During ABT‘s Tuesday night program of classic repertory, Hee Seo slipped and fell in the middle of Allegro Brillante, landing on her side and bent elbow; she was fine. It was a mistake, but it was also awesome. To fall, you are probably dancing unselfconsciously and full out. It also reminds us of the risk and daring involved in ballet, particularly on pointe. Men almost always have the security of soft leather soles with which to grip the stage so they can take bigger risks. But try running and turning on pointe shoe soles or boxes; it can be like ice skating. In fact it’s a wonder not more women slip.
Seo went on two numbers later to give a sublime performance in the Thais pas de deux. With a scarf over her head during her entrance and exit, we could focus on her gorgeous bourréeing feet. She was paired with Sascha Radetsky, who is mercifully back as a soloist with ABT after a principal stint with the Dutch National Ballet. He has danced frequently and joyfully this season. Seo, just a corps member, is one of the rising stars among ABT’s women, and is featured in a number of prominent roles this season, among them Juliet at next July 7th’s matinee, with Cory Stearns as her Romeo. Both she and Stearns are blessed with long, beautiful lines and perfectly harmonic proportions. It’s not easy as a soloist to balance both radiance and humility, as you are so often portraying demi-characters, but she does it brilliantly, and should advance through the ranks swiftly.
Another example of a no-holds-barred dancer is Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet, which just ended its spring season. There are pretty good odds that Mearns might fall during a performance, the way she throws caution to the wind and pushes her admirable technical skills way beyond what physics should allow. In Saturday’s performance of Western Symphony, she nailed a very difficult passage of alternating front and back relevé extensions. (She did not fall.) Her full-out performance is one huge element that makes her so exciting to watch. She holds nothing back, and we in the audience can feel that enormous gift of giving everything over to us. She happens to have an atypically theatrical physique — a broad face with striking features, and a larger ribcage than most of the women. These serve her skyward projection and fearlessness to a tee. She is a force of nature — our force of nature.
Image: Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky in Thaïs Pas de Deux. Photo by Gene Schiavone.