Tiler Peck's Aurora

Every so often you see a ballet performance so exquisite, such a complete triumph, that you feel lucky just to have been in the audience. This happened today when I saw Tiler Peck's Aurora in the New York City Ballet's two week run of Sleeping Beauty. What an amazing performance from an amazing ballerina.

The role of Aurora calls for a delicate balance between the coltish youthfulness of the first act and the regal serenity of the wedding scene. The dance steps still challenge even the most secure ballerinas. But from the moment Tiler Peck bounded onstage in a series of pas de chats and coupe jetes, we knew that this Aurora had no fear. And her smile -- dazzling, but without a hint of archness or self-consciousness -- instantly made this Aurora lovable.

Tiler Peck's Rose Adagio was absolutely secure, from the very first unsupported balance (with her arms in fifth position) to the final promenade. There was no shaking, no twitching of the leg in attitude. Many ballerinas in an attempt to regain balance will lower their leg in attitude -- not Peck. She never moved her leg, never gave a moment's hesitation. There was characterization in her Rose Adagio as well. She looked genuinely happy to receive each rose, and instead of throwing them on the floor as many Auroras do, she gently placed them at her mother's feet. The final series of promenade/balance was again, almost frighteningly secure. When she let go of the final prince's hand and snapped her arms out in triumph, I thought that at the ABT this would have caused a screaming ovation, and perhaps flowers thrown onstage. The City Ballet audience golf clapped. SMH. She didn't even get a solo curtain call at the end either. Again, SMH at the somnolent NYCB audiences.

Peck's Aurora didn't just stop at the Rose Adagio. The variation following the Rose Adagio was marked by a playfulness and confidence, both in the way she snapped her feet in tighter and tighter fourth positions after each backwards traveling pirouette, and so when she fell unconscious after pricking her finger, there was genuine pathos that a horrible thing happened to this lovely young woman. In the Vision Scene she darted about the stage like a sprite, and there's no doubting why Prince Desire is so smitten. In the Wedding pas de deux she was still the same charming, unaffected princess of the first act, but with an added maturity and glow. Her "finger" variation in the last act showcased her musicality -- the way her hands seemed to dance echoed the playfulness with which she handled the roses. Just a wonderful performance from her. Brava!

Teresa Reichlen was beautiful, commanding, but alas, somewhat remote as the Lilac Fairy. She can be introverted and this was no exception -- her mime when she was battling Carabosse wasn't all that well articulated, and sometimes she seemed like she was watching the proceedings from her own private realm. She didn't exude any over-the-top benevolence. But I couldn't argue with the beauty of her dancing, especially watching those beautiful legs in the repeated releve grande battement ronde de jambes.

Tyler Angle contributed to this trio of awesome T's with an elegantly danced and partnered Prince. He's not the showiest dancer, but unlike some of the other NYCB dancers he does have a danseur noble line, and great partnering skills. I loved the final fish dive pose in the pas de deux. A moment I really wish I could have instagramed.

The company on the whole looked strong, and the ballet well-rehearsed. It wasn't like Symphony in C, where I got the feeling Peter Martins went backstage, said, "You're not injured? Put on your tutu." The Garland Dance, choreographed by Balanchine, just made me wish Balanchine had created his own version of Sleeping Beauty, as the waltz had the trademark Balanchine enchantment. I loved how the small students of the SAB mimicked their adult counterparts with the swaying of the garlands. Even two dancers who often disappoint (Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley as Florine and Bluebird) were sharp and charming. Huxley of course doesn't have the superhuman elevation and springy beats of the legendary Bluebirds but he was respectable. I've often found Pereira sloppy in the past, but today she articulated the steps with an unusual precision. Sarah Willwock and Taylor Stanley were very fun as the White Cat and Puss in Boots. I'll also single out Ashley Laracey and Britney Pollack for their sparkling (forgive the pun) Ruby and Diamond variations, respectively. I saw some tired/sloppy arms and flapping wrists in the corps de ballet, but overall there was the usual NYCB crispness and attack.  Georgina Pazcoguin was a deliciously evil Carabosse, so malicious she was lovable, if that even makes sense.

Peter Martins' Sleeping Beauty is overall a better production than the ABT's Disneyfied version. The costumes are pretty and traditional, the sets somewhat spare but the projections and designs recall a sort of stylized Versailles. He cuts Tchaikovsky's lengthy score to fit the whole thing in under two and a half hours, but he doesn't slaughter or distort the ballet. The Wedding divertissements are there, and charmingly performed (especially Little Red Riding Hood, here played by an SAB student). In the ABT's version the divertissements are cut. But what makes this run of Sleeping Beauties a must-see (I plan to go back for the final Ashley Bouder performance) is not the production, but the dancers. Sleeping Beauty demands a top-down excellence and uniformity that right now, the NYCB has in spades, and the ABT sorely lacks.

But this was Tiler Peck's afternoon, her triumph. There's one more performance with her as Aurora. Don't miss it.


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