Cinderella signed off for the ABT season last night with a magical performance led by Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, Stella Abrera, and Luis Ribagorda. Cindy returns in the spring when ABT travels to the Kennedy Center and hopefully again at the Met.
For the past several years, Haglund has been wondering why Kevin McKenzie was blind to the extraordinary talents of Luis Ribagorda. Of course, the answer to that is that McKenzie could not see the talent in the company because both eyes were laser-focused on the easy-come, easy-go guest artists who he didn’t have to train or develop.
Back in 2010 when Vladimir Vasiliev coached Ribagorda and his wife, Sarah Lane, in the PdD from Anyuta for a YAGP gala – a PdD which Vasiliev made famous with his own wife, Ekaterina Maximova – it was firmly established that 1) Luis was supremely talented, both technically and dramatically, and 2) the on-stage partnership of Sarah and Luis was full of promise. Ratmansky tapped Luis for featured roles in both The Bright Stream and The Nutcracker. The last time ABT danced Rodeo, Luis was one of the few men who could manage a legitimate cowboy walk. His Birbanto in Le Corsaire was brilliant and fierce. His Wilfred in Giselle was the best acted that Haglund has ever seen. His scrupulous leg lines in white tights, when in ballets such as in Theme and Variations, has been a sight for sore classically-obsessed eyes. A few weeks ago after his performance in Coppelia, Haglund remarked how Luis had that De Luz high wattage stage presence.
Last night on a dance floor with several of ABT's greatest stars, Luis not only held his own but turned the Jester into one of the highlights of the performance. The guy has charisma and technique in spades. The foolishness of his Jester, whether airborne in a crazy trick or on his knees conversing with his puppet, was drawn with the dense details that we often see in Ratmansky ballets.
We need to see Luis's princely legs in more princely roles and we need to see him dancing with Sarah. The two of them in the leading roles in Ratmansky's new Sleeping Beauty would be a good start. It's time. It's past time. Time is running out.
Stella Abrera's Fairy Godmother was everything that Haglund expected in an Ashton ballerina and more. The only thing it wasn't and should have been was Cinderella, herself. Oh, let's not go down that ugly road on this beautiful Sunday morning, but damn it, having to continually watch this exquisite ballerina in secondary roles while the aged and infirm struggle to deliver principal performances is more than Haglund can take. ABT has two principal ballerinas who think that their primary jobs are to look pretty on stage while being carried around and be damned with all that tough dancing. Stella Abrera has both the technical chops and the exquisite beauty needed to command the stage in Cinderella, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Theme and Variations, and most of the ABT repertory. She should have been promoted to Principal eons ago. WTF is McKenzie's problem?
Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg were a sublime Cinderella and Prince last evening. Although David didn't have all the crispness that we were accustomed to seeing in his performances prior to when he decamped to Moscow, his matured artistry and new theatrical weight were a joy to watch. His diagonal of saute de basque that opened into arabesque was gorgeous for the height and space that it devoured. The long shape in the air of his double tours with the bottom point created by his curved feet was among the loveliest pictures of the evening. And it was a pleasure to see that he stuck with the conventional choreography and did not supe it up to get extra applause.
Gillian's Act II solo, while taken at a faster clip than Xiomara Reyes' solo on Wednesday night, was energetic without being rushed. Her pick work with her pointes had the delicacy of walking on clouds. The deep bending of her torso penetrated the music and made us feel the phrases in our own bodies. Her perfectly square arabesques with the front arm parallel to the floor created positions of extraordinary length and beauty. Surprising was the unsteadiness of a supported penche during the last PdD and the apparent two-footing of a subsequent passe. Haglund hopes that this was not a sign of a nagging injury returning.
The Season Fairies were all quite beautiful and seasonal. Yuriko Kajiya was a revelation as Autumn, whirling like colored leaves caught up in a strong wind.
Skylar Brandt's joyful Spring flew with the energy and excitement of the earliest birds returning after winter.
Christine Shevchenko's Summer could have been a little steadier in the stepover turns, but had lovely warm qualities.
Melanie Hamrick's Fairy Winter – wait a minute – what's all this about our Fairy Winter summering in Zurich with a smoldering Mick Jagger? Melanie, Sweetheart, he is too skinny, too old, and too ugly. All that aside, Melanie's Fairy Winter was exquisitely danced with grace and control. With beautiful long legs, tapered feet, and disciplined port de bras, she homes in on the classical line like Mick Jagger homes in on a woman's ____. Oh, let's just stop all of this and have confidence that Melanie will snap to her senses soon.
Craig Salstein and Roman Zhurbin as the Step-Sisters may require a stage bigger than the Met's. Their clowning was filled with character details that only months of psychotherapy could explain. Who is to say that Ashton wouldn't have wanted the Step-Sisters to be this outrageous? If he and Robert Helpmann could have executed comedy like we saw last night, they probably would have. Instead of their Buster Keaton and "Fatty" Arbuckle, we had Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, which is almost a fair trade in Haglund's book.
The Prince's Friends (Joseph Gorak, Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal, and Eric Tamm) danced handsomely. Eric Tamm, a natural prince with unforced classicism and beautiful grand allegro, has the confidence of Ratmansky in major leading roles, but can't seem to get McKenzie's attention. He is gorgeous to watch.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, with special custom bump toe, is bestowed upon Luis Ribagorda for his breakout performance as the Jester.