Jewels at the NYCB

New York City Ballet
June 3, 20011
Spring season of ballet continued with another trip to the NYCB to see their latest revival of Jewels Balanchine's uber-popular full-length plotless ballet is never out of the NYCB rep for long, but every revival usually brings a debut, and this time it was Tiler Peck's debut in the Emeralds section that forced me to buy a ticket. 

Emeralds is my favorite section of Jewels, but it's also the most delicate. The dreamy reverie that Faure's music and Balanchine's choreography create can be ruined by one over-eager smile to the audience, one overly sold step, one awkward break in movement. Last night, this might seem minor, but I kept getting distracted by Tiler Peck's ill-fitting tutu. Peck was lovely as the first ballerina in Emeralds, but since this was her debut I felt as if there's still some room to grow in her interpretation. At times I thought she was a little too light, too spritely, in a role that should evoke more mystery. She was really sparkling in the "finger" solo though. Sara Mearns as the second ballerina was her usual magnificent self. She just has a way of projecting every step while giving the impression that she's lost in her own world. I love the grandness of her repeated grand battements followed by cambre lunges. Emeralds has two of the most beautiful pas de deux Balanchine ever composed, and Jared Angle and Ask La Cour might not be the most exciting dancers on the planet, but they partnered their ballerinas beautifully. But the best performance came from Sean Suozzi, Alina Dronova, and Ashley Laracey in the pas de trois. The three dancers just danced with so much energy and commitment.

Rubies was okay, nothing more. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz are both great technicians, but for some reason the sass and swagger that are so important in this ballet were decidedly missing from the performance. Fairchild has great technique, impressive elevation, a wonderful jump, and a winning smile. But she's still dancing "small," as if she were afraid to really go for broke and sell her performance, and Rubies is all about hard sell. Savannah Lowery as the Tall Girl gave the best performance. She's really an energetic, committed performer, although she isn't blessed with a particularly beautiful body or face. I loved the evident pleasure on her face when the male corps de ballet manipulated her legs this way and that way.

Diamonds is always a let-down for me, after the magnificence of Emeralds and Rubies. Other than the grand pas de deux, I feel like this ballet goes on for way too long and has some real filler work with the corps de ballet. It takes a really special ballerina to make Diamonds sparkle. Wendy Whelan is now unfortunately no longer at the stage in her career where she can pull Diamonds off. She gave a polished, professional performance, but the tension in her upper body, always there, is now distracting from the classical line. When she does those repeated lunge arabesques, you can see how her shoulders are tense and so what's supposed to be reckless and beautiful looks careful and small-scale. She can still do a leotard ballet like Agon, but in this very classical role, it just doesn't look right. Tyler Angle was a good partner, but overall the finale of Diamonds seemed anti-climactic.


  1. Ivy, perhaps you can explain to me what there is to like about the Emeralds act, which I have alays considered the weakest link of "Jewels." Frankly, I usually close my eyes and simply listen to Faure's delightful music. And granted, a "plotless" ballet has no plot, but is "Emeralds" supposed to convery any meaning at all to the spectator (as does "Rubies", for example)?

  2. I absolutely adore Emeralds as a mood piece. I see it as very Romantic, particularly the two "walking" pas de deux, which seem like two couples strolling in the woods. It's like Balanchine's Les Sylphides. I also love the melancholy ending to Emeralds, when the women just wander off and the men are left alone onstage. I don't know if there's "meaning" in it but I find it very romantic.


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