There is not a dull moment in Harlequinade as ABT’s roster of stars, corps members, and children continuously keep the stage bright and lively.
James Whiteside (for whom the title role was created) is charmingly expressive all the while executing entrechat six so clean, defined, and lofty that one can actually count the beats of his legs while he is airborne. He is also particularly adept at the idiosyncratic movements of his joker-like Harlequin, managing his magic slap stick with finesse and paying attention to the head, hand, and foot subtleties that make his character who he is. His love – and perfectly-paired partner – Columbine is danced by the effervescent Isabella Boylston. The choreography of her 1st solo (is it Petipa’s or Ratmansky’s?) is incredibly challenging; as if series of hops en pointe isn’t enough to challenge even a principal dancer, Boylston then also impeccably completes a diagonal of cabrioles, doble ronde de jambes en l’aire, and piques. Her strength and speed are impressive.
The other principal couple of the ballet are Thomas Forster and Stella Abrera cast as Pierrot and Pierette respectively. Although portraying the familiar mopey qualities of the stock commedia dell’arte clown, Forster has a brilliant energy about him that evokes the appropriate laughter and sympathetic awwws from the audience. It isn’t until the second act that we see him dance a little more and it’s a shame that his role doesn’t permit for more as Forster is lovely. Perhaps even more lovely is Abrera who is beautiful both technically and in her interpretation of sweet, flirtatious, and slightly mischievous Pierrette.
One of the most stunning scenes of Harlequinade is that of the Larks. The corps de ballet of women exemplify what it means to be in one of the world’s best ballet companies; they are elegant, synchronized (although at moments slightly out of formation), and technically excellent. They are an inspirational constellation composed of many shining stars.
Impressive, too, are the dozens of children who fill the second act stage and remind us of just how much potential there is in our youth. They are already such wonderful performers.