New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
January 11, 2008
by Mary Cargill
copyright 2008 by Mary Cargill
Each jewel on Friday night had a new facet, some glowing more than others. “Emeralds” saw Abi Stafford’s debut in the Mimi Paul role, a somewhat unexpected piece of casting, since she is a compact and rather un-lyrical dancer. She may improve with experience, but so far, she seemed to concentrate on the steps, with some rather deliberate arms (which while there were lovely moments, tended to stiffen up); there was little perfume or sense of mystery. The moment when the dancer mimes tears—why and over what?—was given the same metronomic emphasis as the other steps. This was a deliberate performance, rather than an understanding one.
Rachel Rutherford, in the Verdy role, has much more experience, but even more important, an imaginative approach. She used her serene elegance to shade the mood, switching from playfulness in the allusive mime scene to a delicate sense of urgency when the horns called her away. She was called away from the sympathetic and lyrical Jared Angle, who, with Stafford’s partner Jason Fowler and Robert Fairchild in the squire role, gave a memorable power to the final scene of misty loss.
Nothing is lost in “Rubies” and NYCB seems to have found a fine dancer in Gonzalo Garcia, who made his debut in the male role. He danced with Megan Fairchild, who substituted for Yvonne Borree; she seemed much more at ease than on the opening night, but still does not have the wholesome allure and innocent wit of McBride, who made the quirky steps seem spontaneous; all the turned in feet and swishy hips seemed a bit too deliberate.
Garcia looked, though, like he was having the time of his life, and while he may have mugged a bit too much, he brought a wit and liveliness to the piece that was exhilarating. The tall girl role was danced by Savannah Lowery, who is technically strong; she muscled her way through the steps, but lacks allure and charm.
Sara Mearns, whose middle name must be allure and charm, made her debut in “Diamonds” and has completed the “Jewels” trifecta (she has danced the Mimi Paul role in “Emeralds” and the tall girl in “Rubies”). It was an astounding performance, rich and nuanced. “Diamonds”, it must be said, can be somewhat dreary going, with the corps meandering around until the pas de deux. The corps should dance as if they were the granddaughters of all those swans and bayaderes that Balanchine grew up with (just like the corps in “Emeralds” should be the granddaughters of all those sylphs). They should set the stage, echoing and amplifying the emotions of the ballerina; the Kirov proved it can be done, but the NYCB corps tended to look like the world’s longest ballet class.
However, once the pas de deux began, Mearns, with strong support from Jonathan Stafford, all thoughts of ballet classes disappeared, and we saw a danced conversation. The ballerina in “Diamonds” can be danced several ways, all equally effective; Farrell was almost tragic, a cousin to the second ballerina in “Symphony in C”, while dancers like Nichols and Kistler were triumphant, as if they were expanding on the Aurora of Act III. Mearns is in the Aurora mold, and danced with a solemn ecstasy and radiant ease. She has a pure and centered arabesque that seemed to hold time still, and used her expansive control so expressively. Those luxurious back falls (which some dancers can use to imply a fading away) were, in her case, an expression of supreme confidence in her partner. It was a truly uplifting and magical debut.