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Glittery 'Jewels' from New York City Ballet

Teresa Reichlen in George Balanchine's Rubies from Jewels,
New York City Ballet (photo by Paul Kolnik)
George Balanchine's opulent Jewels is a favorite of Miss Ionarts, and she has watched it many times in the DVD from the Mariinsky Ballet. From her point of view, it is pretty, colorful, varied, and there are no scary villains. Created in 1967 for the New York City Ballet, it is also Balanchine's survey of the state of dance, with each of its three acts focused on the heritage of three ballet traditions -- French Romanticism in Emeralds, New York modernism in Rubies, and Russian imperialism in Diamonds. The New York City Ballet has brought its refurbished production to the Kennedy Center this week, along with a mixed program of shorter choreographies, and it is well worth seeing.

The music of each act reflects those orientations, beginning with two refined scores of incidental music by Gabriel Fauré, for Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande (also heard on Sunday night from the Israel Philharmonic) and Shylock, Edmond Haraucourt's reworking of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Neither story appears in any appreciable way in the choreography, but with Balanchine, as with all gifted choreographers, the music was his guide. The horn call of the first movement summons the corps de ballet into a diagonal line; the spinning movement features a ballerina making many turns; arms tick-tocked, clock-like, with gently pulsed repeated notes; each phrase or surge or motif is matched with an evocative movement. Both of these scores are diaphanous wonders -- movements from Shylock are inserted between the third and fourth movements of Pelléas, the last of which ends the act -- and the company's interim music director Andrews Sill led a capable, if not yet perfectly polished performance by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Unlike their visit last spring, the company's resident orchestra did not accompany them. One could sense at times a tug of war between conductor and musicians, as in that gorgeous flute solo of the third movement of Pelléas, which needed to go a little faster than the orchestra seemed to want.

available at Amazon
G. Balanchine, Jewels, Paris Opera Ballet, A. Dupont, A. Carbone, M.-A. Gillot, A. Letestu
(Opus Arte, 2006)
available at Amazon
G. Balanchine, Jewels, Mariinsky Ballet, U. Lopatkina, I. Zelensky, I. Golub

(Mariinsky, 2011)

Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra inspired the jazz-age neoclassicism of the middle act, Rubies, with its flapper gestures, tango-like pairings, and high-stepping enthusiasm. The local orchestra felt most tentative in this challenging and unfamiliar music, fortunately anchored on the authoritative keyboard solo work of Cameron Grant, pianist of the NYC Ballet Orchestra. Teresa Reichlen, who hails from Fairfax County, was a sensation in the solo role here, her long legs and body kicked and lifted into expressive shapes. Her dances with four men, who grasp her by the wrists and heels in ways that suggest control or puppetry, were particularly striking, if at times disturbing.

Other Articles:

Sarah Kaufman, At Kennedy Center, New York City Ballet reminds us why we watch dance (Washington Post, April 4)

---, Ballet ‘Jewels’ still a gem, but it’s lost some luster (Washington Post, April 3)

---, Choreographer Justin Peck’s unprecedented success with New York City Ballet (Washington Post, March 29)

Alastair Macaulay, Still Revealing New Facets, After Sparkling for Half a Century (New York Times, January 23)
Diamonds, with its ice-blue set (designed by Peter Harvey) and glittery white costumes (by Karinska), was made for Suzanne Farrell, and the company's pairing of Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle was in fine form in the solos. Tchaikovsky's third symphony, all but the first movement, provides an ideal backdrop for a Russian-style ballet, the work that scholar Richard Taruskin identified as the first of Tchaikovsky's symphonies that is mostly about dance movements. The Alla Tedesca movement suits a large corps scene, the slow movement with its affecting solos for flute, bassoon, and horn go with the variations of the pas de deux, and the big finale mirrors Balanchine's crescendo of movement and groupings into a full cast scene, with the fugue section laid out voice by voice on the stage. It was all dazzling, although the fourth movement, Allegro vivo, needed to go faster than felt comfortable, especially for the oboe.

This performance will be repeated, with differing casts, on April 4 to 6, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Maria Kowroski in George Balanchine's Diamonds from Jewels,
New York City Ballet (photo by Paul Kolnik)

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