BWW Reviews: New York City Ballet: Jumping for Joy
Written with Ellen Dobbyn-Blackmore
Sara Mearns in Serenade, photo by: Paul Kolnik
Serenade, in the words of former New York City Ballet dancer Toni Bentley, is female terrain. Can a ballet that begins with the women paying homage with their palms raised to the moon be about anything else? Bentley performed Serenade many times with the company and knows what she's talking about. As she said, Balanchine's first masterpiece composed in America serves as a Rosetta Stone for a new kind of American classical dancer. It was in this ballet that Balanchine first laid out his vision and even after nearly eighty years it has not lost its relevance. This performance, the last of the all Tchaikovsky/Balanchine programs, featured two women new to the ballet and one perfectly seasoned veteran. Each of them brought her own distinct, feminine sensibility to the work.
Sara Mearns, in her first turn as the Waltz Girl, brought her beautiful legato to the role with all of the joy and yearning lyricism that is present in the music. Her long romantic tutu responded by floating behind her everywhere she went, leaving trails of wistfulness behind. She will have many years to continue to grow in this role but has already captured the essence of the Waltz Girl's pure love of dance and she abandons herself to the music with obvious pleasure. There is real ecstasy in the soul of this dedicated artist. It's been too long since she graced the stage and her return from a lingering injury was most welcome.
Megan LeCrone is a very different type of dancer. She brings a very measured and focusEd Grace to the role of the Dark Angel. This is a woman who is thoroughly in control of everything she does. It is actually hard to imagine her ever losing control. The pleasure of her dancing is in her strong centeredness and her ability to place everything exactly where she wants. She also has a perfection of line that defines space around her with crystal clarity. I wonder if it would not be better to see her let it fly once in a while and relinquish some of that sure control.
This performance, however, belonged to Ashley Bouder's flying Russian Girl, a part in which she has seemingly explored every nuance the ballet has to offer. If she has left a stone unturned in her exploration of this part it will have to be up to the next generation of dancers because there is no one around right now who comes close to Bouder's level of sheer, transcendent joy in dancing coupled with such technical ease. Ballon is the word classical ballet uses to describe the ability some dancers have to create the illusion of being able to hang in the air in defiance of gravity. Bouder defines the word every time she leaves the ground, jumping for joy. In every phrase she finds the right moment to sustain a jump or slowly and luxuriantly hold a balance. She is over, under and around the music, playing with it in exuberant brio.
When Bouder dances a brief quotation from Giselle, it makes one wish that City Ballet had Giselle's second act in the repertory. So far Bouder has only performed the role in Italy. With a few judicious cuts it would make a strong and highly marketable anchor to a repertory program. It's time to bring Gelsey Kirkland back and have her stage it on City Ballet. That would be something wondrous to see. Bouder is a refined artist at the very peak of her powers and not to be missed any time she performs.