Brava Larissa!

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  April 29, 2009

And if on Thursday Ponomarenko represented an ending of sorts (it’s not as if she’d announced her retirement), the rest of the weekend brought a glimpse of Boston Ballet’s future, as Misa Kuranaga and Melissa Hough, two of the three women who’ve been promoted from soloist to principal for next season, danced Aurora. (The third, Kathleen Breen Combes, will “only” be dancing Lilac Fairy and Princess Florine; I’d have liked to see her do Aurora with Yanowsky.)

Partnered with Nelson Madrigal on Friday, Kuranaga was everything you would expect: light, delicate, speedy, and spontaneous, with a lot of spring in her manège and some sly smiles for her suitors. What I missed was Ponomarenko’s subtlety and individuality — the kind of thing you don’t notice until you don’t see it. Ponomarenko has had those five productions in which to refine her Aurora; Kuranaga is just starting out. Yet when I think back to her Lise in the company’s 2006 production of La Fille Mal Gardée, I worry that Kuranaga’s dancing is edging toward the digital and impersonal. Madrigal was an engagingly earnest and boyish partner, but the two of them made each other seem that much more vanilla. His second-act solo was a peculiar assortment, almost as if he were making it up on the spot, and it wasn’t wobble-free. He did get some flow into the manège of his Grand Pas de Deux variation.

Heather Myers’s Carabosse was implacable one moment, volcanic the next, all her repressed anger spewing forth in jittery, impulsive flashes — it was like having a little David Mamet in your Disney. She was just itching for a smackdown with the Lilac Fairy, and Breen Combes would have been the perfect opponent. (Remember how they squared off as the Stepsisters in Cinderella?) Breen Combes’s Lilac Fairy was sexy and knowing in a way that I haven’t seen since Kyra Strasberg danced this role. Cornejo’s Lilac Fairy is all fairy; Breen Combes seems too much woman for any mortal — you wonder where she goes after the Prince goes off with Aurora. Cornejo, on the other hand, was a fluffier, more exalted Princess Florine on Friday than Breen Combes had been Thursday. She had the same Bluebird in Whiteside, and he looked better yet, just as kinetic, those brisés volés big and gratifying, and without the rubberiness.

But the company saved the best for Saturday afternoon: Melissa Hough bounced out of the gate like Big Brown getting a lift from a UPS special-delivery van; her Aurora had pace, she had power, she had thoroughbred lines. And she was in love with the world until her parents presented her four suitors and she realized her Prince Charming was AWOL: her face fell, and then as she moved from one suitor to the other for the first time, she flashed each a brief, artificial smile. Every movement was grand and lush and calculated to read well from the balcony while also looking natural close up. She didn’t let her feet do all the talking: during a sequence where Aurora bourrées in pirouette, and later in a développé-passé series, her upper body played out its own story. Her equilibres — those precarious moments where Aurora has to balance unsupported on pointe before taking the next suitor’s hand — seemed eternities; she took the next hand when she wanted to, not when she had to.

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