NYCB Nutcracker gets the green light:
We're close to the start of this year's Nutcracker run. Opening night cast the day after Thanksgiving includes Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop. The last time we saw her in this role, she had a four-month bun in the oven and could not have looked and danced more beautifully.
Ana Sophia Scheller's Dewdrop at the third performance is much anticipated as is the Sugarplum Fairy & Cavalier match-up of Lauren Lovette and Chase Finlay in the second performance.
Doesn't it seem like the American flag pictured above is a little sad and limp? Hang in there, little flag.
Pennsylvania Ballet's Revolution program is currently at the Merriam Theater in Philly. It includes Balanchine's Square Dance, David Dawson's The Third Light, and Brian Sanders' Chicken Bone Brain. Haglund can't make it down there this weekend, but he has already heard incredible reports about our own Sterling Baca.
From Bryan after the opening night:
To use a sports metaphor, it certainly seems that Angel Corella is treating Sterling like a coveted first round draft pick to build a franchise around, a la Carson Wentz and this year's Eagles. After being featured as the opening night Prince in the season opening production of Cinderella, Sterling was featured in two of the three pieces tonight, and stole the show.
Writing about The Third Light:
[T]he set is a geometrical shape, reminiscent of the skewed corner of a room. The piece is for five men, clad in purple tights, nude shoes, and bare-chested (why?); and five women in purple long sleeve chemises, purple briefs, nude pointe shoes, and bare legs (why?). There are bright parts and dark parts of the stage, and the dancers are constantly coming into and out of silhouette. The overall lighting scheme seemed really dim to me - I could definitely have used more light. The score by Gavin Bryars was a dreary adagio slog throughout, no discernible count patterns emerged - it must have been difficult to dance to. In the pre-show talk, Christiane Marchant, who staged the piece, talked about Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man sketch, and that turns out to be the key to unlock the meaning of the piece. The dancers are constantly reaching out with their hands and describing a circle about them in three dimensions and in all angles. From those circles come swooping, swirling port de bras motions. Various groups of the ten dance with each other - there is a quartet section, then most of the men, then most of the women. You can almost see a bunch of Dawson's influences peeking through the choreography - a little bit of Balanchine, Forsythe, and Ratmansky can be detected in specific moves. Toward the end, there is a central PdD with Sterling and Oksana Maslova, with lots of tricky partnering and lifts. You feel as if they are trying to draw you in to some central drama, but the meaning of it remains just out of reach. At the climax of the PdD, Sterling simply walks away, and Oksana simply stands on stage, forlorn. You wish you could comfort her, but the drama didn't really land in the first place. There follows a brilliant solo by Alexander Peters, full of that same swoopy, swirly motion that is the hallmark of this piece. The piece ends with all ten dancers in a line across the stage, performing those port de bras figures in unison as the curtain comes down.
About Chicken Bone Brain:
The score was a bunch of electronica - no one got a music credit. On stage, there were several 12-foot long, thin, bone-shaped set pieces attached to ropes that Sterling Baca, Jermel Johnson, and Arian Molina Soca swung around on, in addition to bone props that dancers danced with. For costumes, the 11 men were 'dressed' in little more than white briefs and nude shoes (bare chests and arms), and the nine women added white bandeau wraps in addition to their white briefs and nude pointe shoes. The lighting felt like a disco, so the overall feel was a stone age dance party, complete with bone set pieces and props.
. . . .
This piece barely qualified as a ballet. I would rather describe it as a Cirque de Soleil piece gone amok. There were several discernible steps, like bourrees and chaine turns, but they weren't exactly put together with much skill. Brian Sanders does great work for other companies, but PAB should stick to choreographers within the art form. The audience didn't really agree with me, though - the piece got quite a large ovation. Sterling got quite a big solo in this piece, but it wasn't really choreography - it was hanging off one of the suspended chicken bone set pieces, climbing all over it, and spinning with it.
About Square Dance:
The second piece on the program was Balanchine's Square Dance, which is a faithful friend of the company, having been performed in 2013 and 2010 most recently, and many more times since its PAB premiere in 1982. Amy Aldridge and Alexander Peters might not be suited for each other on first sight, since she is quite taller than he is, but they have worked on partnering together through a couple of Balanchine ballets in the past few years - Rubies and Allegro Brillante - and that experience shows to great effect in Square Dance. Their dancing was solid, and the corps was solid.
We can't wait for the new Le Corsaire in March. We hope that the dancers will be able to muster the energy they need to keep up with Angel – no small task, but oh, how fortunate they are to have his guidance and example. (Buy tickets here. Also, Amtrak fares purchased this early are a steal.)