Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with delightful music from Felix Mendelssohn, is a crowd pleaser for sure. The choreographer himself must have had fond memories of when he performed, as PNB artistic director notes in his April 12, 2011 post in “Director’s Notebook,” as an eight-year-old bug in a St. Petersburg production. With staging by founding artistic director Francia Russell and Martin Pakledinaz’s scenic and costume design, the charming and comic Shakespearean tale comes to life. This review is based on the digital screening performance.
What’s not to love about the ballet? Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan dances as an exquisite butterfly to skittish strings, Cecelia Iliesiu as Helena is chilling for her pure acting abilities, Leta Biasucci’s moves as the most pristine Hermia—with few managing turns then kicks from attitude as powerfully as she can. Iliesiu and Biasucci, together with James Yoichi Moore as Lysander and Miles Pertl as Demetrius, act and dance dreamily as spurned partners and anguished lovers.
The partnership of Elizabeth Murphy as Titania and Kyle Davis as Oberon is magic, each complementing the other’s strengths. Murphy dances with ease in every extension, every port de bras. Davis has a slight edge to his Oberon, but is nonetheless gracious. With Murphy’s strong arabesques, compact bourrée, luscious back extension, and articulate feet, and Davis’s tightly arched feet and landings, impressive ballon and commanding arms, this couple delivers thrilling dance. We believe them as dancers, fairy royalty, actors. In even their biggest moves, they remain completely composed.
In the Divertissement pas de deux, Lesley Rausch and Dylan Wald dance a dreamy ballet—wondrous. Wald is a singularly tender and emotional dancer. Rausch moves quickly and brightly, then slowly and deliberately. Every part of her movement is worth watching, especially those feet, the feet that break so high in the arch. Full of breath, these two add a real sparkle to the ballet.
Elle Macy as Hippolyta and Dammiel Cruz-Garrido as Theseus are striking, but Macy is positively fierce—big kicks, high scissor jumps, Gumby-like back extensions, fouetté turns on a dime, and then, persuasive adagio. Christian Poppe is a wickedly good Puck. James Kirby Rogers is a graceful, romantic cavalier, and Ezra Thomson’s Bottom is always sweet. All the featured dancers are convincing, as is the ensemble, including the many young dancers from the school, who become bugs and nymphs in this beautiful ballet.