Reviews of the Royal Ballet in "Jewels."
The Financial Times
As an alternative to – and escape from – the inevitable Nutcracker, the Royal Ballet this year proposes Jewels, Balanchine’s celebration of scores by Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, whose worlds he explores in blissful choreography. So Emeralds evokes fin de siècle sensibilities, Proustian subtleties and shadowed regrets, Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes, all implicit in Fauré’s theatre-music. And hugely difficult it is to bring off. Its heart was originally Balanchine’s French ballerina, Violette Verdy, whom we saw as music personified in elegant dance – and how sadly her spirit and her grace were missing at Tuesday night’s revival, which, save for Laura Morera’s beautiful phrasing and sensibilities, was numb, with Edward Watson wasted in this galère.
Marianela Nuñez, partnered by Thiago Soares, makes that story individual and sublime. In the opening duet, she dances in a state of heightened wonder, broken only by a dawning ripple of sensuality in her arms, and the wilfulness of an arrogantly held arabesque. Then, as the trance breaks, something very rare happens. So radiantly commanding is Nuñez's technique that her performances look genuinely effortless. Dancing Diamonds, it's as though Nuñez has been given the choreography as a very special present; she's simply letting us watch as she opens it.
Not so in Rubies. As the lone amazonian, Zenaida Yanowsky, pro that she is, swiftly banished memories of an unfortunate early stumble backwards, delivering a mighty display of lofty, sexy, devil-may-care insolence. And there was an air of mutual and musical exhilaration about the central couple – Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae – that blazed into the stalls.
The Arts Desk
Emeralds is almost a scent rather than a ballet, a drifting, ephemeral mood of past happiness. It floats gently by, and if you try, as a dancer, to make your mark on it, you have already stepped too heavily. Akane Takada in the pas de trois alone captured the style; Alexander Campbell danced well, although in a four-square Petipa presentation that would have been better left to Diamonds. Otherwise Emeralds was what it too often is, a sort of Presbyterian heaven, where everyone stands around looking refined, but boredom prevails.