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Glimpses #13: Sara Mearns Away from Home

sara-2rSara Mearns, studio portrait

Sara Mearns, the object of fervid admiration as a principal with the New York City Ballet, is paying a visit to Fall for Dance.  This annual event, which showcases bits of every kind of dance imaginable (something for everyone, so to speak, and at a reasonable price), is sheltered at City Center and often sells out—to an audience of both newbies and old hands.

In this year’s opening program, the audience got to see a ballerina who doesn’t conform to any of the usual types we view nowadays:  the lyrical, frangible heroine; the sensational athlete; the earth mother, et al. She was stolidly partnered by Casey Herd, an American who’s a principal with the Dutch National Ballet.  Herd was chosen, I would guess, to match Mearns’ anti-ballerina physical type.  They danced a duet, The Bright Motion, by the City Ballet’s Justin Peck to music from Mark Dancigers.  Had the choreography been more inventive and focused, it might have conjured up the heroine of Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark.

Mearns did her job with a lovely clarity, yet never seemed to make her dancing look significant, never fully “owned” her role.  Was this reticence due to modesty or, perhaps, the feeling that the occasion didn’t seem sufficiently “important”?  I liked what Mearns did here, mostly because of my history of watching her:  I like what she’s done.

© 2013 Tobi Tobias


  1. Martha Ullman West says

    I spent many years watching Casey Herd dance in Seattle, when he was coming up through the ranks at Pacific Northwest Ballet. I never found him stolid, but I did find him earnest and hardworking, and every now and then, witnessed him finding joy in the dancing. It would seem that neither he nor Mearns found much to enjoy about performing The Bright Motion, and that’s a shame, for them, and the audience.

  2. Judy Glassman says

    Mearns was lovely, as always, and Herd was an able partner, but yes, I agree, the dance didn’t seem particularly soulful.

    Did anyone else notice her very dramatic eye makeup and the fact that she appeared not to be wearing tights? Oh, those legs!

    For me, the highlight of the evening was the Gabriel Misse / Analia Centurion world premiere. I now understand what authentic tango looks like!

  3. Barbara Palfy says

    My sense of it was that this time Peck’s choreography didn’t give Mearns much to “own.” Clean, flowing, but little more than arms sweeping up and back, and extended extensions. For some reason, the space felt circumscribed. Herd is tall, has heft, and could support pretty unobtrusively her flyaway attacks.

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