Rumor has it that Kaitlyn Gilliland will knock the socks off the audience on Friday night. Few tickets remain. Haglund will be there. He expects to be delighted by the Sugar Plum Fairy's performance and has high hopes that the Big Prince will deliver a serviceable series of a la seconde turns.
What better way to spend Christmas Eve than by unwrapping a beautiful new Sugar Plum Fairy. Watching Kaitlyn Gilliland's debut in the role this afternoon made Haglund feel like he was savoring a warm mint brandy.
Such beautiful, unforced articulation of the legs and feet. Crystaline mime. And on this date, December 24, 2008, Haglund witnessed for the first time on that stage a rippling, breathing port de bras. The hands were a bit messy, but he'll accept a compromise. This SPF was most courageous in her leaps to the seated lift on her partner's shoulder. She's rather tall, so when she launched herself off the ground, it was quite noticeable where she was headed. Gasps followed by tickling relief.
Gilliland began her debut a bit seriously. But the first time she encountered the smiling face and blond curls of Little Prince Lance Chantiles-Wertz, who was having the time of his life, one saw the tension melt away and her transformation into a regal, magical fairy. Her lovely face captured the light and radiated serenity with a touch of Old Worldglamour. Haglund sensed that standing in the very front row of the "6th Ring", eyes piercing Gilliland's every move, was Grandmother Houlton – unable to resist a smile.
Haglund thanks Prince Lance for performing his own magic on such an important debut. The Sugar Plum Fairy could not have done so well without your help.
Perhaps on another day Haglund will report on the Big Prince's performance. Perhaps not. For now, Haglund awards this beautiful polka pump bump to Ms. Gilliland for her wonderful performance today.
Haglund is looking forward to seeing MCB at City Center in January - especially their rockin' version of Tharp's In the Upper Room. He thinks that Eddie might be pleasantly surprised at how very warm New York's reception is for his company and himself.
Heart warming and hope building. That’s how Haglund describes the latest rendition of Benjamin Millepied’s Dances Concertantes on Saturday evening. The clear progressive developments of both choreographer and dancers came as unexpected surprises.
Sitting comfortably in the Joyce Theater, Haglund was suddenly tickled by the epiphany that it might be very valuable for this developing choreographer to re-read James Joyce, in sequence. Start with The Dubliners wherein each short story is unique, complete, and stands on its own while much of the imagery and metaphors continue throughout the volume thereby creating a piece of work whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak. Then move on to Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and eventually Ulysses. Joyce was not ready to write Ulysses before writing The Dubliners and Portrait nor are most of us ready to read one before reading the other. The temptation in choreography today is to try to create your Ulysses before warming up with The Dubliners.
Last night Haglund was delighted by the progression he observed in the two choreographic pieces on display. The first, 28 Variations on a Theme by Paganini, was almost obnoxious in its steppiness in the collective movement. The choreography banged out the piano music with great and literal force, and there were too many saute arabesques - giving it that student recital feeling. Of course, it was intended to be a student recital piece for SAB in 2005. But then, every so often there would be a sparkling or touching moment within the pas de deuxs and solos that made Haglund forget about what preceded it. Haglund’s eyes were drawn to Maria Riccetto and Sarah Lane throughout the music.
The second offering, Without, was conceived more than three years after Paganini and offered much more invention, more tenderness, and more construction. Maria Riccetto had been a highlight of Paganini with her newly softened port de bras and Degas hands, and she was again in this piece. She may well become Millepied’s muse. Haglund has been picking on young Cory Stearns lately, but the kid is growing on him. Stearns is trying so damned hard and is irresistibly handsome. Last night he seemed less overwhelmed by his responsibilities and more confident than just a few weeks ago at City Center. Eric Tamm, still high from his Ballo opportunity at City Center, tore up the stage with his prodigious technique and his delight in the freedom to create nuance and drama. The kiss to his partner’s hand and the subsequent search for response in her eyes was Boccanian.
All of these dancers, most of whom are ABTers, gave the Joyce audience every reason to come uptown in the Spring. It’s not often that this caliber of ballet dancer is seen on the Joyce stage. The audience, accustomed to less traditional fare at this Chelsea venue, was clearly smitten.
Haglund awards this surprisingly comfy Christmas Pump Bump to Benjamin Millepied and dancers for bringing us such a splendid evening.
A rule of Christmas in polite society is that you're careful not to ruin Christmas magic for the kids. Another rule of Christmas in polite society is that you don't ruin it for adults, either. During the season, there are places one goes where one expects to see everyone – everyone – in the happy and joyous spirit of Christmas. Full of it - the joy, that is. One such place is shopping in the basement at Macy's. Another such place is at any performance of The Nutcracker.
So, imagine Haglund's dismay when he encountered a Sugar Plum Fairy on Sunday afternoon who had no sugar. No sweetness. No plum-pudding joy. This SPF was clearly out of her element – which is usually choreography which makes over-use of her long, flowing hair and solemn expression, and minimal use of her limited dancing abilities. Yeah, we know she was injured for a long time, but if she's going to allow herself to be presented front and center as the dessert of Act II, then she'd better be up to it. Next time, she should put a bag over her head and paint a genuine smile on it with some opened eyes.
Thank goodness for little Joshua Shutkind who was the little nutcracker and little prince. The kid stole the show and upstaged everyone who was on stage simultanously at The Koch, The Met, and The Fish that afternoon. During many of his sparkling appearances Haglund thought that Prince Joshua just might burst into song - possibly something from Billy Elliott. The kid's a gem.
Little Fritz was not a shy one either. Jeremy Wong will grow an inch or two over the next year and then come roaring back in the fall ready to take over the all important role of little prince.
Another highlight of this performance was Abi Stafford as Dewdrop. What a beautiful smile, genuinely sweet, eager to please everyone in the audience, more musicality than you usually find in that role, and just all around likable. You liked her. She was immediately likable. That counts for a lot when you're a performer. Her technique was unshowy and just melted into her joyous dancing. She almost looked like she belonged in that other company.
The corps had its good moments – the shepherdesses, for one, with the lovely Erica Pereira – but the arms and heads of many of the flakes and flowers still looked like they were in the early stages of Parkinson's. Haglund doesn't mean to be cruel, but he is fed up with the so-called style of port de bras that illustrates such disrespect for the fundamentals of the art's discipline. It's not neo-classical or anything-classical. It's just plain bad dancing. Haglund will now reach for one of his little pills lest he will get too upset.
The big prince was Benjamin Millepied. He had nothing to do in this famous production; so we will wait to write about him after this weekend's performance at The Joyce.
Haglund awards this performance and production a pair of old, worn out shoes.
Haglund's furlough' est fini. He's going to search high and low for a Nutcracker to go to this weekend and then is looking forward to Benjamin Millepied's Danses Concertantes next Saturday night at the Joyce Theater. Here's hoping that he finds less gymnastic pas de deux and more finesse.