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New York City Ballet: 'Jewels'

by Colleen Boresta

October 2(m), 2011 -- David Koch Theatre, New York, NY

George Balanchine’s Jewels is usually considered the first full-length abstract ballet. Some critics feel that “Emeralds” evokes a forest glade full of sylphs and fairies, “Rubies” depicts a jazzy 1920’s America and “Diamonds” is a tribute to the imperial Russian ballets of Marius Petipa. In his landmark work, Balanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, (co-authored by Francis Mason) Balanchine states (and I’m paraphrasing him) that he just liked the music (Faure for “Emeralds”, Stravinsky for “Rubies” and Tchaikovsky for “Diamonds”) and these three works don’t represent anything more than that. This is a typical Balanchine remark. But it really doesn’t matter what his intentions were when he choreographed Jewels. One of the wonderful things about great art is that it is open to many different interpretations. The audience member can read into Jewels just as much or as little as he wants.

“Emeralds” is a sedate, dreamlike piece. All the dancers are wonderful, but to me the real standouts are the three soloists – Antonio Carmena, Erica Pereira and Ana Sophia Scheller. Carmena has a lovely ballon and clean, crisp turns. Pereira and Scheller dance with a feather light vivaciousness that is perfectly suited to the delicate nature of “Emeralds”.

“Rubies” is a playful, jazzy ballet. As the central couple, Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz show incredible energy and project a lively sense of fun. Fairchild’s precise, quicksilver footwork is amazing to watch. De Luz just gets better and better every time I see him perform. In “Rubies” De Luz is electrifyingly captivating. His whiplash turns are danced at a breakneck pace. Many other dancers would lose control while whirling at such mind-blowing speed. In “Rubies” De Luz is in complete command of the stage at the David Koch Theatre.

As Balanchine’s “Tall Girl” in “Rubies”, Teresa Reichlen threatens to steal the show. Everything about her performance is larger than life. Her unbelievable extensions, (She has legs that go on for days.) the forcefulness of her attack, her gorgeous arabesques – all are combined with an explosive stage presence that keeps the audience riveted. I will never be able to see “Rubies” again without seeing Teresa Reichlen’s performance in my mind’s eye, and wanting only her to dance the part of Balanchine’s Amazon.

Whatever George Balanchine’s intentions were while choreographing “Diamonds”, it has always seemed like a loving tribute to the ballets of Marius Petipa, especially The Sleeping Beauty. Much of “Diamonds” is also reminiscent of Balanchine’s 1947 masterpiece Theme and Variations. If Balanchine wanted to pay homage to himself, (or just copy from himself) he was certainly entitled to do so.

Sunday’s performance of “Diamonds” was magical, especially the central pas de deux. As the lead couple, Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard are achingly beautiful. Kowroski stands out for her meltingly expressive upper body, her gorgeously fluid movements and her lyrically lovely extensions. Askegard is dancing with more energy and precision than I’ve ever seen from him. As always, Askegard is an elegant and attentive partner. There has been a very special connection between Kowroski and Askegard for quite some time. On Sunday, due to Askegard’s approaching retirement from NYCB, (He retires on October 9th.) this rapport seemed bittersweet. During the bows, as Askegard knelt and kissed Kowroski’s hand, she looked as though she was trying not to cry. Seeing such emotion made their performances even richer for me.

I hope New York City Ballet continues to dance Jewels at such a high level for many years to come.

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