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Casting for Feb. 24-March 1, plus reviews


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I continue to attend NYCB at least three times a week.

I was there last night for Sara Mearns debut in "Swan Lake."

I can only sum it up in one word: breathtaking.

Agreed about Mearns, breathtaking is a good description!

I saw all 3 casts in the NYCB 1 act SL and while I love Wendy & Maria I didn't like either of them as Balanchine's Swan Queen. I love his choreography for the corps and since it "feels" very different from the traditional Ivanov choreography I had no issue with the black tutus or sharper, more neo classical lines & phrasing from the corps. On the other hand, he kept most of the traditional Ivanov choreography for Odette and I really disliked like the more modern approach Whelan & Kowroski took. I realize that this is probably closer to what Balanchine envisioned, but I think the traditional approach works better with the traditional choreography. Wendy was a very compelling swan queen, but she just doesn't have classical line this role calls for (heaven help me, I never understood Macauley's constant complaints about her line but watching her in this SL I found myself not only understanding but also agreeing with him – in this role, anyway). Kowroski's line is stunning, but very acute and I found her musicality absolutely inexplicable. This adagio specialist danced the SL adagio like an allegro – accenting the end of a phrase instead of letting the movement flow through the phrase and somehow making many connecting steps seem like just that – disassociated steps leading to gorgeous poses. She also seemed very cool & aloof (which again, I think is what Balanchine wanted) until the very end, when she became more emotional.

Mearns, however, was amazing. Her star making debut a few years ago in the Martins full length was beautiful but since then she has developed a much deeper understanding of the role. She was absolutely gorgeous, musical & heartbreaking and Askegard was a perfect partner for her. I especially liked Rebecca Krohn in the pas de Neuf who I saw with the Kowroski cast.

Ulbricht made a wonderful Toy Soldier and both M Fairchild and Pereira were adorable Ballerina Dolls. I enjoyed all 3 casts in the R&J pas de deux but Janie Taylor was especially incredible in her ability to fuse the steps with the dramatic thrust and Chase Finlay made an impressive debut. And Maria Kowroski absolutely owns Slaughter, those legs are unbelievable and boy, does she know how to use them!

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My reaction exactly, Michael, after I saw that cast on Tuesday. :wink: , and I don't think it has much to do with the sparseness of my attendance was this season (which included Bouder's second T&V).

All previous Strip Tease Girls I've seen have been, at their core, Nice girls from Nice families who would hesitate to offend middle-class propriety. Not our Sara. This girl got good and dirty, filling the theater with female pheromones, and having the time of her life doing it. I wondered if there wasn't a woman in the audience who, like me, found herself wishing (perhaps secretly) that, for a few moments, she could be Sara.

And in Robbie Fairchild, she met her perfect scenery-chewing match. He may be the best tapper to take on this role at NYCB. (I had seen Robbie's Riff in West Side Story Suite on Feb. 15, and he certainly wears the Broadway style like a second skin. Also in WSSS, Gina Pazcoguin's firecracker Anita. I never imagined there could be so many ways to switch one's hips!)

This past Wednesday, following the Mearns-Fairchild Slaughter, Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal took the leads, and while Slaughter shows Maria's legs like nothing else, and while she has opened up her presentation since I last saw her, she didn't quite cross the line as Sara had.

Sara, meanwhile, followed her Slaughter debut with a debut in the Balanchine Swan Lake, which was pure poetry. The previous night, with Kowroski as the Swan Queen, I found myself wondering if this production benefite from a ballerina who approached the role as an abstraction. Maria's arms were frantic, and her acting didn't seem to amount to much. Wednesday, Sarah found the storyline in the steps and, supported by Philip Neal (who seems to have hit his stride rather late in his career), let them speak through her. BTW, I love this ice-scape production. Wednesday night, I particularly enjoyed Dena Abergel's Lead Swan, seeming to beckon a mystical spirit, in the Pas de Neuf. (Askegard was Kowroski's Prince cipher).

Two Steadfast Tin Soldiers: Erica Pereira's youth benefited her, giving the doll a sense of innocence. Megan Fairchild wisely chose to underplay the cutesiness of the role. In both performances, Danny Ulbricht overdanced, oversold, and underrelated to his partner, completely missing the tenderness of the love story.

Apprentice Chase Finlay's debut in Lavery's R&J balcony pas was most promising, showing him as a strong partner with a big jump and lovely line. Oh, and did I mention handsome? I'd like to see him in choreography that really lets him show his stuff. It was fun sitting amongst a bunch of his SAB buddies/cheering section. :D

The program was titled "Short Stories" -- comprised as it was of Swan Lake, Steadfast, R&J pas and Slaughter. It could easily have been titled "Nearly Everyone Dies (or appears to)."

Edited by carbro
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As a woman in her early 50's, and devote NYCB fan, I adore Sara Mearns. Why? Because she's an exceptionally talented ballerina.

The fact that she's a gorgeous, sexy young woman is just a bonus. Do I wish I was Sara -- even for a few moments? Of course! In fact, I also wish I was Wendy, Maria, Tess, Tiler, Ashley, Megan, Katie, Lydia.... how wonderful to have that kind of talent!:wink:

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I saw the "Short Stories" program Friday night, February 27, and absolutely loved it over and above any other program I saw this winter season (there were seven others). It was also the best attended one I saw. From my second ring seat it seemed that all the other second ring seats were taken. I get annoyed with NYCB from time to time, but this evening did my heart good. In addition to the great "Swan Lake" and "Slaughter," Yvonne Borree gave a beautiful performance as Juliet! Yes! Erica Pereira and Danny Ulbrict were wonderful together in "Steadfast in Soldier," and music director Karoui conducted it all with great verve and spirit. At long last, this was NYCB at its best. :)

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