January 16, 2015
“City Ballet’s Fab Five (2015 Edition)”
by Roslyn Sulcas
“Within the top ranks of ballerinadom, there are subtle gradations. While major ballet companies usually have plenty of dancers who fully deserve the title of ballerina, most don’t boast more than one or two who will define their generation and redefine its accomplishments. At New York City Ballet, however, there are, right now, at least five ballerinas — Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck and Teresa Reichlen — who are at the peak of their powers and among the greatest exemplars of the art form right now. (The company’s other female principals are no slouches either.) These five all did their final years of training at the City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet, and all joined the company between 2000 and 2005; perhaps there was something in the water.
When Ms. Mearns was cast as Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” in January 2006, she was just 18 and unknown to most ballet fans. She had joined the company two years earlier, and for the first 18 months, she said in a telephone interview, she danced little and entertained grave doubts about her career. Then, in a bold stroke, Peter Martins, the company’s ballet master in chief, gave her one of the most important roles in the ballerina canon. The beauty and breadth of Ms. Mearns’s dancing left audiences agog. Her physical eloquence, her immensely expressive eyes, the drama and authority of her musical timing have grown only fuller and richer over the last few years as she has found her way through the Balanchine and Robbins repertoire and in new work. The slow movement in “Symphony in C,” and “Serenade,” which she will dance next week, are among her greatest roles, but you can rely on the unpredictable nuance and detail of her interpretations to keep evolving and surprising. There is danger in the full-on passion and scale of her dancing (in 2009, I wrote that her Dewdrop in “The Nutcracker” was “mesmerizing, almost alarming”). You feel, in every nerve ending, the risks she is willing to take, how far she will expose herself onstage. It’s never less than thrilling.”