October 20, 2014
“A Bountiful Season of Dizzying Challenges and New Peaks”
by Alastair Macaulay
“Three performances, all involving the illustrious Sara Mearns, were emblematic. On Sept. 30, she made her debut in Balanchine’s “Mozartiana,” with Chase Finlay as her partner, and Anthony Huxleybringing new illumination to the ballet’s most elusive role of all, the Gigue. On Oct. 11, she made her debut in Balanchine’s “Chaconne,” partnered byRussell Janzen. Then on Friday, she and Mr. Janzen repeated the ballet, with a supporting cast featuring 10 other dancers all new to their roles that week.
The beauty of Friday’s Mearns-Janzen pairing stunned many long-term observers of the company, and when news got around at intermission that the troupe’s ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, had come onstage immediately after the performance to promote Mr. Janzen to soloist, more than one person remarked: “Soloist? Why not principal?”
“Chaconne” and “Mozartiana” are the first and third of an extraordinary series of creations for the renowned Suzanne Farrell in which Balanchine took ballerina style to heights and intricacies then unprecedented and still unmatched; the second is “Walpurgisnacht,” which Ms. Mearns took to a new peak this spring. In “Chaconne” and “Mozartiana” he created male roles to match. Ms. Mearns has conquered all three ballerina roles in a way that has not been seen at City Ballet since the days of the very different Kyra Nichols, whose long career ended in 2007.
Others have timed these ballets safely to the beat, but Ms. Mearns’s technical strength and stylistic assurance are now such that she can both embody the music and play with it. She possesses the secrets of hairbreadth anticipation and delay, of swaggering brio and startling dynamic contrasts. I hope she has heard how Ms. Farrell, like nobody else, would reinvent these roles at each performance with radical reaccentuations; Ms. Mearns surely has a streak of the same inspired playfulness. She’s reached her high summer, and she’s aglow.”