DanceView Times, New York edition
If ever a dancer lived up to her name, it is New York City Ballet’s new soloist, Megan Fairchild—although, based on the audience reaction to her New York debut in Coppélia, she might as well be named Sara Lee, since it seems no one doesn’t like her. The role of Swanilda, with its precise and elegant footwork, its classical clarity, and its sunny atmosphere, suits her many talents perfectly. She did dance it last summer in Saratoga on very short notice, but this was, I think, her first scheduled performance. There was no sign of nerves, other than a brief tumble in the third act, from which she recovered with aplomb.
Fairchild is a small dancer who moves clearly with no sense of exaggeration; she sweeps rather than thrusts. Her footwork sparkles with an old-fashioned and almost moral precision. But what is most astounding in a dancer so comparatively inexperienced is her sense of the theater, her ability to create and inhabit a world. She is always reacting—to Coppélia, to Frantz, to Dr. Coppélius, and in the final act, to the music—and lets the audience see the world she is in through her extraordinarily expressive face. From her deadpan Mabel in the Stroman extravaganza to the happy Swanilda, she grabs the audience by focusing her attention on her surroundings. She creates a fourth wall which she never breaks, but it is so transparent the audience is brought into the action. The mime was not rushed or performed by rote; she was not just waving her arms when the music told her to, she was using her whole body to communicate with her fellow dancers, and by extension, the audience.
The Dr. Coppélius, Adam Hendrickson, too, was comparatively young. Hendrickson is usually used as a bounding technician, but he is an imaginative and accomplished mime. His poor Doctor was wiry and spry, with a peppery temper, brilliantly realized, with no cartoonish overtones. His awed and almost reverent reaction to Coppélia/Swanilda when he thinks he has discovered the key to creating life was eloquet, moving, and profoundly real—who of us has not been equally self-deluded? It is a shame he gets such short-shrift in Act III.
Luz made his debut as Frantz, and he was properly cocky and impulsive
in Act I. He is an outstanding technician, as well, with beautifully centered
and speedy turns. He did not seem to overpush his technique, as he occasionally
does, and his dancing, like his acting, had an easy and charming flow.
Physically, he is not quite right for Balanchine’s final act, where
he must change from Frantz to Desiré; he just does not have the
elegant classical line the choreography calls for. Some of his partnering,
too, is a bit shaky, but he is a thrilling and generous performer.
The character dances in Act I were more full-bodied that they have been in the past, and their colorful swirl was the perfect contrast to the more elegant classical dancing. Unfortunately, Swanilda’s friends continue to be problematic. Whether it is lack of rehearsal or lack of coaching, the juicy timing of Delibes’ music and the delicate choreography, with its meticulous symmetry, elude the dancers, and they often looked jerky and sloppy. It seemed at times as if Swanilda, Frantz, and Dr. Coppélius were dancing in a different world, but fortunately, those dancers were able to create a real world and share it with the lucky audience.
Reviews of other Winter Season performances:
thoughts on Balanchine, with references to Arlene Croce (Gay Morris)
Also Mindy Aloff's Letters related to the Balanchine Celebration: