Posted 11 May 2003 - 12:51 PM
Emeralds was dream-like and enchanting. It is the least "flashy" of the trio, and some may say that because it is put first, it is the weakest- but I disagree wholeheartedly. The weightlessness of the steps and romantic port de bras (the principal woman's solo) create a soft quality, but it is punctuated by sharp gestures (the pdd of the 2nd leading couple) that prevent the ballet from becoming a blur. I also love Faure's Pelleas et Melisande, and feel that Balanchine has visualized the music perfectly. Martine Lamy and Rex Harrington, two of the company's senior principals, danced the leads. They provided the steps with mature insight and calm, looking very much at ease with the choreography. (Yesterday at a Q&A with Rex, he said that Emeralds is a ballet that he can just warm-up a bit for and perform). Martine was simply radiant and full of life. Rex, whom I haven't seen in a classical role for a while (usually Rothbart, or Kastchei the deathless) displayed his fine partnering skills and signature commanding stage presence. Rebekah Rimsay and Geon van der Wyst danced the 2nd couple, and she is especially well suited to this ballet. The 3 soloists were Tanya Howard, Tiffany Knight, and Keiichi Hirano. Knight was elegant and lovely to watch. I felt that Howard was horribly mis-cast. Her broken wrists are most distracting in romantic ballets. She was bursting with energy, kicking her legs rather than develope-ing them, and seemed anxious to move on to Rubies- where btw, she looked much better.
Rubies is a crowd pleaser and I have to admit I love it too. Stravinsky's music is daring, and one couldn't ask for a better pianist than Andrew Burashko. He has performed with dance companies many times, most recently for the NBoC's Intermezzo, and is an incredibly talented and sensitive musician. The dancing here was top-notch. Xiao Nan Yu (the soloist) was captivating for start to finish. Not only is her technique flawless (her long legs and extension are perfect for Balanchine- I could watch her slow penchees forever), but she also has an intriguing personality on stage. Greta Hodgkinson and Aleksandar Antonijevic danced the pdd with attack and flair. Rubies seems tailor made for Greta, but Aleksandar is more of a Diamonds type. It was nice to see him out of his usual "prince" mould, and he gave a pleasantly surprising and witty performance. His entrelaisses are marvellous!
Finally, Diamonds was a feast for the eyes and ears with all the sparkling grandeur characteristic of classical Russian ballet. The choreography is heavily Petipa-inspired, yet infused with new life- and a few steps and arms that are distinctly neo-classical. I love the ending, with all the corps dancing as one body. The leads were Chan Hon Goh and Guillaume Cote. Chan danced Diamonds when the company premiered Jewels in 2000, and perfectly personifies its regal classical style. Cote, as many have noted, is becoming the NBoC's new prince charming, and he delivered some stellar dancing coupled with aristocratic bearing. His series of pirouettes a la seconde was perfect and the house erupted into applause.
Bravo to all the dancers who did an excellent job. Bravo also to Balanchine who in Jewels has proven his genius and incredible range. I also think his choice is music was superb and really contributes to the overall success of the ballet.
Jewels closes this tuesday (all tickets are on sale for $45 or $25 which is a steal!), so I hope all posters in Toronto will have the chance to see it.
Posted 11 May 2003 - 05:07 PM
Unlike Tristan and Isolde, Jewels lives up to the National Ballet of Canada’s cheeky tagline, ‘Come to the Ballet!’ Those fortunate enough to be retired, playing hooky from work or school were treated to undulating hips, dizzying pirouettes, bedroom eyes glancing skywards, sassy high kicks, flirtatious skipping with imaginary rope, and jazzy moves galore. These goo-goo eyes were glued from seat A 28. Sneaking a close up glance with opera glasses is one of my few guilty pleasures. What my mind’s eye saw was a ballerina putting it all together: theatrical persona, dance technique, plus musicality. Triple wow!!! This ruby absolutely glowed surrendering body and spirit to the choreography of Mr. B as she danced the music of Stravinsky to life! The jewel of my eye was Heather Ogden.
Of course, my opinion alone is not proof enough. I was not the only (willing) causality of Miss Ogden’s ballerina magnetism. The Thursday matinee was filled with high school kids who had bussed in for Jewels. Many of who never heard of ballet dinosaurs like George Balanchine or Igor Stravinsky. Many of who possess the attention span of Bart Simpson. Many of who came to see a ballet for the very first time in their lives. Somehow those green imaginations, never to be stretched beyond a TV screen, were set free through the stage charisma of Heather Ogden as the new Muse for Balanchine. As further evidence of the above, many in attendance were so moved by Heather Ogden’s performance they not only clapped and cheered ‘bravo’ with double espresso-They actually whistled! Something not heard often enough at the Hummingbird Centre. Also referred to as God’s Waiting Room due to the advancing age of the NBoC’s audience! By the way, many of the aforementioned historic ballet fans were likewise stirred to show their appreciation.
There have been many gorgeous muses in George Balanchine’s life: Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, Vera Zorina, Maria Tallchief, and Tanaquil LeClercq. And then there was the elusive muse, Suzanne Farrell, who is listed in the Performance Program as overseeing the production of Jewels. Thank you Suzanne Farrell for keeping the genius of George Balanchine (Artistic Director for the National Ballet of Heaven) alive through a new muse…in his afterlife.
This purely abstract 3-act ballet premiered April 13, 1967; yet, 5 decades later it still possesses the dance power to turn the Bart Simpson generation on to ballet! Another muse of musical note was a stunning redhead by the name of Julie Hay who danced the music of Gabriel Fauré to life in Emeralds. Yet one more emerald who caught my eye was Rebekah Rimsay. As close to the stage as I was, not once could I hear her pointe shoes thump through a long stroll en pointe. Miss Rimsay must share her silent dancing secrets with her fellow emeralds for future performances. Perhaps she bashed her pointe shoes against the brick wall of the Walter Carsen Centre to soften them up?
The last Jewel to top Balanchine’s masterpiece was Diamonds-danced beautifully and most seriously by Jennifer Fournier as guest artist in residence for the NBoC. Miss Fournier, a former principal of the National, was fortunate enough to dance for the Suzanne Farrell Dance Company after taking time off to have a baby. Though Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 calls for cool classicism, this reviewer thought Miss Fournier was a little too cool. A little smile and carefree spirit wouldn’t rub any shine off that diamond.
If you’re looking for a romantic escape to Paris (Emeralds), New York (Rubies), and St. Petersburg (Diamonds): Trip the light fantastic to the Hummingbird Centre for Jewels! Your orbs will be treated to new costumes and, unlike the over-hyped Tristan and Isolde, Jewels actually gives you a reason to ‘Come to the Ballet!’ Jewels might even inspire you enough to come twice!!
Performance of Dancers: 22/25. Choreography: 24/25. Costumes, Sets, and Lighting: 17/20. Ballet Magic: 19/20. Music: 10/10. Rating: 92/100.
FYI: As Paquita mentioned, Jewels has one more performance left: May 13. All tickets go for $25 and $45. If you need more incentive, Heather Ogden will be performing!
Posted 13 May 2003 - 05:33 PM
Dancing daughter and I saw the performance at the Sunday Matinee. While we enjoyed it, I don't think we were quite as enthusiastic as you...but then casting was somewhat different.
Ryan Boorne danced in Emeralds...perhaps it wasn't the best role for him...but daughter noticed his Supermodel girlfriend in the audience and was duly star-struck (we hear wedding bells are coming soon)....
Still on the Emerald theme, we were delighted to see Julie Hay in such a nice role...we are big fans of hers!
We loved Rubies, and so did everyone else in the audience I think. There were audible gasps when the curtain went up.
Diamonds was also quite lovely, and I am still amazed at the genius of Balanchine combining and juxtaposing the music and choreography the way he did.
I was one of the recipients of a letter taped to my seat upon arrival, as I have yet to renew my subscription. What an interesting way to get one's attention....hmm.
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