writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

New Casts in Jewels

New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
February 7 and February 12, 2004

by Mary Cargill
copyright 2004 by Mary Cargill

published 23 February 2004

The redesigned Jewels was the not-so-surprise hit of the season, with packed houses and cheering audiences. The earlier designs, with the chintzy parures in the background, were not a great loss, but they at least did not detract from the choreography in the way the news ones, to my mind, do.

“Emeralds” is now a mass of green nothingness, Clearly the designer wanted a nether world, either a bower or a sea bed, but the dancers, with their green costumes, fade into the background; even their skin seems to take on a greenish tinge. Despite the oppressive "Green Mansions" mood, the second cast, Rachel Rutherford with Robert Tewsley (in a welcome return from injury), and Pascale van Kipnis with James Fayette, caught the delicate lyricism of the music. Rutherford, in the Verdy role, danced with a delicate shading and a gentle urgency; those horns were calling her away to somewhere! The difficult mime-like movements, where the hands say nothing exactly and everything allusively, were lovely. I never saw Verdy dance the role, though, and people who did are always disappointed; and yes, it is inexplicable that Verdy does not coach her part. Though some of the partnering looked a bit tentative, Tewsley had a romantic authority and plushness to his dancing that gleams with an old fashioned courtesy, so perfect for “Emeralds”.

James Fayette, too, is a gracious romantic partner, showing that artistry can trump nature. He is built along the lines of a wrestler, with shortish, heavy legs, but to see him walk on stage, transfixed by his ballerina, is to be absolutely transported by his focus, his generosity, and his bearing. He seems to glow in the reflected light of his partner, a light which he himself has created.

The corps, however, had none of the shimmer and elegance the piece needs. (Half were apprentices and the other half new to the company.) Musical cues were frequently missed and they all looked brittle and uneasy; they danced as if they had never heard of France.

“Rubies”, that perennial crowd pleaser, had the most successful redesign, and the opening, with the dancers in those red costumes posed against a rich black background with a few vibrant red stripes, is stunning. Exciting as “Rubies” is, I find that it lacks the haunting perfume of “Emeralds” or the mysterious grandeur of “Diamonds”; it doesn’t have many secrets to reveal, and doesn’t really grow with repeated viewings. Peter Boal made his debut with Yvonne Borree (February 7); the vigorous athleticism is a bit of a stretch for him at this stage, but he gave the role an airy charm. Borree is a lightweight dancer, and her fresh faced reticence suited his approach.

Miranda Weese, with Nikolaj Hübbe (February 12), has, I think, the most complete grasp of the role, combining elegance with wit, timing, and subtle shading—nothing was punched or shaken or oversold. She seemed to be dancing her own private joke. The rigors of the role are a bit beyond Hübbe now, but he is a supremely intelligent dancer, and knows how to get a great effect out of every movement.

The new set for “Diamonds”, a light blue ice cavern, got its round of applause, too, but again, the “no place special” feeling works against the choreography, which, if it does not suggest a specific place, certainly implies a courtly and regal mood. Maria Kowroski, with Philip Nea (February 12)l, danced the pas de deux like a dream of Swan Lake, formal and distant, but not cold. Since her stint in Russia, she seems to use her eyes and face to greater effect, and there was a hushed privacy to her dancing, echoed by Philip Neal, that hinted at a hidden story, at some underlying sadness. Darci Kistler’s “Diamonds” (February 7), too, told its own story, but her approach is more Aurora than Odette. Kistler evokes no sense of tragedy, and the two dancers made the choreography look like two different dances. It was not a case of twisting or distorting the steps, it was two very different artists using the same steps to say something unique, to make the dance their own.

Kistler was more trusting than Kowroski, less shy and hesitant, falling into Charles Askegard’s arms with serene confidence, while Kowroski seemed to be a vision fading away. The low lifts, which Kowroski made a mysterious journey, looked, in Kistler’s arms, like she was parting a curtain to greet a bright new world. She danced with a profound sense of joy; she is not the fearless technician of old, of course, but her dancing was pure and uncluttered, and, if she is saying goodbye to the role, it was a glorious sendoff.

This joy and rich understanding was not shared by the corps, though I suppose the memory of the Kirov’s majestic “Diamonds” will always make any other company’s corps look like rhinestones. Dena Abergel, as one of the demi-soloists, did have the full bodied presence required, and as always, Carla Körbes, in the back of the corps, has elegance personified. She is, apparently, incapable of producing an awkward move, but if ever a dancer was born with “Emeralds” carved on her soul, it is Körbes.

Reviews of other Winter Season performances:

Some thoughts on Balanchine, with references to Arlene Croce (Gay Morris)
Prodigals, Gods, and Music: "Heritage" Week 1 at New York City Ballet (Susan Reiter)
Harlequinade (Nancy Dalva)
Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2/Harlequinade (Mary Cargill)
Double Feature (Mary Cargill)
The Show Goes On: Donizetti Variations/Scotch Symphony/Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (Mary Cargill)
Designs that Pack a Punch:  Jewels (Susan Reiter)

Swanilda's World (Mary Cargill)

Also Mindy Aloff's Letters related to the Balanchine Celebration:

Letter 14 (Balanchine Celebration; Times Talk)
Letter 15 (Midsummer Night's Dream)
Letter 16 (Double Feature)
Letter 17 (Barefoot Balanchine at Sarah Lawrence)

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 8
February 23, 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Mary Cargill



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last updated on January 11, 2004