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Jewels in Amsterdam

Herman Stevens

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Due to overwhelming popular demand I'll post some of my impressions of the Dutch National Ballet's first full length Jewels production, which I saw on the opening night Sept 8 and on Sept 15.

Rubies has been performed in Amsterdam since 1977 and Diamonds since the mid-eighties. For Emeralds however this was a first. As in most cases Emeralds remained the least succesful ballet, although on the second night there were some big whoops coming from the audience… and then it turned out the slow coda was yet to come.

Ruta Jezerskyte danced Emeralds's Fileuse girl on both nights, with beautiful soft upper body, particularly on the second night, partnered by Cedric Ygnace. The only downside, perhaps, was that the soft upper body wasn't quite contrasted by the hairpin moves that characterize Jewels - "it looks like I'm heading left, but hey, something makes me go right after all".

Larissa Lezhnina was a beautiful Sicilienne girl on the first night, showing that this part is done best by a small, quick dancer, as further evidenced by the non-small, non-quick Anna Seidl on the second night. It was really painful to see how entire parts of the choreography went flat in Seidl's account (earlier this year she was quite dour in Kammermusik, too.)

Rubies was danced by Marisa Lopez and Cedric Ygnace on the first night, with Igone de Jongh as the solo girl. Rubies is not my favorite ballet; I get the feeling Balanchine is parodying himself here (occasionally avant la lettre). However the cast was excellent. De Jongh has been quite successful in a number of Balanchine ballets lately, such as Square Dance and Kammermusik. On the second night the cast was not nearly as powerful. You have to be a bit of an animal to do this right, and it didn't happen. Cedric Ygnace, now that's a ballet animal.

Diamonds. There were three shows with Sofiane Sylve and Charles Askegard. Sylve has been partnered by guest soloists lately, and not all of 'em looked like a great match. The problem with the PDD, as has been amply discussed on BT, is the piece is about Suzanne Farrell, and you can't copy her, and you can't be different. One thing Sylve got right is she didn't act, her entire PDD had a (for lack of better words) passive-compulsive "don't ask don't tell" mood that was not unlike Farrell's MO. Sylve's and Askegard's Scherzo was great (Askegard had clearly been saving himself for this). I would have loved to see Sylve one more time (I got the impression in the finale that there hadn't been too much Amsterdam rehearsal time for the guests from NYC), but on the second night Larissa Lezhnina and Tamas Nagy danced Diamonds, and as wonderful a fit Lezhnina had been in Emeralds, it didn't really work in Diamonds. Sorry, but this is a part for a big girl. Something big and sublime is supposed to happen when she opens her legs in those lifts, or in those swivel turns, and for all her technical finesse this is not something Lezhnina can deliver, unless the entire theater including each and every audience member is shrunk a couple sizes.

I should mention Anu Viheriaranta who stood out in the first-night Diamonds, as one of the four demis, giving character to the final polonaise from start to finish and in the second-night Emeralds pas de trois. This is truly a marvellous dancer, who never just dances the steps, infusing everything she does with character. I would love to see her Fileuse, but I guess she'll only get to do this at the tail-end of the Jewels run due to this company's "we've got this great girl, but no way we're going to show her off" policy.

Isn't it ironic that the best performances had Eastern European dancers in the "French" Emeralds, and French dancers in the "Russian" Diamonds?

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I saw this show too, on september 18th.

Sorry it took me so long to post, I have been busy getting things rolling again with my studies and the absurd amount of dance classes I'm trying to squeeze into my weekly schedule... :blushing:

All in all I thought it was a pretty good evening, while I wasn't really looking forward to it. I don't understand why they chose to add yet another Balanchine to the repertoire, and why this one. Dutch national is facing serious cut backs in the state-financing and this is a very expensive ballet, especially with the ridiculous demands the Balanchine Trust makes! To me it doesn't seem worth the investment. Particularly because they keep saying the Dutch National desperately needs a more mixed audience, and this really doesn't seem to be the way to get it!

I talk to a lot of dance-lovers in their teens, twenties and thirties, of different backgrounds, and the consensus among them is that the Dutch National is too technical and it's repertoire not very exciting. Of course I beg to differ, but I can also see where they are coming from. I think their point was painfully proven when during this evening there was suddenly the distinct sound of snoring coming from someone a few rows in front of me...! :mellow:

So I had (and have) my reservations about this ballet as a whole, but I nevertheless had a good time.

About the performance itself I agree with Herman on many things -for as much as the casts were the same anyway- so I'll just mention the differences.

For one thing, this night had a major display of DNB's new "acquisition" Michele Jimenez as she was the first couple with Andrew Crawford in Emeralds, and the soloist in Rubies.

I thought she was great for Rubies, because she brings a very bright enthusiasm to the stage. Perfect for the spirit of Rubies!

However, in Emeralds I would have preferred to see a more experienced dancer do the piece. I think it would have had more substance.

Also a bit of a downer -though I realise that this kind of thing just happens, and it doesn't necessarily say anything about the dancer- was the part where she was to do an arabesque and let go of her partner's hand, rising up even further. This could have been a prime "Balanchine-ballerina"- moment: looking strong, poised, independent, yet graceful. Sadly she didn't manage to find her balance, so there were only some awkward wobbly moments, and a very short balance. Like I said I know this sort of thing just happens, but it felt like a missed chance.

Anna Seidl danced the other couple with Nicolas Rapaic. I think she's a beautiful dancer, but I sort of have to agree with what Herman said about her. I think it wasn't as bad as in the His Master's Choice programme last season though. My main note on the performance back then was that if I was the dancer partnering her, I would have tickled her!

Needless to say if I were a dancer I would be FIRED :mad: but my point is that I felt like she really needs to loosen up!

Perhaps she needs to take a little break, to branch out a bit, to find new inspiration?

The Pas de Trois was done by Charlotte Chapelier, Mathieu Gremillet and Ji-Young Kim.

I loved them. Simple as that. :)

Contrary to Herman (perhaps we have a little generation gap here on BalletTalk...? :foot: ) I was really happy with Rubies between Emeralds and Diamonds, because it's a little (seemingly) reckless fun to keep us awake amidst all the Balanchine-prettyism.

Besides ms. Jimenez whom I very much liked for this piece, Marisa Lopez and Cedric Ygnace were dancing Rubies this night as well.

Clearly they can be trusted with it!

For Diamonds, Larissa Lezhnina was partnered by Tamás Nagy. I was rather surprised that Herman didn't like her for this piece, though I can see what he means as he is thinking of how the part should be.

But I, just for me, thought it was lovely that in this pompous part of the ballet, there was such a small and delicate focal point.

Also, I really like the combination of her and Tamás. I don't think I have seen them partner before, but I really love his softness combined with her "sophisticated perkiness". What a sweet harmony.


Something else that I definitely want to make mention of, is the new stage design by Toer van Schayk. It was a construction of metal strips and elastics, that formed a crystalline shape suspended in the air. The construction changed for each of the pieces, to make different jewel-shapes. Ingenious, but even more so just beautiful!


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