OK, so last night wasn't the greatest ever evening of ballet. There were some good things; there were some not so good things; and there were things that Haglund would prefer never to experience again.
First, it's time to stop with all the guest conductors and settle on who is going to be on the team. The orchestra is suffering from the continual changes at the podium and at times it sounds like it doesn't really care about the music. Last night the farting from the brass stunk up the theater time and time again. There was little life in the music. This orchestra, which has in recent past sounded extraordinary, last night sounded like a pickup garage band. Come on folks, we need this orchestra back in top form.
Western Symphony opened the program with the debut of Taylor Stanley in the Allegro section opposite Rebecca Krohn. This guy has got stage magnetism and technique to boast about. With a black cowboy hat pulled down so far that it shadowed his eyes, Taylor summoned his inner Gene Autry while bowing his cowboy legs and aw-shucks-ing his way around Rebecca, who looked a little off her game last night and had trouble mustering up energy. When the two of them engaged in battement renverse, Taylor's had a brilliance, snap, and height that were missing from Rebecca's.
Megan Fairchild and Jared Angle were a story all themselves in the Adagio. Great charm, great clarity of form and a joy to watch. Andrew Veyette had some spectacular moments in the Rondo that included sizzling pirouettes and batterie. Teresa Reichlen was sultry, if a bit reserved, and was clearly the impetus for Cowboy Veyette's kickin' his hoss into overdrive.
Symphony in Three Movements was beyond brilliant last night thanks to Sterling Hyltin and Tiler Peck who picked their ways through the pointe work like Chet Atkins and Jethro Burns pickin' Gallopin' Guitar. High energy from start to finish was delivered by one and all. Amar Ramasar, substituting for Sebastian Marcovici, and Daniel Ulbricht helped to make this ballet a true centerpiece of the whole evening. Savannah Lowery and Andrew Scordato, substituting for Adrian Danchig-Waring, were less appealing mostly due to their particular dancing styles. Savannah's upper body is continually careless in positions and tends to slump. Andrew's upper body looked very un-dancer like last night - like a pedestrian who had just been thrown on stage.
The corps and demi-soloists were all outstanding and seemed fully prepared and confident as they danced with full-out energy. It's probably a little unfair to pick out anyone in particular for praise, but Emily Kikta, who suffered an unfortunate spill earlier in Western Symphony, was an eye-catcher in white leotard. With some of the longest legs in the company, she is clearly increasing her ability to match the speed and articulation of the much smaller women with whom she dances.
Symphony in C which closed the program was, as a whole, much less brilliant than last fall although Lauren King in the Fourth Movement was just as exciting and accomplished, and even more confident than a few months ago when she debuted in the role. The First Movement was danced by Abi Stafford and Chase Finlay. We haven't seen Abi much on stage this winter, and her dancing was a bit careful and conservative in a movement that required glass-etched clarity and a little more grandeur than she delivered. The others who have recently danced this movement, Megan Fairchild and especially Ana Sophia Scheller, have more technical chops with which to enhance the role. Last night, it all seemed a little watered down.
Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle were sublime in the Second Movement although it was not without problems. However, one of the most impressive moments came about because of a problem. When Maria developped a la second and Tyler moved from supporting her right hand to her left hand, Maria started a long, slow fall backwards and it appeared that she would never be able to maintain her position on pointe. The strength in her torso and left arm would not give up and she slowly pressed her way back to vertical. It looked utterly amazing from the upper tiers.
Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley were a nice match, if a bit fizzy, in the Third Movement. If Erica was assigned this role so that she would address her inadequate jumping, it seems to be working. She has more strength than the last time we saw her in this movement last fall, but will probably never compare favorably to others who have danced it - most notably, Ashley Bouder.
The corps de ballet and demi soloists weren't as clean and precise as we saw them last fall, but the finale looked pretty good. One dancer who Peter Martins has occasionally featured in soloist roles, is becoming an eye irritation for her nervousness and lack of musicality. Every step that she takes is full of uncertainty about whether she's on the right count. She steps and then pulls back with her body or lurches forward and never seems sure about where she should be. Last night, she was happily and grossly exaggerating the step that requires a pique backward, hip thrust and dropped chin, when shortly thereafter she was on her knees with her ass toward the audience. It wasn't at all unexpected.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Sterling Hyltin for her prickly pointed performance in Symphony in Three Movements – another highlight of the Winter Season.