A leading Florida-born, Boca Raton-trained ballerina made a three-show stop at Boca Ballet Theatre for the company’s mounting of The Sleeping Beauty this past weekend, and demonstrated how to put the “prima” in prima ballerina.
But even though Bridgett Zehr’s performance as Aurora in Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet was nothing short of sensational Sunday afternoon, there were other dancers on stage at Florida Atlantic University’s University Theatre whose performances showed real promise and offered validation for the teaching that Boca Ballet has been doing for more than two decades.
Zehr, a former star at the National Ballet of Canada and the English National Ballet, has performed Aurora many times, and she appears to be in the prime of her abilities. She danced with a deeply affecting grace when she wasn’t demonstrating the remarkable feats of athleticism that are as well-known as the music: The astonishing series of pirouettes in the Rose Adagio of Act I, her strainless arabesques penchés, and the gorgeous fish dives of the final pas de deux in Act III.
One could argue that all this should be expected from a dancer who has been celebrated as extensively as Zehr has, but the real joy of this role is in its believability as the expression of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, going from coltish innocence to beaming bride in the space of an evening. And in that respect, she was a delight to watch, with a wide-open, eager face and a youthful vigor that the stage seemingly had trouble containing.
Choreographer and company founder Dan Guin has followed Marius Petipa’s traditional steps (with some additions of his own), and made persuasive cuts that didn’t take too much away from the breadth of the story. (One does hope one day that something can be done, though, to bring live musicians to this company and to Ballet Palm Beach as well, perhaps with a rotating freelance orchestra.)
Zehr’s Prince Florimund (or Désiré) was the Michigan-born Nehemiah Kish, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London. Physically, he is an ideal prince, tall and handsome, with long legs and fleet feet, and he was a fine partner for Zehr. His Act III variation was exciting, and he worked up a good head of steam as he circled the stage.
Other guests included Miami City Ballet’s Shimon Ito, who danced Bluebird in Act III and wowed the audience with good brisés before dashing offstage. He, too, is an exciting dancer to watch, with a very virile presence. Sanjay Saverimuttu, who danced Puss-in-Boots, and Mauricio Cañete, who danced the Wolf, invested their characters with real energy and fire, making them come vividly alive.
Three young Boca Ballet company dancers were of special note, beginning with Clarissa Castaneda as the Lilac Fairy. This is a large role, and the Juilliard-bound Castaneda danced it well. She is graceful and lovely, and her technique is thorough and adept; one gets the sense that she can handle a lot of dancing without tiring, and would make a valuable member of a company.
Sasha Lazarus, who was Princess Florina to Ito’s Bluebird, stands out to me, as she has before in two iterations of Boca Ballet’s Nutcracker, as a dancer of rare lightness and distinctiveness. She had an impish, joyful quality in her dancing, especially just before Ito lifted her up at the end of the pas de deux.
A younger student dancer, Anabel Alpert, stood out as the Fairy of the Golden Vine in Act I. The other four fairies in Act I — Guiliana Pindo, Arielle Beery, Valentina Zurita and Mia Salvo — also danced admirably in their appearances, but Alpert had a lighter, more natural touch, and the virtually sold-out audience at the University Theatre responded with warmer applause.
Overall, the student corps de ballet was strong and well-directed, in a ballet that calls for all hands on deck. The large, mostly female troupe always came off as fully invested in the show; you never had the feeling that they were simply marking time for the reappearance of the professional stars. In the mime roles, Ted Negus as Cattalabutte and Natalie Parker as the nefarious Carabosse were charming and effective.
Boca Ballet Theatre will present George Balanchine’s Serenade and Lew Christensen’s Con Amore in its summer show, set for Aug. 1 and 2 at the University Theatre, FAU. Call 995-0709 or visit www.bocaballet.org.