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New York City Ballet: Jewels 2010

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New York City Ballet

Jewels 2010

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Assistant to the Ballet Master in Chief: Sean Lavery
Guest Teacher: Merrill Ashley
Children’s Ballet Master: Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director: Fayçal Karoui
Chairman of the Board: John L. Vogelstein
Managing Dir. Communications and Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 26, 2010

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Maurice Kaplow

Jewels (1967): Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Peter Harvey, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley. Balanchine was inspired by the jewelry of Claude Arpels and decided upon pieces of music that expressed the essence of each of these jewels. The NYC Ballet costume designer, Karinska, used artificial stones that exemplified each of these three jewels. Like the difference in jewels, the mood and music differ, as well. Emeralds signifies the romanticism of France. Rubies has jazzy elements that evolved from Balanchine's collaboration with Stravinsky. Diamonds is illustrative of Imperial Russia and its grandeur. Some of the 1967 Premiere featured performers were Suki Schorer, Patricia McBride, Edward Villella, Suzanne Farrell, and Jacques D'Amboise. (NYCB Notes).

Emeralds: Music by Gabriel Fauré (from Pélléas et Mélisande and Shylock), Performed by Abi Stafford, Sébastien Marcovici, Jenifer Ringer, Ask la Cour, Alina Dronova, Antonio Carmena, Ashley Laracey, and the Company. It occurred to me tonight that Balanchine’s Jewels could be divided into three motifs: Rapture (Emeralds), Sexuality (Rubies), and Elegance (Diamonds). At least these are the three mood motifs that came to mind as I watched tonight’s three-Act performance, after too long a wait. The Rubies Act is popular with guest artists in galas and in occasional short work repertoire, but seeing all three “Jewels” in one night is what City Ballet audiences await, through the seasons.

Emeralds was richly textured, and there were some pleasant surprises. Sébastien Marcovici and Ask la Cour were sophisticated and mesmerizing partners, while Ashley Laracey brought nuance and grandeur to her secondary role. Abi Stafford and Jenifer Ringer brought attention to every detail, of hand, foot extension, facial expression, but Antonio Carmena and Alina Dronova added little in fascination throughout this Act. The way the women’s arms changed shape and their torsos bent backward was scintillating and fused into the music. I recall Jenifer Ringer dancing Emeralds with James Fayette, her husband, and he was a hard act to follow, but Mr. la Cour is strong, attentive, and always gallant. Mr. Marcovici added depth to his pas de deux with Ms. Stafford, while she added tenderness and exhilaration both in solos and in these partnered phrases.

Rubies: Music by Igor Stravinsky (Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra), Piano Solo: Susan Walters, Performed by Janie Taylor, Benjamin Millepied, Savannah Lowery, and the Company. I prefer to see Rubies danced with sharp edge, propulsive physicality, and accentuated gesture. This is how some dancers have interpreted the duo, solo, and trio-ensemble dancing. However, tonight’s lead dancers were passive, emotionally flat, and stylistically driven. Hand and leg gestures were understated, and I kept imagining a change of cast, allowing a few corps dancers a chance to show their skills, like Georgina Pazcoguin, Stephanie Zungre, Giovanni Villalobos, just to name a few. There are also principal and soloist dancers with charisma and pizzazz, who might bring out more of the animation and dazzle of this shiny red ballet.

Janie Taylor seemed unusually restrained and casual, partnered by Benjamin Millepied, with little chemistry between them, and Savannah Lowery was too heavy of foot. Mr. Millepied doesn’t exude passion (except as Tony in West Side Story Suite), and Rubies should never be calm and comforting. Cameron Grant may have been better inspired with a sharper, more electric cast, but his Stravinsky interpretation was energized and enthused.

Diamonds: Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (from Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, and the Company. Maria Kowroski is an incomparable dancer, one who exudes grandeur, scintillating sensuality, and magnetic appeal. Charles Askegard is a dancer’s dancer, a partner extraordinaire, and although they have danced this role many nights before, they brought moment to moment freshness and allure in both solos and pas de deux. Ms. Kowroski can be a coy demon (Slaughter on Tenth Avenue), a damsel in distress (The Blue Necklace), or a glittering, effervescent Diamond. Together Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Askegard seized the stage, and Tschaikovsky’s symphonic score came to life. Diamonds is the most visually structured of the three Acts in Jewels, and tonight’s program came to a very satisfying conclusion, with choreographic figures that transported the viewer. Truly I was ready for a trip to Van Cleef & Arpels, the shop that first inspired Balanchine’s Jewels. Kudos to Maurice Kaplow, who is soon to retire. And, kudos to George Balanchine.

Janie Taylor and Benjamin Millepied
in Balanchine's "Rubies"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Charles Askegard and Maria Kowroski
in Balanchine's "Diamonds"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at