BWW Dance Review: Sterling Hyltin Triumphs in New York City Ballet's Coppélia, May 27, 2018
Writing in the New York Times on October 18, 1938, John Martin, the Times first dance critic, had this to say about the Ballet Russe [sic] production of Coppélia.
"If the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's revival of Coppélia does not take you back to your youth, it is certainly because it was a very recent youth, indeed, or a very sheltered one." He called the mime quaint, the production excellent entertainment, but a period piece, and Alexandra Danilova, dancing the role of Swanilda, enchanting.
What makes this production so captivating is that Danilova staged it, along with Balanchine. Over 40 years after its premiere, it still beguiles.
I've seen so many Swanilda's, yet, believe it or not, never Sterling Hyltin in the role. The wait was well worth it.
Hyltin, at least to me, wasn't a natural fit for swans, fairies, etc. She's like the gitrl next door that boys wanted to marry in those old musicals we used to watch on television. And this fits well with her Swanilda characterization, just a country girl who wants to marry and will smash or do anything that stands in her way.
OK, she has a temper also.
When she first entered, she looked remarkably like Judith Fugate. I took notice at once. But then with her mime, soft and articulate, she created a full characterization. The mime, depending on who is doing it, can sometimes seem fussy and overly cute. Hyltin did not go in that direction. It was direct, never fussy; it told the story.
And her dancing was assertive, bold, melting. Her upper body was never rigid or tight. It flowed gracefully with her legs. It's as if everything was synchronized. In Act Two in the workshop of Dr. Coppelius, when she takes on the disguise of his mechanical dolls, she always lets us see that she is a woman.
She also bore an amazing resemblance to Bonita Granville of those old Hollywood films. At first, I laughed. Sweet Swanilda taking on the disguise of tough Bonita. But it worked.
I'm sure no one was thinking like this--- it's just my fantasy. Whatever she did, it worked directly for her.
I also enjoyed Hyltin's comedy, playing to it and with it, not on top of it and punching everything out to the audience. It was natural and came from her portrayal. The same could be said for her Frantz, Andrew Veyette, another dancer whom I never felt to be at ease with heroic roles, he has a natural ease playing a bumpkin. .And when he partners Hyltin in the final pas de deux, it's as if they have been building up to this final apotheosis throughout the ballet, with the glorious finale, incorporating just about every trick and turn known in the ballet world, following, as the curtain falls to tumultuous applause.
Robert La Fosse was an excellent Dr. Coppelius, never overly finicky. The soloists in Act Three, Sarah Villwock, Megan LeCrone, Lydia Wellington, Meagan Mann, Ashley Hod and Christopher Grant prove that New York City Ballet has soloists of principal caliber.
And have I forgotten to mention the students from SAB?
To see all this talent on stage was truly enthralling. What other company in the world can provide this?
NYCB Performance photo © Paul Kolnik