I’m thrilled that it’s finally ballet season after a long summer layoff. What better way to start the New York City Ballet fall season than with the Balanchine 1967 classic Jewels, which consists of with three plotless, unrelated segments: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds. I saw the Thursday and Saturday evening performances and the company is in fine form, starting their first fall season under Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, who took over last February.
On Thursday, Emeralds featured lead dancers Ashley Bouder and Taylor Stanley; both are not a great fit for this lyrical work inspired by the music of French composer Gabriel Fauré. I love Ashley’s bold dancing filled with reckless abandon. However, Emeralds does not reward razzle-dazzle, where softness and fluidity are the focus to the soothing score. Taylor is great in neo-classical and modern works but not my favorite in classic roles. Their work was fine but lacked distinction. Megan LeCrone danced the “walking” solo reasonably well but lacked the airy arms necessary for the role. Adrian Danchig-Waring provided strong partnering support. Saturday evening featured Emilie Gerrity in the “walking” pas de deux with Andrew Scordato. An auspicious debut from Emilie which featured soft movements to the lush score. The lead couple Lauren King and Daniel Applebaum were effective but had a few rough edges in the pas de deux.
On Thursday, Rubies leads Megan Fairchild and Gonzalo Garcia had extra caffeine before their performance, done with great exuberance. I liked Megan’s phrasing as she lightly tapped the floor after a massive grand battement. Gonzalo was an excellent complement to Megan, with an aggressive, all-out style. They were a joy to watch. 18-year-old Corps member Mira Nadon made her debut in the “tall girl” role (see below for video where NYCB updated the nickname of the role to “tall dancer” for some reason) done with great authority and confidence.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. The style of Rubies differs from Emeralds and Diamonds with a modern flavor influenced by the brashness of New York City.
Corps de Ballet Member Mira Nadon bursts through the crowd during her debut as the soloist in Rubies, one of Balanchine’s most iconic “tall dancer” roles, in last night’s performance of Jewels.
— nycballet (@nycballet) September 20, 2019
Saturday evening leads Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette gave a more subdued interpretation that lacked the Thursday energy. Emily Kikta danced the “tall girl” role with great distinction, showing great fluidity and extension.
Diamonds is the third piece, set to Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony, inspired by Imperial Russia and the Mariinsky Theater, where Balanchine trained. Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen were the leads Thursday evening 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 ending the dance by kissing her hand while on one knee. Very sweet. Russell’s solo was fine, consisting of standard turns in second position, double tours, and coupé jeté manége. Sara’s musicality stood out with the various changes in tempo throughout her solos. Sara had a few rough spots at the end where she struggled on fouetté and supported turns but worked out of trouble. They solved out the issues Saturday evening with crisp turns in the finale. The two also danced the role Friday.