ABT delved into The Dream tonight with the first of a measly four performance run of Frederick Ashton's treasure. It was all very enjoyable even though not everyone's performance was at the same high level as Herman Cornejo's Puck. Herman's Puck, of course, has been the centerpiece since ABT premiered its production ten years ago. His brilliant dancing and equally brilliant characterization are always a masterpiece within this masterpiece.
Tonight Herman's Puck sprinkled his mischief all over the stage with effortless bounding and batterie. He seemed to spend more time in midair than on the ground. His aerial shapes were perfectly clear and he was suspended long enough for all to notice the strongly pointed feet, the nicely shaped legs, the balletic form, the dark curls on the top of his head, and his playful smile.
Oberon and Titania were danced by Cory Stearns and Xiomara Reyes. A few years ago these two delivered a surprisingly strong reading of The Dream with much of Cory's theatrical manner similar to Anthony Dowell's. But tonight he looked tired, end-of-the-season tired with two weeks still to go. This kind of character acting is not one of his strengths, but he has done it much better than tonight. One couldn't really tell why Oberon was arguing with Titania over the Changeling Boy or even that he was jealous of all the time Titania was spending with the kid. It seemed like some of the turn combinations took so long to get started that they must have been preceded by prayer – which really did nothing to help stabilize them. Things got better as the evening went along and we finally got a very committed series of pirouettes and some strong jumps toward the latter part.
Xiomara's Titania was freshly independent and slightly sexy. No technical problems whatsoever and she had character to spare. The lack of chemistry with her partner was not for lack of her effort. Haglund wants to see these two take another crack at it on Saturday night.
What a treat it was to see so many of Haglund's favorite dancers on the stage at one time. Maria Riccetto & Sascha Radetsky as Helena & Demetrius, and Stella Abrera & Jared Matthews as Hermia & Lysander were a tight theatrical unit with especially good comedic timing in demonstrating just how difficult love can be. Yuriko Kajiya as Mustardseed, Sarah Lane as Peaseblossom, Luciana Paris as Moth, and Christine Shevchenko as Cobweb each had a little bit of Titania's wit and sparkle.
Alexei Agoudine as Bottom was engaging in both human form and as an ass. The slight stumbles in the pointe work seemed to enhance the character rather than detract from the performance. It's got to be so much fun to play one of those Rustics. Alexei along with Gray Davis, Tobin Eason, Jeffrey Golladay, and Patrick Ogle scared up some characters straight off the back roads of the interior Blue Ridge Mountains. Could almost smell these guys.
The Corps de Ballet was top notch tonight. Everyone was very pretty and very well prepared. But is there nothing that can be done to deaden the shoe noise in the opening moments – perhaps play the music a little louder?
The Dream was the first part of the program and was followed by Firebird, but Haglund had an obligation and couldn't stay for the second ballet.
The Pump Bump Award, Christian Louboutin's Puck Boot, which he designed as his tribute to the "shrewd and knavish sprite" in Shakespeare's tale (not kidding, read it here), is bestowed upon Herman Cornejo who is the best Puck anyone could ever dream up.