Haglund has been fortunate enough to see all four of ABT's home team casts of The Bright Stream, either in New York or Washington D.C., and each one has been superb. (This season he's trying to avoid all of the unnecessary and annoying guest artists wherever possible but it's been pretty hard since there are so dang many of them.) Tonight's cast brought together Veronika Part and Stella Abrera as Zina and the Ballerina while Alexandre Hammoudi and Cory Stearns were Pyotr and the Ballet Dancer, respectively.
It's been a long while since Haglund saw Veronika and Stella featured together as principals in the same ballet: Ballet Imperial about six years ago comes to mind during which they were gorgeous together. More often, they dance the same principal roles in different casts - Myrtha, Lilac Fairy, Queen of the Dryads, Les Sylphides. What a pleasure it was to see them tonight and to be reminded how lovely they dance together. The other casts featured female principals who were so different that it took some imagination to think of them as former ballet school buddies, which is who they are supposed to portray. One would never have guessed that Herrera and Murphy, Kent and Boylston, or Reyes and Boylston (Wash. DC cast) would have gone to the same ballet schools. But tonight with Veronika and Stella, you just had to look at the length of their limps, the curve from the neck through the back, and the crystal clarity of the épaulement and port de bras to believe in their characters' pasts.
Once again, as in Ratmansky's Nutcracker and in his piece during this year's repertory week, we got to see Veronika smiling and cheerful and having fun – while, of course, doing all of these remarkable arabesques and swooping movements but also fast, intricate and ridiculously difficult pointe work. Very fast. Very intricate. Very difficult. Her PdDs with Hammoudi may not have been as smooth going as when she dances with Marcelo Gomes, but they were a lot better than when she dances with David Hallberg. Hammoudi can actually lift a ballerina into the air and hold her there. Haglund has great hopes for Hammoudi even though he kind of choked on his pirouettes and a la seconde turns during Act I. Everyone knows this guy can turn and that his nerves got the better of him tonight. Stay tuned. The rest of his dancing and characterization were marvelous.
Stella Abrera achieved another breakout performance tonight - theatrically and technically. Her overall characterization of the practical-joking and scheming Ballerina was a tour de force. Never has Haglund seen anyone drive a mime scene with the left eyebrow the way Stella did tonight - except for maybe Marcelo. It was all deliciously devilish. Her dancing was just as sensational: perfectly formed pirouettes, grand jetes like spears through the air, pointes sharp but light. The backward hops en pointe in arabesque while she folded and unfolded her arms in front of her were amazing. The expansiveness of her movement was beautiful because it was so unforced. She didn't look like an athlete trying to run down the competition in a sport - as perhaps we might have seen in another performance this week.
Haglund is a little late with this review because upon leaving the performance, he had to immediately rush to an emergency session with his psychomixologist at Coppersmith's Bar to discuss Cory Stearns' performance as the Ballet Dancer turned Sylph. Dr. D's potions are miraculous and enabled Haglund to accept and report that Stearns knocked it out of the park with his portrayal of the Sylph opposite Victor Barbee's Old Dacha Dweller. A surprising and hilarious performance, it was. Great details – from the pique pointes which hammered the floor to the bouncing sissonnes that sent the tulle skirt flying up around his head to his Degas poses on the floor. His variations as the male Ballet Dancer were pretty good tonight as well - the saute fouettes followed by pique battement arabesques - or whatever that recurring step was - were neat with nice height - as were Stella's when she repeated them in her variation in Act II.
Roman Zhurbin (Inspector), Gemma Bond (Schoolgirl), Gennadi Saveliev (Accordian Player), Misty Copeland (Milkmaid), and Jared Matthews (Tractor Driver & dog) were all dynamite tonight.
Haglund hasn't mentioned much about the corps since The Bright Stream began, which has been unfair, because they have all been fantastic. The Highlanders and Fieldworkers have wonderful choreography that includes some wild echappé-like moves to the front and back on their boot heels as their upper torsos bend backward. Don't know how else to describe it. Eric Tamm, Joseph Phillips, Aaron Scott and Alexandre Hammoudi (and perhaps others who have been unrecognizable under the wigs and hats) have been leading the Highlanders and Fieldworkers superbly over the last few nights. Each night the ladies of the corps have engaged in a beautiful waltz that involves complex formations and extremely fast arm movements to go with the fast feet. Haglund has seen enough of the clasped hands circling around the head movement, however.
So many times after a choreographer sets a piece (and then sometimes dies) later castings become dependent on the physical types of the originators: this role must be a tall girl, this role must be a short guy, this role must be dark haired and muscular and so forth. With Ratmansky's choreography, it seems that the multiple castings use such a variety of dancers that it facilitates future castings and the lasting power of the work. In The Bright Stream we had tiny Xiomara Reyes and tall Veronika Part in the same roles, and we had the small Daniil Simkin and the tall David Hallberg in the same roles. Reyes and Part couldn't be more different in style, and Simkin is an entirely different type of dancer than Hallberg. It's really nice to have work that can be interpreted by so many different types of artists.
Tonight's Alexander McQueen golden black onyx Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon lovely Stella Abrera who keeps on coming back, better than ever, to bring such gorgeous dancing and great character performances to us all.