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NYCB Weeks 1-3: SWAN LAKE Reviews

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With four new Odette/Odiles, won't this be interesting?!!

Which have you seen?

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I'm very interested in hearing responses to the performances as well--especially Ringer's and Bouder's debuts.

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Well, I guess I'm the first to sound off. Let me say from the outset that I do not like this production as (1) there is no story line at all and (2) it's not a pleasant production to look at from either the costume or scenery point of view. That being said, there were pleasures to be found.

Although both Wendy and Damian did star turns in the leads, what has stayed with me as "after images" (a Croce term) is the Pas de Quatre danced by Ashley Bouder, Ana Sophia Scheller, Tiler Peck and Benjamn Millepied. It was the kind of variation that a balletomane lives for: classical dancing done at its purest and most sublime. We all know how wonderful Ashley is, but I think it was a particularly break-through night for Ana Sophia and Tiler. Ben was also terrific. All four were a joy to watch; I wish I had a videotape that I could play back.

Another highlight was the Pax de Trois with Sterling Hyltin, Abi Stafford and Steve Hanna. Both the ladies did very nicely in their variations.

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January 7 matinee

I don't like matinees but sometimes because of the programme or casting, you have to go. Today was a typical matinee audience: large, applauding the "obvious" moments (the children, the Jester, cygnets) while the glory of one of the most moving Odettes and most dazzling Odiles went right over their heads; booing Rotbart; cell phones; someone rummaging through what sounded like a potato chip bag, etc etc. The house was packed but the applause was so perfunctory. It was a shame because not only had Ringer & Marcovici worked out a spine-tingling interpretation, but several other featured dancers did some very fine work (most notably Andrew Veyette, Ana Sophia Scheller, Alina Dronova and the Russian duo Krohn & Ramasar) all dancing their butts off to the tepid response. I know, art is its own reward, but really...

Ringer had me a bit nervous as I waited for the ballet to begin; I knew she had the artistry but wasn't sure about stamina. Then someone had mentioned that she seemed out-of-shape earlier in the week. If this is what an out-of-shape ballerina can do, I hope all the women at NYCB will follow Jeni's regimen. The dancing alone was quite sublime; of course the Odette was all wafting Ringer perfume (to be expected) but such subtle evil in her Odile, like a gorgeous flower that exudes a deadly poison. Beyond these general impressions were a wealth of tiny details: she didn't overdo the swanlike gestures of neck and hands - no fluttering - but near the end of the White Swan coda, as she posed stage front, she very delicately smoothed her feathers with the classic neck motion... a reminder that this encounter with the Prince was about to end. She was extremely distraught when he first captured her, and remained fearful til halfway thru the adagio, making her eventual surrender (and later bettrayal) even more haunting. As Odile, the duplicitous nature of the character was expressed thru the face and gestures: alluring, brazen and fawning by turns, falsely demure; her imitation of the Odette-like poses that finally convince Siegfried that this IS the girl he met by the lake, was done with malicious sweetness. Ringer's dancing reached its peak in the Odile solo, amazing clarity of the steps, sizzling turns, and one phenomenal balance near the end that caused me to gasp out loud. In the coda, she swirled through about 28 fouettes, coming forward. As the momentum seemed to wind down slightly, she stepped out of the turns and struck a titanic attitude balance, casting a flaming look at the Prince who by then was reduced to abject slavery. Her final scene was so moving, her body truly crushed as she assumed the deep bow on the floor. The powerful end of this production has Odette facing down Rotbart but still unable to break the spell, her departure a moment of intense poignancy.

Sebastian Marcovici's pale, haunted presence and his long arms and expressive hands (to say nothing of the cheekbones) make him someone you really want to watch. He was especially interesting in his bewilderment at finding this exotic band of women by the lake. His partnering was secure, tender, and beautifuly alinged to what Ringer was doing and his bravura dancing was good if not spectacular. His final despair was enough to make grown men cry.

There were many, many excellent perfomances by the others in the cast. Ulbricht was his usual spectacular self as the Jester, finding a new aeriel turn to add to his array. Andrew Veyette was outstanding as Benno, his turns in alternating directions were secure, his scissor-like legs slicing the air in feather-light jumps, and a handsome & sincere persona to boot (LeCrone & Sloan danced with him).

Albert's Rotbart was theatrical and large-scale. Joaquin de Luz in the pas de quatre tossed off his turns and leaps with carefree ease, Fairchild & Tiler Peck were fine and Scheller simply dazzling. Savannah Lowery and Jason Fowler were earthy & bold in Hungarian; Rebecca Krohn & Amar Ramasar were glamourous Russian dancers, they took risks and exuded sexy confidence & glamour...it is not an easy piece to dance. Alina Dronova spun off some crisp turns near the end of the Neopolitan dance with Carmena her eager & charming beau; Golbin, Abergel, Suozzi & Tyler Angle were the Spanish dancers and the would-be-brides offered such pretty contenders that it would have been impossible to choose; Faye Arthurs & Ashley Laracey danced exceptionally. Sara Mearns modestly appeared among the Black Swans in the finale.

Sorry, I didn't intend to be so long-winded. I did like seeing Nicholas Fokine, a sturdy little Prince among the village boys. I will resist describing individual villagers and swans, though I could...

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I have never seen this production, and have some general questions about it.

Andrew Veyette was outstanding as Benno, his turns in alternating directions were secure, his scissor-like legs slicing the air in feather-light jumps, and a handsome & sincere persona to boot (LeCrone & Sloan danced with him).

Is this the first act pas de trois, with Benno dancing? Is this the traditional based-on-Petipa choreography?

Joaquin de Luz in the pas de quatre tossed off his turns and leaps with carefree ease, Fairchild & Tiler Peck were fine and Scheller simply dazzling.

When is the pas de quatre danced? Are the dancers meant to represent anyone or anything specific (party guests, entertainment, foreign dignitaries, etc.)? What is the choregraphy and structure like?

It's great to hear how beautifully Ringer danced. She is one of the dancers I missed most by moving coasts.

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oberon, thanks for the detailed review. I had to miss today's performance, but now have to re-think seeing Ringer next week. I'm pleased to hear about Krohn and Ramasar. Did he toss her in the air?

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Benno dances a pas de trois with 2 village girls in Act I; I could not say if it is based on Petipa...but it's a very attractive piece, and quite difficult I would say.

Peter originally staged the Pas de Quatre as a free-standing piece years ago, then incorporated it into his full-length SWAN LAKE. It opens the divertissement in the ballroom scene. Boy, 2 soloist girls and one sort of principal girl. They dance together, then each has a solo. In the coda, the girls do synchronized turns. It's full of bravura dancing for all four, but I must say I dislike the music and the choreography for the principal girl (Megan Fairchild today...dancing nicely). The music is that sort of jaunty oboe solo that I think has sometimes been used for Odile (correct me if I'm wrong) and the choreography seems intent on making the girl look like a klutz. Fairchild managed not to...good for her!

Yes, Amar did throw Becky into the air but I don't think it was quite as pronounced as when Maria K & Charles Askegard did it. It was more of a hands-off moment, then he grabbed her waist.

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I decided to go on Friday night, and thought I’d share my newfound tips for surviving Peter Martin’s Swan Lake:

1) abandon all thought of Petipa or Ivanov, of deep layers of meaning, metaphor or philosophical underpinnings and just view it as an evening of pure dance pinned to a bare bones story

2) Sit high enough up so that most of the scenery & backdrop is obscured

3) Close your eyes when the overture starts to play and do not open them again until the start of Scene 2.

I hope NYCB loyalists aren’t offended by my attitude here, but seriously folks - after seeing this for the first time in 2003 I never intended to sit through it again. However, I love Swan Lake and since we don’t have a good one here in NY anyway and NYCB has such interesting ballerinas assaying Odette/Odile this season I figured why not give it another try.

I still find that first scene to be the most ugly, jarring, cringe inducing half hour imaginable. The only redeeming feature are the dances for the children. To answer Helene’s question about the first act pas de trois - yes, it is a version of the standard Petipa pas de trois, danced to the same music and retaining some of the classic steps, but danced very differently, as you can imagine.

If you can get past that first scene, and just view this production as dance - there are some good things in it. Although very different in geometry & “tone” from traditional versions of Swan Lake some of the patterns for the corps in scene 2 (1st lakeside scene) are stunning. Some of the changes still make me crazy (like eliminating Odette’s petite battement or going right into that up tempo & cheery music at the end of the pas de deux - talk about destroying the mood! Also I didn’t like the way the series of passé/releve/entrechat were changed in the coda of Odette’s solo, and of course I miss the 2nd act mime). I don’t know the history of this production very well, but I remember hearing that most of the second scene was taken from Balanchine’s one act version, which I saw twice in the 70’s and remember liking. So it may be the Balanchine choreography I liked rather than Martins'.

I also liked the 3rd act pas de quatre divertissement (Scheller, Peck Millipied were good, but IMO Bouder once again stole the show with her speed, clarity and even lyricism, for goodness sake!), and the Hungarian dance (danced brilliantly by Rutherfeld & Liang). I thought the Russian Dance was kind of bizarre (what’s Russian about that choreography?) but it was interesting, and I thought Borree and Evans looked good in it. I do miss the Mazurka ,though.

Leaving aside questions about how you like the story to end (i.e. happy ending, double suicide etc.), at least this version has an Act 4, and even though I miss the “I will die” mime I really like the choreography for this ending with Odette disappearing behind waves of swans & Sigfried left alone & desolate. Very chilling.

Whalen & Woetzel were the principals, which is the same cast I saw the first time out. If I were watching a traditional version I might take issue with their approach, but here the white act choreography for the corps strikes me as being crystalline & turbulent rather than poetic and melancholic and I thought their portrayals were a good fit. Whelan’s long, lean physique, her distinctive line and her unique plasticity lent itself to a very dramatic and very well conceptualized interpretation. Hers was not a particularly queenly Odette, nor was she a particularly helpless Odette. She stopped short of histrionics but was still a very dramatic Odette, vulnerable yet tightly wound and caught on an emotional roller coaster. She captured the tension of being torn in two directions (hope/doom) very well. At times she flung herself headlong into her prince’s arms like a missile - a projectile of desperation. She was actually a very reactive Odette, very much in tune with Woetzel’s Sigfried - no lack of chemistry there! Her Odile was dazzling, my only quibble was that she really showed no physical resemblance to her Odette, no vulnerability at all. Sigfried would have to have been a blind fool for confusing them but again, with less emphasis on the emotional clarity in the story line, who really cares? Also her fouettes traveled a bit and she didn’t do all 32. I find it hard to believe that she can’t knock out 32 fouettes, is this standard in the Martins/Balanchine version?

A big complaint I sometimes have with a ballerina’s performance in SL is that even if they are up to the technical challenge often they are unable to convey Odette’s emotional state and it's changes through their dancing. No problem there for Whelan, she was spellbinding throughout. Woetzel’ personality might be a little too “gee whiz” for me in a traditional production but I just love his exuberance, the way he wears his heart on his sleeve and he and Whelan compliment each other beautifully.

The bottom line for me is that there is some gorgeous choreography & wonderful dancing scattered among the ruins here, so even though it barely scratches the surface of Swan Lake for me, I find parts of it interesting enough that I’m going to try to sit through it at least twice more to catch some of the debuts. I’m curious to see if familiarity will make the lack of some of the traditional steps less jarring, or if repetition will make it unbearable...We’ll see how I feel at the end of the run!

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Also I didn’t like the way the series of passé/releve/entrechat were changed in the coda of Odette’s solo, and of course I miss the 2nd act mime). I don’t know the history of this production very well, but I remember hearing that most of the second scene was taken from Balanchine’s one act version, which I saw twice in the 70’s and remember liking.  So it may be the Balanchine choreography I liked rather than Martins'.

Could you describe what was changed in the passé/releve/entrechat series from the traditional version? The coda music is repeated twice. In the traditional versions, four swans (the big ones?) start a diagonal from upstage left in plie arabesque, while Odette does the passé/releve/entrechat series in the second repeat. In the Balanchine version, if I'm remembering this correctly, Odette does a jumping entrance from upstage left on the first repeat and the passé/releve/entrechat series in the second, and I don't remember anything different about this series. (But my memory could be very faulty.)

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The ugliness of the decor and the jarring costume colors seemed grotesque to me when I first saw this production, which I HATED. The more you see it, the better you are able to tune them out. At least I am. What I like is that the dancing is continuous - whether it is all chroreographically spell-binding would be a matter of debate. And I think the ending is extraordinarily powerful.

Most of the women I have seen dance this production have not been entirely successful with the fouettes - Jennie Somogyi triumphed, with doubles, and Miranda does pretty well. Maria K admits in interviews they are a problem for her, more - it would seem - a mental than a technical problem. When Kyra Nichols did her single performance, she did 16 and then went into a seres of piques around the stage.

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When Kyra Nichols did her single performance, she did 16 and then went into a seres of piques around the stage.

I know that there have been discussions about film speed over the years and distortions in some older films, but I love how Plitsetskaya repeats a combination of two pique turns and then a series of the fastest chaine turns to the fouette music. I always found it fun when Nichols did an alternative version of the standard. In one Nutcracker I saw, during the Sugar Plum Fairy variation at the beginning of Act II, she did a series of turns in place using a single working leg to make a star effect.

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When Kyra Nichols did her single performance, she did 16 and then went into a seres of piques around the stage.

I know that there have been discussions about film speed over the years and distortions in some older films, but I love how Plitsetskaya repeats a combination of two pique turns and then a series of the fastest chaine turns to the fouette music. I always found it fun when Nichols did an alternative version of the standard. In one Nutcracker I saw, during the Sugar Plum Fairy variation at the beginning of Act II, she did a series of turns in place using a single working leg to make a star effect.

Re: the Sugar Plum Fairy. I've also saw that variation done by McBride. I always liked that there were two options there.

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Re: the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I've also saw that variation done by McBride.  I always liked that there were two options there.

I can't tell if this was part of the original choreography for Tallchief, which Denby described in his review of Nutcracker.

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One small bit of clarification, hopefully not to be confused with bootsterism.

One of the "professional" reviews of the SWAN LAKE production complained about the stripped down look of the courtiers in Act I. In this production, they are not courtiers but villagers who have come to the terrace of the castle garden (not into the throne room, heaven forbid!) to wish the young prince a happy birthday. He seems to know these young people well and is comfortable drinking and dancing with them. So when his poor mother has to venture into this setting to give her son the crossbow, you can just imagine: "Oh, HERE you are! Hanging out with all these low-lifes dressed in garish colours! Really, you should be indoors where you might meet a nice girl of royal blood and get married. I want grandchildren, you know, and I'm not getting any younger!" Of course, the Queen doesn't know that Pauline Golbin is really the Crown Princess of Venezuela, incognito.

In the ballroom scene, we do see the courtiers - lots of 'em - in funny matching costumes and wigs. Yes, that last little peek-in to the ballroom by the Jester and his subsequent nap are not really necessary, though it might be thought that he is sleeping while his master is by the lake in deadly peril. By morning, the Jester will be unemployed, as Siegfried will be in an asylum.

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Also I didn’t like the way the series of passé/releve/entrechat were changed in the coda of Odette’s solo, and of course I miss the 2nd act mime). I don’t know the history of this production very well, but I remember hearing that most of the second scene was taken from Balanchine’s one act version, which I saw twice in the 70’s and remember liking.  So it may be the Balanchine choreography I liked rather than Martins'.

Could you describe what was changed in the passé/releve/entrechat series from the traditional version? The coda music is repeated twice. In the traditional versions, four swans (the big ones?) start a diagonal from upstage left in plie arabesque, while Odette does the passé/releve/entrechat series in the second repeat. In the Balanchine version, if I'm remembering this correctly, Odette does a jumping entrance from upstage left on the first repeat and the passé/releve/entrechat series in the second, and I don't remember anything different about this series. (But my memory could be very faulty.)

Your memory sounds anything but faulty! It may be just the change from the swans plie arabesque entrance at the beginning of the coda to Odette's jumping entrance that changed the mood too much for me, but I also felt as if Odette didn't repeat the passe/releve/entrechat series as often as usual, and it didn't have the intensity I'm used to. Could that be because it followed Odette's jumps instead of the plie arabesques and didn't provide the same degree of contrast?

This is one of the images that I consider iconic and it just didn't have the same effect here for me. I'm going again on Friday and I'll pay special attention so I can try to be more specific about the changes.

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It may be just the change from the swans plie arabesque entrance at the beginning of the coda to Odette's jumping entrance that changed the mood too much for me, but I also felt as if Odette didn't repeat the passe/releve/entrechat series as often as usual, and it didn't have the intensity I'm used to. Could that be because it followed Odette's jumps  instead of the plie arabesques and didn't provide the same degree of contrast?

I hadn't thought of it that way. When Odette does that series in a traditional version, it's the first time we see her dance petit allegro, the only other allegro being in the fast turns in the variation coda, and it's extremely powerful. The huge jumps take away from that thunder.

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January 10

Wendy & Damian (Whelan & Woetzel, of course) gave a sublime rendition of the story tonight. Not finishing the fouettes seemed pretty trivial in the face of all that Wendy does with the role. Her Odette is so fragile, a clear vessel thru which the music shines beautifully. Her Odile is dramatic and downright cruel after Rotbart exposes the hoax. In the final scene, actually, the Whelan/Woetzel duo reach their apex. Instead of being a mere ending, it really is the climax. Damian danced well all night, and partnered Wendy with utter perfection. Together they made the final leave-taking and Siegfried's remorse resonate deeply.

Andrea Quinn set fast tempi and the orchestra played with passion. The corps of Swans were impressive.

Ulbricht (the Jester) won numerous volleys of applause and cheers with his dare-devil pyrotechnics. Andrew Veyette again made an excellent Benno and his two girls in Act I (LeCrone & Sloan) both showed considerable improvement over their debut outing last week. The Pas de Quatre was a bravura festival tonight, with the genial & light-footed Benjamin Millepied attempting to hold the stage while the three girls set off firecrackers with their almost dangerously fast, intricate combinations: Bouder, Tiler Peck & Ana Sophia Scheller charmed & dazzled the audience by turns. Lowery & Fowler (Hungarian) and Dronova & Carmena (Neopolitan) were repeaters from last week, all fine. In Spanish, one couldn't really "read" Sarah Mearns as she wears character shoes - she sure is beautiful, though. She danced with Jon Stafford, and Ellen Bar (excellent) danced with Craig Hall. Hall is an amazing asset to the Company...once you start watching him you cannot stop. Yvonne Borree and Albert Evans gave a flashy, sexy Russian dance, Borree seeming very confident in Albert's care - she danced full out and looked happy. Albert was his usual grand self: polished, sexy and strong. The would-be brides piece is a lovely interlude and tonight we had the elegant beauty of Saskia Beskow, the amazing Faye Arthurs, and Barak, Keenan, Laracey & Muller each enjoying her moment in the spotlight. I thought Robert LaFosse was a cipher as Rotbart. He seemed bored during the divertissement.

I regret missing Miranda Weese's Swan Queen his season, both her performances falling on days that I could not attend. I have her videotape, but it would be interesting to see what she is doing with the role these days. I hope someone will report on her performance here.

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A debut of Odile, can Odette be far behind? Naturally Ashley Bouder gave much to admire, and much to treasure, in her first performance in the Peter Martins Swan Lake. Odette was of course the greater challenge. While not everything was perfectly smooth this first time around, there were already "Bouder moments." Seconds before the music perks up at the end of the adagio we saw her find her human self inside the swan: it began with a movement on the right hand, no longer the feathery extremity of a wing, that rippled through the right arm, across the shoulders, through the left arm, to the hand. And, a longer moment, all of the last variation.

She already has Odile nailed. She made it look so easy. And yes, the anticipated multiples, so the 32 included a total of 39 rotations. She exuded the childlike glee of a pure innocent in celebrating her destruction of poor Siegfried. Not what you'd want your daughter to be, but probably made daddy Rotbart and whom/whatever he'd married very proud parents.

But, the burdens off her back, we saw hints of Odettes to come in Act 4. A magnificent, complete Odette, moving, and so beautifully danced.

This great artist will begin to find the amplitude that was perhaps not fully there in Act 2, and given her track record, this will likely commence not many hours from now.

To speak of a "natural" Odette, Tess Reichlen danced the Russian--perhaps training to ready her Odile!

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A great performance by Bouder tonight. I have no reservations about it. As good as you knew her black act would be, her white acts were incomparably better. I agree that it was especially Act IV. The body just singing. She seemed to energize everyone in the cast, I can't remember a performance of this when so many dancers danced their best -- princesses, cygnets, national dances, you name it.

But especially the pas de quatre in Act III -- This is being performed extraordinarily well by Ana Sophia Scheller, Tiler Peck, Megan Fairchild, with Jon Stafford tonight and De Luz last night -- This group is getting better at this night by night. This is as good as you will ever see Megan Fairchild dance. And it's as good ensemble dancing as you will ever see from this company. Just about perfect dancing by all four dancers in all particulars and everyone just about perfectly coordinated together too.

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I thought Bouder was a fully-formed Odette/Odile who sprang up out of the lake in all her glory. The surprise for me was how beautifully she danced the first lakeside scene, and how vividly she portrayed Odette. She gives a wonderfully musical performance, maintaining a neutral and somewhat sad facial expression. She used very crisp, almost abrupt, gestures to accentuate the character's fear of Siegfried, slowly melting into a more flowing feeling. Her portrayal was both youthful and oddly mature, giving the impression that the role had been in her repertoire for years. Bouder Nights aren't complete without one little slip (or a big fall in some cases) and she did have a moment of skidding briefly, but her composure never slipped for a second. Odile was of course a piece of cake for her and quite thrilling to see it all tossed off so splendidly. She was touching in her resignation and final parting from Siegfried in the last act.

Benjamin Millepied has never, to my mind, been an especially good partner - until tonight. He really was a great match for Bouder, his boyish appearance a compliment to her young Swan Queen. In his solos, Benjamin showed that he has not re-gained his pre-injury form; but everything had a lightness about it. He was a convincing actor, ensnared by powers beyond his control.

Adam Hendrickson is a fantastic Jester, sweeping through the tricky combinations with an air of devilish nonchalance. During his ballroom number, one of the small Jesters lost a slipper. Adam snatched it up from the floor, went into his leaping splits at the front of the stage, then rushed toward the wing and pitched the shoe over-hand offstage, never missing a beat. For all his brilliance and charm, there is a darkish aspect to everything he does - even the Jester. He is a great dancer & presence, and I would like to see what he would make out of Siegfried.

Adrian Danchig-Waring is tall & handsome with a beautiful line but I don't think the bravura required in the pas de trois is his to offer at this point. Carrie Lee Riggins seemed a bit reticent, though attractive, and Alina Dronova danced prettily here, the beginning of a long night for her as she was also a Cygnet and later took over Neopolitan from Amanda Edge.

The pas de quatre was superb tonight, the Fairchild-Scheller-Peck trio outdoing themselves - they seem to have a lock on this number this year as the Ringer-Abi-Hyltin team didn't materialize. Jon Stafford was mighty impressive here, including some flashing air turns. Edwaard Liang was back after a long hiatus, barely able to disguise his gorgeous classical technique in this character piece and exuding his unalloyed joy at being able to dance so beautifully; Rutherford was a radiant partner for him. Jason Fowler replaced Steve Hanna in Russian and did a fine job with the glamourous, leggy Reichlen on brilliant form. Dramatic, vital dancing from the Spaniards (Bar, Faye Arthurs, Suozzi & Froman) and a fleet-footed Neopolitan from the boyish Aaron Severini and Dronova, who still seemed fresh after her marathon. The delightful would-be brides number was adorned by Beskow, Barak, Muller, the plushy dancing of Laracey, the exquisite Sarah Ricard and newcomer Sophie Flack. Among the villagers in Act I William Lin-Yee stood out not just because of his great height but also an easy style. The children are sweet, and Peter weaves them into the dances skillfully.

Bouder was very warmly received and graciously bowed to Benjamin, thanking him for his attentive partnering. If the theatre hadn't been so hasty to bring up the house lights, I think they might have gotten a fourth call.

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Did anyone see Sara Mearns perform Odette/Odile today? If so, please report for the unfortunate, like myself, that could not get tickets to the sold out matinee. Thank You!

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Yes, I have just come home from the Sara Mearns SWAN LAKE and a beautiful performance it was. I cannot remember being so moved by a performance of this ballet. My partner & I were both deeply affected by her portrayal of Odette, not just because she danced it so well but because she was so young and so vulnerable. The remarkable thing about the first lakeside scene, which she commenced with a very big jetee into her swan pose, was the feeling of time being suspended. Andrea Quinn forsook her usual pressing tempos and gave Mearns a beautifully sustained rendition of the heart-wrenching music which Mearns "sang" for us with her sustained legato use of arms and beautiful delineation of the various attitude poses and supported plunges into arabesque. You just got lost in the sheer beauty of it. Her Odile was also very effective, visually glamourous and an almost innocent sense of cruelty as she deviously kept Siegfried entranced while looking like a sweet young thing. Her solo here was very well-phrased; she did 16 fouettes, then a series of turns around the stage. The final scene wasn't so much tragic as just terribly sad; you so wanted her to win, even when you know she wasn't going to.

Nilas Martins was a very fine partner for her, his strong hands and fine timing giving her the freedom to dance full out. Nilas looks like a story-book prince and well portrayed the despair of a man who has ruined not only his own life but that of the woman he loves.

The pas de trois in Act I was superbly danced by Antonio Carmena, Abi Stafford & Sterling Hyltin; Austin Laurent was a long-legged and amusing Jester; Dena Abergel a luscious Queen and Henry Seth a magnificent Rotbart. The pas de quatre was again splendidly danced by Fairchild, Peck & Scheller with Joaquin de Luz (replacing Veyette); Krohn & Ramasar were outstanding in Russian, Saskia Beskow a gorgeous Hungarian maiden (with Tyler Angle), Megan LeCrone has a high kick (in Spanish - with Arthurs, Fowler & Jon Stafford) and Rachel Piskin & Allen Pfeiffer were a lively Neopolitan couple. The contenders for Siegfried's hand were Bar, Keenan, Laracey, Muller, Ricard and Barak in one of the best segments of this production.

The very large audience enthusiastically applauded the new Swan Queen and her hapless prince. You would never have guessed that Mearns was dancing this role for the first time.

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Sara was simply exquisite. She looked completely at ease and secure in the role.

The emotional emphasis in Swan Lake has always been Siegfried's love for

Odette. With this performance you see Odette falling in love with Siegfried.

Tentative and shy at first and more trusting and mature as the Act II pas de deux

unfolded. Her arms had the right amount of flutter - her back is pliant and

flexible - She really let Nilas lead her movements but she was clearly in control.

As Odile, she knew she was the prettiest girl at the party. The pas de deux

was a seduction. She was ever present of Von Rothbart's evil daring and sought

his approval as our hapless hero was duped. I didn't miss the fouettes - she has

lots of time to perfect them. This young lady has a bright future.

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I'll write more later, as I just got back from a double-dip of Swan Lake. But I second that Mearns was "simply exquisite." Her Odette was delicate, vulnerable, yet proud. Her Odile was not a temptress, but I'm glad she didn't try to act older than she is. Balanchinomane described her Odile well -- the prettiest girl at the party, which suited her just right at this time. A strong debut. Good for Sara Mearns and a tip of the cap to Peter Martins and coaches.

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I will add to the chorus here - Mearns debut was magnificent. She was (of all things) a traditional Odette - pure, luxuriant & tender. I was one of the people who thought Martins was crazy with this move - but he was right. Her technique was fine, she had stamina to spare, her line and phrasing were beautiful and her performance was very, very moving. Her Odile wasn’t as spectacular as Bouder's, but it was still excellent and what I liked about it’s concept was that she didn’t try to make Odile the opposite of Odette - it was similar enough to actually remind you of Odette. But while I agree that she didn’t play the temptress I thought she was still very seductive.

Yesterday’s matinee was my 3rd SL of the season. I’d been toying with the thought of going to Bouder’s matinee today and Sara’s second performance on Tuesday. As the performance began I thought no, I can’t take any more of this. At the end, as I brushed back a tear I changed my mind and ran downstairs to get tickets for this afternoon & Tuesday night.

She was that good.

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