May 10, 2015
“Serving 4 Helpings of Balanchine, With Thunderbolts and Tornadoes”
by Alastair Macaulay
“Friday night was rich fare. It opened with “Walpurgisnacht Ballet,” with Sara Mearns in its lead role. Recently, after the death of the Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, a British ballet friend of mine, marveling at the filmed evidence of her dancing, wondered in an email if this breathtaking level of musicality, commitment and immersion ever occurred today. Many New Yorkers, after watching Ms. Mearns’s “Walpurgisnacht” performance, will answer in the affirmative.
One of Ms. Plisetskaya’s most amazing vehicles was to this very music, from Charles Gounod’s “Faust.” Balanchine’s 1980 ballet (a wow as delivered by its original interpreter, Ms. Farrell) took that kind of Bolshoi bravura and allied it to rococo marvels of American technique. Ms. Mearns’s dancing in it is surely the greatest single ballerina performance before the public today. Glamorously, voluptuously, happily, she hurls thunderbolts, spins in tornadoes of her own making, swiftly reverses direction, arrives decisively with the music or finds hairbreadth ways of lingering around it, and accelerates in the intoxication of her own impetus. Watching, we know how lucky we are.”