ABT La Bayadére Saturday: Kids vs. Old-Timers

American Ballet Theatre’s La Bayadére performances Saturday offered an interesting contrast in dancer seasoning. The matinée ABT performance featured Devon Teuscher (promoted to Principal Dancer last year) as Nikiya; Cassandra Trenary (Soloist) as Gamzatti; and Joo Won Ahn (Corps) as Solor while the evening performance featured three seasoned Principal Dancers in these roles: Isabella Boylston/Misty Copeland/Jeffrey Cirio. Overall, I enjoyed the matinée performance more with the younger dancers in charge; although the evening featured high level dancing, the afternoon performance was executed at a more consistent level.

I was most interested in seeing Joo Won Ahn in the role of Solor. Joo is from the Korea National University of Arts in Seoul and came to ABT after winning the Silver Medal at the Korean International Ballet Competition and 3rd Prize at the 2012 Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria. He joined ABT as an apprentice in 2014 and was promoted to Corps later that year. I previously thought highly of his Lankendem in Le Corsaire last year. Joo is the leading candidate to break out of the Corps given his recent leading roles. With the ABT male ranks very thin, the company needs young male talent to assert themselves in leading roles. 

Joo’s performance Saturday provides some hope as he delivered a fine performance. His partnering with Devon and Cassandra was solid, with well executed lifts and turn support. This was their second time in this role with the first the Wednesday matinée. Joo and Devon developed a reasonable rapport as they swore eternal love in Act I. Like most partnering relationships, this is a work in process that will develop over time. His solo work went well with reasonable quality turns in second position, whipping into a smooth triple pirouette. His Act II solo featured the Nureyev double assemblé manége but with rocky, awkward landings; like Jeffrey Cirio in the evening, Joo did five double assemeblés followed by a jeté diagonal finishing up with a double saute de basque derivative. Overall, a nice, unspectacular performance from Joo, giving him something to build on as he advances up the ABT ladder.

Devon, in her first full year as a Principal Dancer, was also in good form. She is strong technically, with dependable turns and balances. This skill set served her well in the difficult scarf dance in Act II. Her Nikiya Act I adagio was delivered with moody introspection. Her balances to a roll down arabesque were done well, but not of Tereshkina quality.


Cassandra Trenery, La Bayadére. Click for more photos.

Cassandra’s Act I Gamzatti solo was nicely done; highlights included high single cabrioles, controlled turns in attitude, smooth Italian fouettés and fouettés that were delivered at a slow and controlled pace. I don’t know if the slower pace is her natural turning style, but it stands in contrast to many dancers that generate substantial energy in their turns; I suspect that for some dancers, the whiz-bang energy is designed to cover up technical shortcomings. Dramatically, she was a strong-willed after she banished Nikiya and threatened to destroy her after Nikiya attempted to kill her.

The Shades Corps work was greatly improved Saturday over the Tuesday performance, although some wobbles and off kilter steps remained.

The Saturday evening performance featured Isabella Boylston as Nikiya and Jeffrey Cirio as Solor. Isabella’s Act I solo was the best I have seen this ABT La Bayadére season, with a material balance in attitude before rolling down to arabesque. Her piqué turns in Act II were presented with great command and authority. Jeffrey’s solo was good, but I have seen better turns in second position from him.

On the down side, Jeffrey and Misty missed an overhead lift in Act I. I’m not sure what happened, but he couldn’t lock his arms with her overhead; he attempted the lift again before aborting the effort. Also, some of the supported turns were not timed well. Misty’s Gamzatti Act I solo was not delivered with much authority. Her Italian fouettés had a forced quality as she turned her body to face the audience. Her initial fouettés were rough as one turn was not done on pointe; she righted herself to complete the sequence. Also in Act I, some of the Corps dancing was not in synch in several segments, awkward at times.

Two Principal Dancers were on duty for The Shades solos (Sarah Lane and Christine Shevchenko) along with Corps member Stephanie Williams. Sarah’s great energy, Stephanie’s great extension, and Christine’s high cabrioles were highlights.

The Bronze Idol featured Gabe Stone Shayer in the afternoon performance and Joseph Gorak in the evening. Both were precise in their movements, almost robot-like.

I look forward to the world premier of Alexei Ratmansky’s Harlequinade tomorrow. Check in late tomorrow for highlights.