Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel were in the audience tonight. So were David Hallberg (who looks beautiful up close), Joaquin de Luz and Julie Kent Barbee and probably some others that I didn't recognize.
The ballet itself was mildly entertaining. It was the least exciting of what I've seen this year, along with the rather lackluster Don Q. NYCB's version is definitely better. The second act, when all the dolls come to life, was much more fun at NYCB.
This is not to say it was bad. Xiomara Reyes is so wonderfully talented, was brilliant as always and must be ABT's most underrated dancer. She pretty much carried the first two acts on her own. Devon Teuscher had a good scene in Act III and Alexei Agoudine did a great acting job in the thankless role of Dr. Coppelius.
Of course the real reason we were all there was to see Sascha's farewell performance and he had plenty of fans in the mostly full orchestra. He entered with a bright smile and no signs of whatever injury has kept him out the last few weeks. (He did appear to bump into a corps member early on.) He had little to do in Act I and less in Act II. But we finally got the great jumps, spins and the thrilling manege that we were waiting for in the grand pas variation and coda (and Xiomara was terrific as well). It was a long wait, but well worth it.
At the curtain call, Xiomara received her bouquet and handed it to Sascha, then graciously stepped back to let him have the spotlight. KM came out to present a wreath and then came Stella with a bouquet and very nice kiss. Several others came onto the stage, including Hallberg, Marcelo and someone else on crutches. After the lights came up following the front of curtain bows, many in the audience refused to leave, still hooting (led by Ethan Stiefel) and chanting his name. Eventually he came out for one final bow.
I wish the ballet that came before it had been just as exciting, but it was a nice sendoff, particularly for a soloist. There was a lot of love for him both onstage and off and he seemed genuinely humbled by it all.