This was a good performance marred by some silly choreography and ballets. The Auditorium Theatre is of such beauty and opulence that it contributes to and gives distinction to any performer or company appearing in it.
The Balanchine ballets ('Rubies' and 'Diamonds' pas de deux) shone most brilliantly. Elizabeth McGrath as the Tall Girl (the soloist) in 'Rubies' was superb: athletic (her first pirouette was an effortless triple), sexy, and FUNNY--one of the wittiest Rubies tall girls I have ever seen. Her inflections rippled with humor and delight in dancing. Beckanne SIsk, who is on the rather cheesy Ballet West reality show called 'Breaking Pointe' and is being heavily pushed by the director as The Next Ballerina, is a good dancer but she appeared preoccupied with correctness here; her smile is fixed and rigid and she does not show enough freedom, range of movement, angles, relish, or Broadway-baby sex appeal, not to mention pure charm (the 'Rubies' ballerinas are both showgirls of different sorts.) She is very young (about twenty-one) and will doubtless improve. Her partner Christopher Ruud, not quite up to the technical demands of a totemic Villella role (which puts him in the company of most men who have danced this since Villella) was charming and roguish. The corps was fun throughout the ballet.
Christiana Bennett, another star on 'Breaking Pointe' and the current company prima, danced 'Diamonds' pas de deux with Beau Pearson (strong and a tactful partner.) She is clean, exact, precise, and honest in steps; she was in this performance also cold and rather uninvolved. Balanchine ballerinas should not emote nor should they work the room, but this icy delivery is too far in the opposite direction. Suzanne Farrell could be described by many diverse adjectives, but 'cold' would not be one of them; a regal presence such as the magnificent Deanna Seay, late of Miami City Ballet, can also be (as Seay was in this role) overwhemingly warm, gracious, and enveloping.
The new pas de quatre (a premiere) by Nicolo Fonte, a current darling of the ballet world, had excellent dancers (Katherine Lawrence, the almost too handsome Tom Mattingly, Adrian Fry, and Jacqueline Straughan) dancing to u-g-l-y music by Ezio Bosso, for string quartet. Even with the atrocities of modern 'string playing' this is some of the ugliest grinding and mashing I've ever encountered, and to hear such 'sounds' in what is supposed to be string quartet playing is beyond jarring. The choreography was typical of some current trends in ballet--gymnastic, slightly outre, attempting to be showy and 'dramatic.' Lawrence appears to be a terrific and serious dancer, and I would love to see her in real choreography; Straughan has legs and line for days and seems a foot taller than her actual height on stage. All the dancers would be excellent in a better, more interesting ballet.
The Lottery, which is, help me, to the famous and frightening Shirley Jackson short story, has a Big Schtick: seven couples all draw the lots to determine who the murder victim will be (the 'sacrifice' of the rite) and the dancers do not know who will dance the final (fairly taxing and difficult) solo until then, so they all must know it (there is a boys' and a girls' version) and be ready to dance it at every performance. The dancer who 'won' at my performance was the young, talented demisoloist Katie Critchlow, who is an excellent dancer and on whom the female solo version was originally made. Something which occurred during her solo epitomizes what's wrong with this story as a 'ballet'--she did a difficult multiple pirouette flawlessly and the audience burst into applause. She DESERVED her applause and then some, but not in something intended to be a DANCE OF DEATH! This ain't Odile's (or Medora's, or Kitri's, or any other ballerina's) fouettes, and such cognitive dissonance in the midst of what is intended to be 'high drama' vitiates the intention. The ballet, of course, just as do all 'problem plays' and 'issue plays' in theater, steals all its 'intensity' from the grim theme, and although the dancers again distinguish themselves the work itself is unsuccessful. Val Caniparoli, the choreographer, has done some excellent ballets (Lambarena in particular) but there is no plausible reason to make this great story into a 'ballet.' Also, having the chosen victim scream 'it isn't fair' three times before starting the final solo is a Grand Guignol gesture in the worst possible taste. What ballet dancers do not do is talk. Or scream. They do everything else.