Christine Shevchenko Wows in Swan Lake ABT Debut

Christine Shevchenko’s American Ballet Theatre Odette/Odile debut (correction: this was Christine’s second Odette/Odile. She debuted in the role in March in Singapore) Wednesday afternoon was stunning, danced with great maturity, confidence, and authority. If this was her debut performance, I wonder what her future work will be like after more seasoning. Her dancing reminded me of ABT great, Irina Dvorovenko with long neck and limbs, great extension, and high leaps. Irina’s husband Maxim Beloserkovsky approved as he was in the aisle near the stage applauding wildly during the curtain calls. No more matineés for Christine; she is ready for prime time. Check out my curtain call photos on my photography website

One feature that distinguishes Christine is her great upper body carriage. It’s as if her chest and stomach are sandwiched between two pieces of plywood boards attached by a tightly wrapped rope. Less proficient dancers allow their upper body to waiver, heaving up and down. In addition, an overactive upper body generally gets out of synch with the lower body; the result is that the shoulders and hips are not aligned, making turns difficult. Not so with Christine. Her upper body control is pleasing to the eye and allows her to do whiz-bang technical feats.

Christine is so strong technically; she displayed her great turning abilities with nice double pirouettes to smooth double turns in attitude; 7-8 supported turns in the pas de deux; a long balance in arabesque in the pas de deux; nice beats in the Act I Lake Scene. Throw in her outrageous fouettés, adding in something I’ve never seen before: a single turn in second position about four separate times, a standard men’s step. After the full turn in second position, she resumed single and double fouettes. A turn in second position is highly unusual for women in a turn sequence and very difficult. She ended with a perfectly timed, smooth triple pirouette. WOW!

With such secure technique, Christine was able to project to the audience, playing with the well attended Met crowd. Dramatically, she was on the mark, from a frightened swan in Act I to a defiant Odile, teasing Sigfried in Act II. Like her Don Quixote performances last year, this was an exhilarating performance.

James Whiteside was solid as Prince Siegfried, giving Christine ample support in the partnering sections. I didn’t believe in his Romeo last week because of his strange facial expressions. He was much better as Siegfried, with sturdy solo work.

Aran Bell, von Rothbert

Aran Bell, von Rothbert. Click for more photos

After making his debut as Romeo last week, nineteen year old Aran Bell made his debut as von Rothbart. Aran was featured in First Position, a 2011 documentary that followed several young dancers as they prepared for the Youth America Grand Prix competition (see Gia Kourlas of The New York Times for more detail). Aran has grown to 6’3″ and has a build similar to former ABT Principal Dancer Marcelo Gomes. Aran was impressive in his debut today with nice technique, although a bit subdued on the dramatic side. Marcelo owned the role as he played it as a smug, self-centered assh**e. A nice debut, but Aran should work on being more sinister as Rothbart.