I would like to add a more complete description of the exhilarating performance on Friday night. First, kudos to ABT's marketing team for finding a way to fill the house during the last week of the season and also over the July 4th weekend. I've attended half-full Corsaires and Swan Lakes over past July 4th weekends, so it was great to see a packed and highly responsive crowd filling the house on Saturday evening. I guess Sleeping Beauty is the answer.
Stella was again lovely as the Lilac Fairy. She was less technically secure in the series of unsupported pirouettes in the prologue, but somehow her presence, miming, and upper body seemed even more expressive than earlier this week. Since the dramatic text of ABT's Sleeping Beauty is so muddled, it takes quite a ballerina to pull off the role of Lilac Fairy and help the story to make sense. Stella does a beautiful job of making the Lilac Fairy seem as if she is orchestrating the plot with command and calmness.
The fairies at Friday's performance were excellent. Christine Shevchencko danced the happiness fairy very securely, though I sometimes like when that fairy seems a bit more hyperactive. After catching her very impressive last-minute performance in the Ratmansky piece (substituting for Gillian Murphy), I hope we will have the opportunity to see more of her in the future. Kristi Boone is, as always, a perfect fit for the very intense fairy (I believe the fairy of valor?). However, when she is cast in these sort of intense, athletic roles, it becomes harder and harder to imagine her dancing anything softer or more lyrical. Simone Messmer's pointing fairy variation was outstounding--the best I've ever seen it danced. She was brimming with energy all night. Gemma Bond and Katherine Williams were both lovely and danced with great delicacy in the two slow fairy variations, which can so often look awkward.
Aurora's birthday scene was lovely, but Part's performance really only got better from there. I sensed some odd issues of coordination between the pit and the dancers in this scene, though later in the evening they seemed to be perfectly supportive of Part.
I wonder whether the conductor added an extra bar of music to let Veronica finish her last balance in the Rose Adagio. Does anyone familiar with the music know?
I wish I could answer puppytreats' question definitively, but it did feel as if the final round of balances was longer than it ever has been before. I think they were just playing the music incredibly slow. I'm not always a fan of such tempo adjustments, but it was breathtaking to see the suitors rotate Part so slowly and to see her hold that arabesque, perfectly still, for such a long period of time. All of her balances were fine, but she didn't attempt to hold them for extended periods of time as she has done in the past. Yet, during the sequence in which she receives a rose from each suitor and raises her leg sky-high, she emphasized her ability to balance in that pose after the support of the partner was released.
From the moment Part pricked her hand on the spindle through the vision scene, I felt as if I could have been watching a performance of Giselle. As others have said, Part truly is a master of adagio, and in this act and the final one, the orchestra played at a tempo that allowed her to luxuriate in each detail of the music. Poses or details that seemed barely articulated in Tuesday's performance were here finely etched. To get back to the issue of balances--Part seemed to hold one forever in that strangely beautiful moment when, her back facing the stage, the Lilac Fairy and the prince support her in an arabesque and then release her hands.
The wedding act was, I believe, the strongest one ever delivered together by Part and Gomes. By the end of the act it felt as if their dancing was brimming over with energy. It has been noted that supported pirouettes can be an issue for Part and her partners, but the last set executed by Gomes and Part (the ones that travel across the stage), were performed rapidly, flawlessly, and with great panache. So too, Part's rapid-fire series of pirouettes around the stage at the end of the pas de deux was performed with greater speed and security than I've ever seen. It was thrilling to experience two great dancers give everything they have, and then some. I have enjoyed seeing other dancers, particularly Stearns, partner Part so well, but this performance made me realize how much I miss the special chemistry she has with Gomes. He performs the lifts so effortlessly and allows her to pose perfectly in the air (which is something that can become distorted with other partners).
I dream of another Part/Gomes Swan Lake, especially now that both of them are clearly at the height of their artistic powers...