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ABT, May 21 -- Tchaikovsky Spectacular

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A quick rundown on last night.

I was a bit disappointed, as I expected a Tchaikovsky Spectacular to end with the 1812 Overture and fireworks. At least there were some of the latter frugally interspersed throughout the evening, but not as many as I might've liked.

Theme and Variations, with Ashley Tuttle and Jose Manuel Carreno. I hate to say this, but the ABT production has gotten to look a bit, well, lumpy. The corps doesn't sparkle, and that final polonaise should be something special, instead of just a procession. And those Nightmare-in-Pink costumes for the principals, and gigantic lopsided bows on the tutus of the soloists....

Tuttle is decent enough technically, but there were a few teensy bobbles here and there, particularly in the pas de deux with Carreno. But she's such a flavorless, personality-less dancer. Partner her with Nilas Martins and you could choreograph the Sucking Vacuum pas de deux. Color her colorless. Carreno was magnificent, dancing in his massive, sculpted way. He's not as attacking and brilliant as Damian Woetzal, but his power is never far from his polished surface. Of the soloists, the only one who I noticed much was Michele Wiles, not surprisingly looking like the cat who ate the canary after her recent win at the Erik Bruhn competition.

Walk this Way, with Susan Jaffe and Robert Hill, wasn't quite as cute and tedious as it had seemed at the opening-night gala last week. It was still plenty cute and tedious. I came away liking Hill's comic timing and relaxed grace onstage; Jaffe, as usual, did little for me, especially in that hideous puffed-sleeve dress.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. This is just about the first time I've had an inking what the fuss ever was about Paloma Herrera. She truly had beautiful feet, and I loved how she played with her rock-solid balances in the many quick releves, and she even made it through most of her solos before completely losing the music, as is her wont to do from the get-go, especially with Balanchine. It was, however, nice to see her pull out the stops and deliver some truly flashy pique and chaine turns. Marcelo Gomes, as I've come to expect, was clean, fluent and polished. I do prefer NYCB's hell-for-leather approach; Woetzal and Millepied may not be as elegant, but the spaces they traverse are far more open and unconfined.

Sleeping Beauty, Act III. So-so costumes and scenery. Stella Abrera led the "jewels" pas. She's grown into a strong and beautiful dancer, although perhaps not a drop-dead virtuoso. It was quite something to see how the tiny Xiomara Reyes loomed over Herman Cornejo in the Bluebird pas. Cornejo was, as always, spectacular, with sisonnnes in which he seemed to hover above the stage, and beautiful fluttery brises. While I've not been fond of her overly bright smile and casual line, Reyes has started to win me over with her technique, fearlessness and spunk.

Any night were one gets to see Nina Ananiashvili dance Aurora can't be a complete loss. She seems to grow in stature and artistry with each passing year, and is the picture of a true ballerina at the height of her powers. She knows exactly who Aurora is in the third act -- a picture of strength, confidence and hope, qualities she exuded at every turn. Bocca was a strong partner, and not too wild in his solo, but what's with the blue eyelids? Sheesh!

So it was a nice, but not exactly spectacular evening.

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