Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ballo della Regina, ABT at City Center, Sunday matinée, November 2, 2008

Gillian Murphy in Ballo della Regina
Gene Schiavone photo

Ashley Bouder in Ballo della Regina
Paul Kolnik photo

Today's 1:30 performance (Nov. 2) began with Ballo and the slip of paper announcing Yuriko Kajiya and Eric Tamm in place of Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg. I knew Gillian wouldn't be dancing as planned, but I was so looking forward to David in this. But no worries -- it's always exciting to see a new'un in a new role and I thought Eric Tamm was very, very good. Kajiya, too, after her troubled "Theme" a week ago (last Sunday's afternoon performance) was confident, strong, and bursting with energy. I was happy I saw her in a better light. When she got to that special Merrill Ashley variation, I looked at her very closely, Ashley's dancing running through my head.
Merrill Ashley
Martha Swope photo

Allegra Kent was seated near me and I wondered what she was thinking, too. Kajiya tried her darndest, she really did, and without the knowledge of Merrill Ashley's precedent-setting performances, one could say Kajiya did very well indeed. Alas, we DO have knowledge of Miss Ashley's incomparable antecedent! It makes you treasure having seen Ashley do it all the more and place a higher value on her considerable ability with the special choreography of this piece.

Isabella Boylston and David Hallberg in Ballo della Regina
Gene Schiavone photo
It was the collaboration with George Balanchine , who simply incorporated things Merrill Ashley could do -- and she could do just about anything -- that made this ballet so special. The speed! The precision of those hops! That unique 3-part drawing in of the leg from grand battement à la seconde to high passé!

But this review is supposed to be about Kajiya. I was pleasantly surprised at how pleasantly and surprisingly she danced today.

With ease and showing beautiful lines, good elevation and a much better facial expression -- joyful! -- to replace that upper lip curl that looked almost like a sneer last week when she was dancing unsure, Kajiya won my heart. She is quite the sublime dancer. I'm glad that I can end my season of watching by saying so, that I was able to change my mind about her (even knowing she was thrown into "Theme" and had to make [really sour] lemonade). Yuriko, you were wonderful this afternoon and you have t-i-m-e to get better at things like Ballo. You certainly took the bull by the horns today. More power to you.

Yuriko Kajiya in Ballo della Regina
Gene Schiavone photo
Eric Tamm -- such a fine danseur noble. He's been given so many opportunities this fall season and he is using them so well. He stepped up today, too. Most of his turns were straight, fast, and beautiful-looking. His line is gorgeous. He was an attentive, strong partner. He covered the stage with his leaps and was right on the music throughout. I can still see him in my mind's eye, so that makes him memorable as well.

The corps was crisp, generous of movement, sprightly and long-limbed. My Isabella was there, so of course I watched her loveliness quite a lot of the time. Maria Bystrova stood out for me, too. It's a darn shame she grew so tall and big-boned for I think that's what's keeping her from being moved up. She was a darling, pixielike 15 year old who danced like a dream in all the cute little girl variations. I was so excited when she joined ABT. For years, I've been itching to scream at someone about her still being kept from showing us all she's got. The other females (Nicola, Zhong-Jing, Nicole, Melanie, Anne, Luciana, Jacquelyn, Christine, Leann, and Karen U.) each had their own personality as they danced and it was fun to identify them as they whizzed by.
All were in good form, some in sensational form. The four soloists -- Misty, Maria, Hee, and Marian -- were wonderful. I don't have a bone to pick with any of them. Sheer pleasure in beautiful costumes. Marian Butler is so pretty!

Preview: My new corps favorite is Roddy Doble (who knew?!) in “Company B”.
He was fantastic! And Carlos Lopez! Could he BE any better? WOW!

Isabella Boylston, Luciana Paris, Nicola Curry in Ballo della Regina
Gene Schiavone photo

Hee Seo in Ballo della Regina
Gene Schiavone photo

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