New York City Ballet
New York State Theater,
New York, NY
June 12, 2007

by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2007 by Mary Cargill         

The marketing department couldn’t come up with a better title for this three-act, abstract exploration of female beauty than the old-fashioned "Jewels", so "Jewels" it was. The new sets continue to jar, with their mass of monochromatic colors, and distinct designs for each gem, which lack the consistency of the older sets, with the same oversized parure throughout which reinforced the idea that this ballet was about different gleams of the same feminine ideal; but nothing, apparently, can phase Ashley Bouder, who was cast, against type, in the Verdy role in the ballet's first section, "Emeralds."

Bouder danced with a quality of yearning stillness, with immaculate control and flow. There were moments of heart-stopping beauty, as she slowly fell back from a low arabesque with melting precision. Her mime-like solo, which says nothing specifically, and so much metaphorically, about beauty, had an underwater feel (which helped make all the green in the background make some sense), with a generous beauty, like a beneficent Lorelei.

Jenifer Ringer did the second, walking solo, with an equally soft, rounded, genuinely Romantic feel. Jonathan Stafford was a bit stolid for a romantic knight, but is a generous partner. Stephen Hanna, as Bouder’s partner, also looked a bit out of place wearing his metaphorical armor, but his solo showed off his elegant beats.

Ana Sophia Scheller made her debut in the pas de trios, and it seems she is a dancer who simply cannot put a foot wrong — or an arm either. She has a beautiful, elegant carriage, and her slightly aloof presence gave her dancing a smoky, mysterious quality. If she were a jewel, she would be a black pearl. Unfortunately, her cohort, Alina Dronova, seemed a bit too sharp and spiky for the part, but Sean Suozzi was a buoyant squire, and his sweep in the final gesture of farewell and longing was magnificent.

"Rubies," with Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz, and Savannah Lowery as the “tall girl”, fared less well, though the corps, against the black backdrop (the most successful of the redesigned parts) scintillated. Lowery looked much stronger than she has in the past, but is a bit stolid for the off-hand sensuality of the part. Fairchild may have been trying to go beyond her usual effortless charm, and seemed a bit solemn. There was little of the joy this role needs. She also is taller than De Luz when she is on point, and this, combined with her impassive expression, made her look, at times, like the Siren’s younger sister. De Luz, too, missed some of the wit of the part, and the timing seemed to be slightly off, so that the unexpected whiz-bang steps, so perfectly matched to the music, didn’t seem as exciting as they might.

The corps in "Diamonds," too, seemed slightly under-rehearsed. The NYCB corps will probably never catch the magnificent grandeur the Kirov corps showed when they danced "Diamonds," but it has been less ragged in the past. The folk-inflected movements, especially those for the four girls in the Russian dance, were ignored; only Amanda Hankes showed that she had shoulders that could move as well as legs that could kick.

Maria Kowroski certainly has legs that can kick, and her 185% extensions were impressive but, for me, slightly grotesque, and detracted from what was in general a beautifully shaped performance, freed from some of the fluttery mannerisms she sometimes shows. I missed some of the hushed rapport with her partner, Philip Neal, that can illuminate this pas de deux, but the undercurrent of sadness related it to "Swan Lake," and amplified the echoes of that ballet seen in the opening corps sections. The finale, with its formal Polonaise, is yet another Balanchine homage to the resplendent warmth of "The Sleeping Beauty," a detail that seems to have escaped many of the dancers, some of whom were smiling, some looking blank, and most of whom seemed completely unaware of their partners. Fortunately "Emeralds" had enough perfume to last the evening.

Photo on front page by Paul Kolnik.

Volume 5, No. 24
June 18, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Mary Cargill

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