American Ballet Theatre has not been good at developing new talent over the past decade, instead relying on flyover guest artist talent for the Spring Met season. That policy changed several years ago after the departure of Executive Director Rachel Moore (coincidence?) with no guest artists this Met season. The new strategy of relying on homegrown talent was on full display Wednesday afternoon as Christine Shevchenko made her debut as Kitri in Don Quixote, with another up-and-comer Devon Teuscher as Mercedes. It is exciting to see new talent in lead roles and Christine and Devon made my afternoon off work worthwhile with exciting and energetic performances.
Christine, a Soloist since 2014, reminds me of former ABT Principal Dancer Irina Dvorovenko, with high, athletic jumps and ample turning ability. These strengths are key in the role of Kitri given the many leaps and pirouettes. Notable were her turns from first position diagonal finished off with a solid double pirouette; bouncy hops on pointe and fast-paced piqué turns in the dream solo; and solid fouetté turns in the Grand Pas de Deux solo. Like Irina in her fouettés, she completed double pirouettes with one hand on her hip and the other overhead holding a fan-finished off with a controlled triple pirouette with a look of great relief. Her fouettés were done well, with a nice extended second position before going to retiré position for the turn. Kitri is not just about athleticism, but the role also needs dramatic flair. Christine was generally successful as the campy, self-satirical Kitri, although her portrayal was uneven at times.
This was a successful debut showing great promise, but with a few rough edges. She dropped her fan at the beginning of her first solo in the Pas de Deux (maybe use duct tape next time?) although she stayed in character and cheerfully picked it up before the start of the music. Also, she came off pointe in the pas de deux with Alban Lendorf as Basilio. Small points as I enjoyed Christine’s performance. I can’t imagine the pressure a young dancer faces in a difficult debut role at the Met and she pulled it off.
Devon was a confident, poised Mercedes and Queen of the Dryads, showing great maturity. As Mercedes, she displayed effective timing, alternating eye contact with the audience and partner Blaine Hoven as Espada, the famous matador. She gave a flowing solo as the Queen of the Dryads, covering much ground on her glissades. Her Italian fouettés, always treacherous, were done effectively. Devon is a great young talent and I look forward to her portrayal of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake in the June 14 matinée.
Alban Lendorf was serviceable as Basilio, sometimes lacking bravura. His solo work was stilted at times; he isn’t a natural Basilio as the role doesn’t play to his strengths, although he had a nice turns in second position with double turns in attitude combined with strong partnering of Christine.
Notable performances included Zhiyao Zhang as a Gypsy, with very high leaps and towering 540 action; Rachel Richardson as the pixie Armour, and Kaho Ogawa and Melanie Hamrick as the Flower Girls. Kaho is known for doing 10 pirouettes on pointe while Melanie is back after having a baby with Mick Jagger. Also, Blaine Hoven made a big impression as an arrogant Espada.