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City Ballet at the Kennedy Center, June 2022

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I attended two performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Thursday and Saturday evening. It was very special, as I haven’t seen NYCB perform at the Kennedy Center (or at all) in person since 2018, due to Covid and living abroad during this time.

Thursday, June 9

I was so excited to see Sara Mearns dance Titania on Thursday. She has been one of my longtime favorites due to her musicality, artistry, technique, and emotional connection to the dance. It was exhilarating to see her step out on the stage after knowing she had been out with an injury as well as Covid. I started clapping all on my own to acknowledge that. Despite having a less-than-ideal seat on Thursday (but close enough to see the acting!), I greatly enjoyed her sublime dancing and the joy she exuded. She and her Cavalier, Chun Wai Chan, seemed to have such an easy time dancing the pas de deux. It was a delight to watch how effortless the partnering between both Mearns and Chan looked.

 The entire performance was a pleasure—Daniel Ulbricht’s Oberon was crisp, precise, and so speedy. I witnessed one of the laurel leaves fly off his head, as Washington Post writer Sarah Kaufman put it, “from the force of his turns.” I also greatly appreciated the clear acting rapport between Ulbricht and Taylor Stanley’s Puck. Stanley was both a joy to watch and of course his dancing was incredible. The audience was audibly in awe over the tone and fitness level that the Puck costume shows off for both Stanley and Saturday’s Puck, Harrison Ball.

This was my first time seeing Isabella LaFreniere, and she was absolutely gorgeous as Helena, as was Ashley Laracey as Hermia. I can see how LaFreniere would make a regal Titania and seems poised to tackle any number of roles at NYCB. I would love to see more of Laracey and LaFreniere, and they truly live up to the reports of the heroic dancing they did in Spring season.

I tip my hat to India Bradley, who probably didn’t have much of a break in the entire ballet, as she was dancing in Titania’s Retinue, Hippolyta’s hounds, and as a Courtier in Act II. This was for all five Midsummer performances. She shines brightly, and I enjoyed watching her excel both nights.

Georgina Pazcoguin danced a powerful Hippolyta, and Kristen Segin did a great job as Butterfly. The audience did laugh at the out-of-the-blue-feeling proposal of Theseus and Hippolyta—"wait what just happened, why is she agreeing to marry this random dude?"

A funny D.C.-ism – the ushers were warning people that intermission was an intermission and not the end of the show. I think DC audiences generally don’t know the ballets they’re seeing well, and apparently some people thought the show was over, due to the bows that take place after Act I. Kennedy Center did not include a synopsis of the plot, and I did hear people sounding confused as to what had  happened at the end of Act I, as well. "I should've refreshed myself on the Shakespeare play," one fellow patron commented.

And of course the night ended with the incomparable Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle pairing in the Divertissement. In all my years attending NYCB at Kennedy Center, I have never ever seen Tiler be anything less than completely on top of her game, and it is always such a great pleasure to see her, always at her best. She sparkles and at the same time is somehow completely sublime—truly a unique dancer.

Saturday evening performance:

I wanted to see both casts and picked a much better seat (third row center, first balcony) for this evening. There were some replacements: Harrison Ball replaced Troy Shumacher as Puck, and Alexa Maxwell replaced Claire Von Enck as Butterfly.  Finally, Preston Chamblee replaced Gilbert Bolden III as Theseus, because Bolden had to replace Devin Alberda in the Divertissement. Miriam Miller was a lovely Titania, and performed superbly, although she and Cavalier Aaron Sanz had some shaky, labored-looking partnering that was all the more evident to me after seeing Mearns/Chan on Thursday. I think the partnering is really what separates the older principals from the younger up-and-comers. But other than that Miller was very lovely, and the partnering didn’t detract too much from the overall excellence.

Roman Mejia as Oberon – what to say? He managed to lose not one, but two of his headpieces, due to the sheer force and explosiveness of his dancing! (They were lost at different times. They really need to work on the headpieces staying put for Oberon!) Even from the balcony his dancing was both larger than life and incredibly crisp and sharp. Bravo!

I found Alexa Maxwell’s Butterfly to be a lot more clean and powerful than Segin’s, but maybe it was that I had a much better view that night, albeit farther from the stage. I greatly enjoyed Claire Kretzschmar’s Helena, both dancing and acting-wise. I do have to say that I am not a fan of Erica Pereira’s dancing. I always find it to look jerky, as if she’s throwing her limbs around, and her dancing never looks polished or finished to me. This was the case on Saturday with her as Hermia, especially in the wedding scene, when the costume reveals much more than the long dresses of Act I. I have never really understood why she is always cast at Kennedy Center.

I was extremely impressed by Emily Kikta as Hippolyta—what power and control she had, and her grand jetes covered so much space. She had no troubles with the fouettés and she was my favorite “newcomer” of the series! (new to me, I only see NYCB infrequently.)

Harrison Ball did a fantastic job as Puck. The audience loved his antics as well as his powerful dancing—they audibly gasped at his athleticism.

Divertissement was again led by Tiler/Tyler and I was happy to be treated to their flawless partnership again. The partnering certainly sets the journeymen apart from the newer dancers. Tiler radiates pure joy when she dances and is an impeccable technician to boot. She is timeless. I can’t get enough!

A note about the children – they were a delight as well, and very well-rehearsed. One of the many things I love about this ballet is that the children are seamlessly woven into the ballet, and so they are a total delight while at the same time never distracting from the professionals onstage. They are truly an integral part of the ballet and the whole production was just wonderful.


Edited by Belka
edited for grammar
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