NYCB presented Balanchine’s 1967 classic Jewels Friday. The idea for the ballet originated in Europe in the 1950s when Claude Arpels of the jewelry firm Van Cleef & Arpels suggested it to Balanchine, according to John Gruen’s The World’s Great Ballets. Later in the 1960s, Balanchine decided to choreograph a ballet with dancers dressed as jewels. The result is a full-length three act plotless ballet, with music from three composers.
Emeralds is the first piece, set to music by Gabriel Fauré. Balanchine considered Emeralds “an evocation of France — the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume,” set to 19th century dances of the Romantic era. Emeralds is an exercise in simplicity as rudimentary steps predominate. To make it work, leads must dance with great timing, grace, and musicality.
Abi Stafford/Jared Angle and Ashley Laracey/Adrian Danchig-Waring were the leads Friday. The dancing was fine with Jared and Adrian as noble and graceful cavaliers; Abi and Ashley were graceful, with arms flowing with the enchanting music. In Emeralds, I enjoyed the interplay between the leads and the Corps dancers as they weaved in and out in various patterns; every member of the Corps had her place as they systematically moved from location to location with great precision and timing. The Corps danced well Friday, dancing like clockwork with great purpose.
The second piece, Rubies, has a more modern flavor. The opening of the curtain revealed a dramatic and stark black and red backdrop with dancers in red, which elicited shrieks and applause from the approving crowd. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz were the leads. Megan is dancing very well this season and displayed dramatic energy and spunk in this work; I liked Megan’s phrasing as she lightly tapped the floor after a massive grand battement. Joaquin proved to be a fine complement to Megan, with an aggressive, all-out style, demonstrated by rapid chaîné turns, which met with great applause. The piece, set to the festive Stravinsky Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, is informal and playful, featuring movements not usually seen in ballet: quirky shoulder moves, flexed feet while standing in second position, jump rope movements, and exaggerated running steps. Energy is vital in this work and plenty was provided, led by Megan and Joaquin.
Diamonds is the third piece, set to Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony, inspired by Imperial Russia and the Mariinsky Theater, where Balanchine trained. Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen were the leads with a cool blue, Nutcracker-type background with dancers clad in classical white attire. Russell displayed ample chivalry in the long pas de deux, filled with supported promenades showcasing Teresa’s great long-limbed extension, ending the dance by kissing her hand while on one knee. Very sweet. Russell’s solo was adequate but not memorable, consisting of standard turns in second position, double tours, and coupé jeté manége. Teresa’s musicality stood out with the various changes in tempo throughout her solos.
NYCB performed Divertimento No. 15 (1956) Saturday evening September 24 as part of the Balanchine X Vienna theme. Divertimento is a regal, elegant, chivalrous work, set to the beautiful Mozart score. The work showcases intricate patterns and complexity between the five female leads and three males during a number of short divertissement pieces. Balanchine named the work after Mozart’s score, which he considered the finest divertimento ever written. Dancers-clad in regal attire, classical yellow and white tutus for the women and white tights for the men against a plain blue backdrop-serve up ten short variations against the soothing Mozart score.
Standout performances included Lauren King in the First Variation, following the rhythms in the Mozart score with carefully timed movements. Ana Sophia Sheller displayed nice control in her solos, particularly on her aggressively performed arabesque scoots in the Third Variation. Tiler Peck was dynamic, displaying fast footwork in the cutsie, up tempo Sixth Variation. Andrew Veyette was uncharacteristically out of synch, strained at times with loose form in the Fifth Variation.