Ana Sophia Scheller began developing her Aurora when she was a 13-year-old student at the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires – the school that produced Julio Bocca, Herman Cornejo, Marianela Nunez, and Paloma Herrera to name a few. She has a video of a childhood performance of one of Aurora's variations here on her YouTube account. Even at that early age when most students are concerned mainly with whether they can hold a leg to the ear or eke out a messy fourth revolution in a pirouette, details were on her mind: the high, high releves as she walked on demi pointe with straight knees, the full phrasing, the elegant use of the backs of her hands, the stretched fingers, the head held royally. While it is a common problem among professional dancers to convey the youthfulness of the 16-year-old Aurora because they are usually much older, here we see 13-year-old Ana filling every musical moment in an effort to convince the audience that she is mature beyond her years.
Last evening, more than a decade after that student performance in Argentina, Ana debuted in the role of Princess Aurora at NYCB opposite Gonzalo Garcia's Prince Désiré with Savannah Lowery as the Lilac Fairy. Never has Haglund been more convinced that Ana is a major ballerina in the making. Major in this generation, perhaps eventually even more important.
In Act I, her Aurora had the butterflies in the stomach that one would expect in a debutante who perhaps was a little surprised to be suddenly presented with four potential husbands from whom to select. She glistened with excitement while mindful of her royal manners. In the Rose Adagio, she was the 16-year-old eager to grow up quickly and to demonstrate with authority that she was ready for all that awaited her. The showy balances eluded her last night; once she leaned back so far that it looked like she might fall off pointe, but the strong arms of her attentive suitors brought her back to her plum line, and by the end of the final promenade Aurora's confidence and determination were renewed. Her variation was filled with beautifully articulated phrases, small footwork, and glorious port de bras. When one sees the importance and grandeur conveyed by holding the body high and keeping the arms low and forward of the body as Ana did last evening, one wonders why any dancer would ever do it any other way.
Haglund was quite unprepared for the beauty of Ana's work in the Vision Scene which turned out to be the favorite part of the evening. Her remote yet soulful yearning for Désiré was touching and his response to the vision was wonderfully believable and heartfelt. There were times when Ana struck an arabesque pose that was so perfectly formed, symmetrical, harmonious, and full of breath that a whiff of Gelsey floated by. We have a major ballerina in the making – one who, quite simply, gets what it is all about.
The grand pas de deux in the final act was marked with beautiful fish poses and celebratory dancing – a fine finish. Gonzalo Garcia was convincing, handsome, and sincere as Prince Désiré throughout the evening. Haglund has seen him dance better with more control over pirouettes and landings from aerial turns, but last night, he was the perfect partner for Ana's Aurora. The lifts in the Vision Scene were among the most magical ever. He made every supported pirouette and pose look perfect.
Savannah Lowery's Lilac Fairy was stately and authoritative. Troy Schumacher's brise vole diagonal in the Bluebird variation was absolutely brilliant. Taylor Stanley's Puss in Boots to Sarah Villwock's White Cat was deliciously detailed and fabulously danced. Rebecca Krohn's Diamond was flawless in its cut and clarity; her grand jetes to a stopped arabesque were perfect. Jared Angle's Gold was both good and less so. He's always impressive when he takes off but Jared's jumps don't seem to get to the end of his feet very often, which is to say, he's not using them fully.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon our newest Petiparina, Ana Sophia Scheller, for the brilliant and starry light of her debut as Aurora.