Sleeping Beauty Marathon

Balanchine's glorious Garland Waltz, photo @ Paul Kolnik

I went on a Sleeping Beauty marathon this weekend and saw three performances in two days. NYCB's Sleeping Beauty is one of the finest productions I've seen -- Balanchine's wondrous Garland Waltz with the SAB children weaving in and out of the garland formations is itself worth the price of admission. The designs are beautiful and tasteful. Although Peter Martins cut the knitting scene and made some more abridgments this is a surprisingly complete Sleeping Beauty, and a nice contrast to ABT's historically correct but somewhat fussy and constipated Ratmansky version. For instance, more of the Panorama music is included than many versions, and the Wedding divertissements are almost all there. Especially adorable is the little SAB students they have as Little Red Riding Hood. They steal the show every time.

Here are the casts I saw:

PRINCESS AURORA: Sterling Hyltin; PRINCE DÉSIRÉ: Chase Finlay; LILAC FAIRY: Savannah Lowery; CARABOSSE: Marika Anderson; TENDERNESS: Ashley Hod; VIVACITY: Mary Elizabeth Sell; GENEROSITY: Miriam Miller; ELOQUENCE: Claire Von Enck; COURAGE: Meagan Mann; GOLD: Russell Janzen; DIAMOND: Teresa Reichlen; EMERALD: Emilie Gerrity; RUBY: Alexa Maxwell; WHITE CAT: Indiana Woodward; PUSS IN BOOTS: Cameron Dieck; PRINCESS FLORINE: Ashly Isaacs; BLUEBIRD: Harrison Ball

Hyltin as Aurora, photo @ Paul Kolnik
Of the three Auroras I saw, Sterling Hyltin was the most delicate, charming and well-acted. Although her technique is strong (the Rose Adagio balances were solid and each one clearly held), when watching her you focus on the perfume she adds to the role rather than the technique. Little touches like caressing each rose during the Rose Adagio, or lovingly handing the roses to her mother before her final set of balances. Hyltin's flexibility and the harmony between her upper and lower body-- the stretch of her arms and legs, and her soft, pliant back -- is one of her glories. Certain moves like the renverses will just look better on a dancer like Hyltin. She also has a light airy jump. Her Vision Scene is the so lovely, so ethereal. She was really like a sprite, darting in and out of Chase Finlay's grasp.

She and Chase Finlay were a handsome couple. In the Wedding pas de deux, their fish dives were not only perfectly timed, but you noticed the harmony in their body lines -- their arms, necks, the crests of their torsos were all parallel to each other.  Her Wedding variation was the highlight of her performance. Her arms, hands, and feet all seemed to be flicking delicately along with the music as if in a spell. It was enchanting. Finlay was a handsome prince and partnered well but did have trouble with his variation.

Maxwell, Reichlen and Gerrity as the Jewels, photo @ Irving Chow
Other standouts in the performance: the Jewels trio of Reichlen, Maxwell, and Gerrity. They were the only jewels trio to have the sharp lines and precision of a finely cut gem. Claire von Enck in the "canary" fairy variation and Meagan Mann in the "finger" variation. Harrison Ball's Bluebird didn't have the explosive jumps but did have some very clean lines. He's a beautiful dancer. Savannah Lowery was wonderful with Lilac Fairy's mime and had a motherly disposition, if somewhat diminished technique. Marika Anderson's Carabosse was gleefully malevolent.

PRINCESS AURORA: Ashley Bouder; PRINCE DÉSIRÉ: Andrew Veyette; LILAC FAIRY: Sara Mearns; CARABOSSE: Maria Kowroski; TENDERNESS: Gretchen Smith; VIVACITY: Sara Adams; GENEROSITY: Lydia Wellington; ELOQUENCE: Kristen Segin; COURAGE: Meagan Mann; GOLD: Chase Finlay; DIAMOND: Megan LeCrone; EMERALD: Lauren King; RUBY: Abi Stafford; WHITE CAT: Samantha Villwock; PUSS IN BOOTS: Taylor Stanley; PRINCESS FLORINE: Erica Pereira; BLUEBIRD: Anthony Huxley

The evening performance with Bouder, Veyette, and Mearns was almost a different ballet. Ashley Bouder is the type of Aurora you'll love if you enjoy the spunky Auroras -- explosive pas de chats in the entrance, endless balances in the Rose Adagio, speed and power and attack all evening. I liked her bold attack and aggressiveness ... until I didn't. In the Rose Adagio she distorted the music to show off an extra long-held balance, but there was no youthful joy, no sense that this is a 16 year old girl's birthday and she's excited. The Vision Scene lacked any sense of poetry, the Wedding pas de deux came across as rather businesslike -- Bouder's interactions with Veyette were non-existent. Bouder didn't lean down for a real kiss, or even a brush on the cheek. Andrew Veyette, who is usually such a solid partner, was actually a bit clunky tonight -- the fish dives were not well timed with the music. The performance was certainly a check list of all the ways Ashley Bouder is a technical wonder, but for me it wasn't Aurora. I want more elegance and grace. I've seen Ashley's Aurora before and don't remember her being so hard-boiled in the past.

Pereria and Huxley as Florine and Bluebird, photo @ Paul Kolnik

The evening's best performers were Sara Mearns, who was authoritative, expressive and refined (!!!) as Lilac Fairy, Andrew Veyette whose brooding presence made the Prince less of a cipher than usual, Anthony Huxley as the most high-flying Bluebird with the cleanest diagonal of brisé volés (although bend your back, Anthony!) and Sean Suozzi as a very funny Catalabutte. The fairies also performed at a more consistent level than in the afternoon performance. Maria Kowroski as Carabosse was not so much evil as sort of goofy. Even with all that makeup and dress and rat entourage you still saw her big friendly eyes. Fun, but a bit miscast. Kind of like if Lassie were to play the Big Bad Wolf.

The evening had two scary falls -- first a bad slip by one of Aurora's friends, then the three jesters (Spartak Hoxha, Daniel Ulbricht, Harrison Coll) toppled over when they piled on top of each others' backs. Thankfully it doesn't seem like anyone was hurt.

PRINCESS AURORA: Tiler Peck; PRINCE DÉSIRÉ: Tyler Angle; LILAC FAIRY: Ashley Laracey; CARABOSSE: Rebecca Krohn; TENDERNESS: Mimi Staker; VIVACITY: Olivia MacKinnon; GENEROSITY: Claire Kretzschmar; ELOQUENCE: Indiana Woodward; COURAGE: Unity Phelan; GOLD: Zachary Catazaro; DIAMOND: Savannah Lowery; EMERALD: Brittany Pollack; RUBY: Ashly Isaacs; WHITE CAT: Kristen Segin; PUSS IN BOOTS: Sean Suozzi; PRINCESS FLORINE: Lauren King; BLUEBIRD: Troy Schumacher

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, photo @ Andrea Mohin
For those who loved the power and attack of Ashley Bouder but also longed for the porcelain delicacy of Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck's Aurora was a happy medium between the two extremes. Peck's Aurora started off coltish -- she burst onto the stage with so much energy she lost her balance and fell. First time I've ever seen her stumble. But she collected her nerves quickly to complete a serene, secure Rose Adagio. Peck is a human gyroscope. In the variation after the Rose Adagio she was the only ballerina to do all triple pirouettes in that 4-pirouette sequence, and she also added some fancy arm flourishes. Peck's Aurora was probably the most conventional -- she made the predictable growth from youthful energy to maturity. Her Vision Scene had the right aloofness and by the Wedding Scene she was regal although still powerful -- she started her variation delicately by wafting her fingers and arms in the air but finished with a series of blindingly fast pique and chaine turns. She is Tiler Peck, after all.

The performance had the best all-around cast. Tyler Angle again proved his worth as a wonderful partner and a classical danseur noble. His Prince variations were the cleanest with the purest line. The fairies were ALL terrific, particularly Olivia MacKinnon who was the only fairy I saw that could handle the Vivacity variation, Indiana Woodward who lit up the stage in the Canary variation and Unity Phelan who dispatched the finger variation with frightening efficiency. Ashley Laracey had the most beautiful epaulement and classical style of the Lilac Fairies. She is like Hyltin with the flexible back -- her renverses were also gorgeous. Her mime needs to be more clearly articulated, and then she'll be just about perfect. Troy Schumacher's jumps were not that powerful but he was the only Bluebird to bend his back and also really articulate the mime with Florine. Only sour spot was Lauren King's rather sloppy Florine -- strong, precise footwork just doesn't seem to be her thing. Zachary Catazaro's Gold variation was the cleanest of the three Golds I saw but is the Gold variation for the guys a "do what you want" thing? The three Golds (Russell Janzen, Chase Finlay and Zachary Catazaro) all did three very different variations.

I left the marathon feeling incredibly grateful that NYCB is so deep in talent that it can put on such strong casts in Sleeping Beauty, the ultimate test of a company's classicism. I mean, when in the prologue the fairy cavaliers all are able to pull off squeaky clean double air turns in unison, that's called depth. And having two Auroras who can put on such different but equally valid interpretations. What a great company!

And finally, my friend Irving is a wonderful photographer and he snapped this absolutely precious photo of Little Red Riding Hood (Alessia Reira) and Big Bad Wolf (Daniel Applebaum):

Photo @ Irving Chow


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