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NYCB Nutcracker: 2007

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Sunday, November 25 1 PM

Two young women not listed as members of the company certainly drew attention this afternoon. Already familiar via SAB is Puanani Brown, who danced throughout the program as a maid, a snowflake, and in the Hot Chocolate corps. But I'd never seen Garnetta Gonzalez before, and can't wait to see her again after her snowflake and flower.

Robert LaFosse was a wonderfully warm, psychologically sound Herr Drosselmeier for the kids Margot Pitts and Jonathan Alexander, and his (tall) nephew Nicholas Smith. Lauren King ably replaced Alina Dronova as Marzipan, and Abi Stafford (every season dancing with greater ease) replaced Jennifer Tinsley-Williams as Rachel Rutherford's fellow Flower. Daniel Ulbricht, Erica Pereira and Rachel Piskin upped the caffeine level of Tea.

Teresa Reichlen danced the part "for the fathers" and her coffee was very fluid, from toes to fingers, not just all legs. Nothing was forced, she hardly would need that to attain the required effect, and she added a dollop of sugar with a sly yet very innocent smile at the very end.

Ashley Bouder's Dewdrop found the Assoluta at her most magically musical level, riding the crest of Tschaikovsky so naturally, a wave of pure joy. I'm sure she must have pulled off some spectacular tricks, but all I could see was the music, all I could hear was grace. This was for me everything that her opening night dazzle wasn't.

Charles Askegard partnered (and delivered an exciting variation) SPF Maria Kowroski flawlessly. Her line a living poem, her warmth as if she were the favorite auntie to every child in the audience. During the adagio, the slightest autumn breeze blows the season's last leaf onto the Cavalier's shoulder. It is Maria. Our Lopatkina.

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Sunday, November 25 1 PM

Two young women not listed as members of the company certainly drew attention this afternoon. Already familiar via SAB is Puanani Brown, who danced throughout the program as a maid, a snowflake, and in the Hot Chocolate corps. But I'd never seen Garnetta Gonzalez before, and can't wait to see her again after her snowflake and flower.

Garnetta Gonzalez (known as "Coco" while at SAB) was asked to be an apprentice in 2005 (per the Fall 2005 SAB Newsletter). It's nice to see her back dancing again.

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I was also at Sunday's Mat., and the show was -- so, what's new? -- all Bouder's. Her Dewdrop was both bold in its energy and subtle in its shadings. She is at once accessible and intriguing. Tearing into the wings with a series of pique turns, she was able to phrase each with exquisite clarity to show us the backward arch in her upper back. That pretty much summed up the whole of her performance. You can thrill at her considerable technical mastery, or you can thrill at her artistic choices. And you can thrill at both simultaneously.

Lauren King led the Marzipan Shepardesses with a cushiness that softened the sometimes strident staccato of that variation. I liked her approach very much.

I also liked the spontaneously fresh Nutcracker Prince, Nicholas Smith. Most of the boys in this role are so intent on being the Perfect Little Gentleman that they seem a bit stiff, not quite believable as real boys approaching adolescence. This one clearly relished every moment he was on stage, kept his rapport with his Marie (Margot Pitts) active, giving us a Perfect Little Gentleman Plus.

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Friday, November 30

Besides a sparkling Wendy Whelan as the SPF, ably assisted by Philip Neal -- the stars of tonight's show were Kathryn Morgan as a delicious lead Marzipan, and Megan LeCrone as one of the two demi-soloists in flowers.

Morgan dances big but delicate, and even seemed to be enjoying the fussy pointe work. As Marzipan she reminded me of my all-time favorite -- the young Gelsey Kirkland, who had the same kind of bouncy exactitude, kicking off her gargouillades like a frolicky lamb.

LeCrone is more regal -- solid through the core and exquisite in the extremities, especially the hands and wrists. She finishes every shape with just the right flourish, right in the music. And her facial features are so sharply etched. You can really see her!

I can't make it myself, but I recommend catching her debut as Dew Drop this Sunday afternoon, December 2. Could be a matinee to remember.

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Sunday, December 2 at 5 PM.

Wow wow wow is all I can say. Who would have thought that this would be probably the best performance I have ever seen from the NYCB? It was one of those performances where everything just came together, and I left feeling warm and exhilarated, even as I stepped carefully through puddles and into the cold, dreary evening.

I've never seen the corps de ballet more together than in this performance. No dropped snowballs tonight. They really moved as one during the Snowflake and Waltz of the Flowers. Everything else was great too, although special mention must go to Faye Arthurs (never heard of her before), who was terrific as Coffee, and Kathryn Morgan in Marzipan.

I didn't think Wendy Whelan was a natural Sugar Plum Fairy. She's a Serious dancer, with an austere classical line. But she's now blonde, and has put on some much needed weight, giving her a more youthful look. What she lacked in bubbliness she made up for in the technical whizbang department. The pas de deux with Philip Neal was breathtaking. I've never noticed how difficult the pas de deux is, but Wendy and Neal made it look so easy, from the Fairy's unsupported leaps onto the Cavalier's shoulder to the final fishdive, which was performed with so much snap that people started applauding before the music ended.

The only disappointment was Teresa Reichlen's Dewdrop. She couldn't quite master the tricky allegro pointe work, and made some small but noticeable bobbles. But, quoting one of Balanchine's ballets, Who Cares, when the overall performance was so wonderful?

The program has a stunning photograph of Tanny Le Clercq as the original Dewdrop.

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I also saw the December 2nd, 17:00 show. I totally agree with canbelto that it was a great performance. I suspect that this is a good time in the run - the dancers are warm but they aren't exhausted and over-worked yet.

I will admit that I wasn't blown away by Wendy Whelan. I know she is supposed to be a very special performer but this really didn't come across in her Sugar Plum Fairy. She seemed too stiff. The partnering with Philip Neal was wonderful though with seamless shoulder lifts.

I liked Reichlen's Dewdrop. Last year, Bouder made me cry during the Waltz of the Flowers and I was expecting a let-down this year. As Reichlen and Bouder couldn't be less alike, I was able to enjoy the differences rather than compare the two. The way Reichlen dances Dewdrop, you'd never guess this is an allegro role - she is all port de bras - an art nouveau Dewdrop. It reminded me of Titania in Balanchine's Midsummer's Night Dream.

Kathryn Morgan was adorable in Marzipan. I would love to see her in something more substantive. I think of Marzipan as the underdog dance in Nutcracker - it looks so difficult, but it never gets the applause that the higher-flying dances do.

I love this ballet. As far as I am concerned, the luxury of seeing Balanchine's Nutcracker on an annual basis is one of the major advantages to living on the East Coast of the US.

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I think of Marzipan as the underdog dance in Nutcracker - it looks so difficult, but it never gets the applause that the higher-flying dances do.
I agree. You put into words what was muddling around in my head as I saw this role done last weekend.

I was also thinking: all these variations fly by so quickly! So often I want an encore. The only advantage of dvd over live performance is that you can rewind and repeat. But, then, every performance would be 5 or 6 hours long. :)

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>I will admit that I wasn't blown away by Wendy Whelan.

>I know she is supposed to be a very special performer...

Wendy's more of contemporary (pretzel pas) ballerina these days. I agree, her Sugar Plums for awhile now have been rather odd, except for her big, radiant smile.

I've loved Reichlen's Dewdrops since day one, including this year's while she is for whatever reason (working on SPF?) giving it only about 95%. Hope to catch one of Bouder's this season too. Yes, these two fine dancers are extremely different, and they are the best females NYCB has at the moment in principal roles; similar in that they both have the technique and stage presence to make any role exciting to watch. Reichlen's got the long arms and legs, jumps, turns and pretty femininity. Bouder's got the speed and endless, high energy along with amazing jumps.

However, I'm missing Sylve like crazy in NYCB's Nuts this year...

>seeing Balanchine's Nutcracker on an annual basis is one of

>the major advantages to living on the East Coast of the US.

Absolutely!

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Tuesday, December 4, 6 PM

Kaplow's pace; Bouder's Auroraplum

This Nutcracker had time: Conductor Maurice Kaplow's performance lasted seven minutes beyond Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins's desired finishing time, where earlier this season Music Director Faycal Karoui made the official time limit with a minute to spare.

I've now seen the same child leads twice. The delightful Jonathan Alexander seems to truly relish getting to be bad little brother Fritz, and Margot Pitts is such a pretty Masha. But Act I is really a triumph for Herr D's nephew Nicholas Smith, who caps his party scene courtship of Marie with a parting loooong (thank you, Mr. Kaplow) gaze into Ms. Pitts's eyes that could be a lesson for many a Principal on how to adore a ballerina. And Margot really responded in kind. There was no doubt about whom she'd be dreaming. And how fine and apt that Masha's grandma Kathryn Morgan led her dream's Snowflakes on stage, with such generosity of spirit, not to mention technical sparkle and ravishing beauty.

Ashley Bouder's Sugarplum seems to be maturing. Well, in a few days (December 10) the Assoluta will be 24. Of course, her SPF is a technical marvel, as so well described in last year's Nutcracker thread. Outstanding, also, is the way everyone on stage is immediately in her sphere of awareness, they all are her friends. But perhaps not quite so flirty with the audience as before, with more classical grandeur. Indeed, this time she seemed somewhat in her Aurora mode, perhaps inspired by her recent mega-triumph in three Rome Opera Sleeping Beauties. Maybe it was the conducting that gave her the time to be more expansive. There were a couple of moments that stood out. Toward the ballet's end, she was held aloft by Andrew Veyette, then so very slowly (and so perfectly) brought down to pointe. It gave a sense of time slowing down, prolonging a moment of classical serenity. I could feel my heartbeat slow, and blood pressure tumble. And later a couple of incredibly slow turns. It was as if her normal speed were put under a microscope, and like a flawless diamond, she was still perfect. Of course Mr. Veyette deserves much credit too, for his emphasis on classicism, for nobly respecting his ballerina's choices.

In the corps behind Savannah Lowery and Tyler Angle's Hot Chocolate was that stunning new dancer, the tall Garnetta Gonzalez. I hope she makes the Corps, and what a SPF she may someday be... Tess Reichlen ripped off another terrific Coffee, but varied her final glance as she crawls forward, from the sly sugary yet innocent look that completed an earlier performance: this night she finished with a 40's Pin-Up look. I kind of hope that somewhere in the very young crowd there was a member of the Greatest Generation. Daniel Ulbricht lit up Tea, and was backed by Erica Pereira (just two more weeks till the debut) and Stephanie Zungre.

The evening's Dewdrop, Sara A. Mearns, was interviewed about the role's costume in the Playbill*:

...Sara Mearns loves putting on Dewdrop's smart little tutu. "It's light, feminine, and figure-friendly... And it's so small, so it's easy to dance in."

Indeed, Ms. Mearns does make the costume beautiful, as can also be seen in Playbill's accompanying full-page photo of her dancing Dewdrop!

*Added for completeness: Playbill finally posted the article on its website:

http://www.playbillarts.com/features/article/7488.html

It is the full article, and includes the Mearns photo plus a half dozen others of the NYCB Production.

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I was at last nights performance Sterling Hyltin and Jonathan Stafford were perfect together. Erica Pereira who did lead Marzipan delivered i can't wait to see her in her debut in two weeks as Dewdrop :) Congrats to all at at last nights performance. It was also nice to see Garnetta Gonzalez or as many know her as Coco back she is a very gifted dancer.

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I was at last nights performance Sterling Hyltin and Jonathan Stafford were perfect together. Erica Pereira who did lead Marzipan delivered i can't wait to see her in her debut in two weeks as Dewdrop :crying: Congrats to all at at last nights performance. It was also nice to see Garnetta Gonzalez or as many know her as Coco back she is a very gifted dancer.

I attended the 12/7 performance, and loved Katie Morgan as Marzipan.

I now eagerly await her 12/19 SPF debut.

I've yet to see Erica dance, but she must be special.

The performance was thoroughly fine.

JIM

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We, too, attended Saturday's matinee and I agree with BSS. Though I am not enough of balletomane to write in technical terms as to why I felt Miss Hytlin was so lovely as the Sugar Plum Fairy, I can attest to the fact that she was. There's something about Sterling Hytlin that reminds me of Darci Kistler as a young dancer. It may be that it's just her coloring and her face. Hytlin and Stafford did absolutely look very good together. It is extremely important to me to have a Sugar Plum Fairy who exudes both beauty and warmth, and Sterling Hytlin surely did both wonderfully.

As for Erica Pereira, I have to admit that I am prejudiced because I am so fond of her and have known her for a long time. Erica was definitely at home in the Marzipan Shepherdess role and made it all look completely effortless through both her grace and speed. She is a natural. It was particularly fun watching her as she morphed from a maid, into one of those glorious, whirling snowflakes, and then into the storybook shepherdess looking both fleet of foot and graceful in this debut performance of hers! There is a quality of lightness to Erica Pereira's dancing that strikes me as exceptional. It is my great wish that one Ballet Talk's excellent dance reviewers will have the chance to report back upon Erica's debut as the Dewdrop Fairy on December 22. I think she will be great. :flowers:

And just quickly - kudos to Mary Elizabeth Sell in Snow and Coffee and Cameron Dieck as an exceptional Mouse! :crying:

Looking forward to seeing a great deal more of these dancers in this coming season!

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i attended nycb's performance on friday, 12/7. it was the first live balanchine nutcracker i've seen in years, and overall i thought it was wonderful.

the party scene was great--i thought all the kids did an outstanding job, and i actually really enjoyed the mouse scene, which suprised me.

i must say that i wasn't overally impressed with yvonne borree's sugarplum fairy. i thought she was fine technically, but she seemed...uncomfortable. i thought was better in her solo variation than in the grand pas, where she appeared incredibly shaky. i have seen her dance in other peices and have liked her, so maybe she was having an off night. i'm curious to hear other peoples' thoughts.

i'm also sad to say that i wasn't crazy about gwyneth muller's coffee. i thought she looked better in the coda than in the variation, where she danced a little "heavy" and lacked the grace and fluidity that i'm used to with this variation.

i thought kathryn morgan was brilliant in marzipan (can't make it her debut of sugarplum, am eager to read other's reviews!), and the other shepherdesses were also lovely. tea was well danced, and daniel ulbricht looked like he was having a blast in candy canes.

i loved bouder's dewdrop. she was radiant, confident and beautiful. her jumps were absolutley incredible--it looked like she was hanging in mid-air at times.

all in all a great evening!

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i attended nycb's performance on friday, 12/7...

i thought kathryn morgan was brilliant in marzipan (can't make it her debut of sugarplum, am eager to read other's reviews!...

Had missed this in the casting notes - very exciting for these new corps members to be cast in such roles! Thanks for bringing it to my/our attention.

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Does anybody know anything about the alarms at the New York State Theater yesterday, December 11? Apparently, there were alarms going off backstage during the performance, audible throughout the house, completely disrupting things. The performance just continued through the alarms without any announcement being made.

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We landed at Lincoln Center about 7:45 last night (for the opera, not the ballet) and there were many fire trucks and auxiliary vehicles from 62 to 63 Streets on Columbus. Lights flashing but no sirens.

That's all I know.

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Adam, please tell us about the performance. Who led the cast? Anybody particularly catch your eye? How did the dancers onstage handle the alarms? By turning their heads to the wings, seeking direction? Or just trying to ignore the whole business?

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In regards to the December 11 performance during which the sirens went off, Mary Cargill writes in danceviewtimes

Unfortunately, someone set off an exit alarm during her [Kathryn Morgan's Marzipan Shepherdess] dance, and the rest of the act was interrupted by strident honking interspersed with crying babies, which did reduce the magic. But even this irritating distraction did not seem to throw the dancers, who gave a thoroughly professional performance.

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I wasn't there, but my friend said the dancers didn't seem to be concerned. Apparently, they knew what was happening, but my friend said that the audience was both scared and annoyed. The alarm was not only distracting, but people were whispering "Is it a fire? A bomb? What's going on?"

Ken Tabachnick sent an e-mail to people who complained which read, in part, "Thank you for your call about the performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker on Tuesday, December 11. The alarm that could be heard during the second act of the ballet was due to the malfunction of a new alarm system that has been recently installed at the New York State Theater. It was immediately apparent to the theater staff, and to the fire department which responded, that this was a false alarm, and it was therefore determined that it was not necessary to halt the performance. We recognize that events like this can be upsetting and are examining our customer communication procedures."

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I can confirm that the dancers sailed through the noise with great aplomb -- and for this to happen during Katie Morgan's Marzipan debut was quite annoying (more to me than to her). Her secure dancing was a model of gorgeous phrasing. Unfortunately I will not be able to see her Sugar Plum debut Saturday (as I'm at a Met R&J) but I hope someone posts about it. Damian continues to marvel at the high level of his bravura dancing and Wendy, of course, is Wendy. She so reminds me of my feelings about Suzanne' s Sugar Plum (i.e., it wasn't your mother's Sugar Plum bu, boy, was it great). Troy Schumacher did a fine Candy Cane.

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I went to Morgan's Sugar Plum debut on Saturday. She was lovely and touching. Very serene. It was an odd performance because I felt the orchestra was really blah and contributed to a lack of zing on stage (which I also chalked up to four weeks of Nutcracker), but the audience responded with enthusiasm. Lowery was a very athletic Dewdrop in her debut. She lacked a little finesse, although her arms were very nicely flowing, but she made up for it by being the most alive dancer on stage.

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I went to Morgan's Sugar Plum debut on Saturday. She was lovely and touching. Very serene. It was an odd performance because I felt the orchestra was really blah and contributed to a lack of zing on stage (which I also chalked up to four weeks of Nutcracker), but the audience responded with enthusiasm. Lowery was a very athletic Dewdrop in her debut. She lacked a little finesse, although her arms were very nicely flowing, but she made up for it by being the most alive dancer on stage.

I was distinctly underwhelmed by Morgan.

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Sunday Dec 16th 1PM matinee

Well, the orchestra was certainly not "blah" at this performance. Neither were any of the dancers.

On a cloudy, slushy, cold day outside, it was all magic and sunshine being indoors at NYCB's Nutcracker. I wasn't expecting such an excellent performance so early in the day, but it turned out to be the best overall Nuts I've seen so far this season.

Beginning with the magic of guest conductor, Philippe Beran. Beran knew when to be zippy fast (overture and peppy kids' dances) and when to let the music have its full weight in grandness (parents/guests dance and the grand pas). Beran kept the dancers in Act 2 happy as well with danceable tempi. Imagine that?!!

Leading Clara's beautiful dream music was the always brilliant, and I mean brilliant, violinist, Kurt Nikkanen. If his Nuts violin solo doesn't bring tears to your eyes -- there is little that will in this wonderful Nutcracker. Btw, the orchestra members pounded the floor with their feet in appreciation when Nikkanen's solo ended.

On to the dancers.

The best of parents, Fowler and Abergel, were once again every child's dream leaders. Warm, gracious, gently beautiful and nurturing people. These parents set the mood of the first act, which can often get a bit long if the audience doesn't immediately become captured in the many details of the festive family event. Once, again, Fritz, played by Carl Pedersen was a blonde, deliciously naughty little boy. So genuinely cute. It was also very nice to see the womanly, charming Sophie Flack among the guests, as well as Morgan and Prottas as the sweet, dignified grandparents.

Drosselmeier was performed by Kyle Froman, whom I had to check carefully twice to be sure it wasn't Robert LaFosse (my favorite Drosselmeier). That's a huge compliment to Froman who gave a very thoughtful if not quite as eccentrically fascinating an interpretation as the LaFosse version.

Then, oh my gosh, Joshua Shutkind appeared as the Little Prince. And from then on, throughout Nuts, the audience couldn't stop falling in love with him. In the snow scene, among lively snowflake ladies, Shutkind lit up the stage with his grand manner. By the second act, Shutkind's story telling bit of dance, for the Sugar Plum, brought out bravos from the audience, not just hearty applause. Shutkind danced with a big heart, big movements, handsome good looks, elegance while still being boyish, long limbs, and with a dimpled smile that put a smile on everyone around him including the audience. Bravo! After the performance, in the lobby, an admiring, picture-taking, autograph-seeking fan club greeted Shutkind. Wow!! I took the opportunity to get an autography too and compliment Shutkind briefly. He told me he was 11 years old and has attended SAB for only 3 months. What a fine start!

Back to the performance...

Act 2

I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing Abi Stafford as Sugar Plum, but she delivered an outstanding performance. Actually the best dancing I've seen from her since her 2nd violin Barocco debut. Abi doesn't have the longest lines (for a grand pas) or glamour, but she gave her SPF everything her heart and imagination could muster. It was quite beautifully done, partnered by a real cavalier, Jared Angle. He was the first cavalier this season to partner the pas de deux well. Though Angle's dancing in the coda solo wasn't clean and exciting principal material, he was a truly exceptional partner. I've seen too many SPFs this season who were stiff and obviously shaken and/or fumbled by their lacking partners. A real shame especially in one performance where I saw one of the SPFs in tears during the required bow because her partner was so "not there." Mr. B would have never allowed this... But lucky Abi had complete confidence in Jared Angle, and this made a wonderful pairing; together, they made the music sing with regal beauty. Abi's solo was also all sparkles and smiles, and femininity, with a backbone of very secure technique and musicality. Nice job!

My other favorite of the second act was Erica Pereira in the lead of Marizpan. She is very youthful looking, light and easy to watch, long-limbed, with all the technique required.. and then some!! Pereira threw in a triple pirouette where I would have least expected it -- at the end of a series of pique turns moving forward towards the orchestra pit. Pereira is delightful and lovely and more than ready for Dewdrop!

Lowery was the buck slip replacement for Sara Mearns (who was scheduled to replace LeCrone) in Sunday's Dewdrop. I was struck by Lowery's strong technique and high energy, but Dale said it exactly right, Lowery now needs much work on some beauty polish. She's very good, but lacks finesse.

The other two outstanding dancers, for me, were Suozzi in Candy Canes. He's actually far too sexy and long-limbed for such a cute, circusy part. And then there was Paradiso flying above the stage, beyond belief, technically almost too good for such cute Chinese Tea role.

So, in sum, I was very happy to have seen all of these very talented dancers. Many thanks for a brightened afternoon.

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I was distinctly underwhelmed by Morgan.

Could you elaborate a bit, please?

Here is where I must confess that I only saw her long tutu solo. From this short introduction I felt that she wasn't as connected to the music as I like (Suzanne Farrell, Ashley Bouder and Kyra Nichols being the gold standard), and she did not appear to be very flexible or to use her limbs as generously and fully as I feel Balanchine encouraged (a very narrow angle in the arabesques for example). I also felt that the footwork was not there, and that she did not relate to the children as other SPF's have.

It could have been the "debut" factor, so I'll be interested to see her in other ballets. Wish I could have seen Suozzi as SZ described. I very much enjoyed Maya Collins and Tyler Angle in the Spanish variation.

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