Friday June 26th, 2015 - This evening my 2014-2015 officially ended with a bang when Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo gave the ABT audience a SWAN LAKE to cheer about. The two dancers were recently paired in a very fine performance of BAYADERE and now, having established a lovely rapport, they must be seen in GISELLE, COPPELIA, and ROMEO & JULIET.
ABT really needs a new SWAN LAKE, and their audiences deserve it. Though at fifteen years of age the production is not old by ballet standards (think of Balanchine's NUTCRACKER or MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM), so much of it looks merely random and dutiful rather than dramatic and intriguing. Its main redeeming value is that any incoming pair of principals can step into the classic elements of the white/black/white scenes and feel perfectly at home; it's the court scenes that really need freshening.
Tonight in the opening scene we had a superbly-danced pas de trois from Sarah Lane, Skylar Brandt, and Joseph Gorak; all three had ample technique and charm, and Mr. Gorak's beautifully pointed feet were an added delight. The national dancers in the Black Swan scene are burdened with over-costuming and funny fake moustaches; tonight, only Nicole Graniero (in Hungarian) managed to seize my opera glasses with her vivid performance. Later, as Herman Cornejo was anguishing over which unwanted princess to choose, I wanted to text him and suggest that he grab Nicole and elope to Morocco.
James Whiteside was wonderfully alluring in the solo where he glamors every woman in the hall (and probably some of the men); yet however well this solo is performed, I always feel Rothbart doesn't need to be humanized and that the less the character does, the more potent his force seems.
But all these quibbles vanished in the face of the wonderful telling of the central love story from Ms. Kochetkova and Mr. Cornejo. Having sailed thru some high-flying combinations in the opening scene, it was at the lakeside that Herman's Siegfried took on the poetic expressiveness that made his performance so compelling. Such a handsome young prince with the cheekbones, the silken mop of hair, the dark eyes filled with wonder - and later with despair. Slowly overcoming her fear of this ardent youth, Ms. Kochetkova surrendered to his tenderness in an adagio filled with haunting romantic nuance. The ballerina's pin-pointe turns and poised balances wove a spell thru Odette's music.
In the Black Swan, the Kochetkova/Cornejo duo simply soared; the detailed courtship and Kochetkova/Odile's brazen mimicking of the Odette motifs made for a vivid narrative in the adagio. Herman's solo was a virtuoso show-stopper - igniting a volley of cheers and applause - and in her solo turn, the ballerina displayed her agility and technical command to impressive effect. Then the couple whipped the crowd into fits of rapture in the coda, where Kochetkova's dazzling speed-of-light fouettés had real sparkle, with Herman taking up the challenge with his own barrage of pirouettes. A roar went up as they struck the final pose.
In the last scene by the lake, the hapless lovers take final leave of one another; their joint suicide leads to the breaking of the curse and Rothbart's destruction by the swans. The pink sunrise, with the lovers shown embracing in some afterlife, is a final miscalculation in this production. But as Kochetkova and Cornejo came forward for their bows, nothing else mattered: the audience, pleased as punch, were still screaming as I headed up the aisle.