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Helene

Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

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Video clip of the finale of "Diamonds" with Lesley Rausch and Karel Cruz:

 

 

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Gosh, those are very large tiaras. I'm not sure I care for the picture frame idea. It shrinks the space artificially, and I can imagine how it could make jumps and lifts appear lower than they really are.

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18 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

Gosh, those are very large tiaras. I'm not sure I care for the picture frame idea. It shrinks the space artificially, and I can imagine how it could make jumps and lifts appear lower than they really are.

Agree completely, volcanohunter--the last thing we need is a set dwarfing jumps and lifts, as hard as dancers work.  My instant reaction to the frame in this clip was 'NO.'  The costumes seem to be lovely, especially those for Emeralds, and the different tiaras are interesting.

Rausch looks ravishing here--wish I could see her in the role.

Edited by jsmu

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Reviews of the first three performances, please? Helene? sandik? seattle_dancer?

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A quick shout-out to Elle Macy.......you were dazzling in your Rubies "tall girl" debut in the Sept 23 matinee performance. I've been watching you for a while now (Waiting at the Station, Emergence, Little Mortal Jump, or even just in the back of the corps someplace :wink:), and the thrills just keep on coming. You dance with such energy, with such commitment, with such pure joy.....sometimes I just can't tell which is you moving and which is the music -- you swim in the music.  However you decided to make dance your life's work, you chose well.

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Looks like next Thursday will be big fun all around!  Very glad to see all those debuts in Emeralds.

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"Emeralds" marked the return of Lucien Postlewaite and the renewal of Postlewaite's partnership with Noelani Pantastico in the Ludlow/Verdy roles.  Their ease and simpatico were apparent in her debut in this role. William Lin-Yee switched to the Moncion role, partnering Sarah Ricard Orza.  When Orza dances Mimi Paul's role, it's as if she's inventing it on the spot.  She makes the middle section of the ABA-structured solo continuous and integrated.  On Saturday night, Elizabeth Murphy got a new partner in Steven Loch -- he had partnered Leah Merchant in the last run; she'll dance with Joshua Grant second weekend -- and Lindsi Dec reprised the Paul role, partnered by Karel Cruz. 

 

Temperamentally there was a marked contrast between the two casts of women:  Pantastico (dramatic) and Orza (thoughtful) had a more serious cast, while Murphy and Dec were sunnier.  I'd never seen Verdy dance except in clips, but she describes a delight in the solo that Murphy captured, and in the "will-she/won't she" pas de deux, less 3rd couple "In the Night" than a realization of surrender.  There's also a marked temperamental contrast between the first two soloists in the pas de trois and the second woman's solo: all but that solo are upbeat and shiny, while the solo is more dramatic.  In the first cast in that solo, Leta Biasucci was the bridge between Pantastico and Ricard Orza, while Leah Merchant in the Murphy/Dec cast was a different perfume, one I look forward to seeing in the Verdy role this weekend.

 

There were 2.5 principal casts reprising their roles in "Rubies" and three Tall Girl soloists, with debuts by Elle Macy and Sarah Pasch.   James Moore partnered both Leta Biasucci (matinee) and Angelica Generosa (evening), both pairings a contrast to Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths on Opening Night with Dec as Tall Girl in a role she owns.   There are two ways to approach the central couple, and I've seen the one where the woman is more audience-focused and on her own trajectory work well, but while Foster and Griffiths have paired successfully in the past, that approach here seemed like a series of near misses.  Generosa had more of a connection with James Moore, but it was Leta Biasucci's chemistry with Moore, and the way they were attuned to each other in this joint romp that made their performance a highlight of the weekend.  They really fit together like a glove, yet in a dynamic, competitive relationship.

 

In my experience, I've seen great couples, great Tall Girls, great each, but it's when all three share a common energy that the performance transcends the sum of the parts, and that happened on Saturday afternoon with Elle Macy's debut as Tall Girl, with Biasucci and Moore.  In itself Macy's performance would have been a knockout, but with Biasucci and Moore, it was like family.

 

I will state my bias outright:  the less programmatic  "Diamonds" is, the more I like it.  For me Farrell is the great exponent of the role because, despite the quotes, there was no recognizable Odette in it: it was echt Farrell, and more stag than swan. This past weekend "Diamonds" looked like the coming attractions for the February "Swan Lake."  (Sarah Ricard Orza makes her debut in the role on Friday, and Laura Tisserand, who danced "Diamonds" and Odette/Odile in the past, is expected back for "Swan Lake.")  But pretty much every non-NYCB dancer (and some of those) I've ever seen goes in this direction in the pas de deux to some extent.  Given that this is the reality, I especially liked Lesley Rausch's performance (with Karel Cruz) because, for the most part, she has a coolness and a clarity to her dancing and more of an independent streak.

 

In a recent interview, Heather Watts described that she originally had "pinkitis" when dancing Dew Drop, and while Elizabeth Murphy's (debut) performance was lovely, and she looked wonderful with Jerome Tisserand, it was a little pink.  I was hoping for more of the verve she shows in "Little Mortal Jump" and especially in the Maillot "Cinderella", which came out in a beautifully danced Scherzo.   There were lots of fantastic turns and jumps from the men, but what really struck me was when in the lead-up to a jump (assemble?) in one of the solos, Seth Orza did smaller glissade, something in the middle, bigger glissade, then jump, and he made the distinctions between the two glissades each time.  It was a small detail, but it made that phrase so much more dynamic.

 

The corps is in superb shape, and, as usual for me with "Jewels," they star in my ear worm:  I can't get the opening music of "Diamonds" out of my head!

 

I look forward to more performances -- repeats and debuts -- this weekend.

 

 

 

 

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In my experience, I've seen great couples, great Tall Girls, great each, but it's when all three share a common energy that the performance transcends the sum of the parts, and that happened on Saturday afternoon with Elle Macy's debut as Tall Girl, with Biasucci and Moore.  In itself Macy's performance would have been a knockout, but with Biasucci and Moore, it was like family.

 

Nicely said Helene.......I couldn't agree more.

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Pointe Magazine tweeted, and PNB re-tweeted this great photo of Noelani Pantastico in her "Emeralds" costume for tututuesday -- you can see the panels, going from dark (sides) to lighter (center), the bodice ribbing, the edging on the bodice, the various colors of tulle in the skirt, and, of course, the jewels on the bodice and the tiara:

 

Also in one of the Q&A's on Saturday, Peter Boal said that he asked Jerome Kaplan if he would consider pink tights and shoes for the corps in "Diamonds," so they wouldn't have to change them from ballet to ballet, and I hadn't even realized they weren't wearing white tights and shoes:  the pink is perfect for the tutus, which have pink underlayers.

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On 9/24/2017 at 8:13 PM, jsmu said:

Agree completely, volcanohunter--the last thing we need is a set dwarfing jumps and lifts, as hard as dancers work.  My instant reaction to the frame in this clip was 'NO.'  The costumes seem to be lovely, especially those for Emeralds, and the different tiaras are interesting.

Rausch looks ravishing here--wish I could see her in the role.

 

Based on the "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" clips from the current production linked here, I'm in agreement with both of you.  (Not charmed by the tiaras, but encouraged by the comment about how the skirts flow.  Costumes must move well.) 

 

Moreover, the movement in both clips keeps stopping in poses and then starts again.  Not what I remember from the '70s (and prefer), either, especially in the "Diamonds" performances propelled by Robert Irving's rather stiff and fast tempos, or in Hugo Fiorato's still brisk but more wonderful rubato approach, as well as in some recent ones, notably Villella's MCB.  (Haven't seen any of the PNB performances.  Yet.  Nothing quite like dancers on stage, and I'm looking forward to Rausch and Dec, especially.)  What's taking in authentic Balanchine is how the poses flash by, vividly visible, in the flow, in what I think Alexandra called the "through-line".

Edited by Jack Reed

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9 hours ago, Helene said:

...

Given that this is the reality, I especially liked Lesley Rausch's performance (with Karel Cruz) because, for the most part, she has a coolness and a clarity to her dancing and more of an independent streak.

...

 

The "Diamonds" pas in particular is more one of an independent being and her admirer than your typical romantic, win-her-over pas; see where she proceeds across, downstage, alone, while he runs across upstage with excited little jumps, swinging one raised hand in salutation or exclamation.  And Farrell was usually her cool, expansive self in this, showing us how Mr. B. heard Tchaikovsky's cool, spacious sound.  So, yes, a ballerina today can get this quality from the choreography, and it's a tribute to Rausch and an important thing to observe and to report that she found it and showed it, too. 

 

(The ending is played a little differently different times; I've seen the same dancers - Illeana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, in the MCB of old - show us how she lets him kiss her hand, or, another time, how she is surprised when, kneeling, he takes it - but the point is that neither way is it ever a warm embrace, never near.  He may warm to her, but her?  Very cool.)   

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I'm one of those people who sees Swan Lake references in the Diamonds duets, from the first oblique approach onwards, but one place that I think we overlap in our view is a sense that the woman is independent, even in the supported phrases.  Of the three women we saw last weekend, I think that Rausch gets the closest to that sense of self-reliance, but I missed the moments of wildness that we've seen from Patricia Barker and Carrie Imler, where they tip their heads back as they turn in arabesque, as if they were looking at the sky.

 

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In the traditional SL, frightened though she is at first, doesn't she does eventually submit in confidence to his embrace?  I remember him behind her but both face us at the end of the pas, the more for her expression to move us.  He wins that confidence from her; in "Diamonds" she remains remote in tone, if not so much in her place on stage.

 

Edited by Jack Reed

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In Swan Lake, we do see a gradual shift in their relationship, from hesitation to capitulation, which isn't really mirrored in Diamonds.  But to my eye there are still references, especially when the woman dances with real abandon.

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The references are there, but in Farrell's performances, I see her give them a nod and go on, and I prefer this to when the dots are connected.  He already did that in his one-act Swan Lake, and I don't think he was replicating that here.

 

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This Facebook post shows the details on the back of the "Diamonds" corps costumes:

 

 

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And a Rubies video, featuring Lindsi Dec as "Tall Girl" in the beginning of the final movement (first man in frame-L-Ezra Thomson, second-R-Steven Loch, then Ryan Cardea left of Thomson and Price Suddarth right of Loch):

 

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Often when I remember something as being very great, I fear that a repeat won't live up to my memory.  Not so last night with Leah Merchant in the Verdy role in "Emeralds," one of the highlights of the last run of "Jewels" and that season.  She is ravishing in the role with luxuriant arms, radiance, graciousness, and sweep.  She and Joshua Grant always look fantastic together, and in this new partnership in these roles, last night was no exception.

 

The night included a series of fine debuts, from Emma Love Suddarth and Miles Pertl as the Paul/Moncion couple, and Madison Taylor, Elle Murphy, and Dylan Wald in the Pas de Trois.  Taylor has similar qualities to Merchant, almost sisterly, and with a lushness of her own.  Elle Macy is dancing huge: if this were the Met and not McCaw Hall, you would be able to see her vividly in the Family Circle.  (We saw her from the Second Tier.)  Dylan Wald's elegance in this and the finale was courtly and evocative of the era.

 

It was a wonderfully tempered cast, too, all part of a whole.   Maybe the planets were aligned and maybe it was deliberate, but arms and epaulement were prominent among this set of dancers.  The same cast performs "Emeralds" tonight; "Rubies" features Cecilia Iliesiu's PNB debut as Tall Girl in "Rubies," and Sarah Ricard Orza's and William Lin-Yee's debuts in "Diamonds."

 

I may sneak up to the Second Tier again this weekend for "Diamonds" especially:  the corps is dancing beautifully, and watching the patterns resolve clearly, then dissolve and reform is a joy.

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"Emeralds" seemed imbued with much life by everyone last night; it looked as native to these dancers as it looks alien to the POB dancers, in their well-shot video.  (Even if the Parisians are arguably more accomplished in other ways.)  But I missed the gravity and stillness, the trance-like mystery of that "walking" duet, originated by Paul and Moncion.   Similarly "Diamonds."  Yes: I like these Seattle dancers better than the Paris ones, in this.

 

But "Rubies" is  more - idiosyncratic?  So some bits looked tentative, even led by an experienced cast, though most of it looked enlivened, as "Emeralds" had.  A ballet constructed of startling moments, "Rubies" has often been shown in recent years with the most startling one replaced by a dead moment.  A real lapse:

 

It's at that point in the dance of "the tall girl" with her four boys when we hear the opening music again, and each boy rushes to her and grabs a wrist or an ankle.   They manipulate her through a series of arabesques until the girl looks out at us from the group so that we see her face - originally, upside down!  For years she has looked upstage, showing us the back of her head - for example, in that POB video - with no effect, but now here once again, the original startling effect of this moment is restored.  Another of PNB's efforts pays off.

 

As for the new settings, having seen them on stage, I agree more strongly with volcanohunter and jsmu.   And then some:  The huge picture frame doesn't just diminish some of the movement, it dwarfs the cast; and the touches of pink in the costumes softens the cold, hard dazzle of "Diamonds."  The blank black backdrop for "Rubies" doesn't have this problem, though it doesn't set the ballet off, either, and the starry night-sky backdrop for "Emeralds" just seems odd, oddly prosaic:  Stars, not jewels?  Not settings for jewels?

        

Edited by Jack Reed

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My post just above Helene's applies to Thursday evening's performance (September 28th); here's what I thought after a return visit on the 29th:

 

Much joy in watching Friday evening's performance.  The "Emeralds" cast was the same, so I can't easily account for why it was so much better an experience than Thursday, not that there was anything wrong with that.  They'd had a day for more studio time, or it might have been me or my seat - I was smack on the center line in Row N, and being smack in the center at "Emeralds" does a lot for me , but Merchant and her companions were - how shall I say? - populating a calm but vibrant world, inhabiting the space of Faure's steady, even sounds.

 

An odd way to put it?  Well, the man, Balanchine, himself remarks somewhere in the old 2-hour PBS documentary about him that, "The dancers are the fish!  And the music is the a-quar-i-um!"  I think it's a good metaphor in general for his kind of ballet, but especially for this one.   Many people saw it originally as connoting "a world beneath the sea".

 

However you put it, the visible movement ebbed and flowed within the audible last night, until the pas de trois, where there were a few of those minor instants of rest, stopping the flow, as though they had to give their music an instant to begin again.

 

"Rubies" was led creditably by Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths, but "Rubies" continues to be something of a sometime thing here, though Cecilia Iliesiu was outstanding as "the tall girl" and well-liked by the audience.  Friday's pianist was Christina Siemens, whom I thought gave her part more eloquent inflection than Allan Dameron had on Thursday (though not reaching the level of wit heard in the four or so recordings I've heard with the composer's participation).

 

In "Diamonds" Sarah Ricard Orza made a fine debut, looking just a bit strained to hold her dance together by the slow tempos of the pas de deux  and a little hard pressed by Emil de Cou's good, brisk tempo in the scherzo which follows it, as a kind of coda - but here, she seemed determined to show us clearly and fully, in the flow, everything we heard, no blurring or short cuts, and I loved her for it.

 

(In the conversations in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall which followed, Orza said that dancing in slow tempo is more challenging because it's harder to maintain control.)

Edited by Jack Reed

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I asked because of the "Rubies" cast you saw on Thursday night, only Moore could be considered experienced:  Sarah Pasch made her debut as Tall Girl last weekend, as did the male quartet, and Angelica Generosa debuted in 2014.  I don't know if she even had more than one in that run, and she had one last weekend.

 

From where I was sitting in First Tier, I didn't see much of a strain from Orza in the pas de deux.  I thought she and William Lin-Yee were magnificent last night, and if I hadn't known, I never would have guessed that this was a debut.   She had some wonderful individuality in her phrasing and a rhythmic clarity to her dancing, as if she there was a compulsion to move to that place or to change direction at that moment.  The Scherzo pace was brisk, but she did take it on without cutting corners.  (I don't know how the ballerina can feel her legs after that pas de deux, even with a later entrance into Scherzo.)  In the Q&A afterwards, she said that she and Pantastico call it the "'I'm not worthy' pas de deux."  She also said that she almost retired after having her daughter.  Whatever it cost her to continue, we are privileged that she made the decision she did to return.

 

I found Foster vivid in "Rubies" last night: whatever disconnect last week was gone.  I thought she danced the role with much wit and clarity.  Iliesiu was superb, and although physically very different than Foster, what they shared was a lack of noise:  they knew how to use the physical equivalent of silence without acting, and they moved without effort or fuss.  

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So this was Generosa's third "Rubies"?  Okay, but I still  think there are tentative moments to be seen across the stage, not just her, in this "Rubies" - as well as lots of moments which have come to themselves, so to speak, and are realized.  Fast-paced and quirky that it is, any cast in this ballet has its work cut out for it to bring it off without fuss.  Maybe three essays at a part are not experience enough in this.

 

There wasn't much strain in Orza's pas to be seen; and listening to her little autobiography after loving what I saw her do, I too was glad that she got herself out of NYCB and found she could have a life in Seattle. 

Edited by Jack Reed

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Saturday evening's cast, largely from opening night, I gather, seemed to me the best of this (second) weekend; Peter Boal, after the show, called it "A-list" himself, acknowledging the large turnout in the lecture hall.

 

The "Emeralds" pas de trois (Biasucci, Generosa, Davis) had the continuous flow I had wanted, but it was Lindsi Dec, the tall girl in "Rubies" - the most interesting dancer I'd seen so far - who, energizing that part, really lifted the evening; and then,   Lesley Rausch in "Diamonds" (with the towering Karel Cruz) brought us her mastery on that elevated plane.  No, more:  "Mastery" might imply it's finished, done, perfect, boring;  with Rausch, it's fully inhabited but inherently unsettled.  It's the quality we talked about above - she's cool and independent, yes, but her prince matters to her, too.  This duality, this tension, shone forth from within this dancer.   

Edited by Jack Reed

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"Moved without effort or fuss". I love this Helene! I was a little farther away from the stage but felt this was precisely what radiated from the stage and for me this is what Balanchine should be. I know that everyone and their neighbor have there own idea of what it should be but when I see it done (going on thirty someodd years now) I am always most taken by the performances are this precisely. I think the wonder of Balanchine isnt so much what he added or embelleshed but what he took away. I find his work so interesting because it is somehow stripped of the superfluous if that makes sense. I think Boal got that as a dancer and he certainly gets it from his dancers here.

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