A lot of this comes down to personal taste, of course, but I was never a huge fan of Kyra Nichols (heresy, I know) and even less of a fan of Merrill Ashley, unless she was going 90 mph. I have to go quite a while back -- before Calegari (whom I did like) or other ballerinas who came up in the '70s and '80s, to find one whose Diamonds left as strong an impression on me as the one Sara Mearns danced this season. Suddenly, I see Mearns as a world-class ballerina. There are stronger technicians, but what an amazing stylistic range she has! What fluidity of movement! What imagination!
I think between Mearns, Bouder and Tiler Peck, with Kathryn Morgan coming up, NYCB has a mini-golden age of young or youngish ballerinas (maybe not so mini
). Unfortunately, its male roster is not so golden. The company does not excel at developing its male talent from within the ranks. Martins imported Garcia. We can see how Robert Fairchild continues to develop. I hope Tyler Angle can become more consistent, because I really like him when he's on. Hopefully, the promise that Chase Finlay displayed in his first solo role was not deceptive.
But I don't think it's only the principals who determine the quality of a company. More important is the aptly termed corps de ballet. You can have a brilliant lead cast, but if the corps isn't good, the ballet as a whole will fall apart. In this regard, NYCB runs the gamut.