At the same time—at last!—Maria Kowroski is coming into her own. Always wonderful to look at; sometimes—as Titania, for instance—perfect. Yet though she looked like a ballerina and danced ballerina roles, she didn’t present herself like a ballerina. This past year she’s begun taking the stage; assuming her right to it. Kowroski is at her best in the Farrell repertory, and by the end of the season she’d earned her right to the Farrell role in Davidsbündlertänze and, even more conclusively, in “Diamonds.” But whereas Farrell reveled in every extreme chance, Kowroski is more detached. She doesn’t hold back, but meets the challenges and achieves grandeur in her own contained way.
If Kowroski continues in this new expansive vein, if Somogyi fully recovers, if the Bouder locomotive doesn’t derail (and it won’t), we finally have the dancers to bring to life the parched earth of the recent painful years. And I haven’t even mentioned another new charmer, Sterling Hyltin, who suggested in Martin’s Jeu de Cartes, that faux-“Rubies,” what she’ll be able to do with the real thing.
THIS BURST OF TALENT SOMEHOW makes it easier to accept the departure of Kyra Nichols, who gave her farewell performance on June 22. In Serenade, in Davidsbündlertänze, in the Rosenkavalier section of Vienna Waltzes, she left us as she had found us 33 years ago: calm, generous, gracious, moving—a towering presence. She was a magnificent technician from the first, and eventually became an equally magnificent dramatic artist. And she had to an extraordinary degree a quality so many gifted dancers lack: common sense. She knew exactly when to withdraw from roles she could no longer handle with confidence, and so left us convinced that she had five more years of dancing in her if she’d wanted them.
Nichols was, with Kistler and Maria Calegari, the last of Balanchine’s anointed ballerinas. She’s certainly been one of the company’s greatest dancers—the most stable, the least showy. And she’s had a great career—a separate matter from being a great dancer. Like Patricia McBride before her, she just went on developing, undeterred by trauma, extended absence, the wrong kind of temperament. For both of them, everything simply went right. And in the moments of crisis, they both came through—McBride assuming responsibility for the company during the half-decade of Farrell’s break with Balanchine, Nichols during the dark years after Balanchine’s death.
She’s earned her retirement, however painful it is for the rest of us, and she claimed it joyously. After Vienna Waltzes, she stood on the stage accepting the cheers and the bouquets, modest, centered, unpretentious, superb—and glowing with happiness, her arms around her two little boys. She was telling us she had a future. And now, against the odds, the company may have one too.