Balanchine STRONGLY discouraged his dancers from 'acting', as is extremely well known,
I agree entirely with Cargill's response to this. 7 Deadly Sins is an example of the sub-genre of Balanchine theater pieces. Anna II was NOT a dance role in any conventional sense. The character must act, though using mimetic and dance movement. More, she must be able to hold the spotlight even when a vast amount of interesting (or distracting, depending on your point of view) stuff is going on around her.
Fortunately, no one will have to live up to Kent (an impossible task), as this will not be the Balanchine choreography--a great pity. I cannot imagine a choreographer as facile and shallow as Taylor-Corbett being up to the esthetic demands of a dark, mordant, somber period piece like The Seven Deadly Sins.
Once again, it's necessary to stress that that the Anna II of Balanchine's 7 Deadly Sins was NOT a dancer role, much less a "Balanchine dancer" role. Kent was brilliant because of her personality and certain qualities of movement that had little to do with neoclassical ballet.
Many BT members have access to Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review
. On pp. 193-94 there are 3 photos of Kent in various aspects of the Anna II role. They do capture the qualities she brought to this role, and why she was mesmerizing in it.
About the work itself -- The orgins of 7 Deadly Sins put it in the tradition of gesamtkunstwerk
. Balanchine's version did, of course, contain elements
that were "dark, mordant" and "period." (I object to "somber.") There were many examples of comedy (absurdist as well as black), social satire, anger, acerbic commentary (mainly from Anna I), etc. "Somber" this piece was not.
On top of that, there is a clear moral point of view, and one has its own universality. In almost any period of human history you can find examples of the terrible things that a heartless, amoral, dishonest, and occasionally sanctimonious society does to ordinary people. All of this is very clear from the music and the libretto (the latter very accessible to the audience in the Kallman/Audan translation) as well as in Balanchine's staging. For this new revival, we don't need a faithful reconstruction a la
The Green Table (wonderful though that is). We DO need an artistic team with total commitment to the idea that the work still has relevance in our own day.
I hope the creators of the 2011 version will make changes in period and setting, while preserving of course the artistic and moral heart of the work.
I see no reason why Ms. Taylor-Corbet shouldn't do a wonderful job. She might even wish to make Anna II more of a dance role, and why not? (On the other hand, we might want to look warily in the direction of Peter Martins, what with his variable and sometimes questionable taste when it comes to reimagining works of art. )