Jewels - Wed 9/19/18
This performance was really all about the debuts, so I'll take them in order of appearance.
Emeralds — Tiler Peck & Taylor Stanley (debut); Unity Phelan (debut) & Adrian Danchig-Waring; Sara Adams, Meagan Mann, & Sean Suozzi.
Probably one of the best all-around performances of Emeralds I've seen in a while. Both debuts (Stanley and Phelan) were all that might have been asked for and more, and the rest of the cast brought their A game.
With regard to Stanley, I can only ask "what took them so long?" — his elegance, musicality, and beautiful pliancy, plus his ability to evoke reverie and an inward gaze while still being very much present (a quality he shares with Wendy Whelan) would seem to make him a natural for the world of Emeralds. He's not one of the company's demon pyrotechnicians, but I like his approach to bravura steps: rather than just punching them out, he folds them into the music and the contours of his line. He was an excellent foil for Tiler Peck: there's a passage in the opening section where the ballerina takes her partner by the hand and runs across the stage in front of the corps, swirls around him a few times, and skims off in the other direction with her danseur still in tow. Often enough it looks like a bit of running hither and thither to fill out the music and whip up a nice froth of tulle. Without any kind of undue fuss, Stanley made something more of it: it really looked like he was letting her lead him into some secret, magical realm, — a place where only she could take him.
Unity Phelan's debut in Mimi Paul's role was just gorgeous, especially her Sicilienne solo, which was was hands down the best dancing I've seen from her yet: she was musical and focussed, with a genuine perfume and an interpretive and stylistic throughline that I haven't seen from her before. If I hadn't known it was a debut I would have thought her solo was the product of more than a few seasons of thoughtful refinement. I cannot say enough good things about it, and frankly, I thought she pretty much walked off with what I had expected to be Tiler Peck's show.
Phelan was also lovely in the "Walking" pas de deux (with Adrian Danchig-Waring), though I still prefer Ashley Laracey (again with Danchig-Waring) in that pas. Laracey and Danchig-Waring dance it like they are already halfway through the portal to the vanished world that Emeralds becomes in its final, elegiac moments; they are so other-worldy that they put me in mind of Ashton's Monotones, of all things. Phelan's approach had a bit more flesh-and-blood yearning to it, but was still a lovely interpretation.
My only reservation about last night's performance of Emeralds concerns Sean Suozzi. I have no complaints about his dancing per se, but his style is and always has been a bit brusque. It serves him very well in his best roles — e.g., Agon and the hat and boots guy in Cortège Hongrois — but seems out of place in the world of Balanchine's Emeralds.
Rubies — Sterling Hyltin, Andrew Veyette, and Claire Kretzschmar.
Sterling Hiltin was absolutely terrific: fast, funny, expansive, and endearing. Andrew Veyette did a decent job of emulating bravura. He seems to have recovered from whatever was so grievously amiss last season, but has lost some of the easy flair he brought to this role half a decade ago.
As was noted further up-thread, Claire Kretzschmar debuted as a last-minute substitute for Isabella LaFreniere as the Tall Girl. (Fingers crossed that it's nothing serious! LaFreniere had to scrub her big debut in Firebird a few seasons ago; I hope she doesn't have to scrub this one too.) Simply by virtue of her dynamism, verve, and bold attack, Kretzschmar should be an ideal Tall Girl, but she's just not quite tall enough to be a natural fit for the role. Some uneasiness in the big, unsupported arabesques aside (which I will chalk up to Surprise! You're debuting tonight! nerves), she danced well, and was just as saucy and cheeky as I would have liked. She wasn't notably taller than some of the women in the corps, however, and sometimes got lost in the crowd. I'm not sure the choreography can really accommodate an Almost-Tall Girl who otherwise nails the steps, even if she does so as vividly as Kretzschmar surely can. I've seen her take center stage with authority, though, so I'm hoping she and the ballet masters can get this one sorted out.
Diamonds - Cast: Sara Mearns & Joseph Gordon (debut).
Bravo, Joseph Gordon! He rightly brought the house down with his solos, which were more than a display of pyrotechnics: he danced his bravura jumps and turns like a poised and confident Prince rather than hurling himself through them like a circus showboat. Although Gordon did comport himself like a prince — albeit a young one — and certainly seemed to be a capable and gracious partner, I think he and Mearns are something of a mismatch: they looked a bit like the Marschallin and Octavian, and I was half expecting Sophie to put in an appearance. They nonetheless seemed to have a genuine rapport, and I think much credit is due to Mearns for making sure Gordon's debut was a success. I want to see them both in Diamonds again, but maybe with different partners. And of course, I'd like to see Gordon in about 50 other things, too!
So, last night it seemed like everything really is beautiful at the ballet.