SAB Workshop Ushers in New Stars while NYCB Ends Season

View from the 4th Ring for Concerto Barocco
Sunday June 3 was a bittersweet event for NYCB fans as three senior members of the company gave Long-time soloist Savannah Lowery and senior corps members Cameron Dieck and Likolani Brown all retired today. It's a happy occasion: all three dancers are headed towards
second careers but for dance audiences when senior members of the company leave it's always a loss.
Lowery as a farewell present was given two assignments -- the second violin to Ashley Laracey's first violin in Concerto Barocco, and the Agon pas de trois. I will miss Brown, who often led the Flowers in Nutcracker. You could always pick her out of a crowd with her dark hair and sweet face. I will also miss Dieck, who was one of my favorite Bottoms. Dieck's final turn onstage was as Theme 3 in Four Temperaments. He was dancing with his off-stage girlfriend Unity Phelan and the orchestra actually slowed down the tempo considerably, probably to allow Dieck to savor his last moments as a dancer. The crowd cheered loudly for Lowery during curtain calls. I wish she had been allowed a solo bow but oh well.

Farley and Laracey, photo @ Erin Baiano
The performance also ushered in the new. Ashley Laracey made her debut as the first violin and Silas Farley as the lone male in Concerto Barocco and they both gave the kind of clean, unmannered performance that NYCB diehard purists love. Agon also had some fresh faces -- I know Miriam Miller has danced the central pas de deux but so infrequently that today was my first time seeing her and she was impressive. Her core has become so much stronger and she could hold those sculptural poses. She always had a beautiful face and figure. Now she has the strength as well to become a Balanchine dancer. Tyler Angle was a solid partner but the central pas de deux needs a male with more charisma. I also really enjoyed Sebastian Villarini-Velez's debut as Melancholic in The Four Temperaments.

Western Symphony Cast in SAB Workshop
Thankfully as we say goodbye to the old the annual SAB workshop was a way to anticipate tomorrow's stars. These workshops are so much fun -- to hear the screaming parents, to see the throng of ballet stars past and present, to discuss who has real potential ...

Last night's workshop had a couple dancer standouts. The entire Western Symphony cast was filled with tall, leggy female stunners and short male dynamos. The smaller auditorium allowed audiences to see little nuances in the choreography that get lost in the larger D*v*d K*ch Theatre. For instance I've been watching this ballet over many years and never noticed the comical waving between the male and female in the adagio. Mary Kate Edwards in the Allegro impressed with her cool, regal presence -- already she reminded me of Tess Reichlen. Maybe the most charming pairing was the Adagio's Mia Domini with the pocket-sized Victor Rosario. In the Rondo Cainan Weber wowed the crowd with his huge cowboy leaps while Juliane Kinawsiewitz was that high-kicking high energy girl that Western Symphony needs but often doesn't get.

In Creases cast with Craig Hall
Justin Peck's In Creases was an awkward fit for the SAB students. This ballet set to Phillip Glass music needs dancers who are much more used to the ultra-modern style of choreography. The students tried but they kept reverting back to fifth position and they couldn't quite keep up with the propulsive Glass score. With that being said it was interesting to see one of Peck's earliest creations already have many of his later trademarks -- the dancers lying on the floor and then moving one by one, the seamless mix of male-female, female-female, male-male and whole group partnering. And one immediately noticed the tall, self-possessed Naomi Corti in the group of 8 dancers.

Anderson, Weber, Hong
In Balanchine's very pink charmer La Source was staged by SAB's most senior teacher Suki Schorer. As is always the case with any ballet staged by Suki Schorer the skill with which the dancers execute Balanchine's petit batterie and the on-the-note musicality stood out over any individual dancer's accomplishments. I loved the soloist girl Isabelle Anderson -- besides the beauty of her legs and feet there was the smoothness of her execution. The lead couple Amarra Hong and Cainan Weber had good moments (Weber is an awesome jumper and Hong a strong technician) but there were a few partnering blips (I could see one lift crash as soon as the dancers hit the wings). Still, lovely performance.

Bouder and Gordon and the rest of the Coppelia cast
The SAB Workshop made a fitting bookend to another Event -- on Friday June 1 there was a Coppélia cast where EVERYONE was brand new, including the Dr. Coppelius (Giovanni Villalobos). Villalobos doesn't have Robert La Fosse's experience in this role (how could he?) but he was funny, pitiful, sad -- everything needed to give this ballet a beating heart.

Senior ballerina Ashley Bouder was making her debut as Swanilda after 18 (!!!) years in the company. On the surface she doesn't seem like a natural Swanilda -- she's always been a technical wonder but often short on charm. And indeed she was a very different Swanilda than the sweet, cute Sterling Hyltin from last week -- Bouder's Swanilda had sharper edges, fiercer attack, and a broader interpretation. And yet the portrayal worked. Bouder did some of the most appealing dancing I've seen from her in ... a long time. What was it? Patricia McBride's coaching? Her explosive pas de chats are always astonishing, as are her long-held balances. But for once Bouder didn't let her technique overpower her characterization. Her doll imitation in Act 2 was very funny and delightfully mean -- at one point the audience gasped as she "accidentally" slapped poor Dr. Coppelius in one of her doll arm movements.

Bouder and Gordon
Joseph Gordon also made his debut as the callow, foolish Franz. I already loved Gordon's clean lines and soft landings on jumps. But with this role Gordon proved he could also carry a ballet dramatically. He was funny and charming, his miming crystal clear. His partnering of Bouder in the Act 3 wedding pas de deux was solid. His variation with those double tours that land in second position and take off from a plié in second position were squeaky clean. During curtain calls the two dancers beamed at each other, aware that their triumph was total.

Adams, Boisson, Sell, Jones
The variations in Act 3 were all very strong (and all debuts)!. Mary Elizabeth Sell was a much more lyrical Dawn than Megan LeCrone from last week, Sara Adams technically secure as Spinner, and Unity Phelan a strong Valkyrie in War and Discord. Spartak Hoxha's partnering in War and Discord needed major work. But the standout was Olivia Boisson as Prayer. Beautiful adagio technique, long lines, stopped the show. As Mr. B would say, "she's ready." Baily Jones led the 24 SAB girls that Balanchine uses as a full-blown corps de ballet in Act 3. He has them do as much as Petipa might have had 24 corps girls do -- different formations, meticulous changes in port de bras, those 24 little tutu'ed girls had to do it all. What a great revival this has been.

So that's a wrap for NYCB's 2017-18 season that weathered the huge crisis of Peter Martins' sudden dismissal, the leave of Amar Ramasar, Justin Peck and Brittany Pollack to go do Broadway, the usual share of injuries (most distressing: Adrian Danchig-Waring), and the pressure of reviving all those ballets for the Robbins Festival.

And now, in no particular order, some random highs from the season:

Best Farewell: Robert Fairchild's last dance in Duo Concertant with his frequent partner Sterling Hyltin. Heart-melting. Sublime. Unforgettable.

Most Revelatory Interpretation: Adrian Danchig-Waring's raw, powerful, very un-pretty Apollo. Over the years this ballet has lost its demi-character roots as Peter Martins' stamp became more and more engrained into the ballet's DNA. Danchig-Waring brought it back.

Best Robbins' Revival: In G Major. I don;t know why this isn't revived more often but it's an absolutely beautiful ballet that brought out the best in Maria Kowroski, who can struggle in Balanchine ballets.

Best Rising Stars: The phenomenal Roman Mejia and the appealing energetic Harrison Coll, both of whom are still in the corps but dancing more and more soloist roles.

Best Improvement from the Martins Era: NYCB alumni being invited back to coach. Mikhail Baryshnikov came back to coach Suite of Dances and Other Dances. Patricia McBride came back to coach Baiser de la Fee and Coppélia. Jacque d'Amboise coached Apollo. Who's next?


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