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Ballet West’s performance of George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’ shines like a gem

Courtesy of Erik Ostling Ballet West's Emily Adams perform in Emeralds. It's one of three act's in the upcoming production of "Jewels,' by famed choreographer George Balanchine.


Special to The Tribune

First published Apr 06 2013 11:43AM
Updated Apr 6, 2013 11:29PM

Ballet icon George Balanchine was equal parts artistic genius, showman and poet. And his three-section masterwork "Jewels," as performed by Ballet West at the Capitol Theatre, brilliantly refracts classical ballet like light through a gem.

"Jewels" opens with the most subtle of the three sections, "Emeralds." It features two ballerinas who represent the complex nature of a single personality.

The first is characterized by full, sweeping arm, head and upper-body movements. Demi­-solist Allison DeBona captured the innocent yet intimate essence of the role while putting her own stamp on it with a refreshing warmth.

Balanchine’s larger-than-life personality and celebrity have made known his artistic and personal obsession with the unattainable woman. So although "Jewels" is the first full-length abstract ballet, the plot thickens as the second ballerina is personified by the dancer who walks through her duet barely noticing her partner.

First-soloist Haley Henderson Smith is usually at her best in theatrical roles, but here she performs the duet robotically rather than with the cool, ethereal nature I assume Balanchine intended.

One way Balanchine refracts the classical canon in each section of "Jewels" is through the inventive structures and fascinating movement he provides the corps de ballet.

Unlike story ballets and classical works, in the neo-classical "Jewels," dancers do not stand motionless in a line of swans for 20 minutes while the leads dance to exhaustion. "Emeralds" finds dancers in uneven numbered groupings obliged to find creative solutions to choreographic problems that were never posed by symmetrical staging.

The middle section "Rubies" is a show-stopper. Again Balanchine showcases two ballerinas, but unlike "Emeralds," only one has a partner and the other is solo. Demi-solist Beckanne Sisk brings her extraordinary confidence and jaw-dropping performance quality to an already exciting part. Demi-solist Emily Adams is the more aloof of the two in her solo role but takes command of the stage and of the five men who surround her.

The third panel of "Jewels" is "Diamonds," danced by the always refined and precise BW principal Christiana Bennett. Although this section surprisingly turns into a production number, at its core is a pas de deux which most interpret as Balanchine’s potential marriage proposal to his well-known muse, Suzanne Farrell.

On opening night, the "Diamonds" pas de deux was marred by several mistakes and missteps between Bennett and partner Beau Pearson.

As the "Diamonds" section in its entirety unfolds, it becomes a spectacular wedding march — a refraction of the coronation at the end of every story ballet.

However, Farrell has written in her memoirs that because Balanchine was still married to his fourth or fifth wife, she turned down his proposal. Which brings a slightly tragic edge to the dazzling ending of "Jewels."

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