Monday’s night’s cast was the New York debut of Vishneva, who premiered the role of Aurora in Costa Mesa. So I had to be there.
As other have noted technical conventions in this ballet are different, and those differences are fascinating to note. While standing in B-plus, the women place the back foot on demi-pointe which creates a more relaxed line. Arabesques are frequently somewhere between a bent-leg arabesque and an attitude. Several of the women’s variations end in a fourth position tombé with the back leg bent. Except in arabesque penché, the legs do not travel above 100 to 110 degrees. There’s more fine detail in the arms and footwork – Aurora’s violin playing pages in the Rose Adagio, who were kids, did gargouillades - a step you rarely ever see, let alone performed by children. Vishneva and Boylston, who did the Diamond fairy in the 3rd act Jewels pas de quatre, looked comfortable in this technique, but I think the other ABT dancers need some time to get their sea legs. The energy is more contained for these steps so you can’t get by with big extension after big extension. Plié and foot articulation have to be spot on. For the men, beats reign supreme. Gomes brought the house down with a brisé volé sequence with several direction changes. Some people were bothered by the fact that he only had one solo in the 3rd act, but I didn’t really notice so much – there’s such an integration of dancing and mime that every moment on stage becomes of equal importance, and different kinds of virtuosity shine…
Speaking of mime, Ratmansky has restored a lot of the pantomime that has been cut over the years. He’s also kept the tempos according to the score. The steps and the story make more sense as a result. Carabosse (a spiky, jealous, violent old crone superbly played by Nancy Raffa) and the Lilac Fairy (Veronica Part) don’t just gesture vaguely and briefly in the scene where Carabosse delivers her curse; they tell the story, with every detail contained in the pantomime and perfectly synchronized with the score (incidentally this sequence is very similar to the one I learned from Giannandrea Poesio, who restores cut mime sequences, at a workshop several years ago).
There’s also a lot more sweetness in the movements and gestures. This is a love story, first and foremost. In a moment of pantomime in the Act 3 pas de deux, Aurora declares her love for the Prince. The happy couple frequently holds one another close, hands clasped, with the tenderness of newlyweds. Princess Florine and her Bluebird also intertwine arms, with her leaning against his body in an attitude derriere, her head resting against his chest. It’s a completely new pose for me – I’ve never seen anyone do that in a Bluebird pdd – but it is part of a revamped interpretation that focuses on the pdd as love story.
I was struck by a recurring theme of speech and music in this production. The pantomime sequence of “listen to what I have to say” with the tapping on the head, and then the gesture of pulling words from the mouth, occurs over and over again, highlighting the ability of the body to “speak” to music (as does all of the pantomime). And how many musical instruments were carried in the Rose Adagio by various pages and attendants? Too many to count. I may be mis-remembering this, but I think Aurora plays one of them.
There were a few things I missed, like the introductory music for the 3rd act pdd for Aurora and Desiree. Right now they just come on after Cinderella (or is it the Ogres? can’t remember) with little fanfare, and it’s an odd moment. Also, I personally did not like the ogre costumes with the baby parts sticking out of their boots – a little too Grimm’s fairy tales (was Perrault as gruesome?). The Cinderella divertissement was kind of overlong.
But whatever. This is a fascinating production that I wish I could see many, many more times.