Somewhat impulsively, I decided to see Wednesday night's final performance of Ratmanksy's The Bright Stream. Partly in the hopes of erasing Tuesday's The Lesson from my mind, partly out of curiosity to see Cory Stearns as the Sylph, and partly in need of some inspiration from Stella Abrera...off I went to see my third cast of this production. I'm so very glad I did.
As Zina, Veronika Part gave a strong technical performance - Ratmansky seems to be the only one who can get her to smile (or emote) and his choreography looks very good on her. Her fouettés en tournant were especially beautiful. Alexandre Hammoudi also gave a good showing as her wandering husband Pyotr (though I wish his costume hadn't been way too big on him, as it detracted a little from the character. One of the perils of sharing with the broader Gomes and Carreno I suspect). Hammoudi's legs continue to impress me - he delivers some very long, sharp lines and has lovely feet.
As the male ballet dancer, Cory Stearns had exactly the right look and attitude for the character in Act I. Talk about looking like a silent film star. While not technically the dancer that Hallberg is (yet), Stearns sparkled here. I haven't enjoyed him this much since I saw him as James in La Sylphide a few seasons ago. As the Sylph in Act II, Stearns was plain funny. He didn't have the classical sharpness and comical eyebrow raises of Hallberg or the impressive skills en pointe of Simkin - but hey, Stearns is a pretty big guy to be en pointe at all. What he did give us was a 100% believable performance of a heterosexual male dancer who finds himself playing a ballerina in a poufy white dress trying to charm a silly old man.
Roman Zhurbin was terrific as Gavrilych - I think he's really upped his game this season. Gennadi Saveliev did a good job as the Accordion Player, but didn't really seem to have much chemistry with Gemma Bond's Galya, so compared to Radetsky/Lane and Salstein/Riccetto their section was a little forgettable.
Without doubt, the shining star of the night was Stella Abrera. Her acting has always been strong, but there was also something fresh about her performance tonight. She interacted with Part beautifully. Haglund is right in saying that she and Part were the only cast that really looked like the characters went to school together. Their first duet was particularly perfect. She had the right amount of glamour and flirtatiousness to sell the visiting ballerina in Act I. Dressed as Stearns in Act II, she was adorable (she's always great with comedy), but I thought she also did a great job of executing the male choreography in her solo. Her arabesques and angled steps were sharp and really seemed to mirror and match what Stearns had done in Act I - more so than any other cast. Her jumps may not have been as high or explosive as Osipova, but I didn't care.
Watching the opening scene I thought to myself - wow, Veronika is doing a great job of acting happy! Watching the rest of the ballet, I thought - wow, Stella dances as if she's so happy she just HAS to dance.
More importantly, Stella Abrera makes ME happy when I watch her. She makes ME want to dance. Then, when she performs something tragic like Lady Capulet, she makes ME want to weep for her. When she's Myrtha in Giselle, she even makes me a little worried that maybe this time Giselle won't be able to save her Albrecht. She dances beyond the role she's given. Whereas in past years I felt sad at ABT's failure to promote her to principal, this season I'm starting to get downright angry. I feel, as do many other reviewers I've been reading lately, that we as the audience are being almost criminally cheated out of seeing Stella perform leading roles such as Giselle, Manon and Desdemona. If only I could win the lottery, I'd donate whatever it took to get her the recognition she so clearly has earned and deserves.