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New York City Ballet: Jewels 2011

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)


Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications &Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 2, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

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).

Guest Conductor: Martin West

Emeralds: Music by Gabriel Fauré, from Pélléas et Mélisande and Shylock, performed by Abi Stafford, Sébastien Marcovici, Jenifer Ringer, Jonathan Stafford, Erica Pereira, Antonio Carmena, Ana Sophia Scheller, and the Company.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Balanchine’s Jewels, with its opening jewel, Emeralds, an impassioned, elegant, and sumptuous masterpiece, danced under giant faux emeralds, diamonds, and pearls. The deep green of Karinska’s costumes is confectionary and stunning. I vividly remember Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette dancing its pas de deux to Gabriel Fauré’s luscious harmonies, and the chemistry was so thick (the advantage of real offstage couples partnering onstage). What was just as vividly lacking tonight was any sense of chemistry and passion, although the four lead women each danced with sublime grace and scintillating sensuality. The men, however, were either stiff and tired (Sébastien Marcovici), stiff and bland (Jonathan Stafford), or inappropriately smirking (a habit of Antonio Carmena).

Stage presence is more important than technique, as a three act ballet, abstract as this is, requires emotional momentum, captivating charisma, and the ability to draw the audience in. It’s not a postcard, it’s live dance. Fortunately, Ms. Ringer made the most of her moments, quasi partner for Mr. Stafford as well as herself, and she was the quintessential jewel. Abi Stafford was sprightly and spiritual, light and tiny in Mr. Marcovici’s arms. Erica Pereira and Ana Sophia Scheller, both soloists, were sparkling threads in Balanchine’s symmetrical designs.

Rubies: Music by Igor Stravinsky (Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra), Piano Solo: Susan Walters, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company.

As far as scintillating charisma, almost nothing onstage these days can surpass Balanchine’s Rubies, often performed in repertory as a free-standing ballet. With massive amounts of lustrous red, along with black and gold, beaming against the backdrop and down from the rafters, throughout Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra”, three lead dancers rivet the audience in iconic gestures of rolling arms, flexed hands, angular knees and limbs, fierce gazes, and entertaining choreography.

Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia (who is in rare form these days) seized the stage with dynamic and dizzying spins into the wings and swift technical feats that seemed effortless and seasoned. Neither principal is new to this work, nor is Teresa Reichlen, in her iconic lead role, but every time Rubies is presented it’s fresh and once again astounding. Ms. Reichlen kicks her legs to her head, twists in suggestive sensuality, and mesmerizes every last viewer, to the top levels of Koch Theater. The corps pranced with rolling arms and wide smiles in electric vivacity. Susan Walters, on piano, drove the drama with exceptional focus.

Diamonds: Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, from Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, and the Company.

The third abstract ballet in Balanchine’s Jewels is Diamonds, with hanging huge crystals, pearls and warm lighting, that add a dreaminess to the mood. Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard were in exceptional form, here, with partnering chemistry that’s grown with the years. The score, from Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3, is soothing, compared to the blazing Stravinsky tones, and Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Askegard were soothing, as well, in their “Andante” pas de deux and more rapid solos. Martin West, Guest Conductor, for all three “jewels”, kept the Orchestra poignant and powerful. Throughout the Symphony, the leads and corps created a floating quality to the choreography, with calm and classicism. In the corps, I was drawn to Gwyneth Muller, Brittany Pollack, Daniel Applebaum, and Christian Tworzyanski. Kudos to George Balanchine, Peter Harvey (scenery), Karinska (costumes), and Mark Stanley (lighting).

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