Musing on Two of Ratmansky's Muses: Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane

Stella Abrera and Gennadi Saveliev in Seven Sonatas, PC Gene Schiavone

When it comes to ballerinas at American Ballet Theatre, Ratmansky has naturally given juicy roles to his fellow Russians. But he has also given first cast to two scintillating women who just performed the leads in his latest ballet for ABT, Souvenir d'un lieu cher. Although he choreographed it for Dutch National Ballet in 2012, this mysterious little quartet to haunting music by Tchaikovsky found a new life at the Met last week.

Sarah Lane and Alban Lendorf in Souvenir, PC Gene Schiavone

Both Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane (who just got promoted to principal) are exquisite classical stylists with a particular poignancy
around the head/neck/shoulder area. But they also have very different personalities—and Ratmansky uses their differences in Souvenir.

In this ballet Abrera seemed given to moods, perhaps because her partner Marcelo Gomes fluctuated between treating her with affection and with indifference. She wilted when he turned away from her. On the other hand, Lane's character was always open, fresh and fluid. She and her partner, Alban Lendorf, shared a certain resiliency. Both couples flowed through inventive partnering, shaded by dramatic moments, making me eager to see it again.

Stella Abrera as Princess Tea Flower in Whipped Cream, PC Gene Schiavone

Abrera and Lane were also cast as the two female leads in the season's new extravaganza, Whipped Cream. As Princess Tea Flower, Abrera had a softness that I thought might represent chamomile tea. One motif had her upper body drooping and arms swinging heavily with drowsiness. It was kind of stunning to see that kind of surrender to gravity on a ballet stage. I think Abrera is one of the few ballet dancers who can let go completely.

A contrast was provided by Lane's character, Princess Praline. Her variation powered through insanely fast and precise steps—which she aced with aplomb. This was the fastest new allegro variation I think I've ever seen. The sharpness required was akin to the bird's lethal peckings in The Golden Cockerel, last spring's spectacle.

Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak in The Tempest, PC Marty Sohl

Back in 2009, Abrera created a role in Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas, for three couples dancing to Scarlatti. I felt that the story line was carried by Abrera. With a turn of the head she could project affection, wariness or devotion.

When Ratmansky choreographed The Tempest in 2013, he cast Lane as the young Miranda. She brought a breathy—and breath-taking—innocence to the role, providing a bright spot in that ballet.

I look forward to many more Ratmansky roles for Abrera and Lane. Their artistry is enchanting to behold.

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