|The flock of black swans, photo @ Paul Kolnik|
Well tonight I was transported to Swan Heaven again, and in the unlikeliest form: petite, slight Sterling Hyltin in Balanchine's one-act version of the ballet. I've never taken Balanchine's abridged Swan Lake seriously -- sometimes I think he took an orchestral suite and had no idea what to do with it. He added a coda to the pas de deux. He added variations. He deleted variations. He changed the setting to some sort of arctic winter wonderland replete with icebergs. The best part of his Swan Lake is unsurprisingly his choreography for the corps -- he has them swarm as an a scary flock in their black feathery costumes. They are not the mournful swans of most "after Petipa/Ivanov" versions. They're wild birds. But his changes to the white swan adagio (a peppy coda) and Odette's variations are unimpressive, the solo for Siegfried is unnecessary, and he unfortunately deleted the dance of the cygnets in one of his many revisions. One thing: nice costumes, especially for the hunters.
It takes a special ballerina to make Balanchine's Swan Lake not just a wintry abstraction. Last week I saw Sara Mearns give one of those performances that you'll really love if you are a Sara Mearns fan. She was majestic, she was dramatic. But as for me, I wanted more refinement in the upper body, more connection with the music, and an actual Odette soul instead of overwrought facial expressions. Sara's lack of any port de bras and her hunched shoulder posture has only gotten worse with time.
|Hyltin's Odette, photo @ Paul Kolnik|
In fact, tonight had a series of outstanding performances from unexpected quarters. Megan Fairchild was her usual excellent self in Allegro Brillante. She doesn't have the dynamic movement of Tiler Peck but one can't fault her accuracy and precision. A bigger surprise was her partner Amar Ramasar. He can struggle with posture in classical roles but not tonight. Very classical, clean beats and no hunched shoulders. The 8 corps members were as usual excellent.
|Sean Suozzi, Melancholic, photo @ Paul Kolnik|
In Four Temperaments, Sean Suozzi, a dancer that has barely registered in all the years I've seen him, kicked ass with his Melancholic variation. Whoever knew he had such a flexible back and such a sense of when to contort his body before falling to the floor? Every time he'd twist, hang in the air for a little bit before making that dramatic drop. The loud thud added a thrill -- you wondered if he'd blown out his back. Anthony Huxley (whom I saw last week) was more refined, but Suozzi more exciting. Another standout was Megan LeCrone and Aaron Sanz in the Third Theme. I love Ashley Bouder in nearly everything but I prefer a taller, leggier girl for Choleric. Those aggressive kicks just look more menacing with more leg. But still, Four Temperaments is a CB classic that is consistently well-maintained.
Tonight's performance offset the disappointment of the Sunday matinee, which was supposed to have been an exciting afternoon of debuts. It's a City Ballet tradition to sometimes give huge parts to corps members. And with most of those choices, the dancers rise to the occasion and then some. I'm remembering Harrison Ball's stunning debut as Puck, or Indiana Woodward's last minute sub in La Sylphide that was sensitive, soulful and charming. These debuts are the stuff City Ballet fans live on -- successful debuts are an instant "star is born" moment.
Alas, Sunday was not the day for those moments. Isabella LaFreniere had to pull out of her Firebird debut due to injury -- Ashley Bouder danced instead. This meant she was paired with the towering Silas Farley, who made his debut as Prince. Farley was adorable -- courtly, a sensitive actor, but the height difference between the two dancers was awkward.
|Miriam Miller as the Siren, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
La Sonnambula also had three debuts. Zachary Catazaro as the Poet and Ashley Laracey as Coquette were exactly what you'd expect them to be -- two of the most elegant, classical dancers in the company. Laracey, by the way, was stunning in the Pas de Neuf of Balanchine's Swan Lake. But Claire Kretzschmar, who'd made such an impression as Coffee in Nutcracker, was miscast as Sleepwalker. Her bourreés were bumpy, and her upper body too stiff. You got the feeling she needed way more rehearsal and coaching time than she got.
Oh well. You can't win every time. But all in all, NYCB still gives the most consistently outstanding dancing of any company. And now I must see Sterling Hyltin dance a full-length Swan Lake.