I attended both opening night and Sunday’s closing matinee performance and was delighted by the energy of the latter – maybe it was like horses sensing they’re close to home/dinner and picking up the pace. (Or is that cows?) The Opera House had a full house; I think there was some hugely popular 11th hour promo (that made picking up will-call tickets a perfect nightmare but we won't go there...). Lots of fun dancers to see in solo roles: Jahna F and Wei Wang rocked as Queen and King of Snow. Agree with PeggyR’s comment that Jahna dances big, and really looked at home in the role; great upper body presentation throughout. She nailed her final pirouette—four rotations and a clean finish. And Wei Wang has those big leaps, those clean, quiet finishes.
Jennifer Stahl danced SPF and she was a delight to watch. I don’t think I’ve seen her dance that role before (she’s one of my favorite Snow Queens although YY and Carlo on opening night were predictably stunning). It seems each year Jennifer S refines her style, and this year she had a subdued refinement that reminded me of Sofiane in the SPF role. A late change swapped Elizabeth Powell for Swane Messaoudi in Arabian, and she did wonderfully. I’m thinking I’ve never before seen her in a soloist role; anyone else see her dancing this? Gorgeous extensions and arches, she easily maintained the mystique the role requires. Even though she was stepping in on short notice, she worked well with the two males, Sean Bennett and Alexander Reneff-Olson. Bennett was Dr. Stahlbaum in Act I and really stood out, in a good way. I didn’t realize he was so tall. He made a great Dr. Stahlbaum.
I was very much looking forward to seeing Benjamin Freemantle as the Nutcracker Prince and he did not disappoint. He’s still young, green, (some landings could have been softer) but that always makes it that much more of a thrill to watch. He's got the important stuff: the instinct and the technique (not to mention the talent) for big roles. What I find particularly appealing about him is this enthusiasm and good will that flow from him. (One gets this feeling watching Angelo Greco too.) He and Sasha -- I guess now we have to add “de Sola” since now there are two Sashas -- seemed to work very well together. They both had this youthful enthusiasm that, combined, seemed to make this the happiest (bad description) grand pas de deux I’ve seen performed. Better put, they seemed, as characters, to take delight in it all. The energy, from the audience, the orchestra, the stage, seemed to keep building throughout the grand pas de deux, as the two danced without any visible hiccups/bumps. It was hard to believe it all was at the end of a 30-performance (?) run. Benjamin just gave and gave, and Sasha skipped the single fouetté business in the coda in order to go with all doubles, just tearing through them in perfect form, and you got the sense she could keep going. The audience just went wild at the end.
In Spanish, I really enjoyed seeing Carmela Mayo and Natasha Sheehan. Although the guys certainly deserve a shout-out (Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Davide Occhipinti, Jacob Seltzer), my eyes are always drawn to the females dancing here, and those two were really fun to watch. Oh, and in Act 1, Joshua Jack Price threw in an aerial flip/walkover during his solo as the harlequin/jack-in-the-box, which I don’t think I’ve seen a dancer do before. It was very cool, and as surefooted and soundless as the rest of his dancing. Nice.
No new Waltz of the Flowers costumes in sight; that was indeed a strange little blip last year, reading the news in the Chronicle and then, nada. Oh well. I've made my peace with those costumes, and the icky-colored French costumes.
Great show, both times, but I think I would have to say I enjoyed the second one more. (My review for opening night is at Bachtrack, but I'm thinking I'm not supposed to post links here, so I won't, but links can be found at The Classical Girl.)
On a somber note, and this might have already been discussed elsewhere, but Allan Ulrich passed away this past July, and I, for one, will forever miss his elegant, eloquent reviews. Not that I always agreed with what he said, but it amazed me, the poetry and insight he’d put into a 350-word review. As someone who writes about dance (always a work in progress), I've been studying his reviews, his words, over the past 10 years, and just marveling at how interesting they were to read, how much they said about the art form. I will sorely miss his presence in the dance world.