Koch Theater, New York, NY; 22 December 2013

Jerry Hochman

New York City Ballet's Lauren Lovette in "George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'" Photo © Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet’s Lauren Lovette in “George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker'”
Photo © Paul Kolnik

As a follow-up to my earlier review, I saw two additional performances of “George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’” presented by New York City Ballet on December 22. These performances again evidence New York City Ballet’s remarkable depth, and also exemplify the encouragement that company management provides to its soloist and corps dancers.

At the matinee performance, soloist Lauren Lovette reprised her portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and again displayed the regality and confidence, as well as the superlative execution, that she demonstrated in her debut last year. But what makes her performance in this role and others particularly special are the shades of nuance, the facility with which she stretches a choreographic phrase, and her ability to connect with an audience, that are usually the province of ballerinas far beyond her years. Her Cavalier, Anthony Huxley, also a soloist, partnered her well – other than allowing her to over-rotate slightly in her final partnered pirouettes at the conclusion of the pas de deux, it was confident, efficient, and on the mark. However, Mr. Huxley continues to show no connection at all either to his partner or the audience. The Cavalier doesn’t need to be effusive, but he needs to do more than go through the motions, competently or otherwise, and the absence of any animation to Mr. Huxley’s demeanor diminishes the overall quality of his performance.

In other roles early Sunday afternoon, soloist Megan LeCrone danced a wonderfully vibrant and powerful Dewdrop. Despite a sudden fall during the coda, Kristen Segin, a member of the corps, was a superlative Marzipan Shepherdess, with forceful attack and crystalline execution. And Faye Arthurs, also a member of the corps, brought a welcome measure of sensuality, as well as technical competence, to ‘Coffee’.

However, because it was filled with significant and remarkably well-executed role debuts, the later performance proved more exciting. Ashley Laracey danced her initial Sugar Plum Fairy as if she’d been performing the role for years, displaying not only competent execution, but appropriate regality and sensitivity. It was a noteworthy debut. And when my only criticism is that she should use less make-up, it says something about the high performance quality. Considering how well Ms. Laracey, a soloist, has been dancing of late, this was not a surprise. What was surprising to me was the debut of her partner, Russell Janzen, a member of the corps. I had not previously noticed Mr. Janzen, a tall, Nordic-looking, redwood tree of a dancer, but his performance as Ms. Laracey’s Cavalier was remarkable. He not only connected appropriately with Ms. Laracey (his characterization was understated, but adequate), he demonstrated attentive, and capable partnering, and crisply solid execution throughout, marred only by a bit of stiffness in his movement quality – understandable for a major debut. He did the job superbly, and may prove to be the latest in a long line of NYCB danseurs who not only can execute their own steps well, but who can partner.

In another role debut, soloist Brittany Pollack was a dynamic and ebullient Dewdrop, who handled the non-stop motion with ease, and Lauren King, also a soloist, capably and enthusiastically led the Marzipan Shepherdesses. Emily Kikta, a member of the corps who debuted as ‘Coffee’ earlier this season, is a strong, formidable-looking dancer, but not one whom I would describe, based on prior performances, as sultry or sensuous – qualities that to me are essential for this role. Nevertheless, she gave an admirable performance, with a measured but convincing, and intensely enticing, attack.

Based my informal audience-size calculations, each of these two performances was a near-sellout. Fruitful as that may be, these Nutcracker performances serve more of a function than ‘just’ enhancing operating revenue and perhaps building future audiences. They provide exposure and experience for all levels of NYCB’s bountiful crop of young dancers – more than only those identified here. In this respect, these performances are invaluable: they show not only what NYCB looks like now, but what it may look like in the future.