Above: Sascha Radetsky
UPDATE: Sascha's farewell curtain call is now on YouTube, but there was another five minutes of applause and more bows after the clip ends.
Thursday July 3rd, 2014 - I met Sascha Radetsky in 2011 when my friend Kokyat and I covered a rehearsal of a duet entitled LIFT, choreographed by Edwaard Liang, in which Sascha was dancing with Sonja Kostitch; the piece was shown ten days later at the annual Dancers Responding to AIDS gala. Sascha was so friendly and gracious after the rehearsal: I'll always remember the conversation we had that afternoon, and the feeling of having met a dancer whose heart was as big as his talent.
When the casting for the current ABT season came out, "COPPELIA Reyes/Radetsky" immediately caught my eye: thinking that - both as indivduals and as a couple - Xiomara and Sascha would be ideal in this ballet, I circled the date (my birthday) in red. I knew I would be there tonight, long before it became known that this would be Sascha's farewell.
The music of COPPELIA holds a special place in my heart: it's the only ballet I ever danced in, and whenever I hear themes from this melodically rich Delibes score, I'm carried back to that long-lost Summer of 1974 which I spent on Cape Cod with my first male lover, working for an amateur ballet company. Who would have thought that - 40 years on - I'd be immersed in the New York City dance scene and be able to count a number of the most prominent dancers and choreographes of the day among my friends?
ABT's candy box settings frame this sweet ballet well enough; they've been in use for years but there's really no reason to scrap them for something different. A few traces of end-of-season fatigue from the orchestra scarcely mattered, and the Company looked to be in fine shape, giving an extra dose of vitality to their dancing in honor of Mr. Radestsky who is obviously a much-loved and admired colleague.
Alexei Agoudine was a lively Dr. Coppelius, with a number of pratfalls. This production puts the Czardas in Act III (I'm used to seeing it in Act I); it was led with authority by Christine Schevchenko and Blaine Hoven. The Mazurka, right where it should be, featured Adrienne Schulte squired by Sascha Radetsky, with Ms. Schevchenko and Mr. Hoven joining in the lively dance.
In the Act III solos Dawn and Prayer, the costuming was a distraction: nothing kills a ballerina's line like an Empire waistline. Nevertheless, Devon Teuscher danced very attractively as Dawn and Luciana Paris rendered the celestial music of Prayer with beautiful phrasing and presence.
Above: Xiomara Reyes
Whilst recalling such iconic Swanhildas as Gelsey Kirkland and Patricia McBride, I'm happy to say that Xiomara Reyes was well nigh perfect in the role. Petite and saucy in her lovely opening waltz, the ballerina showed both her temper and her romantic inclinations in developing a wonderful chemistry with her leading man. After neatly dispatching the thespian demands of Act II, Ms. Reyes went on to some truly impressive dancing in the final act, with a luscious set of fouettés in the coda of the wedding pas de deux.
There can't be a more natural balletic actor than Sascha Radetsky; he simply inhabited the role of Franz from the moment he walked onstage (to a wave of applause from the crowd). As the boy who wears his heart on both sleeves - one for his Swanhilda and one for the distracting doll on the toyshop balcony - Sascha endeared himself to the audience in his portrayal of Franz's charming dilemma. Charismatic but free of vanity, Sascha's performance was a natural meshing of dancer and role. Cutting loose with some virtuoso pyrotechnics in the Act III variation and coda, Sascha's dancing took flight, buoyed by the admiring bravos of the audience.
The ovation at the end was as expected: loud and long: it seemed that neither the audience nor his colleagues wanted to let Sascha go. Loved seeing Maria Kowroski, Wendy Whelan, Joaquin de Luz, Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel all joining in the celebration; and Sascha's wife, Stella Abrera (in a knockout black frock) elicited whoops of delight from the crowd when she appeared onstage to present her husband with a bouquet and a kiss. Even after many bows and much cheering - with the bow lights off, the curtain firmly closed and the house lights blazing - the fans continued yelling "Sascha! Sascha!" until finally the danseur came out alone one last time, receiving the acclaim with his dazzling smile.
The Next Phase: Sascha, who became widely known outside the immediate sphere of classical ballet when he appeared in the 2000 film CENTER STAGE, returns to acting in the in-production Starz TV series FLESH AND BONE which is currently filming in Brooklyn and scheduled to premiere in 2015. Something tells me he'll be dancing a few combinations along the way.