Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peasant Pas de Deux

This virtuoso inclusion in the middle of Act I requires virtuoso performances of the dancers doing it, otherwise they’re just in danger of embarrassing themselves. ABT chose four different sets of able performers, none of them embarrassing, but a few much more able than their counterparts. Two of them shone like brilliant stars.

Peasant Pas de Deux, Corvino Ballet 1971
Ernesta Corvino and Elias Colon

Order of male peasants as I would like to see them dance this PDD again:

Daniil Simkin
Craig Salstein
Blaine Hoven
Carlos Lopez

Order of female peasants as I would like to see them dance this PDD again:

Isabella Boylston
Yuriko Kajiya
Sarah Lane
Misty Copeland

Thursday evening, Feb. 26th, 2009

Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin

Daniil’s high-flying cabrioles, juicy renversé, dazzling double tours en l’air, suspended-in-air croisé jetés in attitude, brilliant beats, bravura finishes, combine to create a peasant pas de deux with variations that becomes a new benchmark for male dancers. Not since Herman Cornejo has there been such radiance in the male part of this PDD at ABT.

An almost flawless frolic, the only poor marks in his partnership with Sarah Lane go to the supported pirouettes in which the first couple of times Sarah's rotations were turned by Daniil off center, looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. One seldom knows while watching whether this is the fault of the ballerina, her partner, or a little of both. It happens quite a lot, even with world-class dancers, that it only goes to show how difficult partnering is – but, of course, dancers try to avoid it. Being askew is not an attribute in ballet unless it's mandated in the choreography. ;)

Sarah Lane in peasant pas de deux
photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Sarah Lane performed vivaciously, like a glittering little gemstone within an ideal setting. Her turns, extensions, jumps and balances were noteworthy. I’m afraid, though, that her pairing with Daniil Simkin is relegating her to a sort of second place in any pas de deux they do together. He is so unpretentiously flashy, and the audience is still so interested in every move he makes, that, untraditionally, all eyes are on him instead of the ballerina he’s presenting. Thank goodness for solo variations. They give the girl a chance!

Friday evening, Feb. 27th, 2009

Yuriko Kajiya and Carlos Lopez

Rapidly becoming one of my favorites, Yuriko Kajiya danced a joyful pas de deux befitting the grape festival it was a part of. Carlos Lopez was all smiles as well and the two presented a competent, happy dance. Kajiya was the one to watch. Her long lines and soaring grands jetés, beautiful turns and camera-friendly poses are very appealing. She is well-trained, dancing above her technique, but seems to be best suited (so far) to pretty ballet parts where she displays a freedom of movement to match the delight so evident in her face.

Carlos Lopez, bless his heart, danced with expertise and joie de vivre, giving it all he had. What he doesn’t have (since we’re comparing) is perfect line (and it shows in the many arabesques), a dependable landing (he landed all his tours, but in a couple of them you could see the relief/surprise on his face that he didn’t wobble), or higher than 90˚ arabesques. When he lands in arabesque plié, his working leg doesn’t have that extra lift that is so nice to see. He is, however, lovely to look at and with Kajiya, they accomplished a satisfying PDD. I’d like to see each of them with a different partner, though. I think it would be a good thing for both.

Correct me if I’m wrong (somebody, please! – one of the dancers maybe?), but I don’t think Carlos Lopez and Yuriko Kajiya performed the pas de deux. I have it marked twice in my notes that they didn’t do it. They certainly did the variations and coda, but I was surprised (after seeing Daniil and Sarah the previous evening) that they left it out. The other couples in the following two performances performed it. Why did I come away wondering what happened to it?

Saturday matinée, Feb. 28th, 2009

Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein

Here’s a coupling made in Heaven: Ms. And Mr. Excitement! Vigorous spirit defines Misty Copeland’s approach to every role and she handled the part of peasant with her usual hearty flair. Craig Salstein matched her in flamboyance, notably in every secure landing of his perfect tours en l’air. Together, they presented a display of showmanship that was more an “anything you can do…” contest than a classical period piece. It was tremendous fun to watch, but it isn’t what the peasant pas de deux is about.

Misty is ABT’s anomaly, a brilliant dancer who doesn’t fit the usual mold but who transcends the norm in an utterly winsome and gifted way. The peasant pas was a piece of cake for her and she fluently flew through it.

Salstein left me with pretty much the same feeling. This was a lark for both of them. I did prefer his arms-outstretched “ta-raa!” landings, especially those on one knee, to a dancer who shows no emotion at the end of his feats. I can’t exactly put my finger on what was lacking, or, perhaps, what was too abundantly offered. That’s why I want to see him do it again.

Saturday evening, Feb. 28th, 2009

Isabella Boylston and Blaine Hoven

I’m watching a MASH rerun as I write this and Hawkeye Pierce just wisecracked “she’s a girl with so much body it should be continued on the next girl.”
What an apt line to describe some dancers! It could easily be applied to Veronika Part, and, for the male counterpart, to Marcelo Gomes.

Since I’m writing about Isabella Boylston, my knee-jerk response is to associate the remark with Isabella’s technique and presentation, of which she has more than a full share. Isabella’s dancing in the peasant pas de deux brims over with joyful energy, unassailably pure technique, and natural musicality. This is the foundation upon which she displays her balletic wisdom, trained into muscles and mind since early childhood. Isabella Boylston’s performance savvy, acquired through years of opportunities afforded her in starring roles at ballet school, principal level variations and pas de deux in prestigious ballet competitions, and a grounding in company work at ABT II before joining the main company, has enabled her to reach a point of maturity at the age of 22 that many dancers fail to achieve in their dancing lifetime.

Isabella Boylston and Joseph Gatti
at the New York International Ballet Competition, 2005;
photo by Joseph Schembri

below, Isabella Boylston in her gold-medal winning Aurora variation,
Youth America Grand Prix 2001

To witness her attack in arabesque and attitude, her crystal sharp space-carving in grand ronde de jambe en l’air, her straight-arrow piqué turns, her whirling-pinwheel supported pirouettes, her jump-over-a-haystack leap, is to see a dancer so secure in her skill that she can let herself justly enjoy the purity of the movement. She even walks on pointe with a stride that declares it preferable to walking on flat. With charming finesse, Isabella enhances her variation with just the right amount of sweetness, personality, and poise. Until now, my most memorable peasant pas de deux soloist was Erica Cornejo. I now have a new point of reference. :)

Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns in rehearsal
photo by Matthew Murphy

Isabella Boylston (with partner Cory Stearns) has been chosen to represent ABT at the Erik Bruhn competition in Toronto next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if a promotion within ABT were on the horizon, too. I surely hope so.

Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns in
Benjamin Millepied's "Without";
photo by Andrea Mohin, NYT

Blaine Hoven was a strong partner for Boylston who facilitated her pirouettes and lifts with ease. The two danced in lockstep synchronization, adding an eye-pleasing element to their duet. Hoven impressed with high sautés and clean turns, smartly-beaten cabrioles, attractive arabesques and secure landings. However, he does not leave one with with an unforgettable picture. There’s nothing in particular to draw out of one’s memory and savor afterwards. I’ve seen him in other ballets and find he is a bit of a chameleon, adapting himself to a role even in changing his outward appearance. The day you’re looking for his mop of blond curly hair onstage is the day he’s got it gelled straight and combed close to his head. His dancing varies, too. This day, his peasant pas interpretation wasn’t at its pinnacle.

I have a few more tidbits to share with you in the next day or two. I’ll wind up my posting of these performances after I’ve added them.

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