Thursday December 30, 2010 @ 2:00 PM - Today's treat: Hot Chocolate!
This was one of those difficult days at the ballet - nothing to do with the dancing, which was super all afternoon. But my usual safe-haven in the 5th Ring was full of chatty, cell-phone prone, camera clicking and food-consuming persons (a group, so it seems - they all knew each other). They were pretty quiet during the overture and then there was some commotion and they started going in and out and there was lots of whispering. Apparently they did not like the 5th Ring view and went to complain or find other seats. I gave up and went to standing room, But there was a kid up in the gallery who talked all the way thru the party scene with no attempt from his parents to shut him up. Other people were shushing and one woman said: "Take him out!" but the parents didn't budge.
So, all I remember about Act I today was that Vincent Paradiso seemed to be doing twice as many flat-footed entrechats as usual in the Soldier doll solo. I love it when the dancers improvise like that. The snow scene was very pretty and perhaps that music finally lulled the blabbering brat in the Fourth Ring to sleep.
The main reason I went to the performance today was to see Rebecca Krohn's Sugar Plum Fairy. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that Rebecca is one of my ballerinas of choice: I singled her out soon after she joined the Company and I've been very pleased with her progress - most especially in the last two or three years where she seemed to really take things to another level in terms of presence and presentation. She has the look, the technique and the artistry and she showed them all off to perfection today with a very impressive performance of this difficult role.
Right from her first entry, everything looked so polished and clear. The solo was attractively danced in the lyric style with just a trace of prima ballerina hauteur here and there to keep things fascinating. Her cavalier in the pas de deux was Zachary Catazaro, one of the handsomest guys in the Company. I'd mostly only ever seen him in the large corps works so I had no idea how he would fare in this testing adagio or how he would register as a stage presence beyond his good looks. He did really well; he and Rebecca had clearly worked hard to develop a strong partnership and things went smoothly, they looked great together and they had a flair for finishing things off with just the right flourish. The audience seemed very taken with them and gave them a big cheer at the curtain calls. After this, I would look for Zachary's partnering stock for go way up; as for Rebecca, one might say 'a star is born' but she's been a star in my book for a while now.
Zachary Catazaro and Rebecca Krohn; headshots by Paul Kolnik.
Tiler Peck's Dewdrop was spectacular, full of sustained balances and brilliant pirouettes. She varied the pacing of certain phrases, such as her spins en attitude which seemed to linger on the music to delightful effect. A phenomenal dancer in every respect.
Marika Anderson and Gwyneth Muller were poised and gracious as the demi-flowers. Mary Elizabeth Sell repeated her excellent Spanish senorita from yesterday; today she danced with Devin Alberda, one of the corps de ballet's most accomplished young men. Both Mary and Devin seem ready for more and bigger assignments. Megan LeCrone's Arabian is all mysterious allure, and superbly danced. Antonio Carmena (Tea) and Giovanni Villolobos (Candy Cane) were on fine form.
As the Marzipan's back-up quartet Likolani Brown, Alina Dronova, Callie Bachman and Meagan Mann danced charmingly and remained unperturbed when the fire alarm started going off during their piece. Brittany Pollack was the main Shepherdess, adding another sparkling performance to her list. In the finale, Brittany treated us to three beautifully elongated grand jetes: no signs of NUTCRACKER fatigue from this rising star.
Brittany's vibrant performance was one more reason to celebrate the perfection of the Balanchine staging of this ballet. There's been a lot of controversy about the new ABT/Ratmansky production, but one thing is clear: the set pieces of the Act II divertissement in the Balanchine version are surely more rewarding to dance than their Ratmansky counterparts. Spanish, Arabian, Marzipan, Dewdrop - these Balanchine roles give young up-and-coming dancers great opportunities to step out and show what they can do. Ratmansky's Spanish and Marzipan are nothing-special ensemble pieces, his Arabian is a bare-chested guy doing a walk-about, and there's no Dewdrop at all.
It was interesting today to listen to the Battle of the Mice music while leaning against the back wall of the gallery, not watching the action. You don't even need to see the stage to know exactly what's happening because Balanchine uses every militaristic ruffle and flourish in the music - right down to the smallest instrumental nuance - to depict the conflict in theatrical detail.