So I notice from the SFB Casting page
that tonight Muriel Maffre and Olivier Wecxsteen are dancing Sugar Plum again and I thought I’d just make a few comments, since I saw them last Sunday in those roles.
Actually I went specifically to see Maffre and Wecxsteen (he’s a guest artist, I believe from France) because Maffre hardly ever fails to disappoint. As Sugar Plum, she was regal, and a little remote, although that’s not a bad thing. I was certainly not disappointed in her dancing at all, but I forget each year, as I’m being charmed away by the Lew Christensen production, that I really detest the choreography for the Grand Pas de Deux. Last year I watched the incomparable and smart Joanna Berman get all jammed up onto one side of the stage, stranded by the steps that kept pulling her towards stage right. This year, Maffre fared better. Perhaps with her length, she can cross the stage in a couple of steps and solve the spacing problem. The variation for the Sugar Plum Fairy, however, continues to look poky and wildly unmusical to me. At the very start, there’s a peculiar step in which the ballerina turns about a third of a turn over one leg… I can’t even begin to describe it properly, except to say that I have yet to see it done convincingly.
Nevertheless, I think it’s always worth it to see a beautiful dancer such as Maffre make something out of nothing. Her partner, Wexcsteen, has better choreography, but I found him a touch bland and not as clean in his technique as I had expected from someone who looked so striking physically.
Tall and long-legged, he is a good match height-wise for Maffre, and partners her easily, which is a relief to see. It was a spectacular as one could hope to see her take a crisp yet elongated fish in his arms. Benjamin Pierce, who seems most often to work with her, is also a good match for her, but otherwise, the selection among the male ranks of the company don’t offer many options for her, which is a pity.
One of the real delights of Sunday evening’s show though, was seeing Kristen Long, who I am sorry to say, I’m guilty of underrating so often. As the Snow Queen, partnered by Damian Smith, Long was absolutely wonderful. With sharply delineated lines, precise and whirlwind pirouettes and a beautiful smile the entire time, she redefined brilliant. She plunged headlong into series of double pique turns punctuated by double fouettes holding nothing back and apparently ignoring the mounting snow that was piled all over the stage and that alone gave her points for bravery. Smith partnered her gallantly, but there was almost no need for him to support any of her turns.
I mention it because on December 21 and 24, audiences will have a chance to see her as Sugar Plum, and if I were in town, I’d not miss the chance.