Stella Abrera and James Whiteside were wonderful as the lovers -- I knew Abrera would be lovely and lyrical but I didn't expect her to be such a gifted comedienne. Her mime was so well-expressed, especially her daydreaming mime about life with Colas. Her Lise actually reminds me of a lot of Asian daughters with strict moms. The overt obedience, but the covert eye-rolling, sulking, and passive aggressive resistance -- that's basically every Asian teen with a strict mom. The fact that Stella is herself Asian-American made it all the realer. Whiteside was maybe not the most exciting virtuoso dancer (Cornejo has that cornered) but he's an excellent partner. Those big one-handed scissor lifts that were briefly touched upon with Cornejo were spectacular with Whiteside lifting Abrera like paper. He and Abrera were amazing in the Fanny Elssler pas de deux, with Abrera rotating beautifully in that promenade in arabesque with the maypole ribbons, then flitting across the stage first with joyous jumps and then super-fast diagonal steps on pointe. Whiteside's variation was also well-performed, although as I said he can't touch the elevation and explosiveness of Cornejo. Arron Scott was excellent as Alain -- less clownish than Craig Salstein, but with crisper articulation of the distinctive gait and umbrella jumps that Ashton choreographed.
|Abrera and Whiteside, photo @ Kent G. Becker|
Wilde Times however is hands-down one of the dullest ballet biographies I've ever read. Strike that: it's one of the dullest books ever written, period. It's based entirely on interviews with Patricia Wilde, who judging from the book was a spectacular dancer but led a very unremarkable life. Her relationship with Mr. B was not complicated by any romantic attachment -- he counted on her as a strong allegro technician (Square Dance was created on her and there's a wonderful video of it) and she delivered, year after year. She danced until she lost his interest (it had turned to Suzanne Farrell) and then she retired amicably from New York City Ballet and started a family with her husband. She continued to work in ballet as a teacher and director of the Pittsburgh Ballet. There's not much more to it than that. Or at least there's nothing more that Wilde would like to enter into public record.
If you read the book you get some idea about the hand-to-mouth early existence of the New York City Ballet, when dancers often had to dance three times in one night and double up in the same ballet. And some intriguing insights are dropped into the book, but the author (or Wilde) doesn't elaborate. She says that if she ever gained weight, she knew it because "my roles were gone." But how did she feel about that? The author also says that Wilde remembers Margot Fonteyn falling three times in one performance of the treacherously difficult Ballet Imperial, but again, doesn't elaborate any further. Personalities at the NYCB are vaguely sketched and impersonal. Occasional peaks of Wilde's more candid feelings come through (she was shocked and disgusted at Don Quixote, Mr. B's open love letter to Suzanne Farrell) but one gets the feeling that this is a memoir by a very private woman who would like to keep things private. In other words, why write a memoir if you're not willing to really talk about your life?
There are many, many more interesting books in the "Me and Mr. B" genre. Jacque d'Amboise's memoir is personable, gossipy, full of juicy stories. Allegra Kent's book is a remarkable story of triumphing through a tumultuous private life and troubled marriage. Suzanne Farrell's autobiography is interesting because in other NYCB memoirs she's often the out and out villain -- a siren who destroyed company morale by encouraging Balanchine's attentions and then abandoning him. Farrell's account is not entirely convincing, but it does offer perspective -- according to her, the isolation from her colleagues and pressure from Balanchine and her mother made her suicidal. Finally, Gelsey Kirklnd's infamous book is a sensational tell-all that isn't supported by other NYCB alumni but does shed light on Kirkland's own famously self-destructive personality. In sum, there are lots of interesting books by and about dancers who worked with Mr. B. Wilde Times isn't it.
ETA: there's lots of versions of the clog dance I found on youtube.
Here's Gennady Yanin from the Bolshoi. Marcelo's clog dance most resembled this one.
Here's a Royal Ballet version: