Last night’s La Bayadere was ABT‘s best night at the Met yet. They had the largest, most enthusiastic audience, many of whom seemed to be Marcelo fans! He got lots of ‘bravos’ and huge applause throughout, and he sensed early on the crowd was really with him so he kind of took it over the top with the enormous jetes and those interesting running-in-the-air jumps, whatever they’re called. I thought he may throw his back out after he landed a tour jete on one knee and dramatically arched back, his fingers gracing the ground behind him. And when he lands a jete it’s almost earth-shattering because of his size. But of course those huge leaps fit in with the role too since his character here is a warrior. It’s funny; it was like he was on a mission to really deliver – -it seemed his dancing was even fuller-bodied and more theatrical than usual. He’s always my favorite no matter
Dancers are definitely very sensitive to how the crowd is reacting to what they’re doing — or at least Marcelo and Angel are, which is probably why I like them so. You can read their feelings all over their faces. Or at least you can if you kind of “know” them from seeing them so many times.
And Veronika Part really owns this role. Her expressive wrists, those luscious developes of which she is the queen (lift of the leg at the knee, then slowly unfolding to a full extension), and her gorgeously almost tragically poetic arabesques (back leg lifted). Oh, by the way, Bayadere is set in ancient India, and tells the story of Solor the warrior who falls in love with a temple dancer, Nikiya, but is betrothed to the princess Gamzatti. Veronika (as Nikiya) got loads of applause during her solo curtain calls at the very end of course. This is how the ballet should always be; the crowd going nuts like that.
But Marcelo and Veronika weren’t just great on their own; they were a perfect partnership as well, which to me is really everything, more important than the solo dancing. I really believed they were hopelessly, tragically in love. She was so forlorn, I wanted to cry for her when it was clear she wasn’t going to get her love. And Marcelo as always was the perfect actor, making perfectly clear how truly torn he was between his beloved and his betrothed, especially after the latter’s sexy, seductive whipping fouette sequence, and then how distraught he was on realizing he was in love with Nikiya but had to marry the princess.
Of course this ballet is so beautiful, many come regardless of who’s dancing, just for the story and the poetry of the choreography, particularly the breathtaking Kingdom of the Shades scene (which at first I have to admit I wasn’t so fond of because it’s so slow and there are few men ) but has really grown on me with its beauty. This is the part of the ballet where Solor sleeps and dreams of his Nikiya, whose image floods his subconsious by suddenly duplicating itself many many times over, as illustrated by a series of ballerinas all in white, emanating from the mountainside traveling forward in a pattern of lovely arabesques, then taking center stage and bourreeing in place, all in perfect sync, in perfect harmony, reminiscient of a spirit-world, and foreshadowing that this is the only place Solor and Nikiya will be together.
(all photos by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of ABT)
Finally, Michele Wiles was PERFECT as the princess Gamzatti. Throughout the first two acts she was icy cold bitchiness, which to me, she’s thus far excelled at. Critic Joan Acocella once referred to her as a sunny cheerleader type, but I’ve never seen that in her. I see her more as the spoiled rich girl who will have her way at all costs. She was pure golden-dressed evil when she puts the snake in Nikiya’s bouquet, basically casting a spell on her. Yet, when it’s clear Marcelo’s Solor is in love with Nikiya and is only going through the marriage because he must, you really start to feel sorry for Michele’s princess. She tries hard to maintain her power, but she can’t. She found the vulnerability in the character and made her sympathetic and that’s what makes this a true tragedy — for all.
It was also just such a great night because there were so many people there. I finally got to meet James Wolcott from Vanity Fair, and his wife Laura Jacobs who writes about dance for the New Criterion (and whose book I keep going on about — she writes so beautifully about dance)! I suspected they’d be there because they love Veronika so. I’m so shy, I always feel like such an oaf meeting famous people But they’re really nice and it was so cool to finally meet them!
Philip was there too and we hung out during first intermission, with friends and blog readers Susan and Philip’s opera buddy (whose name I keep forgetting…)
Great ballet, favorite dancers, very fun audience, meeting famous writers you admire, chatting with old friends — excellent night all around! I am happy.