|Sterling in a signed photo as SPF|
I first started attending NYCB about 20 years ago. I was not impressed -- I found their performances sloppy, their abstract ballets remote. Back then, my idea of ballet was Giselle or Romeo and Juliet. This attitude infuriated a friend of mine. But in 2011, I bought a ticket to NYCB on a whim. I remember the program: Prodigal Son/Mozartiana/Stars and Stripes. I remember nearly crying with joy at Stars and Stripes. The very next day I snatched up a bunch of tickets to NYCB, and the rest is history.
If you follow a company, you need a dancer to follow. For several years, I followed the company but not any dancer in particular. Maybe Tiler Peck because her technique was so amazing. I thought everyone was good, and a few dancers were more than good. Sterling Hyltin was just another really good dancer in a company of good dancers.
|Sterling in La Sylphide|
The "aha" moment was when she danced La Sylphide. I was prepared to be unimpressed -- I couldn't picture any NYCB dancer really "getting" the Bournonville style. Instead, Hyltin was the most natural non-Danish Sylph I've ever seen. She was light, mischievous, enchanting. Her feet never seemed to touch the ground. Other capable ballerinas took on the role of Sylph in alternating casts, but only Hyltin remotely resembled what I imagine Marie Taglioni was like. I officially become a Sterling junkie.
Once Hyltin became the ballerina I followed, going to NYCB was so much fun. I swapped out countless tickets to see her rendition of a role. My friends at the ballet were also huge Sterling fans, and we enjoyed meeting up at intermission to talk about how great she had been in such-and-such ballet. We'd also check the casting sheets obsessively so we could swap out tickets to see her instead. This was especially important in Nutcracker season, when tickets can be hard to come by and very expensive. The Sterling fan club members are my good friends now.After La Sylphide, I realized something -- Sterling Hyltin was not a stereotypical Balanchine ballerina. She was not the tall, remote goddess so fetishized by Balanchine. She was short, birdlike, with a sweet disposition. Her skillset also was not that of a typical Balanchine ballerina. While her footwork was accurate and could handle the demands of the choreography, the super-fast allegro dancing so prized at NYCB was not her forte. She was not going to storm through Allegro Brillante, Ballo della Regina or Theme and Variations. Her strength was never going to be the crowd-wowing, bravura technique.
|Pink Girl in DAAG|
|As Nellie Olsen aka Swanilda|
Eventually, my ballet hobby/passion was parlayed into reviewing dance for Bachtrack. I was now "legit" (I had my own press tickets and everything!), so I had to be diplomatic and objective. I'm not sure how objective I was about Hyltin though -- I adored her dancing that much.
It's fitting she retired with Nutcracker. It was the role that she was the most special in, a real marriage of role with dancer. So I sat through her wonderful Sugarplum Fairy two more times (I went to opening night as well -- review is at bachtrack). To be honest at her farewell performance I barely paid attention to the program. I just kept thinking how incredibly blessed I was that I got to follow her career for so many years. She brought beauty and joy into my life. So, so grateful.
This is the video of her curtain calls. Note the gorgeous grand jete she throws in at the very end.