Last year, my American Ballet Theatre Met season wrap-up lamented on the lack of great new men on the horizon. I’m happy to report that ABT has found one piece of the puzzle. With his Wednesday matineé and Friday performances as Siegfried in Swan Lake, Aran Bell demonstrated that he is The Real Deal. The 20-year old is at a technical level one would expect from Principal Dancers in the prime of their careers rather than at the beginning.
Aran has a build similar to Marcelo Gomes, tall with a muscular definition that makes him stand out in a crowd. He has an elegant elongated line, with long stretched out legs that he put to good use with beautiful turns in second position to an arabesque in his Act I solo. Aran is also capable of razzle-dazzle beyond what one would expect from a tall man. He threw in a rarely seen triple saute de basque in his Conrad solo in Le Corsaire earlier in the season. His first solo Friday in the Pas de Deux had a difficult tour section I have not seen before. Going downstage en face (front), he did two consecutive double tours with the last one going to the knee. Aran then popped up into fourth position to 4-5 smooth pirouettes, with this section repeated. Aran’s turns in second position showed off his elegant line as he threw in single and triple pirouettes. His finish reminded me of Marcelo, who was always able to complete the sequence with many turns to an upright position before going to a lunge. His tricky double tours to arabesque were clean with a slight hesitation in a high arabesque, similar to Daniil Simkin. In general, he is a stellar turner able to pound out 4-5 pirouettes with clean landings. Overall, his dancing is at a high level, making him a welcome addition to principal roles that ABT sorely needs.
Because of his youth, Aran effectively portrayed the young Siegfried with boyish charm. It helps in the role if you are not old enough to buy alcohol. In general, he is not the most expressive dancer in dramatic segments. The dramatic side is a work in process that needs more development.
Aran provided Devon Teuscher with a boost of energy as she attacked the role with more verve than in previous seasons. Her rapid beat section in Act I to chaîné turns to arabesque were dramatic and energetic. Also impressive was her aggressive, space-eating piqué turns in her solo that covered much ground. As always, Devon was secure in her turns which featured triple pirouettes to a double turn in attitude in her Odile solo and consecutive double fouettés (about 8) followed by rapid single fouettes, ending in a controlled triple pirouette. Her Odile was particularly confident as she had an arrogant demeanor, almost laughing at the control she had over Siegfried. Devon and Aran are young and have an exceptional budding partnership.
Jose Sebastian was Rothbart, a role he debuted in the Wednesday matineé. Jose is tall and imposing with substantial extension and projection. The steps were done well but more dramatic action was needed, notably when he dismissed the lovely Princesses. Melanie Hamrick, Stephanie Williams and Calvin Royal danced the Pas de Trois, reliable but not distinguished.
The highlight of Thursday evening’s performance was the return of Daniil Simkin, back after an injury that sidelined him for two weeks. As Ali in Le Corsaire two weeks ago, Daniil was spectacular, one of the best Ali’s I have seen. However, he was unable to perform his remaining three slots while sitting out Lescaut in Manon last week (his “drunk” solo would have been amazing). He picked up where he left off with a stellar performance Thursday. Daniil was always in control, with gorgeous four turns in second position to arabesque in Act I and high-flying solos in Act II. His Act II solos included 5-6 pirouettes punctuated by well done turns in second position, alternating single and quadruple turns, finished off with six turns. His partnering, not always his strong suit, was robust as he provided Isabella Boylston with ample support on turns and lifts. I have seen Isabella as Odette/Odile several times and she always delivers a consistent, steady performance. Thursday was no exception.
Skylar Brandt, Cassandra Trenary, and Joseph Gorak danced the Pas de Trois. Skylar and Cassandra were great, a treat to see in this role. As much as I enjoyed Skylar, I hope never to see her in this role again. It is her time to dance Odette/Odile.
More on Swan Lake casting in my next article.
Yes, Aran Bell really is reminiscent of a young Marcelo Gomes in many ways, isn’t he? I kept thinking that all season. Marcelo’s departure was a huge loss for the company, in my opinion. No one will ever replace Marcelo, but hopefully Aran can take on more of these “leading man” type of roles in the coming years.
I thought Jose Sebastian was great as Rothbart. He’s the only Rothbart that I saw this year who was able to hold that balance at the end of the ballroom seduction scene. I suppose he could work on his acting skills a bit, but I thought he seemed menacing enough, at least from where I was sitting (in the cheap seats). There’s a fine balance. If the role is played too over the top, then it can come across as cartoonish.
I’m very happy that some of the corps members, like Jose, are getting these kinds of opportunities. It wasn’t that long ago that the entire corps de ballet was stuck in the background year after year after year. I think it’s a good thing to give more dancers the opportunity to have their moment in the spotlight. Practice makes perfect, as they say. And I imagine it’s good for company morale, too.