Dancers in "Jewels"
“Jewels” got another chance to shine at the New York City Ballet—yes, the new sets are still garish, and yes, the corps still seems raw at times, but most of the principals, from the new Ashley Bouder to the experienced Wendy Whelan, gleamed. “Emeralds”, even in the submerged, gimcrack grotto it has been hidden in, remains, in its unique, understated way, one of the most dramatic of Balanchine’s explorations of the unattainable.
Bouder danced the Verdy role, whose romantic subtleties seem a far cry from her usual forthright, dynamic, tingling presence. But she was extraordinary. Naturally, the steps posed no problems, but she danced with a sense of inner rubato and mystery. She phrased the delicate backbends and poignantly dramatic arm movements clearly and musically, without any of the self-conscious “look at me, I am so musical” emphasis that can make Balanchine’s abstract drama seem melodramatic. Jared Angle, her partner, also new to the role, is a gracious and elegant partner and danced with a sense of underlying gravity and loss that makes the ballet so moving.
Sofiane Sylve, with the equally romantic Ask la Cour, danced the Mimi Paul role. She brought out the more specific tragic motifs, slightly emphasizing the weeping movements, but she still gave the impression of dancing in a rarified air, of being a vision of loss rather than a specific tragedy. La Cour partnered with a wonderful sense of hushed intimacy—what a wonderful performer he is.
This air of dancing in and for the music did not carry over to “Rubies”, though the audience loved it. Patricia McBride gave the role a free and easy charm, with subtle little modern accents, but, with Alexandra Ansanelli, and most of the corps dancers, it has become a veritable orgy of butt-twitching. Ansanelli danced with a mixture of coyness and stridency, like Shirley Temple singing a rap song. Her dancing seemed to be aimed directly at the audience, which responded in kind. But a pas de deux should be a conversation between the two dancers, which the audience is privileged to overhear, not a shouting match. Benjamin Millepied, though, restored much of the off-handed charm to the ballet.
The pas de deux in “Diamonds”, with Wendy Whelan and Nilas Martins, was not a conversation either, it was a dream of a conversation. Whelan’s approach to classical roles is unique and unforgettable. She uses her strength to pull up and out, giving the impression of floating above the ground and her inner intensity draws the audience in. She doesn’t ignore her partner, she just gives the impression that he can’t quite see her, which, ironically, helps focus the attention on him, as the audience seems to see, or rather feel, her through his presence. She dances with a strength and a classical purity combined with an otherworldly exaltation, rather like a silver cord wrapped in a mist.