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Damian Woetzel at Boston Ballet


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Boston Ballet

It isn’t just the Patriots whose line-up is disrupted by injuries: Thursday evening (December 15) at Boston Ballet saw a wholesale reshuffling in the second act of the company’s Nutcracker, with Melanie Atkins replacing Romi Beppu as Dew Drop, Kelley Potter replacing Atkins in Chocolate, and Kathleen Breen Combes and James Whiteside replacing Potter and Jaime Diaz in Coffee. Coach Mikko Nissinen’s biggest move, however, was bringing in New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel as Cavalier to Lorna Feijóo’s Sugar Plum Fairy. Imagine if Tom Brady were unable to start and Bill Belichick could bring in Peyton Manning to replace him.

Woetzel began as a pupil at Boston Ballet School back in the early ’80s, so you could say he’s completing the circle, though at 38 he’s far from finished. Long and lean, he moves with grace, elegance, authority, and finish, not to mention poetry; every step is a lesson in how ballet can communicate through the language of the human body. He didn’t bring a slew of bravura moves to his variation, but the half-dozen or so double tours he tossed off were complete and fully functional, a demonstration of artistry and not just technique. He showed how the simple lifting of your partner can look that much better if you push the edge of her tutu down so it’s not in your face. He was even applauded, deservedly, for the clarity and detail of his mime of the battle at the beginning of the second act. He’ll be back for a second performance next Wednesday evening, December 21.

It was a good night in general. No one makes Nissinen’s Dew Drop choreography look as good as Melanie Atkins: she has exquisite carriage in her upper body, and she flows through Tchaikovsky’s music without posing or rounding off its contours, her phrasing complementing Jonathan McPhee’s conducting. Kathleen Breen Combes and James Whiteside gave erotic mystery to Coffee; Combes was steamy and Turkish dark and rich. Lia Cirio, Snow Queen to Yury Yanowsky’s Snow King, looked less self-conscious and more assured than she did opening weekend as Dew Drop, with panache and flair in her aerial splits. Andria Ronne and Max Boddy were an appealing, good-hearted Clara and Fritz; Boddy even brought a touch of the young romantic to what often seems a thankless role. Whiteside as Harlequin and Rie Ichikawa as Columbine were humorously and gratifyingly doll-like. And there was the small but indelible pleasure of watching Misa Kuranaga and Alexandra Kochis as the lead Snowflakes. Kuranaga, who’s danced both Clara and Sugar Plum in this production, has a career as a principal ahead of her. Boston native Kochis, who’s been a Ballet corps member since 1998, does not; she lacks the big technique that’s expected of a star dancer. Yet she’s like Woetzel in that she excels in the little things, like the expressive tilt of the head or the sway of the upper body. And that’s what ballet is all about.

Issue Date: December 16 - 22, 2005
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