Imperial”, “Swan Lake Act II pas de deux”, “Tchaikovsky
pas de deux”, “Theme and Variations”
The All-Star Tchaikovsky evening, to give it its official title, must be one of the most unbalanced of triple bills devised by any marketing department. It isn’t just that the appetizers were served between the main courses, it’s that the two main courses were the same, since “Ballet Imperial” could be subtitled “Some variations on themes by Petipa”, and "Theme and Variations," "Some more variations on the very same themes”. This is not that to say that “Ballet Imperial” and “Theme and Variations” are not in themselves truly great ballets, it is just that their shimmering symmetry, their exaltation, their glorious vision scenes, their rigorous formality, and their technical demands are so similar that they tend to cancel each other out when seen back to back. But for me, anyway, paradise is the opportunity to watch "The Sleeping Beauty" over and over, and if nectar and ambrosia is good enough for the gods, it is good enough for me, so for an evening at least, I can do without balance and nutrition.
Paloma Herrera and Gennadi Saveliev were the lead couple in “Ballet Imperial”, with Monique Meunier as their Lilac Fairy—“second lead” just doesn’t describe the warm grandeur of that part. Herrera coped with the technical challenges very well and her footwork, as always, had a jewel-like precision. But there was a distance and a rigidity about her demeanor that lessened the effect of the glorious pas de deux. Saveliev danced with an understated elegance, and, though he did have a bit of trouble in his turns to the knee, caught the abstract though heartfelt longing of the vision scene. This is the essence of Siegfried, not Siegfried himself, despite the obvious references to “Swan Lake”, and Saveliev understood the difference. Meunier was glorious in her spring and in her turns and luxurious in her upper body, though she has trouble pointing her feet. It was a case of presence trumping technique; even in this most technical of ballets a wonderful performer can make the audience almost forget technique, and perfect fouettés (as Herrera’s most definitely are) can only be enjoyed in passing.
The best of all possible worlds sees technique and performance seamlessly merged, which was the case in the two pas de deux. Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes, even out of context and in the fussy costumes (Kent’s has a red spot on the bodice, as if the designer thought Odette was “The Dying Swan”, and Siegfried has what appear to be metal tipped shoelaces on his bodice that clank audibly) were off in their own moonlit world. Gomes is a wonderful dancer and partner, attentive, ardent, and tender. The moment when Siegfried cradles Odette in his arms was beautifully done, lingering just a bit past the music to magnify their feelings. Kent, always a wonderfully lyrical dancer, had a radiant authority, and absolute command of the nuances; I have never seen the little fluttering step at the end of the pas de deux done so delicately.
Delicacy is not called for in the “Tchaikovsky pas de deux”, Balanchine’s champagne of a showpiece to the music originally written for the black swan pas de deux. Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella were explosive, and though Corella seems to prefer his own choreography to Balanchine’s; the jumps and turns were musical, precise, and loads of fun. This pas de deux is a romp, though an elegant one, and, if the style is there, the steps can vary. Reyes matched his daring and sense of fun—she was a bubbly daredevil in the final jumps, and the audience roared appropriately.
“Theme and Variations” returned to the rarified atmosphere of “Ballet Imperial”. Sarah Lane, a very young corps dancer, and Herman Cornejo, were making their second New York appearances in the ballet. (They had originally debuted earlier on tour.) Discovering new ballerinas is as risky and apparently as common as discovering exciting, daring new choreographers, and it is far too early to anoint Lane, but I suspect that most of the audience felt that she is really something special. Cornejo, of course, is well-known, but just as special. Lane is a small, dark-haired beauty, with a fluid, expressive way of moving. She had no trouble with the technique, but, amazingly for one so young, she went far beyond the steps, and was able to convey emotion without emoting. The pas de deux, one of Balanchine’s most hushed and beautiful, was luminous. It does seem that ABT has a new porcelain princess.