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Jewels: Podcast, Casting, and Reviews


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#16 Helene

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 02:44 PM

It would be tempting to think that Peter Boal's only input into Jewels was to ask the Balanchine Foundation to appoint a stager, and that everything else was serendipity -- the choice of Elyse Borne, former NYCB soloist and Ballet Mistress for Miami City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, to stage -- or fate; almost every major role in the program was danced by someone who was born to dance it: Louise Nadeau and Christophe Maraval in the Verdy/Ludlow roles, Jonathan Poretta (Villella's) and Ariana Lallone (Neary's), Patricia Barker in Farrell's. If Kaori Nakamura wasn't born to the McBride role in Rubies, she's spent the last decade with PNB making herself into that dancer.

Verdy's role is often described as elusive, with parallels drawn to the mysteriousness of the Maeterlinck character Melisande; some of the music includes selections from Faure's "Pelleas et Melisande." The only way I've ever found the role elusive is when the dancer finds it elusive. On the other hand, after years of watching Calegari, Fugate, and Alexoupoulos tackle Mimi Paul's role, I didn't understand this role one bit, or why it was there except to present an opportunity for Mimi Paul. Last night Noelani Pantastico danced the role, and for the first time it fit organically into the ballet, and the allusion to Melisande was clear.

I think the key to Nadeau's performance was the solo: perhaps we might not know everything about this woman, but Nadeau invoked a gracious person with a rich inner life. Pantastico's first entrance is immediately after this great solo, for a solo of her own, which in itself is a major challenge, since Nadeau and Maraval rightly dominate the long opening movement. In it she showed a variety of mood that was breathtaking. It wasn't programmatic like the opera or play, but captured a Melisande-like emotional palette, the sadder, more-resigned parts of which she conveyed in the second pas de deux, where she was beautifully partnered by Jeffrey Stanton.

The two back-to-back solos brought me back to last month's The Sleeping Beauty, because one of the most remarkable things about the three Auroras I saw was that each one danced the solos with purpose and dramatic arc beyond the technical, despite very different interpretations of them. The same magic was apparent last night in Emeralds.

It was brilliant of Boal to have cast Mara Vinson and Maria Chapman along with Benjamin Griffiths in the pas de trois. They will assume the lead roles on Saturday afternoon, and while I expect Chapman's performance to be different than Pantastico's, there was already a dramatic quality in the mini-solo in the pas de trois and especially in the finale to "Death of Melisande" that bodes well for Saturday (and next Friday and Sunday matinee).

Rubies burst onstage with a driving force that did not quit, and it's hard to know where to begin. Each section topped the next. The pas de deux between Nakamura and Porretta was sparkling; as she showed in Nine Sinatra Songs, Nakamura can give as good as she gets, although this was a friendly, joyous relationship. It takes quite a dancer to lose not an ounce of presence when Porretta is dancing a role with such energy and explosiveness, not to mention humor and timing. Equally dynamic were Lallone and the four men. Lallone stature seemed to increase as they moved her limbs, gaining energy and strength from their participation. We are so lucky to have Dianne Chilgren as the piano soloist.

Diamonds was majestic, and Barker sang in the pas de deux. It was great, too, to see her for the first time in the third movement variations and finale, matching virtuosity with Milov, who had all of the big moves in his variations. It was a gift to have a quartet of demi-soloists including Vinson, Korbes, Chapman, and Lowenberg, who fit right in. And to have a return appearance by Oleg Gorboulev in the corps. Peter Boal said in the post-performance Q&A that he had retired because of a serious knee injury, but has been attending class recently post-rehab, and was happily recruited. Seven Professional Division students also enhanced the corps of Emeralds and Diamonds.

The flowers presented to the female leads matched the colors of the ballets, which was a lovely touch.

A few notes from the Q&A:

Porretta spoke about having had learned Rubies from Colleen Neary when he guested at Oregon Ballet Theatre, Boal, who had also danced Villella's role, and Elyse Borne, who was assigned by the Foundation to do the staging. He said that while much was the same in all three versions, there were differences, and Borne always went back to the original version. Boal explained how some things evolved from dancer to dancer, and how Borne brought them back to the original, and noted that this was an exception, just like Russell's stagings, because the Foundation usually insists on later versions through its repetiteurs.

Boal also spoke of Borne's 13-day, morning to 7pm schedule in which she set all three ballets on the Company, and how she remained calm and patient all day long, day after day. At the end of the curtain calls, Patricia Barker grabbed Elyse Borne and brought her onstage, where, dressed in head-to-toe black in contrast to the dancers clad in white, she took a bow and was given her own bouquet.

To questions about promotions and who was coming and going, Boal said there would be some promotions at the beginning of next season, and that the only dancer leaving the company was Nicholas Ade, who is becoming Principal of the school at the Francia Russell Center in Bellevue (East Side School). Ade's final performance is next Sunday, 11 June at 1pm. He will be featured in the Emeralds pas de trois.

One of the audience members suggested a "Where Are They Now?" feature, so that we could keep up with dancers who leave the Company. Someone mentioned Kimberly Davy (or Davie?) by name, and Porretta said that she was living in San Francisco and had had a baby. Boal said that Melanie Skinner is giving birth soon, and that she teaches at the School.

I have one complaint. I've never liked Karinska's costumes for Jewels, nor the sets by whoever did NYCB's, but I always assumed they were what everyone who performed the ballet were stuck with. One viewing of the Christian Lacroix costumes and sets in the new Paris Opera Ballet video has spoiled me, and I wish they'd be adopted by the Foundation as the standard.



#17 allegrafan

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 05:35 PM

Thank you for the lovely review Helene! At work I kept checking to see if anyone who had attended last night had posted. I am looking forward to reading your impression of the next two performances. Counting down the days until Thursday. :)

Cheers,
Allegrafan

#18 sandik

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 09:28 PM

I have one complaint. I've never liked Karinska's costumes for Jewels, nor the sets by whoever did NYCB's, but I always assumed they were what everyone who performed the ballet were stuck with. One viewing of the Christian Lacroix costumes and sets in the new Paris Opera Ballet video has spoiled me, and I wish they'd be adopted by the Foundation as the standard.


I'm fine with the costumes for Diamonds (especially the champagne color for the soloists and corps), and the women in Emeralds, but the men's costumes in Emeralds and Rubies make them look short, and the gathers at the tops of the sleeves make their shoulders look hunched even when they're not.

And the green light on the scrim in Emeralds matches those mints that everyone used to serve at wedding receptions.

#19 Helene

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 11:27 PM

allegrafan, you are in for an incredible treat: tonight in Emeralds, for a little over 30 minutes, in nanospot in the galaxy, there was a fourth dimension. Imler and Bold were magic in Diamonds, and the same Principals are cast in these ballets for 8 June.

Carla Körbes danced the Verdy role. She's like a pearl or an opal, with a translucent quality and a sheen. I can't do justice to her in words, so I am going to reply upon Tobi Tobias', quoted by drb back in December:

When the Balanchine Foundation videotapes Violette Verdy coaching the role she created so memorably in the “Emeralds” section of Jewels, Körbes (ably supported by James Fayette) learns the pas de deux from scratch. Within minutes of having been instructed in the steps and partnering, she’s dancing as if the choreography belonged to her, releasing herself into the yearning, evocative phrases of the Fauré score so that the music seems to surround her like an invisible veil of perfume. Towards the end of the session, Verdy says to Körbes, “I don’t see dancers like you too often. How old are you?” “Twenty-two,” Körbes tells her. Verdy: “When it happens, it’s going to be magnificent.”

It's happened.

There's been so much dancing in the first two nights of Jewels where the precedents are visible in the interpretations of these roles. For Nadeau, it was the prism of the luminous performance she gave in the second movement of Symphony in C. For Barker it was not only specific roles like Odette, but the way in which she's carried premieres for the Company and has been its standard, culminating in Diamonds. For Imler, it was Odette and Aurora and Le Corsaire and Paquita. Perhaps the most illuminating were the two dancers who've performed Mimi Paul's role in Emeralds: for Pantastico, the doomed and constricted heroines of Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake, compared to Ariana Lallone's portrayal tonight. In it there were glimpses from the most unlikely combinations of places: Lilac Fairy and Emilia, Choleric and Peacock, as well as the beautiful Liebeslieder from the tribute to Russell and Stowell. It is rare to see Lallone swoon into the arms of a partner; she's not usually cast that way, and this was a precious glimpse into another side of her. Karel Cruz partnered another senior ballerina with grace and elegance. Casey Herd was an ardent partner to Körbes.

In the pas de trois, Jodie Thomas and Rachel Foster joined Benjamin Griffiths. Emeralds was where I expected to find Jodie Thomas, and I'm looking forward to hearing how she dances the lead in Rubies -- not where I expected to find her -- next Thursday, because Boal's instincts have been dead on.

Noelani Pantastico and Olivier Wevers made their debuts tonight in Rubies, with Lindsi Dec making hers in the "tall girl" role. I've watched this ballet for decades, and while I always knew it was supposed to be kinda sexy, I never really felt it until tonight. Pantastico has a real sensuous quality in the role. Wevers, who is taller and longer-legged (or appears to be) than Villella, Soto, Cook and Stewart, Gibson and Porretta in Seattle, and he's a bit more muscled than Woetzel. His dancing isn't as explosive as the others, but he has an energy about him that makes him very magnetic, and the pairing was dynamite.

Dec made a splendid debut. She's got long, gorgeous legs, and she made the most of them in this role. Although she didn't seem at all subdued in the opening, I noticed that in the repeat, her movement was amplified. She mentioned in the Q&A -- before Boal got there, and she was left alone with us -- that she was nervous at first. She was also asked what it was like when the four men moved around her legs. She said that the men were great, and that she put her trust in them. The four tonight were Kiyon Gaines, Taureen Green, Barry Kerollis -- Old Fashioned, it was a great role for him -- and James Moore. The dance with the four men crackled.

Carrie Imler's performance in Diamonds makes me yearn to see her Raymonda. The only coolness in her dancing is how seemingly without preparation or strain she performs the most difficult technical feats. But in her relationship to her partner, she is the opposite, acknowledging him (Batkhurel Bold) after each return in the pas de deux, and treating him graciously in the finale. She's like a waterfall made of cream.

Tonight's audience may have been the most enthusiastic Friday night audience I've ever seen. (And I used to have a Friday night subscription.) Many shouts and lots of people standing.

More Q&A notes:

Once again asked about promotions, this time Boal said "a couple. Not too many." (sob) Besides budgetary concerns he also talked about how in the principal ranks, age is a factor, because principals stay.

When asked about her training, Dec said that she didn't originally like ballet, and preferred jazz and tap and competing. When she was 11 or 12, she met her teacher and studied with her in DC, until she attended the Professional Division at PNB for two years and was asked to join the company. She also said that when she was 13, her mother took her to see Jewels at Miami City Ballet, and that when she saw the "tall girl" part in Rubies, she wanted to do that role. Boal laughed and said she didn't even ask to do it. Other favorites she mentioned were The Bridge and Peacock in Nutcracker.

Because of budget, PNB made only the principal costumes in Emeralds and Diamonds -- they already owned the costumes for Rubies -- and rented the rest from Cincinnati, because Miami City Ballet's dancers were shorter in general. He said that Jewels will be back, and the plan is to construct the rest at that time.

More kudos for Borne. Boal said that she knew every part in her head, and taught them all.

A woman in the audience said that she was an SAB student when the work premiered, and she noted how well-rehearsed the company was; there were other compliments on this topic as well.

#20 Helene

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 04:02 PM

With the exception of Noelani Pantastico’s and Olivier Wevers’ reprisal of their roles in Rubies – new cast of Thomas and Yin debut Thursday – all of the Principal roles were cast anew for the Saturday matinee.

After their debuts in the pas de trois on Opening Night, Mara Vinson assumed the Verdy role, partnered by Lucien Postlewaite, and Maria Chapman danced Paul’s, partnered by Stanko Milov. Vinson’s dancing in the opening and the solo was lovely, particularly her port de bras, but in the pas de deux, she brought her performance to a new level: with full decorum, she and Postlewaite danced the most passionate version of the pas I think I’ve ever seen. Postlewaite has great romantic presence as a partner. Chapman fulfilled all the promise she showed in the pas de trois, with a dusky, soulful quality. The romantic length tulle tutu is the perfect length to showcase her beautiful and expressive feet, and she has the mature quality to be a great match with Stanko Milov.

Emeralds in general has a mysterious, unknowable quality to it, and so many performances have been in the vein of the liquid, green flow of the jewel. In the pas de trois Chalnessa Eames reminded us that an emerald is also a faceted brilliant. (She rocked.) Lesley Rausch didn’t have the same burst of clarity, but gave an airier interpretation, which nicely complemented Eames'. When I heard that Jewels was on the season schedule, on my casting “wish list” was Nicholas Ade in the pas de trois. Having learned in this year's Q&A’s that he was retiring due to an injured Achilles tendon, I thought that might be asking too much, but it was a wonderful surprise to see him cast and a great privilege to see him dance the role. He has such presence.

Pantastico and Wevers gave a smoother rendition of the main couple in Rubies, and while I enjoyed both performances immensely, I thought the change made it that much better. Imler danced the “tall girl” role, and she was right at home. She isn’t a giant size-wise, but it is tailor-made for her in every other respect, and she gave it command and a devilish sense of fun.

Körbes made her debut in Diamonds, partnered by understated Jeffrey Stanton. She is boneless, and she leaves the impression that she is channeling the music. I think she hears differently. Without imposing Swan Lake on this ballet, she showed that there is an amazing Odette waiting. This time I can’t rely upon Tobi Tobias to describe her, but I can say that any New Yorker who is mobile and can afford the trip the next time Jewels is programmed – and Boal said it would be soon – needs to get on a plane and see for him or herself. Her sheer beauty is something you need to see, and at the same time, you can immerse yourself in the riches of this Company, sadly, after 2006-7 sans Barker and Ade, and compare the marvels of Imler, too, in Diamonds. Three perfect casts in Emeralds and Diamonds and two in Rubies (so far), all unique.

Moira Macdonald in the Seattle Times was so right to give recognition to five six of the women in the corps who danced in all three ballets, night after night. Kudos too, to the men who dance Rubies and Diamonds back to back.

Though PNB's stars glittered brightly, special recognition should be given to the unsung heroes of the evening: corps de ballet members Jessika Anspach, Kari Brunson, Rebecca Johnston, Stacy Lowenberg, Lesley Rausch and Kara Zimmerman, who danced in all three "Jewels" segments Thursday night — a ballet marathon, with effortless grace.



Other notes:

Counter-intuitively, the highly ornamented costumes for Emeralds and Rubies looked better to me the closer I got to them, this time about 2/3 back in Gallery Upper. (I saw the other two from the second-to-last row of the Main Floor and back of Gallery Upper, which is virtually Dress Circle far side.) The Diamonds costumes looked better farther back, and they are the least ornamented. (Odd.) But sandik is right – the champagne top layer of the tutus is quite beautiful.

Jordan Pacitti and Nicholas Ade were the two guest in the post-performance Q&A, and Ade told us his daughter was born towards the end of May. (Many congratulations to him and his wife, former PNB dancer Paige Parks.)

When asked how they survived dancing so much in the program, Pacitti responded, “We have great therapists.” Ade looked at him and said, “physical therapists.” Pacitti added, “That, too.” (☺)

Pacitti also spoke about Elyse Borne’s kindness, and how if there was an evening (5-7) rehearsal for the women, and they accomplished what they needed to in less time, she would end rehearsal early.

Peter Boal said that with 8 performances he likes to have four casts, but said that time and injuries sometimes make that not possible. I suspect that next times, Jewels will have more casts, because most of the dancers will know their roles coming into the rehearsal period. (I hope that's not just wishful thinking, because I have a few potential fourth-cast members on my wish list.)

Boal said that he’s gotten comments from subscribers that if they attend performance A, they’ll see corps members and soloists, not the principal dancers. He noted that it was a great opportunity to see younger dancers, and that when, for example, Carla Körbes is a principal, you could say that you saw her first Diamonds. No kidding, one of the most auspicious debuts I’ve seen over several decades, another being her first performance in Emeralds, not to mention Vinson’s debut in the same role.

In that vein, on Friday night, the people sitting behind me expressed disappointment at the beginning of the night that Barker was not dancing in Diamonds. But they were the first ones in my section to jump out of their seats, cheering loudly, and practically jumping up and down for Carrie Imler.

#21 drb

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 06:30 PM

Re your remarks about Carla Korbes in Diamonds:

...one of the most auspicious debuts I’ve seen over several decades, another being her first performance in Emeralds

Now you know why I've been in mourning...

#22 allegrafan

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 07:24 PM

Thanks Helene for two more wonderful reviews. The richness of your reviews has left me satisfied. I CAN wait until Thursday. I woke up this morning, turned to my husband, and said "it's almost Thursday!" The return of the sun and looking forward to the ballet has put me in a very good mood...especially for a Monday.


Helene, have a safe trip to your family wedding.


Cheers,
Allegrafan

#23 SandyMcKean

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 06:04 PM

Like Helene I saw Jewels 3 times. Unfortunately I have to leave town this week so I had to see them all bunched together altho I managed to see all 3 casts. The first was the dress rehearsal, the 2nd was Friday nite last week, the 3rd this last Sat Matinee.

I am practically freaking out I'm having such a good time with PNB these days. It's always been a good company, great even (well for the last 10 years anyway in my estimation), but now with the injection of new spirit and the Weltanschauung that Peter Boal brings (not to mention his NY connections), as well as my feeling that the dancers themselves have upped their level to where they knew-not they could go, PBN is fully mature and a player on the world stage as perhaps they were always destined to be (thank you Francia and Kent for raising our baby so well).

OK, OK, so I tend to get carried away. So be it.

I might eventually feel confident enough around here to write a true review of what I see (2006-2007 season maybe?), but for now all I can seem to muster is some disjointed, but heart felt impressions:

- Jewels is a magnificent ballet. I'd seen Rubies, but not Emeralds or Diamonds. I loved the French/American/Russian history lesson as told by, not a master, but by THE master. In some strange magical way it *IS* a coherent full length ballet while at the same time giving the variety and excitement of a mixed bill evening.

- Oh, are we lucky in Seattle or what??????? What talent right down to the very back row of the corps. Corps members taking soloist/principal roles, and not only doing them well, but creating "presence". What a thrill to see Lindsi Dec play the "tall" girl in Rubies. She nailed it, or at least so close that there is no question about her future. She isn't quite up to Ariana yet, but she brings such playfulness and sexiness and whimsy that she creates character up there, not just fine dance. To be there for Carla Korbes debut in Diamonds will not be forgotten. She *IS* a principal whether or not the rumors of her soon-to-be promotion happens or not. She commands.

- Then there is my Carrie Imler. I find her perfect. I wish she were a bit taller and thinner (I'll be so bold as to say I'll bet she does too), but my God what a magnificent Principal dancer. Is there ANYTHING she can't do brilliantly? For me she combines perfect technique with superb feeling and grace, and finally what really sets her apart in my mind is to those perfections she adds fabulous acting. No one in the company, for me, has all of these qualities like Carrie Imler. If I can see no one else, I want to see her. On Saturday I got what is for me a dream cast in Rubies: Neolani Pantasico, Olivier Wevers and Carrie Imler (as a not so tall "tall" girl"). I had seen Pantasico and Wevers on Friday nite too. That nite I was one of those Helene spoke of that stood shouting myself silly seeing Pantasico for the first time in that role. She has totally stolen my heart lately. I fall in love with her every time I see her now since Sleeping Beauty. Then you add Imler to that pair. WOW. I expect command from Imler, but to see at the same time, on the same stage, the command of stage presence and position that Pantasico delivered was a dream. My only problem was continually finding that my eyes would stick to Lesley Rausch in the corps. I predict big things for Lesley. One of these days she is going to push aside all of my other favorites. She has practically done that already.

- The demi pairs (is that what you call them?) in Diamonds were so "there". I could have eliminated all the principal roles and still enjoyed Diamonds by just watching the demis. They took such pride in what they were doing. I think they also took your eye to the corps in Diamonds because the principals of Imler, Korbes, and Barker were so good, then so were these demi roles, surely the corps can't live up to that, can it? Oh yes, it can. The grand polonaise at the end built and built like some sort of elegant steam roller :beg: until I could hardly stand it any longer. Thank God we could all let go of that emotion with our shouts and cheers as the curtain fell.

- I've left the men out....(OK, OK so it's the women that send me....they always have since that first girlfriend :)). I'm running out of gas here, but just to say something. Jeffrey Stanton is still the most accurate and lyrical partner in the company for my money. He may be losing some of his athleticism but I have to applaud Boal for choosing Stanton to partner Korbes in her Diamonds debut. No one in the company could have done it better. As for the leaps and other pyrotechnics: that now belongs to Batkhurel Bold. He may have the expression of a robot, but for nailing the spectacular solo circumnavigation of the stage no one can touch him. And Wevers, what fluidity, what grace, what an understanding of modern movement.......is he made of rubber or what?

I've only said a third of what I'd like, but I've worn myself out on this first attempt. (I can see one thing, this is best done the night of the performance or with coffee the very next morning :))

-

#24 Helene

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 06:59 PM

I am so glad you posted, even if you wore yourself out :beg:

After three in a row in "Jewels" with PNB, and then Agon, La Sonnambula, and Theme and Variations by Ballet Arizona yesterday afternoon, I was on such a Balanchine high that I can only imagine that this is what heroin is like. Of course, in the drug-like-altered-state, I lost track of when I needed to be at the evening performance and missed one of the my all-time favorites, Divertimento No. 15. What a way to kill a buzz.

#25 Helene

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 04:01 PM

I've moved drb's post with a link to Laura Jacob's "Balanchine's Castles" to a thread of its own

http://ballettalk.in...showtopic=22611

because it is rich in discussion points. Thank you, drb!

#26 Helene

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 04:32 PM

I know it's been a month, but did anyone see any of the performances with Jodie Thomas and Le Yin in Rubies? They were teamed with all three "tall" girls -- Dec, Imler, and Lallone -- in the ballet, and with all three casts of Emeralds and Diamonds.

If so, please do tell :) :clapping:


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