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Flash Review 2, 2-11: Stone Soup
Retouched "Jewels" and a New Ruby from City Ballet

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2004 Susan Yung

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NEW YORK -- New York City Ballet's current production of George Balanchine's "Jewels," seen Saturday night at the New York State Theater, features new sets by Peter Harvey, who designed the sets for the 1967 premiere. Gone are Grandma's drapes that hung lank around the proscenium, now replaced by painted flats with linear accents and asymmetric strings of big sparkling gems. But Balanchine noted that "Jewels," comprising three sections -- "Emeralds," "Rubies," and "Diamonds" -- is not really about jewels, apart from Karinska's jewel-encrusted costumes. It's rather a formal celebration of music, dance and life. (Or is it truly about soup, as ballerina Karin von Aroldingen recounts in the Winter 2003 Ballet Review -- Spring Green Soup, Borscht, and Vichyssoise?)

"Emeralds," to music by Gabriel Faure, is said to embody France. The new set features dazzling abstract paintings whose style nestles between Impressionism and Expressionism -- so lush that you could practically smell the saturated verdant tones. Balanchine matched the romantic music with loosely knit choreography, savoring the languid pace rather than checking off a list of mandatory steps or parts to a pas de deux. Miranda Weese danced elegantly, balancing solidly in arabesque; partner Stephen Hanna (who made his debut in this role Friday) lifted her with confident ease. Jenifer Ringer (also new to her role) and James Fayette also matched well, first in lyrical waltzing, then in metronomic clock-hand ticking of their arms and legs. Fayette's stoicism, which sometimes makes his performances feel closed off, worked here, as in deeply planted lunges to provide Ringer a solid barre to hang onto. Arch Higgins partnered both Jennifer Tinsley and Pascale van Kipnis in unique ways, skipping with hands held, or with the women shadowing one another.

"Rubies" is not an ode to a country, but rather to a state -- a state of mind, the magnificent long-term collaboration between Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. The opening scene of "Rubies" is simple but stunning: a line of thirteen dancers stands in fourth position releve, linked hands held aloft valiantly, gazes defiant. Yvonne Borree (subbing for Jennie Somogyi) and Peter Boal jogged playfully, or chaineed with arms forming a funny "w." Borree has still not been able to amplify her slight physique with charisma, although in last year's "Carnival" of the Animals by Christopher Wheeldon, she proved she is capable of it. In "Rubies," her wobbly-fawn legs and arms could charm at times and frustrate otherwise. Boal looked fine in this surprisingly late-career role debut, the shading of age showing in added confidence rather than stiffness, his tour jetes light and high.

The evening's revelation came in corps member Teresa Reichlin's strong female solo role, in her second performance in the role. Her stature, reminiscent of Maria Kowroski's -- tall, long-limbed, with extremely flexible joints -- assures Reichliln of being spotted in a group, but it's her stage presence that made the difference. She demanded to be watched, seizing upon movements and commanding them. Unfortunately, the eight women who formed the corps moved out of synch, at times seemingly to different counts; this occurred again later in the program.

Imperial Russia is the working image for "Diamonds," now with washy blue painted flats, whose irregular receding arches evoked more Munch's "Scream" than St. Petersburg. Still, the large numbers of dancers in rhinestone bejeweled knee-length tutus and tunics dazzled like a snowy field on a sunny day. Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard led the cast, a royal couple promenading to Tchaikovsky's paces, a bit balky in some partnering sequences but clean in general. Kistler used her radiant cameo to great advantage, aiming her beam at the fourth ring, and Askegard performed piston-pumping turns in second with, for him, an unusually crisp rhythm. Impressively, the corps of 32 smoothly executed ensemble triple pirouettes, leading up to a denouement that cries wolf repeatedly until it finally closes.

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