by Leigh Witchel
Lauren Lovette was ready to tackle Aurora in a way she wouldn’t have been once upon a time. The role is nerve-wracking even when you are ready; the hardest part comes right after you hit the stage. But Lovette made it through smoothly; she has what a New York City Ballet ballerina needs to succeed in this version of “The Sleeping Beauty”: the right mix of animation and calm.
Her bourrées as she took a pose on entering hammered the ground like a filly, but Lovette danced moderato from then on in. That’s right for the part; Aurora is the golden mean of ballerina roles. Lovette has line without being excessive; extending her leg to shoulder height looked proportional rather than cramped.
Heading from her entrance immediately into the dance that separates the ballerinas from the boys – the Rose Adagio – Lovette had few debut glitches. They were not obvious unless you were looking for them; her shoe shank almost turned to mush in the first set of balances, but she recovered before she came off pointe. And once she realized she was going to make it, her second set was fine. The Vision Scene, particularly the solo, more defined her Aurora. Her movement was calm and spacious, fanning up to an extension and sinking gently to her knee.
Every Aurora seems to want to personalize the more famous third act solo. The long, slow diagonal of ports de bras with only creeping pointe work to anchor them must feel as if it needs embellishment (it actually doesn’t, but that’s a longer discussion). Lovette’s version was to turn the arm movement into a gathering motion, scooping under on the first set and over on the second.
Partnering Lovette, Gonzalo Garcia was passionate and made the most of his role: when the Lilac Fairy told him to think, you could see him do it. Yet his Wedding solo was iffy and the partnering in the duet was dodgy. He blew the first fish dive and splayed Lovette on his hip with nothing she could do to save it.
Along with Lovette, the company grouped several important debuts on the same night, all of them good. Miriam Miller has great raw material for the Lilac Fairy. She was innately regal and elegant. If some turns were a little jelly-legged at her debut, she’ll be more secure with subsequent outings. Yet in her youth and inexperience, there was something touching about how she rebuffed Carabosse after the curse. It was like the shy girl in school who realized for the first time she had the power to stand up to the class bully.
Gretchen Smith’s Carabosse, another debut, was minimalist, characterized mostly with her right hand, as she flicked and waved away her minions or those who annoyed her. Spartak Hoxha also kept his debut small-scale, but avoided problems for a risk-management Bluebird.
Andrews Sill’s tempos kept everyone rushing; the audience made their trains. The mime was fast enough it needed to be spat out, Smith indicating “RememberWhatIToldYou!” in a blurred hand jive. Alexa Maxwell’s solo (Courage – the “finger” variation) was so emphatic every movement had a little jerk at the end, and so fast the pas de chats on pointe turned into running steps. Megan LeCrone kept the first variation calm, moving slowly on toe like tendrils in a breeze.
Megan Fairchild has been dancing Florine for well over a decade, and the experience showed. Her performance was warm and expansive, but also filled with fine detailing: she’d come to a kneel and clear the space with a wide sweep of her arms, or listen during her solo so you could sense what she was hearing.
Fairchild is now a senior ballerina and she dances like one. She’s in a sweet spot where her intelligence and sensibility has grown but her technique hasn’t declined. It’s what we hope for from Lovette, Miller and the rest of the young’uns. With facility and talent, practice can make perfect.
copyright © 2017 by Leigh Witchel
“The Sleeping Beauty” – New York City Ballet
Lincoln Center, New York, NY
January 26, 2017
Cover: Lauren Lovette in “The Sleeping Beauty.” Photo © Paul Kolnik
New York City Ballet‘s winter season runs through February 26.
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