Midsummer, again

Last night's performance of Midsummer's Night Dream at the NYCB was so enchanting I decided to go again this afternoon. I decided to see an entirely different cast, to see what individual dancers could bring to each role in this very busy ballet. And while the performance didn't have the magic of last night's performance, there were still many things to treasure in Balanchine's evergreen ballet. In particular, the set of Athenian lovers this afternoon were a much stronger quartet than last night's lovers.

The most disappointing performance strangely came from Teresa Reichlen as Titania. She remained extremely stiff and reserved in a role that calls for a great deal of comic timing and voluptuousness of movement. Maria Kowroski had that in spades last night -- I particularly remember her smugly lounging in her chair last night, with a smirk on her face. She stretched out her long legs, and really gave the impression of a fairy queen whose kingdom was her oyster. Teresa, on the other hand, sat stiffly, and there really just wasn't enough sexiness to her performance. Her back is not as pliant, so the sweeping cambre lunges didn't look as beautiful as Maria's. It was a decent performance, but not a commanding one.

Gonzalo Garcia, on the other hand, flew through Oberon's scherzo with much more lightness and grace than Andrew Veyette last night. The small beats and entrechats were more open and spacious. But on the other hand, he really didn't have the imperiousness of Veyette in the mime sequences. Adam Hendrickson was terrific as Puck -- Suozzi was great, but so was Hendrickson. Hard to choose a winner on that front.

The Athenian lovers, were much stronger than last night's quartet. Rebecca Krohn brings a sensitivity and grace to everything she dances -- she brought genuine pathos to Helena. She also is blessed with one of the most pliant, expressive backs and arms in the business. Sterling Hyltin was also wonderful as Hermia. Her solo made much more of an impact. Jonathan Stafford as Lysander and Zachary Catazaro as Demetrius were appropriately silly and capricious. The strength of the quartet made the Athenian lovers storyline much more prominent in this afternoon's performance.

Ana Sophia Scheller was also a standout as Hippolyta, and she added some great doubles to her series of fouettes. Scheller wasn't quite as Amazonian as Savannah Lowery, but I enjoyed her more feminine line. Brittany Pollack wasn't as spritely as the Butterfly as last night's Alina Dronova. 

The second act divertissement performance also suffered in comparison to last night's magical rendering by Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle. Megan Fairchild and Sebastian Marcovici were professional, but Fairchild remains irritatingly small-scaled. It's not her size -- many ballerinas are shockingly petite in person. Fairchild just doesn't really project. She's great at fast footwork, but she always dances on the beat exactly, and doesn't know how to elongate a movement or phrase.

The beauty of Balanchine's choreography is so strong that it can withstand less than perfect performances. The second act pas de deux, in particular, never fails to send shivers down my spine. So beautiful, and ending with the ballerina swooning into the man's arms. In this duet, love is idealized in a way that it is not during the entire ballet -- the Athenian lovers are silly and capricious, and Oberon and Titania spend most of the ballet arguing. If the Athenians and fairies are "real life," then the second act divertissement is "ballet." And Balanchine seems to be saying, "Real life is never as beautiful as the ballet." Amen.


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