I have to say that ABT needs to perform more Ashton ballets. The style just seems to suit them at this moment in time. Maybe they were all a bit happy to be released from that turgid, pomp and circumstance, dreary Sleeping Beauty production. Not only that, it seemed as if the whole company wanted to be in fantastic form for Stella Abrera's victory lap as a new principal dancer.
Although I've read that the stepsister roles could be distracting if performed too broad or not broad enough, I think Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle hit just the right form. They were an audience favorite from the first moment they appeared. One of the things I noticed about these characters is that they need a lot of support from the other dancers as a whole. If everyone plays it too straight then the Stepsisters are isolated and dance in their own ballet. But if the others camp it up a bit, they fit in right as rain. Stella Abrera played beautifully into this kind of acting. She was very light, quick, graceful with an aw shucks demeanor that was very sweet.
Devon Teuscher was a very good Fairy Godmother. Although the music for her solo was bizarre. I've never heard it before and it didn't fit in with the rest of the score. Nor did her solo really match the rest of the dances. It was the only misfire in style for the whole ballet. Not her fault, she was wonderful, it was just odd. Newly promoted Skylar Brandt was dazzling as the Spring Fairy. I loved how she connected all her movements without any choppiness or weird pauses to make a pose. She will be someone I will watch for in the coming seasons. Christine Shevchenko was lovely as Summer. She did have a slight wobble in one of her pirouettes, but with a slight hop she saved herself. Misty Copeland was a very good Fall. In fact out of all the fairies I think she was the only one who knew the acting had to be kicked up a notch. The ballet isn't a straight classical piece, it owes quite a bit to vaudeville and musical theater. Copeland had a Showbiz Folks! style in her upper body that sold the choreography very well. The only weak spot was the Winter Fairy played by a last minute substitution, Karen Uphoff. Unfortunately, I think the role was out of Uphoff's grasp right now. She lacked the musicality for it, was late in many places and too early at other times. I also thought she looked as if she was too aware of the musical counts and seemed to be matching pose by pose to certain notes like a paint by numbers deal. Not only that, she was very tall. So much so that she stood out. If stood against one another, I swear, Copeland looked as if she would be the same height as Uphoff's belly button. It was just....well the others looked small and light and Uphoff was a lumbering giant in comparison. A weird WTF substitute casting decision if there ever was one. Was Sarah Lane or any of the other newly promoted soloists not available?
Arron Scott's performance as the Jester was another audience favorite as well as the Stepsisters suitors, Gray Davis and Kenneth Easter.
Joseph Gorak, as the Prince, was wonderful. He has such good form with wonderful lines. His limbs look as if they go on forever. He also looked very nice when paired with Abrera. However he doesn't have the same spark with her that he does with Sarah Lane. Nor does Abrera have the chemistry with him that she had with Shkylarov. Also even though Gorak has good technique, it was clear that he was not equal to Abrera. His partnering skills are still very rough. At times he looked as if he was a construction worker doing some heavy lifting. I wonder if he sacrificed a bit of his line for more muscle, he would find partnering just a smidgen easier. The acting from both was very good and I believed they were two fairy tale characters experiencing love at first sight.
This was a fun production and today's holiday audience really appreciated it. It was practically sold out with Stella Abrera fans, Misty Copeland fans and ballet fans in general. I'm glad I saw it and I hope it is revived often.
Labels: art, ballet, commentary, culture, reviews