Haglund is rushing off to the Orchid Show today at the New York Botanical Garden, but he needs to pause to gush over the beautiful new rose that debuted last evening in New York City Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty.
Lauren Lovette gave a thoroughly thought-out, thoroughly prepared, gorgeous, heart warming, simply stunning portrayal of Aurora. This performance was just as astonishingly unexpected as her Sylph in La Sylphide a few years ago. Lauren has done her homework for each of these roles, and it has paid off beautifully.
Was she nervous on her entrance? As nervous and excited as Aurora would be on making an entrance to her grand 16th birthday party. But oh what a party. When her father told her that it was time to pick a husband, she reacted with surprise and a blush of modesty. Upon meeting each of the suitors, Aurora was as gracious as could be, but it was clear – crystal clear – that she was most enthralled with the one from Africa. (He was the tallest.)
All of the suitors – Aaron Sanz, Cameron Dieck, Andrew Scordato, and Preston Chamblee – magnificently escorted Aurora through the Rose Adagio. At every juncture with each suitor, Aurora made conversation through dance and eye contact. She was truly trying to get to know them all before making her choice. And oh my, were these gentlemen beaming with pride when Aurora completed her promenades en attitude — as they should have been. Lauren had to pause momentarily during the third rotation to re-calibrate her position that went awry but there was never any question that she was going to complete the task. In her variation with the backward moving little emboites a terre, her pirouettes were so solidly on balance that she nearly got stuck there. How lovely it was to see such a beautifully controlled, musical triple pirouette down stage to finish the sequence.
Lauren’s choices throughout the Rose Adagio and Aurora’s variation in Act I were those of a mature artist who had confidence in her own decision making. She was unlike the other Auroras who we have seen at NYCB. There was more squareness, more overall harmony in positions, and more delicacy in the shaping of phrases than we ever expected to see.
The transformation of Aurora from the Act I Birthday Party to the Vision Scene to the Awakening and Wedding Pas de Deux was distinct and complete. There were a few lapses in the Vision Scene when Lauren broke the fourth wall and engaged the audience with her smile, but overall she fully conveyed the Prince’s dreamy vision and danced it superbly.
The Wedding Pas de Deux was going so well until we got to the fish dives. Two out of three were muffed. While it is always hard to tell exactly what went wrong, it appeared that Lauren held back upon entering into them. There didn't seem to be a battement of the first leg, and her head didn't dive forward. The third one, however, was moderately successful. Haglund wants to help out here by offering a glimpse of the Royal Ballet’s academic perfection:
Fish Dives from Haglund's Heel on Vimeo.
Gonzalo Garcia gave a fine performance as Prince Désiré. He’s not as good as some, but if one holds everyone to the standard achieved by only the very best, then one is going to walk away disappointed 99% of the time. There has to be a range of acceptance, and Gonzalo clearly falls within that range. His double tours were much better than usually and his grand allegro didn’t let him down either. His theatrical delivery was very on the mark and believable. His search for Aurora was genuine in tone, and his joy in finding her was as well.
Also debuting in this performance were Miriam Miller as Lilac Fairy, Gretchen Smith as Carabosse, Emily Kikta as Diamond, Unity Phelan as Emerald, and Spartak Hoxha as Bluebird. All enjoyed successful debuts, but Emily Kikta’s luxuriance and breadth of musicality were beautiful. It’s going to be tough to find partners for her due to her height, but there are plenty of roles in NYCB’s rep that could use her musical detailing as a soloist. Spartak has to work on his partnering skills. (Megan Fairchild was a very good sport as Princess Florine last night and clearly knows that part of her job as an established principal is to help break in these new guys in their first big roles.) Spartak’s solo variations were spectacular. His pas de poisson, beats and turns were all on the mark. Unity Phelan was lovely in the Emerald section, but it was a challenge for her not to look too abrupt while trying to look sharp. Gretchen Smith’s Carabosse was bold and sufficiently angry, but this is a role in which it takes time for the dancer to think up his/her own details to really bring it to life. Gretchen and Sara Mearns will eventually be as good as Maria Kowroski, but it will take time.
Miriam Miller – okay, we’re going to have to relax and be patient. It’s obvious to anyone who lays eyes on her what is down the road in terms of beautiful dancing and that the quickest way to get there is for her to be on the stage in these kinds of roles. She is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful in terms of lines, but she is not as technically strong as the majority of her tall fellow corps women. She’ll get there. It took several years for Maria Kowroski to mature; so we have to be patient. Hopefully, it will all work out; sometimes it doesn’t. Some of you oldsters may remember the 1980s ABT when a tall specimen of physical perfection by the name of Antonia continually messed up the back lines of La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Don Q, etc. because she was so gangly weak. But Baryshnikov couldn’t bear not to put her on stage because of her extraordinary ballet-suited physical features and naturally weepy eyes — all of which pointed to great things to come. She finally moved on, but, oy, it was difficult to watch sometimes.
Last night Miriam did more than an acceptable job. She was lovely. She was immediately likable on stage. Her own variations were not bad at all. She slipped and fell towards the back during a simple transition that involved many dancers, but her quick restoration of her composure was impressive. She’s lucky that she had Peter Walker standing behind her as her cavalier. His mission was clearly to make her look as perfect as possible. It was a night of genuinely selfless partnering on his part.
A word about the Fairies in Act I: Haglund loves all of these dancers, but he wanted to put their arms in hard plaster casts last night. Such breakage and generally bad form – except for Sara Adams as Vivacity. We would swear that Alexa Maxwell’s interpretation of the Fairy of Courage had Ratmansky written all over it. We’re not saying that’s either good or bad – it’s just an observation. Nevertheless, Alexa was marvelously accomplished every step of the way. Erica Periera’s Ruby solo in the Wedding section was another highlight of the evening. Russell Janzen’s Gold Fairy was not. He danced well, but the choreography looked thrown together like classroom stuff. Where are the fast turns a la second and the pirouettes? Where is the bravery? These are not the tasks of just the short dancers. Height is not an excuse. Let’s look at a very tall danseur who is physically similar to Janzen doing turns from the 1980s:
It’s not Good-e-nufv to substitute easy stuff for the hard stuff. It’s cheating.
Our H.H. Pump Bump Award, a rose gold stiletto from Dolce & Gabbana, is bestowed upon Lauren Lovette for her terrific debut in what is arguably classical ballet's most challenging role.