George Balanchine ’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is two ballets in one. The first is a fine comedy full of pratfalls and features the best use of children in a ballet ever. Mostly, I roll my eyes at ballets that feature children but in this one Balanchine used them so well. They are an integral part of the story and he gave them lots of dancing that is fairly challenging. They have to follow complex patterns, turn quickly and pull off some grands jetés while moving through and around the rest of the company. Full marks to Arch Higgins and Dena Albergel for outstanding work preparing the students of SAB for this show. The second ballet is classical divertissements featuring one of his most lyrical and romantic pas de deux. The comedy was led by Teresa Reichlen and Daniel Ulbricht as Titania and Oberon. For her part, Reichlen was grand and imperious, full of elegance until she fell in love with Bottom. Ulbricht’s Oberon was cocky and demanding, unwilling to give up on getting Titania’s page away from her. His dancing was terrific in a part that is technically tough. He has so many jumps that require precision and landing with tightly closed feet to keep it looking tidy. He really deserves to be dancing James in La Sylphide.

Daniel Ulbricht and Teresa Reichlen in George Balanchine’s <i>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</i> © Paul Kolnik
Daniel Ulbricht and Teresa Reichlen in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
© Paul Kolnik

They were backed up by Troy Schumacher’s Puck who genuinely seemed to be cracking himself up. While I wished that he landed more gently he was engaging and kept the comedy moving. Indiana Woodward’s Butterfly was perfect for Mendelssohn’s music: bright, quick, light and most of all joyous. She made just the right counterpoint for Puck’s mischief.

Among the foolish mortals there was the quartet of confused lovers. Erica Pereira and Chase Finlay were Hermia and Lysander with Lauren King and Zachary Catazaro playing Helena and Demetrius. Pereira was so funny with her histrionics while Catazaro fumed with impotent rage. The four of them did well with playing it for laughs as they chased one another through the woods. Then there was Cameron Dieck in the role of Bottom. He was sincerely affecting at portraying the befuddled ass who was confused but flattered by the attentions of Titania. Their pas de deux was funny and sweet as Reichlen kept trying to woo Bottom away from the grass he was trying to feed on. Eventually, of course, it all gets sorted out and the young lovers are put back with their intendeds, Titania and Oberon reconcile and everyone dances around while Puck soars up into the rafters. A pretty good job all around by the company.

Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar in Divertissement, George Balanchine’s <i>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar in Divertissement, George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
© Paul Kolnik
It is part two of the ballet that holds the priceless gem. Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar led the Divertissements with wondrous grace and style. Hyltin is the most lyrical dancer in the company right now and this pas de deux plays to all her strengths. It’s full of soft elegance, long arabesques and delicate affection and this is where Hyltin excels. She finished each port de bras with such gentle poetry and Ramasar is great partnered with her. He rises to meet the challenge of any ballerina he’s partnered with and moulds with them all seamlessly. With Hyltin he leans toward softness so that every taking of hands for turns and promenades becomes a moment full of meaning. They moved so well together that you forget how good anything was in Act I. Musically, this was a great night for the orchestra under Andrew Litton. This is difficult music, especially for the strings and it came out sounding crisp and clear. Soprano Lianne Coble came through with a ringing coloratura that soared gorgeously above the music.

As the season closer, you want something like this that lets everyone have some fun. There are lots of parts to go around, a chance to get the students of SAB involved and the ballet feels good. This was a great season. 

***11