but nothing distracting.
It's a sign of the top-down strength of the company that the Prologue fairies contained some of the best dancing of the night. Megan LeCrone (Tenderness), Lauren King (Vivacity), Lydia Wellington (Generosity), Brittany Pollack (Eloquence), and Gwyneth Muller (Courage) were all fantastic, considering the breakneck speeds the conductor favored. Only disappointment was Jenifer Ringer as Carabosse. Her performance really lacked the over-the-top maliciousness of Georgina Pazcoguin. She's just too petite, too nice, for Carabosse.
The corps de ballet looked fantastic, especially in the Garland Dance, and the children of the SAB were of course precious. Overall, a great night at the ballet. Bravo to all.