Let's listen to the call:
… and they're off!
Concerto Barocco is out of the gate fast. A little stumble at the rail, but a nice recovery and is in the lead going into the first turn. On the outside, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux is making a huge move to the front of the pack - scratched from a few races last year, but now looking strong. Kammermusik is fading back, just doesn't have it today. Tschai Pas is being tested by Barocco but is still holding on into the third turn. And here they come down the stretch! Firebird is coming up fast on the inside rail! Now in front by one length! Two lengths!! Three lengths!!! The jockey just peeled back the goggles and dropped the whip! Firebird is running away with this race! RUNNING AWAY! And Firebird wins the Kentucky Derby! Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux places second, Concerto Barocco third, and Kammermusik eighth.
Okay, okay, maybe Haglund had a mint julep or two before the ballet tonight. But it's a big holiday in his part of the country - Derby parties in backyards with double grills smoking, big hats, fake Lew-a-vull accents, pitchers of mint juleps. And always a few horse stories, like the summer when Kimmy, the 25-year-old retired Tennessee Walker who lived next door, got bothered by bees and busted through his paddock fence. The men folk climbed on bicycles to chase him down. When the bike posse finally caught up with old Kimmy, he had found himself a picnic in somebody's corn garden three blocks away. Kimmy only broke out of a slow walk a couple of times a year and it was always duly recorded in the town paper. When he died during a hot July at the age of 32, some folks wanted to build a monument, but instead they tore up his paddock and built three houses. Sad but all true. Here's a picture of Kimmy in his golden years. We all should look so good when we get there.
Click on picture for a larger image.
What better way to celebrate a great Derby today – unless you bet on Bodemeister – than an evening of ballet where the dancers cover space like I'll Have Another streaking down the stretch to steal all the roses.
Concerto Barocco was far more than serviceable this evening with a cast of dissimilar dancers who for the most part made the whole ballet work. The Playbill list of Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, and Justin Peck was changed by curtain announcement to Abi Stafford, Teresa Reichlen, and Ask la Cour. There was a time or two when watching Abi and Tess dancing together that the scales of their dancing didn't seem compatible due to the dancers' different heights, but Haglund's eyes and mind eventually adjusted and he found the performance enjoyable. Abi was the more musical and playful of the two while Tess was businesslike in concentrating on the technical demands and meeting the required speed. The corps was excellent for the most part. Some of those backward moving pique arabesques were out to the side instead of being directly behind, but nothing too offensive.
Ana Sophia Scheller and Gonzalo Garcia got the audience's blood moving with a blistering hot Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Watching Ana Sophia develop from a somewhat precocious technical wizard as an eager corps member to a fully-finished, elegant and confident young soloist has been a very satisfying journey for the audience member. Her remarkably shaped legs and feet hone in on a center plumb line that seems never to fail her. Her spacious classical port de bras, unaffected classical lines, sparkling personality, natural beauty, and a grandness in her movement all point to someone on the verge of world stardom. While it is such a joy to watch each of her performances at NYCB, she is the type of dancer who should be carrying full length ballets with a high profile, Bocca-caliber partner. Her partner tonight, Gonzalo Garcia, seems to be back in fine shape. He is a very charismatic dancer who can be intensely exciting but he isn't at the same technical level as Ana Sophia even though he is a principal while she is still a soloist.
Kammermusik No. 2 was on the bill tonight and was led by some of Haglund's favorite dancers but he still didn't like it at all. Rebecca Krohn, Abi Stafford, Jonathan Stafford, and Adrian Danchig-Waring led the cast with all the skill of the first cast earlier this week with the same result. It was a lot of senseless messing around with no point. Tonight, however, the ladies' pony tails kept sticking to their faces which provided some comic relief.
The evening closed with a superb performance of Firebird by Ashley Bouder, Justin Peck, and Gwyneth Muller. Among the major appeals of this production are the incredible costumes and scenery designed by Marc Chagall. It's awfully hard to compete with a Marc Chagall set design. Perhaps the Pablo Picasso designs for Massine's Parade in 1917 would be honest competition, but few others would be. Chagall's backdrops and front curtains are awe-inspiring in their colors and drawn characters. One notices an angel, a musical instrument, and colors that recall the murals that hang in the Metropolitan Opera House while listening to the historic Stravinsky score. It sometimes boggles the mind to think how rich the performing arts are at Lincoln Center.
Ashley Bouder was a sensational Firebird, intensely theatrical and emotional. It was so complete a performance that Haglund forgot that he was watching a dancer. He was caught up in the magic of it all. Of course, all of the stellar technical elements were present: wonderful saut de chats, perched balances on pointe that most birds couldn't achieve, speedy turns. Ashley's final exit on pointe as her torso slowly bent backward was a dramatic high point of the ballet.
Corps members Justin Peck as Ivan and Gwyneth Muller as the Prince's Bride were fabulous in their principal roles. Each showed terrific theatrical skills. And while Ivan's character did not have a lot of technical dancing per se, the Bride certainly did, and Gwyneth nailed it all.
The evening's Pump Bump Award, blanketed with red roses, goes to Ashley Bouder for her riveting Firebird.