Lauren Lovette made her debut as Juliet on Thursday at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. (Photo by Paul Kolnik)
Thursday was Lauren Lovette day at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The New York City Ballet principal made her debut as Juliet in Peter Martins’ “Romeo + Juliet” at the matinee. In the evening, her ballet “Not Our Fate” made its SPAC premiere. Both were honest successes for which Lovette can be proud.
First, her Juliet. It was close to perfection. Lovette radiates sweetness and youthfulness naturally, so she is already ideal for the role. But the tragic story of Shakespeare’s young lovers is so much more – and Lovette brought tears as the desperate teen trying to escape marrying her parents choice and reunite with her banished lover Romeo.
A wistful Peter Walker’s portrait of Romeo was a close, but unsteady landing. Aside from a few jarring lifts in the turning point pas de deux at the balcony, he did all that was physically required. However, he just didn’t seem ready for the big role. This of course can change if given the chance again.
That consuming ability to zero all eyes on a single dancer goes to Sean Suozzi as Tybalt. The tension and menace he exuded on Thursday was frightening. He even outdid Mercutio, danced by the bouncing ball of energy Anthony Huxley.
One other interesting thing to note: the controversial slap that Lord Capulet lands on the face of Juliet when she begs to not marry Paris is gone. Is this a change that the new artistic team made after Martins departed in January following allegations of sexual, verbal and physical abuse? It appears so.
But back to Lovette.
After her amazing showing in the afternoon, her “Not Our Fate” outshined two new Justin Peck ballets and another by Gianna Reisen. Based on a Mary Elizabeth Sell poem about our spreading love or hate, being “our choice, not a fate,” the ballet was a relentless rush of comings-and-goings – connections made and missed.
The minimalistic music by Michael Nyman has sharp and confusing transitions, making one wonder if the fantastic New York City Ballet orchestra knew what it was doing. Of course they know what they are doing and zoomed through the music with as much energy as the dancers put into the surging duets.
The standout couples were Preston Chamblee and Taylor Stanley who broke barriers with a male pas de deux and Meaghan Dutton O-Hara with Ask la Cour in the traditional male/female duet. The billowing shirts on the women, designed by Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, accentuated the swirl of the ballet that all, including the audience, was swept up in. And I love how it ends with a raised fist of rebellion.
Peck’s new works, which shared the evening bill, were the colorful “Easy” and “Pulcinella Variations” Both demonstrate that Peck is looking to production values to elevate his dance. In “Easy,” a nod to Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story,” it works. The billboard scenery by Stephen Powers and costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung boost the playful mood in the ensemble ballet.
But in “Pulcinella Variations,” the costumes by Tsumori Chisato were too much. It was hard to see the line of the dancers with all of the frills running down dancers legs, torsos and shoulders. The costumes allude to the 1920 “Pulcinella” ballet set to a Stravinsky score upon which Peck is mediating. But, again, the frippery was unnecessary and stole from the movement.
However, there were good showings by the dancers, particularly Huxley in the “Tarantella” and Tiler Peck and Joseph Gordon in the “Gavotta.”
Finally, Gianna Reisen’s “Composer’s Holiday” to piano and violin music by Lukas Foss also made its SPAC premiere. While there was nothing new here, it is worth noting that Reisen is the youngest choreographer to create for City Ballet. At the time of the New York City premiere, Reisen was 18. I’m looking forward to seeing more from her.
And from Lovette too.
Ask la Cour and Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara in Lauren Lovette's "Not Our Fate." (Photo by Paul Kolnik)