BWW Reviews: NYCB: Ana Sophia Scheller Shines as Aurora in SLEEPING BEAUTY Debut
The Sleeping Beauty | New York City Ballet | February 20, 2013
Written with Ellen Dobbyn-Blackmore
Ana Sophia Scheller and Gonzalo Garcia in Peter Martins' The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik
As New York City Ballet's winter season winds down in its final week there is still plenty of news being made. Ana Sophia Scheller's debut in the role of Princess Aurora was a resounding success in this grand production. If her attitude balances in the Rose Adagio were a bit hesitant and brief, so what? She was every inch the young and sublime princess in all the rest that the role demanded. Scheller is, simply put, a beautiful dancer.
Like any true allegro dancer she has the ability to never seem to be in a hurry but always gets where she's going on time. Even as the orchestra set some blistering tempos, Scheller remained light and airy. Her upper body was always graceful and at ease with cool elegance in her port de bras. Of the many things that she does well, grace is her defining virtue. With a convincing portrayal of Princess Aurora safely behind her, Scheller looks ready to move on into other great leads like Juliet and Odette/Odile.
The sure-handed partnering of Gonzalo Garcia in the role of Prince Désiré seemed to put Scheller completely at ease because her balances suddenly became perfectly assured when they danced together. In all of their turns, lifts and balances, these two match each other's lines very well making each pose into a classic ballet picture. More than merely matching lines, these two radiate harmony and they clearly enjoy dancing together. Garcia carries himself with a princely air of conviction and is a pleasure to watch though he was not strong in his turns. He appeared to have his chin tucked in and looked to be in danger of falling backward on occasion.
Savannah Lowery also had an important debut in this performance as she stepped into the role of the Lilac Fairy. Lowery is at times able to generate some real excitement with her dancing. There are flashes of exquisite lyricism when she hits a balance. She never merely stops on the balance point. When she gets there she begins to grow in the position, stretching up and over an invisible fulcrum that gives it life and invests what could be a static moment with the poetry of a sigh.
The Lilac Fairy has to do a lot of dancing surrounded by other fairies in the first act of this ballet. No less than five additional fairies are sporting colorful tutus and tiaras of their own which results in competition for the audience's attention. It's hard to know which way to look because the stage is crowded with so much dancing talent at once. It turned out not to be a problem for Lowery as she was able to assert her primacy over the fairy pack at every moment with equanimity.
Veteran principal dancer Jenifer Ringer took obvious delight in the bad girl role of Carabosse, the vengeful fairy. After arriving in a mini-coach that resembled a spider web themed tonga, she slithered and skulked around the stage in a glitzy black costume with a gleefully malignant presence. Other notable fairy performances included Megan LeCrone and Lauren King.
It is probably pushing the envelope to extend compliments to the orchestra, led in this performance by Clotilde Otranto, for its playing of what is not one of Tchaikovsky's better works. Almost none of the themes stick in the mind on the way out of the theater. Some of the variations seem to stop abruptly in mid-phrase with no proper musical punctuation and the bulk of this score is forgettable. This is no masterpiece like Swan Lake and it's no great source of indelible tunes like The Nutcracker. However, it was capably if too briskly played, and the quality of the music should not be held too much against the musicians.
If money were the only criterion for establishing success then New York City Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty is a runaway hit. Every ballet company needs to have ballets in its repertoire that can be relied upon to generate strong box office success and this company is fortunate to have two with this production of The Sleeping Beauty to augment The Nutcracker. This is a massive and expensive production designed to please the crowd and sell tickets, lots of tickets. This is the all important time of the season when the popular favorite has to generate enough extra income to enable new productions of the repertory pieces which City Ballet is famous for around the world. Money in the bank means work for living choreographers.