The interview made me appreciate how difficult it must be for dancers to transfer from such a different culture to to ours -- and to appreciate the creative drive (the desire to experience, learn, expand) which gives a few rare artists the courage to make this leap into the unknown.
Villella first saw Wu when she won a gold medal at Jackson in 2001. He's hired from Jackson before (Sierra, Carranza, Penteado), and MCB dancers have performed there. I was impressed by his account of what he saw in her. It says something both about her and about Villella as an artistic director.
Zou arrived two years after that, hired on the basis of a videotape. They're now a couple in their personal lives as they are on stage. I've seen incredible growth over the past couple of years. They were a worthy Aurora and Desire in last season's Aurora's Wedding. Each fit in perfectly into Bouree Fantasque, though they did not dance together.
"I thought, wow, what a mind. You could see she was smart in performance, this is someone I can worth with," he says. "At these competitions you see technique and at the end they often can't dance. I took a look at Haiyan and said that is a dancer. She had a delicacy about her, a very special vulnerability. As a partner you want to take care of her. As an audience member you are drawn into her."
In Sinatra Songs, dancing with the utterly different Jeremy Cox, Wu was almost unrecognizable: conflident, flowing, expansive. Her trance-like approach to Afternoon of a Faun was really powerful. And, when she was kissed, her reaction, although entirely in tune with what had gone before, was a complete surprise. It's etched in my visual memory -- and I've seen a lot of Fauns.
I'm glad that Wu and Zou will be partnered in the Balanchine Act II Swan Lake for Program I this fall. I hope to get to see them at least a couple of times.
Any thoughts about these dancers? About the interview? About the difficulty of transferring countries and cultures when dancers move from their safe, predictable home base? About Villella as a gatherer of world ballet talent?