I like dancers when they appear to be listening intently ahead for the next phrase of the dance. As if they don't know what it is quite going to be--and they're going to quietly meet it half way.
I love this mental image. I couldn't have put it so nicely into words as you do here, but I think this is exactly what I see when a dancer's performance truly moves me.
Is it really just a choice between smiling or not smiling? A smile -- whether serene, joyful, slap-happy, exhilerated, or coy -- can be integral to a role. Acocella seems to be focusing on the "knowing smile" -- the "self-conscious smile" -- even the "conspiratorial smile."
You are right on the money bart. There is nothing wrong with smiling; and in fact, smiling might be mandatory if the role calls for it. It's the "pasted on smile"
(for smile's sake alone) that is inappropriate. Certainly the types of smiles you quote from Acocella are completely out of place.
This makes me wonder if, to use bart's wording, the conspiratorial, wink, wink smile is appropriate in Rubies, or in other ballets or sections of ballets where showing off is part of the point.
Ironically, the production of PNB's Jewels gives a perfect example of how even the conspiratorial smile can work in Rubies in spite of it not working in Diamonds. Opening night Jonathan Porretta danced what I call the "cheeky boy's"
role in Rubies. When he is on stage with the quartet of male dancers, leading them around the stage as if they were some sort of team of horses, there is a moment when the "cheeky boy"
runs along the edge of the stage, completely down stage. When Porretta did this, he not only smiled, but he gave a hearty winking laugh and devilish look directly at the audience. He completely broke the 4th glass wall in that moment. It was appropriate for that moment, and invoked great laughter from the audience (just as it should IMHO). Notably when Peter Boal made his comment a few days later at the Q&A about having chastised the dancers for too much smiling in Diamonds, he did not
say a word about Jonathan's outrageous cheek in Rubies. Interestingly, on Sunday afternoon when Olivier Webers did the same role, although he is an excellent actor and very accessible to the audience, Wevers did not ham up this moment as much as Porretta had opening night. Personally, I thought Poretta's choice was the better one (and judging by the laughter, so did the rest of the audience). Rubies is so full of wit and playfulness that "showing off", as you put it kfw (later edit...initially I said bart here, sorry kfw)
, is completely appropriate.
Just to overkill the point about Rubies, I can't resist mentioning another part in Rubies where the music is somewhat serious, and the dancing wholly into that syncopated Stravinsky thing, when suddenly the music totally shifts to light-hearted laughter. At at that moment four girls (I think it is 4) come out and whoosh though the other dancers. I call these four girls the "bathing beauties"
because to me their movements remind me of flappers from the 1920's in whole body swimming suits frolicing on the beach! Too serious there and the entire illusion, and wit, of "seeing" that particular music would be lost.