This Afternoon’s performance of ABT’s Swan Lake contained an exciting debut by Devon Teuscher as Odette. There was plenty of good notice from her debut a few months ago in DC.
Teuscher had a very commendable debut. There were a few weak spots. But she is still young and building stage confidence. Her Odette had interesting elements. She carefully alternated slow movements with fast lending a very alien feel to the character. Her swan queen was never entirely human. Her Odette never fully trusted Siegfried until just before the end of the act. So during the pas de deux, she would look at Hammoudi questioningly. There was a bit of stiffness in her upper body, which meant there was no pliability or stretch in her movements. I’m noticing this in many dancers and I wonder if this stiffness is due to cross training. I see a lot of videos online of female ballet dancers lifting free weights. Once you build those back muscles with weight training, it is almost impossible to get back the mobility and flexibility. Even male dancers have to be careful with weight training.
Odile is where Teuscher really shined. She had all the technical bravado to command the choreography. There was just one minor step out of closing attitude at the beginning of black swan solo but she recovered quickly. Unfortunately, during the pas de deux the solo violinist started too early then improvised with a few notes before jumping back into the score. Teuscher and Hammoudi danced through that mistake to their credit. The acting was stronger here for her. Her Odile was surprisingly creepy. Every once in awhile Teuscher would look out into the audience and flash a crooked grin that was unsettling. The fouette section was fabulous.
Hammoudi was certainly a better actor than Whiteside in the Siegfried role. But I noticed he seemed a bit nervous. In particular the pirouettes seemed to disturb him. He may have had a mishap at some point before performance and it spooked him. Whatever acting he was in the midst of would drop and I would see him frown in extra concentration just before the turns. Granted, I was sitting up close so I’m sure none of the people further away could see his expression. Because he was worried about this step, it led them to look a bit ragged all around. Still he performed the jumps well and he does have wonderful lines in his form. He partnered Teuscher nicely and there was a good amount of trust between them.
Zhong Jing Fang looked light and lovely in the Pas de Trois. April Giangeruso seemed a bit out of her depth. She had no lift or energy to her jumps. Zhiyao Zhang was great as Benno. Other standouts in the Corps were Patrick Frenette. It struck me as potentially problematic that many of the exciting up and comers in the male corps are not over 5’8″ and many of the rising female dancers are quite tall. I’m not sure how ABT will face this problem. Unfortunately, they will have to lean favorably toward the men. There aren’t that many great male dancers available and even less tall male dancers. I think this will lead them to further concentrating on more average sized female dancers. Calvin Royal III made a great impression as Rothbart. While he doesn’t have the stage presence of Gomes yet, I see him growing into a larger than life Rothbart. Melanie Hamrick and Katherine Williams were the two lead swans. Hamrick had more polish in the role while Williams seemed a bit uncomfortable.
All in all it was a great performance today and good debut for Teuscher.