Friday November 28, 2008 - It's always fun to see the New York City Ballet's NUTCRACKER from the orchestra. It looks great, I must say, even though it's actually much easier to corps-watch from upstairs. I was so happy that Wei could find time out from his busy schedule to come with me.
Maria Kowroski and Ashley Bouder were originally announced for Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop tonight but a few days ago the casting switched to Sara Mearns and Sterling Hyltin. They were both on top form and along with Charles Askegard they assured the success of the evening. Faycal Karoui led a very brisk performance, sometimes a bit too brisk (Snow and the Mother Ginger number in particular seemed rather relentless). Violin soloist Kurt Nikkanen transformed the Act I interlude into the musical highlight of the evening with his affecting tone and phrasing.
Ask LaCour as Dr. Stahlbaum dominated the party by virtue of his height, and Dena Abergel is such an attractive Frau Stahlbaum. Of the children, the pint-sized Jeremy Wong was a very frisky and adorable Fritz. If I were going to a Christmas party, I'd want Likolani Brown to be my date (she stepped in unannounced) and it was good to see Jenelle Manzi and Courtney Muscroft back on stage. Robert LaFosse is a convincingly eccentric Drosselmeyer; Lauren King and Rachel Piskin very pretty as the dancing dolls, and Vincent Paradiso a neat and polished Soldier.
The Snow Scene is a complete Balanchinian treat and was danced superbly by a mixture of familiar faces and new ones; Rachel Piskin led off and then Lydia Wellington came wafting by in her first (of many, I feel sure) solo moments on the City Ballet stage.
Sara Mearns danced the Sugar Plum Fairy's variation with her creamy, dreamy style and she and Charles Askegard built the pas de deux from a rather low-key start to a bright climax; along the way were Sara's two gasp-producing leaps onto Chuck's shoulder and her long climactic balance. As a final flourish, Charles gave Sara a gentle toss in the air before sweeping her into the final dive. The audience loved it. [Photo above of Charles & Sara by Paul Kolnik].
Savannah Lowery and Amar Ramasar opened the Divertissement with a grand-scale Spanish; Daniel Ulbricht bounced high as Tea and Sean Suozzi was a lively Candy Cane with very clean hoop work. Tiler Peck's technical assurance and super smile made her a most enjoyable Marzipan and Christian Tworzyanski was a demure Mother Ginger.
Outstanding performances from Teresa Reichlen (headshot above) in Coffee and Sterling Hyltin as the Dewdrop. Tess is a slyly sexy Arabian, her long limbs and sinuous line mirroring the seductive quality of the music. In the finale her succession of sustained balances put a lustrous sheen on a remarkable performance.
Sterling's Dewdrop tonight was so elegant, so quicksilver in movement and so brilliant technically. She built each solo passage with a mixture of delicacy and strength, floating on the applause which liberally laced the Waltz and skimming into poised balances before each exit. I've always enjoyed her dancing but there was that little indefinable something extra tonight that made her truly riveting.
They might have renamed it Waltz of the Blondes for, aside from Sterling, Rachel Rutherford and Saskia Beskow were luscious.
Sitting among other people who are covering the performance in various capacities can sometimes produce annoyances. Many writers will jot a word or two in automatic writing as a reminder to themselves about a certain dancer or choreographic highlight. But the woman next to me this evening must have been seeking to emulate Proust in sheer word-output. She literally wrote throughout the performance. I wonder how much of it she actually watched?
Photos: Paul Kolnik.