Haglund is penning this beneath the light of the dappled moon while coasting up the cold steel rails of the Northeast Corridor – listen: rickity rickity rickity rickity - a 3/4 waltz in the dead of night.
It was not a night to pass up at The Kennedy Center. ABT’s middle repertory evening included a stunningly beautiful Theme and Variations led by Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo. If you had an opportunity to see the Kirkland/Baryshnikov clip of T&V on YouTube before the Balanchine Police arrested it, you saw that this ballet looks extraordinary when the steps are not punched out and pummeled for the pure joy of pummeling them like most couples do at both ABT and NYCB. Be damned the Balanchine Regime’s annoying proclamation in every freakin’ Playbill that These Balanchine Ballets are produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style© and Balanchine Technique© Services standards established by the Trust yak yak yak. When you entrust the choreography to the senses of artists like Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo, you get a superior result that exemplifies graciousness, good taste, and almost unimaginable beauty. They were tops tonight and looked like a seasoned partnership even though they seem to be dancing together less and less frequently.
To deny the public an opportunity to see these two in Swan Lake now borders on criminal. This spring at the Met, we have to watch Cory Stearns dance Swan Lake twice, Julie Kent twice, Gillian Murphy twice, and David Hallberg twice. It’s insane to force this on your audience when you have Cornejo and Lane available. It’s insane to neglect development of a new Odette for six years when you have such extraordinary talent within the ranks and choose instead to throw money at multiple guest stars whose output doesn’t match their media hype. And Haglund is about to get started on the neglect of Maria Riccetto, who was a revelation this evening in her debut in Duo Concertant while her partner, David Hallberg, was somewhat miscast.
Haglund doesn’t like to see wimpy danseurs, that is, unless the choreography calls for it. Tonight the male leads in Duo Concertant and Lilac Garden were so light weight – gauze-like – that it was apparent why these guys have such trouble picking up anyone but the smallest ballerinas in the company. They’re wimpy. They have no strength in their arms or shoulders. They look like Ralph Lauren’s emaciated male models. A half hour less of rehearsal each day for these guys and a half hour more in the weight room would bring a much needed improvement.
But back to the subject of Duo Concertant – the music was awful. First of all, the violinist was standing too far down the side of the piano on the stage. He was nearly at the far end of it. He should have been more forward and turned more to the side so that the sound of his instrument reached the right side of the house. The sound of the piano completely overpowered the sound of the violin making the whole performance sound uneven and well, unfortunate.
Maria Riccetto was outstanding in every way in Duo Concertant – a truly exceptional debut performance. David Hallberg was excellent technically, but he looked odd dancing the steps, and there was a lack of maturity in the overall quality. Only during the last section which is danced on a darkened stage with a single spotlight did Hallberg shine in this. But Maria was sensational. The little old couple sitting next to Haglund, who began fidgeting in their seats when the Stravinsky music started, were by the end of Duo Concertant crazy in love with Maria with the little old man declaring She’s my all-time favorite.
Lilac Garden included a successful debut by Melanie Hamrick. Haglund adores Melanie and was delighted with her performances last year in Lady of the Camellias and Birthday Offering. But her interpretation of Caroline looked as though it was based on don’t do so much with this movement. Caroline’s predicament becomes evident through the choreography, but it looked like someone had told Melanie Don’t bend so much. Don’t move your head too much. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. And it didn’t help that she was dancing with a blank sheet of paper as a partner. Nothing came through in Stearns’ character. Nothing. However, he executed the steps reasonably well. The electricity in tonight’s Lilac was generated by Veronika Part’s encounters with Vitali Krauchenka and especially Daniel Mantei. As soon as Mantei had his first near-encounter with Veronika, Haglund’s focus went to him every time he entered the stage. Every time. Here’s a guy who could lift a ballerina. Haglund has been aware of Mantei since he joined the corps, but never really picked up on anything special about him – until tonight. He's got theater skills worth investigating, that's for sure.
The corps work tonight in Theme and Variations and Lilac Garden was excellent.
Unfortunately, Haglund had to leave at the second intermission in order to make the last train back to Clarksville; so he has no report on Fancy Free.
As you may be aware, the Kennedy Center has offered some generous discounts for orchestra seats this week. Haglund mentions this because the Playbill included the casting for all of the performances, and he thinks you may not want to miss The Bright Stream which features performances of the Accordion Player by those stylish interpreters Craig Salstein and Sascha Radetsky while the Tractor Driver will be portrayed by Isaac Stappas and Jared Matthews. Nor do you want to miss Simkin’s and Hallberg’s unique readings of the Ballet Dancer.
After all the complaining above, Haglund wants to reiterate how much he enjoyed the parts of the evening that he enjoyed. It was totally worth spending almost seven hours on the train today. He’ll do it again on Saturday. For tonight, the coveted Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo for their better-than-a-dream performance in Theme and Variations. What a treat it was to see them.