The School of American Ballet's annual Workshop Performances are like the rookie draft of the dance world, in which students barely out of high school perform classic repertoire and a lucky, limber few get chosen to shine in lead roles (an even luckier handful are then chosen to join the corps of New York City Ballet). Only parents and ballet diehards — an odd crowd that this year included Michael J. Fox, Frederic Fekkai, and Chelsea Clinton — show up. It's the real-life version of the movie Center Stage, with less drama, and no ballets involving simulated sex or motorcycles. This year, the crop of newbies was especially compelling.
We finally got the chance to see Callie Bachman (the muse for whom Peter Martins created his new Romeo + Juliet) dance the role she missed out on because of injury, and it was a wonderfully delicate performance made even better by her steady Romeo, Russell Janzen. A stellar rendition of Balanchine's classic The Four Temperaments showcased a handful of great up-and-comers, but we especially loved Matthew Renko, whose nuanced interpretation of the Melancholic variation brought out its wit, and Kristen Segin, whose ultraprecise technique and sure bearing eerily reminded us of a young Wendy Whelan. Sara Adams closed the program, giving the lead ballerina in Gounod Symphony a good dose of charm. As for who's destined to join City Ballet's ranks, our money's on Segin, who at 17 already looks like a Balanchine girl. —Rebecca Milzoff