I attended today's matinee with Part/Whiteside and was deeply impressed by how they have both grown into the lead roles. They delivered the most technically secure performances I've ever seen them give at ABT. Neither is the ideal spitfire one imagines for Don Q, but both brought gorgeous technique and an innate sense of musicality. I know Whiteside has had his detractors, and I myself have considered him a raw talent in need of much refining. But what a difference a year has made. His spins and leaps were beautifully executed, and his control and cleanness in these elements brought to mind Gomes and Carreno. (Whiteside would whip off a crisp and fast spin only to deliciously slow it down at the end -- an effect Carreno always seemed to love.) Gone is the slight sloppiness one occasionally saw in Whiteside's spins or his transitions between elements.
Is Whiteside the partner for Part in her (sadly) post-Gomes era? I am now convinced that this may be the case. His support of her was near-perfect; the lifts, promenades, fish dives, and supported pirouettes were wonderful. The chemistry was not quite at Part/Gomes levels, but it was a much, much better than with Stearns. It was clear that Part and Whiteside have a good rapport, and she seemed to have every confidence in him as a partner. Their pas de deux throughout the ballet were truly the highlights, though they danced beautifully on their own, as well.
It was a delight to see Part dancing against type -- and so brilliantly. However, I was reminded that so many elements of Kitri's choreography actually do align with Part's greatest strengths: soaring grand jetes, sky-high extensions (hers seem to have only gotten higher in the past couple years), gorgeous arabesques, and lovely balances. And then it came as a wonderful surprise to see her execute the many whiplash pirouettes, the fouettes, and the other tricky bits more flawlessly than I've ever seem from her. I've never seen her pull off each and every unsupported pirouette (which can be her Achilles' heel) with such confidence.
I feel very lucky to have seen such a perfectly cast Vision Scene. Stella was fantastic. What a pure joy to see her execute Italian fouettes. She makes them look so graceful and effortless. I believe it was Nicole Graniero as Amour. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) She was fantastic in the role -- not Tinker Bell saccharine, but just the right mixture of sprightly energy and technical precision. Gorgeous leaps and perfect multiple pirouettes. She's not a corps dancer I've followed in the past, but I was really blown away by her today.
In the Kennedy Center thread, it was mentioned that Zhiyao Zhang was an incredible lead Gypsy. His performance in that role today was among the best I've seen. I can't wait to see what else he will dance at ABT. Bronze Idol? Ali? He seems to have what it takes, at least based on today's small sample of his talents.
Christine Shevchencko was absolutely lovely as one of the Flower Girls.