Haglund spent all Saturday in Dream World - not the porn house in Midtown - but rather, at Frederick Ashton's perfectly wonderful ballet, The Dream.
The afternoon cast of Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, and Craig Salstein was terrific. Murphy's Titania was saucy and boldly pert. She etched out the multiple layers of the character with wit and her quill pen pointes. For Haglund's money, it's her best role and one that he never misses.
Hallberg's Oberon was danced with near technical perfection, although some of the characterization seemed imbued with Kaschei and Von Rothbart. Where Marcelo Gomes used precisely calibrated theatrical motion to grand effect when portraying Oberon, Hallberg used excessive gestures that occasionally came off as jester-like. And if Ashton had ever seen his Oberon walk downstage with a dropped chin, looking out under the eyebrows while effeminately swinging his shoulders from side to side, it might have made Sir Fred plunge his cigarette into his own eye.
Craig Salstein's Puck hit the mark, but Haglund much preferred seeing him cast with Gomes the last time ABT presented the ballet. And Simkin would have been matched more appropriately with Hallberg. While Salstein may not have had the brilliance of Cornejo, he certainly had his priorities right. He kept shooting for those instant positions in the air and he achieved many of them. The speediness of his Puck around the stage was very good. While his plant & pirouette moments were not as exciting as Cornejo's or Simkin's, his chaine turns across the front of the stage were far faster and more controlled than Simkin's awkward ones on Friday.
The evening performance was a repeat of Thursday's cast of Xiomara Reyes, Cory Stearns, and The Great Herman Cornejo. The difference was that Stearns improved ten-fold, Reyes decided to stop worrying about Stearns and just dance her heart out, and Cornejo somehow, some way, took his most brilliant of all performances to yet another level. Gotta report that the moments in the final PdD where Titania and Oberon clasp hands to execute mirror image penche arabesques while twisting their torsos to face one another, was the prettiest and most perfect of all the performances. Stearns let the lead out last night. There was still some sputtering now and then – most notably with the various types of turns where the arms were required to be in motion – but for the most part he danced aggressively, trying hard to live up to the greatness with whom he shared the stage. The last time Haglund saw him do this was years ago in a performance of Etudes where he had to dance opposite Corella.
The Great Cornejo - what is there left to say. Perhaps we need to install a bronze statue of his mid-air Puck by the reflecting pool next to The Met so that everyone can relive the moments whenever they're at Lincoln Center. Last night he managed even more clarity, more perfectly formed positions, more speed, more height, more charisma, and more Puckishness than ever. Haglund will forgive the handstand at the end; Puck will be Puck.
The Dream was the first part of the program and was followed by Firebird, but Haglund had obligations and couldn't stay for the second ballet at either performance.
The Pump Bump Award, a bronze platform stiletto by Betsey Johnson, goes to Saturday evening's cast of The Dream for its fine reading of this ballet masterpiece.