Saturday January 3, 2009 matinee - The notion of having a week off before the New York City Ballet starts their winter repertory season was brushed aside today when I went this afternoon for my annual Wendy Whelan Sugar Plum. Above: a Roy Round photograph. Philip Neal was Wendy's noble Cavalier and Sterling Hyltin the serene, silvery Dewdrop. Completing the cast: a gathering of favorite dancers in familiar roles. Faycal Karoui seems to enjoy varying tempi and dynamics in the various set pieces from one performance to the next; today Chinese got an especially multi-faceted approach.
The house was quite full and in my usual seat in the 5th Ring the overture was spoilt by the restless, noisy little girl behind me who kept kicking my seat. I decided it would be pointless (and disruptive) to try to convince her mother to switch seats with the little girl so she could kick her mother rather than me. It was easier just to go up to standing room. Standing room is not a great vantage point for corps-watching but it was good to see Arch Higgins in a rare appearance as Dr. Stahlbaum (with Amanda Hankes as the missus), Kyle Froman's excellent Drosselmeyer and the engaging dolls of Rachel Piskin, Lauren King and Austin Laurent. Kathryn Morgan's opening of the snow scene was really gorgeous.
After waiting on the box office line for most of the intermission and not ever getting to the window, I hiked back to 5th Ring and found the offending child and her mom had left so I watched the second act from my usual spot. Wendy danced the Sugar Plum's solo with such engrossing clarity and refinement...so pure in her musicality. The Whelan smile was lavished upon the Angels and then on each of the dancers who arrived to appear in the divertissement.
Pauline Golbin and Christian Tworzyanski (Spanish), Dena Abergel (Coffee), Matthew Renko (Tea), Giovanni Villalobos (Candy Cane), Ashley Laracey (Marzipan), Max van der Sterre (Mother Ginger) and the soloists in Flowers (Rachel Rutherford and Gwyneth Muller) were all repeating their roles from earlier performances and all of them looked terrific. I couldn't find Likolani Brown among the Snowflakes but there she was in Marzipan (unannounced) with Faye Arthurs, Katie Bergstrom and Lauren King - a very pretty quartet.
Sterling Hyltin gives Dewdrop lots of sheer star- power; both technically and in her presentation, she illuminates the stage at every moment.
Wendy and Philip seemed to be having a grand time in the pas de deux which was full of those little finishing touches that great dancers bring to familiar roles. I especially loved the way Wendy rose into a sustained arabeaque as she waited to rush forward and fly into the second leap to Philip's shoulder; I've seen her do this before and it's such a lovely moment. She also had the smoothest ride on the metal plate of any ballerina that I saw this season, and she always makes the final balance after the promenade passage so electrifying. Together they made the adagio the fitting climax of my seven-Nutcracker winter. Onward to the repertory season!