David Koch Theater, New York, NY; February 2, 2014(m)
George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’, which was choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1967, is usually considered the first full-length abstract ballet. Balanchine often said that this work was only about the music. ‘Jewels’ contains no plot or even a hint of a storyline. Many critics, however, feel differently. Some feel that “Emeralds” suggests a forest glade full of enchanted beings. “Rubies” depicts New York City during the Jazz Age, and “Diamonds” is a tribute to the imperial Russia of the late nineteenth century. The New York City Ballet’s audience members however, should not worry about critical opinions of ‘Jewels’ or even Balanchine’s intentions when he created the work. Great art is open to many different interpretations.
“Emeralds” is a light elegantly refined piece. I am especially impressed with the performance of Ashley Bouder in this first ballet. I am used to seeing in Bouder in flashy roles which show off her lower body and her ability to whip off multiple pirouettes. In “Emeralds” Bouder is introspective, concentrating on her flexible upper body. The way Bouder moves her arms is magnificent – very graceful and sophisticated – almost Parisian.
The other standouts in “Emeralds” for me are the threesome of Antonio Carmena, Erica Pereira and Ashley Laracey. Carmena’s ballon is lovely and his turns are very quick, clean and precise. Pereira and Laracey dance with a sprightly delicacy which perfectly suits “Emeralds”.
“Rubies is a playfully jazzy work. As the main couple Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette are a joy to watch. In his solos Veyette dances with an irresistible zaniness while showing off the elevation of his leaps and his dizzyingly swift turns. Hyltin’s twinkling footwork is utterly delightful. In fact her whole body is a sparkling vessel for Stravinksky’s spirited music. When they dance together Hyltin and Veyette look like they are having the time of their lives. I don’t recall ever seeing Hytin and Veyette perform together. I am impressed with the chemistry they have as well as their infectious musical phrasing.
At Sunday’s matinee Savannah Lowery is the Tall Girl in “Rubies”. Her performance pales when compared to that of Teresa Reichlen in the same role. Lowery’s blandness does not keep me at all riveted. Her dancing in “Rubies” lacks sharpness and an explosive stage presence.
Balanchine’s “Diamonds” has usually been seen as a salute to Marius Petipa’s ballets, particularly ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. Parts of ‘Diamonds” remind me of the 1947 work Balanchine created for American Ballet Theatre, ‘Theme and Variations’. If the great choreographer wanted to pay tribute to one of his earlier pieces or just copy from himself, he was certainly entitled to do so.
I saw my first ‘Jewels’ more than thirty years ago. The ballerina role in “Diamonds” that day was danced by the incomparable Suzanne Farrell. It was a performance I thought would never be matched. At the February 2nd matinee, however, Teresa Reichlen shows that she is Farrell’s equal in “Diamonds”. Reichlen stands out for her meltingly expressive upper body and gorgeous deep back bends. Her arabesques are absolutely glorious and her musical phrasing is creamy and luscious. Reichlen enriches “Diamonds” with a regal grandeur not often seen in 21st century ballerinas.
Her partner at February 2nd’s matinee is Russell Janzen. Janzen is a young member of NYCB’s corps who is dancing the role of the cavalier in “Diamonds” for the very first time. He is a wonderfully attentive partner for Reichlen. His solo dancing starts out well. He performs some very fast turns a la ménage along with well executed turns a la seconde. At the end of his second solo, as he is about to leave the stage, Janzen has an unfortunate slip. He is very young, however, and his performance in “Diamonds” overall is a good first effort. Janzen is a dancer I will definitely look for in the future.
All in all it was another magnificent performance by New York City Ballet.