Recently, few male dancers at New York City Ballet have excelled in Petipa full-length ballets. Although refined in Balanchine/Robbins works, they struggle in 19th century “white-tights” ballets. The men’s efforts often have a “Let’s get through this performance…I don’t do this often” type of a feel, resulting in my typical descriptions of their performances as “decent”, “workmanlike”, “somewhat adequate”, and “undistinguished”. This underperformance is understandable given their Balanchine technique training at School of American Ballet filled with quick footwork and repertory focused on female dancers. Dancers at other companies work their way up company affiliated or independent schools, with ballet competitions targeted on the classics (see my article for a summary of competitions) serving as a talent filter before entry into a major company.
The current NYCB male roster has 11 Principal Dancers, with about half not appearing in any full-length lead duty recently, leaving Tiler Angle, Gonzalo Garcia, Joseph Gordon, Anthony Huxley, and Russell Janzen to fill the Prince Désiré slot this season. I wasn’t impressed with two performances from Gonzalo two years ago (review here) and Russell’s work last week left much to be desired (review here). Joaquin De Luz was one of the few NYCB male dancers to excel in the classics (review here). His retirement in October left a void.
Happy to report that Joseph Gordon is filling that void, as evidenced by a commanding performance Tuesday. In his second performance as the Prince (his first was the Saturday matinée) he sailed through the Grand Pas de Deux solo, with high double tours to solid landings, a diagonal of smooth double tours to arabesque, and an energetic coupé jeté en tournant en manége. He was confident and secure throughout. His technique and execution are at a high level. He is clearly the best male classical dancer at NYCB, with no other dancer coming close.
Joseph began studying at SAB in 2006, became an apprentice in 2011 with promotions to Corps in 2012, Soloist in 2017, and Principal Dancer in 2018.
Lauren Lovette was effective as Princess Aurora, portraying her with youthful charm. She displays much energy and life. Her Rosa Adagio went well, but with a few bobbles on one balance followed by solid balances in the final segment, raising her arms overhead before placing her hand down to her Cavalier. In other segments, she had difficulties on turns, especially a pirouette to a soutenu turn in Act I (interesting that she is one of the few women to turn in the classic Balanchine style with a straight back leg in her fourth position preparation). Her solo in the Grand Pas de Deux showed great delicacy and fluidity.
The Act I fairy team of Emile Gerrity/Sara Adams/Claire Kretzschmar/Kristen Segin/Mira Nadon were much improved over the first evening cast, all displaying great energy.
Lauren and Joseph pair up again in the production on Saturday evening.