Swan Lake swelled to the limits of its shores Friday night as the Big Wave that we wait for all year long softly rolled in and washed over us, soothing our souls. Ah yes, we wait so patiently all year long for Veronika Part's Odette to arrive, and then it seems like she's gone in a blink of the eye.
Haglund prepared for last night's performance by spending some time in the afternoon reading the new issue of Dance Magazine which features a gorgeous picture of Veronika on its cover in a hot purple chiffon costume. That cover screams for a new piece of Ratmansky choreography to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number 2, doesn't everyone agree? (A little sampling for your consideration.) The 8th Avenue Universal News store seemed to have an unusually large supply of this Dance Magazine issue, perhaps anticipating unprecedented demand. Always eager to assist in building new audiences for ballet, Haglund discreetly transferred a copy of the current issue over to the men's section next to the muscle magazines. Hey, in this cut-throat world of dance marketing, you gotta do what you gotta do. Just imagine the fingerprints on that cover this morning.
So, back to last night – Act II was danced cautiously in the PdD. Cory Stearn's Siegfried still looks like a puppy, but his legs are definitely stronger. It must be all that pointe work he's been doing for Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. He had some trouble getting Veronika up onto her supporting leg and maintaining her upright on the pirouettes. The first few lifts were shaky, but when Act IV came along, he made those huge overhead lifts cleanly. His dancing is progressing at a snail's pace, but it is progressing. The acting, on the other hand, is still fairly empty. On occasion there is emotion in the face, but then it doesn't register in the posture or the limbs. The acting transition from Act I to Act II where Siegfried and Benno were downstage before the curtain discussing plans for the hunt was painful to watch.
Veronika was determined to have a phenomenal performance whether any Siegfried showed up or not. So, whatever Stearns offered was more than enough. However, given ABT's casting insanity these days, the next time Veronika flies off somewhere in the world to dance Swan Lake with the Mariinsky's Danila Korsuntsev, Haglund may have to follow. It's all getting a little ridiculous back home.
Veronika's Odette was the most beautiful of all the swan queens this week. Her sweeping wingspan, the impossibly long and elegant curve of her legs in arabesque, and that soulful face transported us into her grief-stricken world – and we all went willingly. But wait. In last night's performance, Veronika's Odile was a highlight as well. Her diagonal of pique turns that ended with her in attitude pressed against Siegfried's chest was perfectly executed by both dancers. Her double pirouettes into the attitude turn were excellent. The fouettes were unwavering. Everything was danced with an alluring sensuality and a touch of wickedness. Any more wickedness would have knocked this young Siegfried over.
Act IV was by far the best danced of the evening. While it's true that the McKenzie staging axed some favorite parts – such as when Siegfried rushes from group to group of swans looking for Odette – it isn't the travesty that some divas like to dramatically complain about. If the viewer has half of an imagination, the scenes work fine, just not as fine as if we had all the elements that we wish we had. Last night the PdD was quite beautiful, and Siegfried managed to accent the spectacular music with heroic lifts of Odette as he walked upstage. But regardless how well they danced, it ended as it always does. Veronika's Odette slipped quietly over the edge of the cliff and Stearns' Siegfried rocketed off the cliff into the next county.
Swan Lake's little feeder streams contributed mightily to last night's success. Jared Matthews gave a clearly Bocca-inspired performance in the Pas de Trois with Hee Seo and Melanie Hamrick. He was fearless in the way that Radetsky was fearless Wednesday night as von Rothbart. Several of these guys are really stepping up their games for some exciting and progressive dancing. Jared's double tours in succession were impressive indeed. His partnering was excellent. He was full of confidence with just a touch of swagger. The ladies looked great dancing together and both had beautiful jumps. However, at times it looked like Melanie was chewing something - particularly when she was dancing in front of Jared. Hee Seo didn't make most of the entrechat sixes in the corner following her diagonal of sissonnes which did not include clean flying sixes. Her sous-sous was not an effective substitute for the beats.
Von Rothbart's purple half was danced by Alexandre Hammoudi. Not enough rehearsal. He had to concentrate too much on the technique which caused a loss in dramatic power. Haglund has been wondering all week about two aspects of Von Rothbart's section. In the earliest years of this production, when von Rothbart first arrived and circled the Queen Mother around him, he used to accelerate the move causing the Queen Mother some distress. There was always a nice opportunity for Georgina Parkinson to react suspiciously and negatively to von Rothbart's "charm." These days, it's all too courteous and gentlemanly. Also, Haglund specifically recalls that Malakhov's final arc around the room, during which his arms circled down and out at the crowd on the sides, also included almost Graham-like contractions that made the scene even more electrifying. How did that get lost?
The corps de ballet was magnificent. The Cygnettes (Brandt, Lane, Graniero, Pavam) were pristine perfect. Skylar Brandt is a nice addition to this very elite group of specialists who we look forward to seeing year in and year out.
What an emotional week of Swan Lakes it's been. Now, it's a long 12 months until we get another fix of the white stuff. Life isn't fair, Charlie Brown.
Haglund bestows this beautiful purple jeweled Pump Bump Award on Veronika Part for delivering what we patiently wait for all year long.