I am lucky enough that I was able to catch 4/5 of this past weekends performances. Student Tickets are a godsend.
Oksana Maslova and Arian Molina Soca were the lead couple tonight and this performances was highly publicized both around the city and on PA's Instagram. On paper, Oksana has everything to be the ideal Giselle. On stage, while there were some stunning moments, her charming personality shone in the first act and she showed her gorgeous flexibility and turnout in the 2nd act. In between, there were moments where her arms looked a bit uncoordinated. She had a couple of stumbles in her variation on the double attitude pirouettes and unfortunately barely traveled at all on her hops on pointe. This was her debut and I hope next weeks performance with prove to be more stable as she has so much potential in this role.
Molina Soca is charming and flirtatious in the first act creating lots of cute moments between himself and Oksana but gets a little bit ahead of himself ad looses some of his characterization in rushed moments. The connection seemed a bit looser in the the second act but his variation was crisp.
Nayara Lopes with Albert Gorden in the Peasant PPD was a highlight of the entire weekend, truly one of the best I have seen. Lopes just seems to float through the entire piece. She was truly 'on' that night with gorgeous sustained balances in both her attitudes in her variation and in the passes before and after her double step overs in the coda. Perhaps the most impressive were her giant sissones to arabesque in the coda, although she is not very tall she just ate up the stage with precise footwork and her sunny disposition. Gorden had crisp feet and quick pirouettes throughout.
The soloists Nayara Lopes and Alexandra Hughes were the Willis soloists. Hughes was fine with a couple stumbles on her diagonal of turns. Lopes retuned with a completely different character than she showed in the first act. Her arms flowed seamlessly as she was absolutely stunning in several sustained balances in penche. Keep your eyes on her.
Dayesi Torriente was a frosty Myrtha with enormous jumps and stable balances. Her face and emotions were truly scary, shivers ran up my arms. I got such old school vibes from her, and her interpretation reminded me of how Maria Alexandra danced this role. Everything she did from the huge menage of grand jetes to the little pas de chevals before her pique arabesques radiated her power.
The corps seemed extra focused in this performance, it was the opening night after all and few mistakes were made. They received generous applause throughout this weekend.
This was the debut that I was most excited for: Yuka Iseda. She is quite short but still posses an incredibly stable and flexible arabesque line. Her penche in both her variation and all of the 2nd act were so stable. She has complete control over this position, she has the flexibility and strength to hold the 180 position while barely dropping her back; her lines are stunning. She was charming and light throughout the first act. I think I preferred her mad scene the most, this was a woman going insane. She had such intense emotions not just in her face but in her hands, her torso, her whole body was committed to the character. However, her small stature does limit her jumping ability some of the grande allegro looked a bit labored after the adagio. Overall, an exceptional debut but unfortunately the cast around her was not quite as good.
The soloist, Alexey Babyev, certainly has a lot of potential. He does not even have to do anything and he instantly looks like a prince. He has a handsome face, dark hair, long straight legs and nice feet and a natural elegance that will carry him far. However he seemed to not push for much of a connection with Iseda and sort of faded in the background.
There were more issues in the Peasant PPD. Kathryn Manger had some mishaps and it looked like she may have tweaked her ankle. Her partner Peter Weil also did not have a good showing with poorly executed tours.
The Myrtha, soloist Alexandra Hughes, did not deliver a confident performance. Sadly, her entrance was filled with wobbles and her characterization really suffered. So Jung Shin helped to redeem the act, she showed a somber performance with smooth port de bras as Moyna.
I spotted the Rock School Directors, Bo and Stephanie Spassoff in the audience for this performance, she was clapping with enthusiasm at curtain calls for the lead couple.
Mayara Pineiro's performance can best be described as stable. There were no wobbles, all the turns were finished smoothly. She clearly trusts her technique to get her through this difficult ballet. However, her emotions were more reserved and even sitting as close as I was, it was very clear that I was watching Mayara, not Giselle. The mad scene especially needs work and didn't see famous Cuban Giselle influences in her dancing.
Ze Cheng Liang was fully engaged in this performance and his technique is perhaps the cleanest in the company.Every tour is stuck in fifth and every pirouette is lifted to the maximum. I liked to describe his acting as clear, his gestures are precise and held which makes it easy for the audience to see what he is doing. This was noticeable in the scene where Albrecht reaches for his sword that he does not have when he wants to fight Hillarion. This key moment was rushed by all the other Albrechts. He was the one who best conveyed Albrecht's inner conflicts. You could feel him reaching to connect with Pineiro but he received little response. He has had principal roles in every production the previous seasons and with Ian Hussey retiring at the end of the season there is an opening in the principal rank...
Nayara Lopes had her debut as Myrtha. While she was technically solid, this is not the most natural role for her. She has a sunnier personality and a shorter build that does not lend itself easily to Myrtha's character.
I was curious to see Dayesi tackle a cuter, softer character. She tends to be cast in more dramatic and powerful roles; last season she did a great O/O with her fiancee Molina Soca and also shined as the Rubies Tall Girl. However, she was not cast at all in this spring's R&J and I don't think she danced Aurora last season (She did dance Lilac Fairy).
All that being said, I was blown away with her interpretation, especially in the 2nd act. It is rare that a dancer can be both a great Giselle and Myrtha. Torreinte is exceptional and she poured her soul out, especially in the 2nd act. The way she threw herself in between Albretch and Myrtha selflessly brought tears to my eyes. The highlight was her entrechat quatre sequence, she just seemed to be floating the whole time. Gorgeous suspension and an effortless movement quality, this was the Cuban Giselle.
I have not always been the biggest fan of Sterling Baca as he tends to have too much sloppy footwork for my liking but he is a very dramatic Albretch. His variation was particularly versatile, showing tours and pirouettes to both sides. In addition, he is the only one to perform the entrechat six in the 2nd act and did so despite a insanely quick tempo. He also has the additional challenge of dancing with two different partners just mere days apart.
These two had by far the strongest connection and chemistry on stage and the crowd really voiced their support.
Myrtha was the very young Sydney Dolan and I was pleasantly surprised by her take of this role. While she doesn't yet have the maturity to give off such an evil chill, she soared through this roles technical challenges. Her penches was effortlessly stable and jumps just got bigger throughout the night.
Yuka Iseda again delivered in Peasant PPD paired with Ashton Roxander, with smooth attitudes and a smile.
Some General Thoughts
The conductor must have been a nightmare for the dancers. He seemed to speed up and slow down the tempo whenever he wished; it was so inconsistent. Mostly the dancers coped well but there were some moments where the tempo simply became undanceable and the dancers had to modify choreography. I am not sure of this conductor's name but he is not the ballet's typical conductor and did not conduct anything else this season. Normally, it is a curly-haired woman.