When Haglund decided to attend the Saturday matinee performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream at The Kennedy Center, he didn’t realize that it would be about characters who pretend to be who they aren’t, chase after what they shouldn’t have, are unfaithful, accept lavish gifts from outsiders, and the principal character is a community amusements organizer – in short, another theatrical depiction of Washington, DC. But it was very funny.
The Bright Stream has a long, detailed libretto without having a story of much depth or significance. Le Corsaire is weighty by comparison. Lots of hilarious things happen over a two day period; many characters are introduced; relationships are developed. It’s more of a collection of crazy episodes that are woven together without really being related. But the thin threads of this weave certainly did provide the dancers with opportunities to strut their extraordinary stuff and act up a storm.
Xiomara Reyes as Zina, a local amusements organizer, Herman Cornejo as Pyotr, her husband, Isabella Boylston as the Ballerina, and Daniil Simkin as the Ballet Dancer were all dead serious about their comedy and executed it with expert timing and the astonishing technique that we have to fight ourselves not to take for granted. Xiomara and Herman tore through turns and allegro while making it look not only pretty, but effortless. No punching the steps by these two.
Both pairs of dancers had PdDs filled with the swirling, swooning, and (yeah!) big lifts to the shoulder – especially a nice one that has the woman being held in sort of a fish position and the man just whips her up over his shoulder. Boy, did Simkin make this look easy – it was as smooth as Vasiliy Alekseyev snatching his way to the Olympic gold medal. Isabella was down and then all of sudden she was up on his shoulder – all in one move. Beautiful. Simkin’s pointe work as the sylph was hilarious. He went for every move with 110% commitment – and while all of it might not have been especially pretty, it always succeeded in getting him where he was trying to go in unique fashion.
Let’s talk about the exceptional debut by Isabella in what was, Haglund believes, her first principal role in a full length ballet. She nailed it. She has always gotten the steps. The girl not only jumps like a deer, but unlike some other big jumpers with bigger press followings, the shapes of Isabella’s legs and flexible feet while in the air are beautiful. And today, she made a big, big statement about her theatrical value to this company. Yep, we got ourselves another one – another dance actress hatched out on stage before our very eyes.
Craig Salstein as the Accordion Player and Maria Riccetto as Galya, the school girl, are going to get their own spin-off sit-com. The audience screamed as Salstein leered at and pursued the wide-eyed Riccetto while burning up the floor with Ratmansky’s imaginative allegro.
Susan Jones nearly stole the show as the Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller who pursued Simkin and the Dacha Dweller (Clinton Luckett) while wearing pointe shoes, a red dress, a red wig and while carrying a fan as though she was Kitri in Don Quixote. Then she picked up the rifle and – oh, heck, Haglund isn’t going to spoil everything for those who plan to see this production in the spring at the Met.
Isaac Stappas, Simone Messmer, and Alexei Agoudine contributed memorable performances as the Tractor Driver/dog, Milkmaid, and Inspector of Quality. Isaac was initially outfitted in the basic farmer overalls without a shirt which did a lot to dress up the rather drab scenery and costumes. Maybe the drab was an intentional pullback for fear of experiencing the wrath that was dealt in connection with the Sleeping Beauty costumes. However, when Haglund saw the top of the front curtain which appeared to be an almost neon red/pink with drawings of the hammer & sickle, rakes, sheaves of wheat, airplane(?), and sun, he thought “Oh, no, here we go again with the promiscuous palettes.” But that wasn’t to be. The costumes, except for the Tractor Driver's and Ms. Anxious-to-be-younger’s, were quite drab, and the lighting was way too dark in almost every scene. What gives with all the diminished lighting at The Kennedy Center?
The corps work was spirited and there was interesting choreography for the Highlanders and Fieldworkers that involved some unexpected bends of the torsos.
The orchestra sounded super. Maybe the richness was the result of the hall being so much smaller than the Met, or maybe it was the result of better musicianship – whatever it was, it was nice.
Haglund looks forward to seeing The Bright Stream at the Met in the spring and hopes that he has the opportunity to see Isabella and Simkin together again in this production. We honestly do not need a guest artist for this – or anything else.
A grand and successful effort by everyone this afternoon, but the special Pump Bump Award with custom-ordered accordion strap is bestowed upon Isabella Boylston and Craig Salstein for their huge performances.