I honestly hesitated about buying a ticket for this ballet even with all the good notices for its opening a few months back in California. Finally I broke down and purchased a last minute ticket to the Gala Premiere. Yes, I was out of place but I wasn’t the only one. The two good things about Gala performances are that you are present for world premieres of new ballets AND it starts early (ending early). Tonight, the first thing was the ballet. However the second thing didn’t work out. There were so many speeches. So many Grandmaster Brahmin PooBahs patting themselves on the back for giving to the Art. Meanwhile the Board is busy filling up the dance roster with the also rans and the reason why they really donate money is because it gives them fancy Gala dinner parties where they can show off their fancy wear. Not to mention seeing their own names in various places in the playbill as donators, board members and dancer patrons. Sigh. Whatever. I suppose I should be a bit grateful because it does keep the company running, there are still good dancers in the ranks and the tickets (even to the Gala) are relatively cheap. Definitely cheaper than the average Broadway ticket. So count the small blessings.
Whipped Cream is filled with whimsical costumes and scenery courtesy of Mark Ryden. It was very easy on the eyes even though the storyline was a bit twisted and nightmarish. But I loved it, from the children dancers dressed as petit fours to the big yak. Most of the female dancer costumes were truly the most gorgeous tutus I’ve ever seen in a ballet. But then there was a big corps number where all seemed concerned that they didn’t want to mimic the Nutcracker snowflake scene. So the costumes were just white unitards with a tulle sheet thrown over the Corps heads. Those costumes were a total washout. But the rest were fabulous.
Ratmansky is hit or miss in terms of choreography. I do like the risks he takes. I do like that he is a great choreographer for men. This is rare because so much of ballet is geared toward female dancers. But Ratmansky has very uneven female choreography. Sometimes it seems that unless he really admires a particular female dancer, he just uses the same kind of choreography that he uses for men. Figuring one size fits all. But one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to male and female bodies. Fast petit allegro interspersed with elongated jumps, looks perfect on male bodies. It shows off their powerful long leg muscles beautifully and the ballon they can generate (higher than females) in their jumps. The same choreography on women looks very “My Pretty Prancing Pony”. Women don’t have powerful looking muscles. Most female dancers have long spindly legs topped off with little pointe shoes and the prancing makes them look cutsey tootsy, There was a lot of kewpie doll madness from the females in this ballet. But I must say, the ballet is a zany, hallucinatory adventure perhaps that was just the style the female choreography needed. That didn’t stop it from being a bit maddening at times. The movement was incessant, there was always something going on like a circus show. Sometimes it was exhausting to keep up with it all.
Stella Abrera looked beautiful and bright. Her choreography was a bit too busy. I wished there were moments of rest to lengthen her line. However her male partners all danced fabulously. David Hallberg as her chosen suitor was fantastic. Joseph Gorak (maturing very nicely style wise) and Blane Hoven as her admirers were also very personable. The story of the ballet was rather thin. The main character was a boy who gets sick at cake shop and hallucinates about being King of Candy land. However Abrera, Hallberg, Gorak and Hoven’s dance section really didn’t relate that much to the main story. It was closer to divertissement than pushing dramatic content. The Corps dancer that stood out was Katherine Williams as one of Princess Tea flower’s (Abrera) attendants. She had a bright smile and a petite spritely form. She made much of the petit allegro and it looked good on her.
Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane were the true main leads. Simkin was great both dancewise and actingwise. But in the past I’ve suspected that he likes to add character work in whatever ballet he dances in. Which is why I suspect he wasn’t happy about that Tharp ballet he moped around in a few seasons back. I was surprised to discover how much chemistry he has with Sarah Lane. They looked good together both were simpatico with the slightly off balance humor of the second act. I think Lane is one of the dancers that Ratmansky genuinely likes. Her choreography was not as manic as the rest of the female cast. There was some breathing room here and there for her. I hope both Simkin and Lane get the kudos they deserve for being the original cast in this ballet. Also the momentum they have created is sure to carry over into their combined Giselle debuts this coming weekend. I really, really hope the company lets this partnership grow. So many times when Lane begins to get a vibe going with one of her partners, she is ripped away from that partner and shoved into the arms of someone new. Another standout in the ballet was Skylar Brandt as one of Lane’s attendants. I wish I could see her interpretation of the lead role. But alas there is no time.
This ballet is very enjoyable and while it isn’t a heavyweight drama, it is a lighthearted story ballet. And there are so few new story ballets being created today.