The first sip of the evening knocked everyone off their feet. The curtain opened and out walked Lupe Serrano, Martine van Hamel, Nina Ananiashvili, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alessandra Ferri, Natalia Makarova, and Frederic Franklin. They stood like a billion megawatt power line across the stage with Freddie in front holding a microphone. Haglund was so stunned that he cannot recall what Freddie said. And just as quickly, the curtain closed and they were gone. The audience was dizzy already.
The actual dancing opened with an excerpt from Ashton’s Birthday Offering danced splendidly by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, with a supporting cast of soloists and corps who were well-rehearsed. Sarah Lane - lovely. Maria Riccetto dancing with Grant DeLong - glamorous.
Next up were the ABT II’ers with an awkward excerpt from Edwaard Liang’s Ballo Per Sei. These kids are not ready for prime time at the Met. Liang’s choreography with its armpit lifts and NYCB mimicry is not ready for prime time at the Met. The piece had a recital quality to it that made it less than fitting for the gala evening.
Michele Wiles with assistance from Sascha Radetsky, Craig Salstein, Gennadi Saveliev and Roman Zhurbin performed the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty. The first half was not the least bit interesting as Michele tried to create a dynamic line to the second half which included some deliciously showy promenade turns and balances. Haglund wishes Michele would study this YouTube video of Viviana Durante. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Next on our plate was an excerpt from Act II of Giselle with a soaring dramatic performance by David Hallberg as Albrecht. Natalia Osipova in what looked like a black wig and raccoon made-up eyes jumped and hopped around as Giselle, but did not (and Haglund is prepared to be of the minority point of view) sweep the audience away with her spirituality or spirit form. Hallberg needs to be dancing Albrecht opposite Stella Abrera’s Giselle. We have been promised this pairing previously, and we still want it.
Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes delivered a sizzling Black Swan PdD and coda. The first few pirouettes went leaning into New Jersey but by the time Veronika got to the fouettes, she was in control and thrilled the audience with Odile’s black magic.
Ashton’s Thais Pas de Deux to Massenet’s “Meditation” was given its ABT premiere by Diana Vishneva and Jared Matthews. Jared, who is scheduled to perform the Thais PdD with Maria Riccetto during Weeks 4&6 was a late substitution for Jose Manuel Carreno. (no pressure there) The music is so beautiful that it makes your heart ache. Ashton’s choreography is so musical and inventive that you tend not to blink your eyes which are transfixed on the dancers’ couplings and passionate maneuverings. Jared will look better dancing this with Maria, and Diana will look better with Jose. However, in tonight's performance Haglund's eye was drawn to Jared more than to Diana. He is really coming along in the dramatic sense, and it's wonderful to see.
The highlight of the evening was Stella Abrera leading the brief five or so minute finale of Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations along with Alexandre Hammoudi. Blistering technique, smooth partnering with Hammoudi - especially the pirouettes - brimming with joy and energy, Stella punctuated the musical phrases like nobody else does. A terrific job and indicative of another breakthrough season for her.
The Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere opened the second half of the evening. The shades led by the incomparably steady Renata Pavam were in pretty good shape overall.
Ashton’s Awakening Pas de Deux from Sleeping Beauty was given its ABT premiere by Paloma Herrera and Cory Stearns. The match-up of these dancers does absolutely nothing for either one. Herrera’s presentation continues to take on Prozac qualities, and pairing her with a dull dancer who pedestrianizes all choreography assigned to him does her no favors.
The Act III PdD and Coda from Sleeping Beauty were performed by Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo. But for some struggling with the fish dives, this performance was a beauty with Reyes every inch the young, excited royal and Cornejo the perfect prince.
Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle performed the Act III PdD from Lady of the Camellias - ABT‘s new full evening offering this year. Haglund was swept into their world in about two seconds and was mesmerized to the end. Every step, every pause, every glance of the eyes, every crazy and improbable lift, every minute was fascinating. The audience went wild.
Of course, what would a gala be without the Don Quixote PdD. Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel did the honors with sass and energy. Gillian pulled out a fan upon entering to do her 32 and proceeded to spin and fan herself and the audience into a tizzy. The fouette revolutions were impressive if one didn’t look at the unacademic developpe to the front and rond de jambe to the side with a grossly turned-in leg. While Ms. Part’s fouettes may lack pizzazz, at least they’re more palatable from an academic standpoint. And she manages to point the foot of the rotating leg - nicely.
Finally, the evening’s offerings ended with the much loved Angel Corella performing Caught - the solo created by David Parsons to music by Robert Fripp. Angel darted around the black stage while activating a strobe light. It gave the appearance of him continually dancing in mid-air which was pretty darned thrilling to see. Gimmicky? Perhaps. Thrilling? You bet.
And so, Haglund bestows this special Pump Bump Award in honor of the new knockout Lady of the Camellias: