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MCB "Jewels" performance

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I hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to hearing your impressions.

Ok, so this is my impression of the second night of "Jewels".

First of all, i want to excuse myself to the Balanchine experts BT'rs for not being super knowledgable on the master's works. In Cuba my only contact with the Balanchine works was reduced to "Theme and Variations" and "Apollo" basically. "Jewels", for me, was the POB DVD which now, after seeing MCB doing the job, falls way behind. So, as soon as i got my program, i had a sense of frustration right away. This is the thing. I'd been anxiously looking forward to see the Mary Carmen Catoya/Rolando Sarabia duo casted in "Diamonds", as the big introduction of Sarabita with MCB, after a long time of struggles with knee problemss... and they were nowhere to be found in the whole performance, so i supposed that they had performed the night before at the opening, so i had missed them.. Big dissapointment. :wallbash:


The first thing that left me breathless when the courtains went up was the sets and costumes. They were over magnificent. There were also a bit distracting IMO. The thing is that I still can't help but be amazed and kind of overwhelmed at this side of the world's view of sets and costume design. I'm not used to the opulence of the western companies, and "Jewels" was absolutely an absolut full display of lavishness. My eyes were blinking with the shiny Karinska's tutus and huge tiaras, against the black and green sparkled backdrops. One thing...the loose jeweled waistline pieces of the tutus looked heavy, and were noisy during sautees and jetees. On the other side, i must confess that "Emeralds" has never been my favorite part of the ballet, and for some reason Faure's subtle Symbolist music really doesn't do it for me. (am i going to burn in hell for saying this...?)

The dancers: Yang Zou and Patricia Delgado were choreographically precise, but for some reason didn't look to me quite confortable with one another. It's fair to note that ''Emeralds,'' with its focus on serenity and arm movements, is difficult to dance, but Zou and Delgado, despite this little missing chemistry, managed to caught its subtle nuances and the proper "walking" motor motive . Still, i would have prefer to see Jennifer Kronnemberg casted in the main ballerina role for what i've seen that she looks more "romantic" to me. Overall, I went through the whole piece just in a perpetual waiting for "Rubies", which i had seen before by MCB, and it's my all time favorite.


Now, that was something. It was the highlight of the night.

The dancers:The dancing reached the highest level of the evening and the Tricia Albertson/Jeremy Cox duo was everything i could expect. She was the perfect "little ballerina with the great personality" spinning off fast multiple pirouettes, stunningly incorporating them into images of flirt and seduction and Cox was exciting and energetic, keeping the dancing at high levels the whole time. Villela, as the original dancer casted for the role, must have been very proud of Cox's interpretation. :dunno: and Albertson was probably as fierce in her speed and technical force as Patty Mc. Bride , enhancing with her sharp technique the ballerina's role playfulness and sparkle with dynamism. Cox and Albertson looked as they knew very well the inner esence of this middle piece, and they were really enjoying the dance and one another, teasing each other in a provocative and flirticious way. I also want to mention the beautiful Allynne Noelle as the "Pinup girl". She was all sensuality and joy on her poses and dancing, and held her acrobatic shapes and precise arabesques with steadiness and clarity . I must confess I started watching "Rubies" with some hesitation, because, again, i was expecting another cast (Jennifer Kronember/Renato Panteado, wich i love), but surprise, Albertson/Cox really made it up 150 % for me. Excelent job!!! Special congrats to Francisco Renno, for his excelent piano interpretation of the marvelous Stravinsky score. :clapping:


Diamonds was the ultimate Grand Spectacle. The sets were astonishing. In between the lighting desing, the chandelier themed backdrops and the costumes, i wouldn't tell which was more sparkling, (a little too much, if i may...?) The "Pas de deux" was danced by Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerrra.

The dancers:As i said earlier, i was kind of dissapointed of not seeing Mary Carmen Catoya and Rolando Sarabia casted here, so i must confess that i went through the whole piece in a permanent comparisson mood. Kronemberg made an elegant but cautious interpretation as the ballerina, partnered by a noble and careful Guerra. Perhaps they need more time to work in the role, but still didn't miss the ballet's essence. Overall, they met the technical standards and were nicely complemented. It's worth to note that they're married in real life, and i think their chemistry showed through their dancing. He was a tender partner, and she was delicate and secure. I liked it, and they received the biggest applause of the night. Special mention to the "Corps" . They were very well sincronized and i couldn't detect any major imperfections. Nice job.

Somewhere along the BT forums, I've mentioned that i'm not very fond of abstract ballets, and "Jewels" is not the exception. I also admit that i have the tendency to be hyper critical , and usually get defensive if out of the XIX context. Still, i want to say that i really enjoyed the night. In general, all the standarts were met. "Emerals" was delicate, "Rubies" energetic and "Diamonds" imperial . The orchestra was particularly superb , and i highly recomend this miamian production to everyone.


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Thanks, Cristian, for those fascinating comments. I'm really glad to have you join our little band of regular Ballet Talkers at the MCB . I 've been travelling for a few weeks and was only able to check in with Ballet Talk a few times, so I've missed a lot. An email from MCB quoting a pretty exciting review by Alistair Macaulay was one of the first things I read. I assume dirac has linked it and will be checking there lately. How cool to see that the NY Times once more sending its leading reviewer across the Hudson -- and even to the far corners of the continent -- on a regular basis. "Ameriacn ballet" seems pretty marvellous when you add San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Boston, DC, and a number of other locations to the traditional heavy hitters.

I admit that I'm getting more and more excited about seeing Miami do Jewels when they get to weekend and West Palm in mid- November. I've only seen the Rubies section so far (Kronenberg and Penteado), in a studio perfiormance in September. Some of the casting Cristian mentions suprised me, but there's so much depth and individuality in this company. I wouldn't have thought of Albertson and Cox in Rubies, even though they dance frequently together and have strong technique combined with the willingness to take risks and hurl themself with gusto into their roles. Reading Cristian's post, my thought was -- "Of course! What a great choice for Rubies!"

Has anyone else seen the Miami performances or planning to go to Fort Lauderale this comiong weekend? Jack?

What about your thoughts about the Macaulay piece?

And Cristian, any further thoughts that might help the rest of us as we prepare for future performances?

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I read the Macaulay piece with great interest thought how marvelous that Eddie Villela had Patty McBride, Violet Verdy and Suzanne Farrell coach. I also wondered what good old Mr Martins must have thought of the article. It was a slight dis to NYCB. I do not know the dancers (except for a few corp members from SAB) from MCB so I cannot comment, but I can only wonder if the review of MCB will impact on the rehearsals and coaching of NYCB's upcoming performances of Jewels in January. I am planning on getting tickets.

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And Cristian, any further thoughts that might help the rest of us as we prepare for future performances?

Hi bart!..The only thing that i'm just dying to see, and i guess it will have to wait until the II Program starts, is Sarabita paired with Catoya. Maybe for the upcoming "Jewels" performance at the Kravis ?. If he could make a full recovery of his knee problems and dance the way i remember he used to, i'll assure you a memorable night...Do you have any news on the casts?

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I can only wonder if the review of MCB will impact on the rehearsals and coaching of NYCB's upcoming performances of Jewels in January. I am planning on getting tickets.

I'll be there too!!!... :crying: so we'll see..."The battle of Jewels: MCB vs. NYCB" :shake:

I so wish I could see MCB's Jewels but I can't make it down to Florida to catch it. I love the idea that Villela had the original ballerinas coaching their roles, that's the way I think it should be done. I can't wait to see NYCB's run this year and look forward to hearing from those of you who were lucky enough to see both productions. I have a feeling there will be be some interesting posts this winter. :flowers:

Dont get me wrong - I'm not an NYCB naysayer, I think their current dancers are wonderful but I'm open to other opinions and think there's nothing more enlightning than comparing different performances

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The one thing I found unfortunate in Macaulay's piece was his inability to resist using the Miami Jewels as a kind of stick with which to beat NYCB. It's a tired tactic and one which does no one any good. Does anyone, for instance, know who came to coach the Miami revival? The reference of Verdy, McBridge, and Farrell dates to 1994.

Jewels seems to me to be a classic that can survive numerous subtle variations in company style -- and one which will certainly become a standby in the reps of all companies that aspire to greatness. The biggest claim that MCB's version can possibly have is that it provokes in many of us the same sense of phyical excitement and newness that we felt back in the ballet's pemiere year 40 years ago, and that it does this while preserving a profound fidelity to the style and technique that Balanchine looked for when the ballet was born.

Based on my own viewing of sections from Emeralds and the full Rubies a month ago, Macaulay was on target when he talked aobut "physics rendered as drama" and "spatial excitement., I hope that this increased awareness of MCB will also draw attention to its depth of really interesting dancers. We tend to focus on principals, but the reviewer for the Coral Gables Gazette, for example, praised the MCB corps. A number of these are very young, especially since apprentices and coryphees get a lot of opportunity to dance at MCB. I'm looking forward to watching them grow as performers (they are already fine dancers) as the season progresses.

P.S. I'm delighted that the Times chose a photograph of Jennifer Kronenberg in Rubies to illustrate the review. She's a dancer who draws the eye like a powerful magnet. Her performance did indeed have the same qualities that Patty McBride brought to the original, and which no other dancer has brought to it since. This is what Macaulay says about McBride.

Her warmth as a performer, her precision, her bravery and her delicacy all came to mind in Miami.
I would add, about both McBride and Kronenberg: "her wit, her amused sexiness, and her ability to convey great confidence, aplomb, and even serenity in the face of alarmingly difficult physical challenges."
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(from Ft. Lauderdale) I'm not able to post at length just now, but the (first!) Catoya-Sarabia Diamonds went this afternoon, preceeded by the Albertson-Cox Rubies; they lived up to the expectations expressed above, and maybe then some! They were preceeded by the (first!) Jeanette Delgado-Guerra Emeralds, which was an astonishing debut for her, though bested IMHO by Catoya, with Guerra, last night. Last night's Diamonds was led by Seay with Garcia-Rodriguez, and the contrast reminds me that apples and oranges can both be delicious, and tell Whole Foods' produce department to look out! More from heaven when I can.

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[ ... ] the contrast reminds me that apples and oranges can both be delicious
Excellent point, Jack. I'm really looking forward to your report.

And to the rest of you who have seen -- or will see -- these performances: please tell us what you saw and what you thought!

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I enjoyed reading your long post, cubanmiamiboy. Sometimes, thinking about what I've looked at, I come to BT with a sense of wonder about these little works of art which are disappearing even before they're finished with the question "Did you see what I saw?" in my mind, and it helps me to savor their ephemeral beauty to know that others actually did that, too. One of the things that makes BT fun is that although we may use somewhat different words when we talk about similar performances, it's often pretty clear when I read different posts here that we have seen much the same thing happen, don't you think? So here's my contribution. Let's see if it gives someone some benefit:

Friday, October 19, 2007 Broward Center for the Performing Arts

President Kennedy complained that nothing happened until you read about it in The New York Times, and with all due respect to John Rockwell (whose arrival in the Times's dance department was like a fresh breeze) it was good for it in the person of Alastair Macaulay finally to notice what some of us have known for years, that MCB can dance and does dance Balanchine better than the Kirov or NYCB. (Doesn't POB even rate mention?) How to dance Balanchine is a large topic in itself, and I'm such a slow writer I think I'd better stick to what I think I saw at MCB for now.

(cubanmiamiboy, I envy you your dancer's eye for what you see; maybe I'll be so acute, so analytical, some day as you, but as you may see from my posts, I don't perceive technical details so much as respond to the effect of their sequence. I do know what rondes de jambes are, but I'm trying to take in the whole dance as it flows on, so its effect can flow through me.)

I think I had first seen MCB's Jewels led off by Mary Carmen Catoya's "Spinner" variation years ago (I had naively allowed for only one traffic jam while crossing Miami to the Jackie Gleason Theatre but encountered two and so was admitted late to the back of the hall on the first applause), and I was struck then by deja vu. It soon became clear I was not looking at Verdy, though, but at someone who was like Verdy not as an imitation, for Verdy didn't even imitate Verdy, or anyone, but as someone who heard the choreography and showed us what she heard. (So it is with MCB generally.)

Anyway I had high expectations of Catoya this time and I was not the least disappointed. But this time (as on my second and third visits that first weekend years ago) I arrived in good time and was treated to the wonderful opening ensemble, in which Catoya worked so well with Carlos Guerra in the lifts among other wonders that she might have weighed about fifteen pounds, exactly right for this calm, luxurious and voluptuous world beneath the sea. (I am stealing here from the late Robert Garis, because his words from 1968 fit this 2007 performance well.)

What was a pleasant surprise, therefore, was Haiyan Wu in the second variation. I've had reservations about Wu as some one very clean and correct, not stiff or anything but remote and detached; but not tonight. What lovely arms! What luscious line! All the way down! All the time! Her variation (Mimi Paul's, originally) used to precede the Verdy one, but Wu's performance was one of the best justifications I've seen for changing the order (which Balanchine did on Verdy's retirement). Wu is tall, too, so all this (contained) splendor was the easier to see. On the other hand, in her pas de deux with Jeremy Cox, he never seemed to take his eyes off her, and so, although she took little notice of him, this part had less of that other-worldly quality it had under Balanchine's supervision, when the man's eyes remained downcast. Nevertheless the steady-stepping strangeness of this dance caught the audience too.

Inevitably I compare whatever cast I'm seeing in Rubies with the original, because one of their late-60's performances of it at Ravinia in the Chicago Symphony's summer "festival" there was the single performance that hooked me on ballet. I knew Stravinsky's witty Capriccio intimately at the time, and had not yet learned to listen so closely to everything that came my way, so that Emeralds went past me that first time (like it did you, cubanmiamiboy?) But that first Rubies was riveting. No one has done it like McBride and Villella, although Petra Adelfang and Jeff Herbig, prepared by Victoria Simon, reproduced McBride's sparkle and Villella's swagger to a surprising degree in the early days of Ballet Chicago. (Adelfang and Herbig went off to PNB, I think.)

But while there may be favorite details de-emphasised and others stressed in a performance today, in principle, there's nothing wrong -- and a lot right -- with a fresh approach. Renato Penteado was certainly fresh, lighter in effect than Villella was, a little careful even, where Villella was more reckless (even about his own safety, or so it looked) cavorting with his gang of four in the last movement, and he gave an account of the part I'm eager to see again. Jennifer Kronenberg was evidently having a very good, wry time with McBride's part, one of if not the most brilliant in the repertory, but while she did it no injustice, and I want to see it again also, it was Andrea Spiridonakos this time who seemed to me more crisply on top of her demi role, admittedly considerably less demanding than the two principal ones. (She has, for example, the assistance (?) of four cavaliers.)

Diamonds began with MCB's pulsing female corps, full of life and yet contained within the musical phrases, bringing the momentum of a sequence almost to rest at the end and then easing into the next one, each girl on her own individually and all together. In the great pas de deux, I was a little bothered at first by very staccato wind-playing in the orchestra, but never mind: I was soon "distracted" from this distraction by the intense beauty of what Deanna Seay, ably partnered by Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez as her cavalier -- not a danseur noble, mind you, but a priveleged cavalier -- was unfurling on stage.

Modest, even small-scaled, richly detailed but unfussy, clean, flowing, faceted, deep. Really spectacular, not blaringly attention-grabbing; you pay attention, and you are quietly overwhelmed as, defying all probability, it continues the whole length of her time on stage. Beautiful to the point of exciting. I was reminded of Makarova (never in this role), with an important difference: Makarova got notoriously slow tempos to show you better, or something, but MCB is better than ABT about that, and Seay worked her quiet wonders in good tempos, without the conductor, Juan Francisco La Manna, putting Tchaikovsky's music to sleep. No one had to give her extra time; never late or rushed, she found all the time she needed. It was already there.

As Villella pointed out in his pre-performance remarks, you can't talk about this ballet without mentioning Suzanne Farrell. I remember reading that Farrell famously said "I dance for God" and meant it; Seay may only be dancing for Tchaikovsky (with some considerable assistance from Mr. B). There's no reason for her or anyone to try to be Farrell, not because of the difficulty of that but because it's not worthy. Seay's been with MCB for many years now and done many fine things, but this is far and away the best I've ever seen her do. She's still becoming Deanna Seay, not anyone else, and those lesser gods, the two Russians, must have been pleased tonight. This mere mortal certainly was.

Saturday, October 20, 2007, at 2:00 PM

Jeanette Delgado debuted, or so I was told, in Emeralds, and the part was not quite so second-nature to her as it was to Catoya, but following Catoya is a thankless position. (Nevetheless, Catoya could follow Verdy and von Aroldingen in my experience, and be very satisfying.) Callie Manning came into the Paul role, with Didier Bramaz; in her variation, I thought La Manna gave her easier tempos. Again, not quite so fully acheived IMO as last night. (My seat was five rows closer, Row Q, from where the complexities of the principals' movements among the corps in the ensembles, especially the first movement, was vividly clear and so, more effective.)

Rubies was ably led this time by Tricia Albertson and Jeremy Cox, with Allynne Noelle in the eye-popping demi role. Crisper, and maintaining a more upright posture, she was a little more conscientious and less relaxed in the part than Jennifer Kronenberg had been. (I don't mean for a moment that Kronenberg looked uncaring or anything; she was just more "above it".) The "Rubies woman" can take this approach very well, IMO, and I was also glad to see Cox rev up some more amps in his role, giving it more of Villella's power and momentum, even if he didn't become the airborne dynamo Villella had been. No one could, and this was a very fine performance as it was. (Not too surprisingly from the dancer who showed us the powerful Prodigal Son of a few years ago.) Noelle was superb, just a little playful.

There's a detail I remember in the second part of the first-movement pas de cinq, after the second irruption of the orchestra, when the corps has gathered upstage left (originally as though in wonder, or even fright, about the events downstage center), when, apparently manipulated by her four boys, the demi turns her back to us and then her upper body is lowered to horizontal and she regards us for an instant from an upside down face. Do I remember correctly that Noelle was the only one of the three girls who took this role who lowered herself/ was lowered to full horizontal and did this? (The others just put their head back a little.) That used to get gasps in the New York State Theatre; it showed everybody was paying attention, performers and audience.

Then we had the Catoya-Sarabia "Diamonds", and what an event that was, as is everything Catoya does. The regality of the part was there, and so were details made with a clarity you could use for demonstration purposes, but flowing and completely "natural". That approach can be taken as fitting the strength and independence of the woman in this part -- someone that strong hardly ever really needs the guy, although he is allowed to be around -- but for me, the effect as it went along, while lovely and elegant at each moment, didn't accumulate intensity as Seay's had done. Still, it was really something to see. I was told both that it was Catoya's debut in the part, and that she had done it before in Miami. It was so fully achieved, so secure, to the point of serene (appropriately), I couldn't believe it might be a debut, except that it was Catoya. Rolando Sarabia was everything she needed, evidently, although if you look at the Farrell-Martins video, you will see that he expresses "regard from a distance" for his queen in the passage where he travels and jumps across the space behind her, which I did not see from the three MCB men, who more merely moved and jumped, filling out a pattern.

Saturday, October 20, 2007, at 8:00 PM

Patricia Delgado came into the Verdy role, broad smile and all, dancing very clearly, so that you could enjoy continuously how her movements nestled in the musical shape, one of Balanchine's essentials, but otherwise I found her too carerful, controlled, and consequently a bit bland. She didn't enliven the role, but if this was another debut, it was not a bad one either. And so while I was hardly bored, I was happily surprised to find Seay in the Paul role, quietly enlivening it, one of the best justifications I've seen for Balanchine's reordering the variations in this ballet when Verdy retired and he had no one who could make such a marvel of the second variation that it seemed a bit of an anti-climax after the first (Paul) one, which I gather is easier to bring off and also used to serve as a set-up for the Verdy variation; now the Verdy variation is used as a set-up for the Paul one, an arrangement which was almost anti-climactic when Catoya preceded Wu, but which went fine when Delgado preceded Seay.

"Rubies" had the least satisfactory principal cast this time around. By MCB standards, both women (Jeanette Delgado and Kristin D'Addario) seemed a little vague and unfocussed. Renato Penteado repeated his lighter, clean performance. And this time, I was not so distracted by the complicated lighting changes just after the beginning of the ballet that I noticed the original saucy hips-thrust-forward move was replaced by another, less-effective one.

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra led "Diamonds" this evening, and it didn't come across very well for me. I had a sense of being too far from what was happening, but then I realized I was sitting next to the seat where I was so very strongly affected by Seay's performance last night. Again, I hope to see Kronenberg in this again, because she has had such a knowing way with other roles in the past -- Faun, and the Siren in Prodigal Son come immediately to mind -- I can't not think there's more going on here than it seemed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007, at 2:00 PM

Nearly the same cast as opening night made this guy one happy camper. Catoya was again in fine form in Emeralds, dancing almost like a thistle in the breeze, like Verdy did. Didier Bramaz replaced Cox as Wu's partner. The Delgado sisters, again in the pas de trois, again removed what I think of as the family smile in the sad last movement. (It looked as though Mr. B. was as "down" as we were about Verdy's departure.)

Albertson and Spiridonakos returned in Rubies, this time with Alex Wong, who debuted in the dynamo role. A very confident debut it was, too, some of the phrases just a little clipped, but great strength and clarity, and everything Albertson needed, which is really a redundant thing to say, once you know it's MCB that's under discussion. I couldn't recall seeing inadequate partnering here. (Well, the boss was famous as a partner in his day.)

Then in Diamonds maybe I got a hint of something about partnering, but I don't know exactly what. Seay, with Rolando Sarabia this time, was magnificent again, until early in the place in the coda where she and her partner dance in the center, when at first she looked a little clouded and out of focus, not up to her earlier standard; but then something got adjusted, her dancing cleared right up and became confident again. She even smiled more brightly than we're used to seeing, and as they exited, she turned her face to Sarabia (exiting behind her) instead of maintaining her profile perfectly into the wing as on Friday. We couldn't tell whether she had a smile or a word for him, but if the guy pulled her out of whatever her bother was, she wasn't the only one feeling gratitude toward him!

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Then we had the Catoya-Sarabia "Diamonds", and what an event that was.

Jack, many thanks for your post! I must confess, as i was reading it, my mouth was watering just thinking about the Catoya/Sarabia performance. Now i know that i have to see them at the Kravis. I was hoping to see them in Broward, but again, i got caught in a middle of my never ending studying and couldn't go :) .

Rolando Sarabia was everything she needed, evidently, although if you look at the Farrell-Martins video, you will see that he expresses "regard from a distance" for his queen in the passage where he travels and jumps across the space behind her, which I did not see from the three MCB men, who more merely moved and jumped, filling out a pattern.

I must proudly note that this is an essential to learn in the partnering demands of the cuban school. The male dancer, since they start PDD classes, is taught to be in fully guarding all the time at his ballerina demands, dance for her and look at her instead of the audience. I always remember Sarabita being specially carefull about this. Jose Manuel Carreno works like that too....

Again, thank you for taking the time to write your excelent and detailed review. It's very pleasant to feel the presence of a South Floridian in BT among the majority new yorker fellows. So,we had Miami and Broward already...

Now, it's your turn, Bart!... :wink:

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Thanks, Jack. I'll be seeing 3 only at the Kravis, but will keep your eye and words in mind. I'm delighted and relieved :) (as always) that you go first.

I was very interested in the broad and adventurous casting. Wu in Emeralds was a piece of cake. But Wong in Rubies is big news -- and a bit of casting I was hoping for. It's only his third season, I believe. He's very young and has just become a soloist. But Villella gives him opportunities, and Wong has always lived up to the challenge.

Spiridonakos was quite good in the workshop Rubies, but I'm also looking forward to seeing Allynne Noelle in the tall girl role. She's a corps member you can't help noticing (often for her big smile). I hope I get to see Carrie Manning, though I would not have thought of casting her in the Mimi Paul role -- or, indeed, in Emeralds in general. It will be fun to see how she approaches it.

The thought of perky, ball-of-energy Jeanette Delgado in Emeralds astonishes me -- but that should be fun to watch, too. It's always exciting to see dancers given the opportunity to grow into a new style (for them).

I was hoping for Kronenberg with Rolando Sarabia in Diamonds. We'll see.

I notice that Villella has asked three of his principal women to dance different leads in the same weekend: Catoya in Emeralds and Diamonds, Seay in Emeralds and Diamonds, and Kronenberg in Rubies and Diamonds. This would seem to me to be an enormous feat for any dancer. I wonder: Have there been other principals, in other companies, who have danced major roles in 2 different parts of Jewels in such a short period of time?

What about Daniel Sarabia, Joseph Phillips and Zherlin Ngudi? MCB has suddenly become so strong in the men's group that it would be sad to see dancers with potential like theirs deprived of the opportunity to shine.

MCB is off to the Detroit Opera House in an entirely different program, and then back to West Palm Beach (the Kravis) for the weekend of November 16-18.

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MCB is off to the Detroit Opera House in an entirely different program, and then back to West Palm Beach (the Kravis) for the weekend of November 16-18.

But before these performances MCB will be performing at the Zellerbach Hall in Berkley, CA this weekend! Thanks for these insightful and detailed comments on Jewels, looking forward to seeing these performances at the Kravis!

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Cristian, I'm glad you like my post -- it was so long I was afraid people would get indigestion from it. But I'm not a south Floridian -- I'm a south Chicagoan! Anyway, now I'm encouraged to say what I think about the music (briefly, excellent, much better than the POB DVD, which I like less the more I play it) and the backdrop (briefly, it starts fine but gets to be overdone by the end, IMO) and summarize some of Villella's pre-performance remarks. He's always interesting, and usually gives insight into appreciating the program.

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Meanwhile, to answer bart's question, Daniel Sarabia and Joseph Phillips were listed in the Diamonds corps all four times in Broward, Zherlin Ndudi twice.
Interesting. That's a lot of talent,, though my impession at the showcase in September was that each (especially the young Ngudi) would benefit from additional time and work. I look forward to seeing how Villella develops them and how he uses them in the future.
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Cristian, I'm glad you like my post -- it was so long I was afraid people would get indigestion from it. But I'm not a south Floridian -- I'm a south Chicagoan! Anyway, now I'm encouraged to say what I think about the music (briefly, excellent, much better than the POB DVD, which I like less the more I play it) and the backdrop (briefly, it starts fine but gets to be overdone by the end, IMO) and summarize some of Villella's pre-performance remarks. He's always interesting, and usually gives insight into appreciating the program.

So Chicago, ah?. I've been wanting to go there forever...Anyways, that was a labor of love you did with your excelent detailed review. As i was reading it, i was having flashes of my own performance experience, and it's very interesting, as you noted, to se reflected in somebody elses's writing your own feelings on a particular aspect or detail of the work, even small ones that one might think would pass unnoticed...I really look forward to see your posts in the future!.

What about Daniel Sarabia,

bart, i spotted Daniel Sarabia in the Corps. I can't wait to see him doing something more substantial soon. I saw him at the launching of the Classical Cuban Ballet of Miami Gala more than a year ago doing Don Quijote PDD, and he was great...

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some of Villella's pre-performance remarks They're from my notes, so they're fragmented; the insights are his, the mistakes mine:

Before he started on the repertory, Villella told us he was pretty happy, having just celebrated his seventy-first birthday and had his fiftieth reunion of his maritime college class soon after. Then, praise in the New York Times.

Jewels was out of repertory because we didn't have a set, it died, fell apart, but a couple gave us $250,000 for a new one.

This ballet is not a story, does not have literal characters; Balanchine chose three composers. With Faure', he gave us insights into French romanticism, one of his favorite styles. He and Suzanne Farrell visited van Cleef and Arpels. [The well-known story.] Jewels shows his deep regard and respect for women.

"Emeralds" is the gem and also the emerald of water. Port de bras, use of hands. The first woman feels herself adorned with gems. In the second variation, the woman dances for the man who's not there: longing. The pas de trois is as bravura as this ballet gets. The "Walking" pas de deux: The man is and is not there; he still isn't there, he is there in spirit. Balanchine takes ballet at many levels and mixes them all up. [compare my excerpts of his essay on Giselle:


(Post #19) What I'm thinking of here is that in Giselle we have someone who is/isn't there; that ballet makes much more of that, of course, and with Balanchine 120 years later, in "Emeralds", it's the man who's there/not there. Or maybe noticing this is not helpful.]

"Rubies" is jazzy, saucy American neo-classicism. Sharpness, attack, off-balance. Balanchine loved horses. The pas de deux is maybe a jocket and a filly. Is that a pas de cinq or a filly and four grooms? We also hear horses (demonstrates with his hands) [when the toe shoes strike the stage in unison; at 53:20 on the POB DVD]. He had nicknames for everyone, like "Patricia McBridle" Coaches use terms like "walking the horse", "pulling the reins back" [demonstrates bit near the end of the pas de deux, where the boy pulls the girl to him, each with both their hands]. The four boys gallop around the stage.

"Diamonds" is not only an homage to Tchaikovsky and the Nineteenth Century, an homage to Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty, it's an homage to Woman. First movement as a swan lake; the twelve girls in a circle make a lake, two more come into it. In the pas de deux, the two principals enter opposite: Regality. Coaches say, You are alone (there's no audience) seeking perfection in ballet, and ballet is woman. He's selected from seven or eight cavaliers to service her: "You [may] support me this evening. Please don't make yourself obvious." As a reward for his service, he's allowed to kiss her hand. It's not about man and woman, it's about woman. Then, a scherzo. The Finale is absolutely brilliant. Patterns, use of space.

Balanchine told me at the time of the premiere he was not satisfied with the original set; he wanted a galaxy, a Milky Way. The jewels in the sky. This was technically impossible in 1967. He wanted a galaxy of chandeliers in the finale. Tony Walton, hearing about that, said, "fibre optics." We give you that galaxy of chandeliers.

After his talks, Villella takes questions as time allows:

A: We restage ballets with a repetiteur from the Balanchine Trust and then we video performances and use those. I have some sense of how to do it, having danced at NYCB for twenty years, but we don't rely on that, although some aspects like "jockey" and "filly" aren't easy to get from video.

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Cristian, I'm glad you liked the backdrop(s) for Jewels better than I did. I thought they started out fine, in "Emeralds", but later sometimes upstaged the dancing. (Some one reading here may be able to glimpse a bit of the "Emeralds" backdrop here, unless the page has changed in the meantime:

It looks to this old amateur astronomer less like the galaxy Villella told us Balanchine said he wanted (see above in Post #21) than like an irregular open star cluster, but there's no denying the celestial aspect. The original 1967 NYCB decor looked a bit overscaled but had the virture of matching the jewel decorations on the costumes, which some thought Karinska had overdone. Ah, well.

But at the beginning of "Rubies" the stage is lit in deep red light, so that it's harder to see the dancers than it is a few moments later when normal good, white stage light comes up, and the backdrop goes through some attention-getting changes in those moments, too.

And finally, for the record, in the end of the last movement of "Diamonds", the bell-shaped chandeliers outlined on the backdrop in little points of light start to shimmer with a regular, mechanical rythym. The dazzling effect really distracts from the dancing, I felt. All this may have had its origins in Balanchine's comments, but it's an attempt at literal realization of what he said he wanted, and I wonder sometimes whether Mr. B.'s words were always to be taken literally.

But that seems to be the contemporary fashion, as though lighting were as important as the choreography or the music, while my experience has taught me to think those things are the main things, and if sets and lighting and costumes just complement them, our enjoyment is greater.

On the other hand, the musical component of these performances was really superb, I thought. Not only good tempos, but well-shaped, singing phrases and clear balances so we could hear them. For example, in the last movement of "Diamonds", the anthem and the fugue are clearly set forth, much better than the muddled rendition by the Orchestra of the Opera national de Paris under Paul Connelly's direction on the Pro Arte DVD.

(After playing this part of that disc, I turn with relief to the great 1963 or 1964 recording by the Vienna Philharmonic directed by Lorin Maazel in the four-CD set of all the Tchaikovsky symphonies, London 430 787, unfortunately not generally available. Maazel's later recordings and his recent New York Philharmonic concert performance of the Third Symphony were not up to that standard, succumbing instead to the bad tradition of heavy exaggeration in Tchaikovsky performance.)

MCB's Opus One Orchestra isn't the Vienna Philharmonic, but it is a real orchestra, not a thin-sounding little band; I counted the names of forty-eight musicians in the program, not least among them Francisco Renno, MCB's remarkable Company Pianist: Not just another "rehearsal pianist" who can pound out the music, he's concert caliber, whose playing points up the witty byplay of Stravinsky's score in "Rubies" and helps to enliven the whole romping ballet. The conductor, Juan Francisco La Manna, can be proud. (Actually, taking applause on stage among the smiling dancers, he looked to be a serious little man. Maybe he felt out of place on the stage, or something. Here's hoping the orchestra continues with MCB, not least so Sr. La Manna gets used to taking his deserved applause!)

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Just back from the first Jewels of the weekend in West Palm.

Although I'd seen some of the dancing -- and costumes -- in an earlier studio peformance, this was my first time for the whole package. Hundreds of small green lights in a swirl pattern and against a black background for Emeralds; red backdrop, with formal vertical patterns of lights and outlines of chandeliers for Rubies; blazing white for Diamonds. I didn't notice any twinkling, as mentioned by Jack. Either they changed it or it looked different from my seat tot he side and one level up. The opening tableux (especially in Rubies, with the arc of dancers holding hands and facing the audience, women on point, brought gasps.

I have to take back my original negative comments on the Karinska-design costumes. Seen from a greater distance, they are wonderful, working for solos but also for the massing and movement of the corps. They have a rare combination of richness and ease of movement. The entrance of the Diamonds corps in the polonaise (downstage left to upstage right, then a right turn) was a real stunner. Especially since they appeared to be heading directly for me (one level up). The large jeweled collars in all three sets of costumes looked wonderful on stage, better than when seen close up. Costumer Haydee Morales and her crew did an incredible job.

I'll report on the dancing after I've seen other casts. Tonight's cast was the same as that reviewed by Alistair Macaulay in the Times, with a couple of exceptions and reassignments. Speaking about the leads only, the relevations for me were:

Mary Carmen Catoya in the Verdy role in Emeralds: the finest dancing and the most complete inhabiting of this role I've seen since the 60s. Her dancing flowed with the changes in rhythm and feeling in the music. All was beautifully shaped and serene.

Jennifer Kronenberg already had Rubies ready for any stage in the world when I saw this in September. It's a perfectly modulated and very exciting performance. The surprise was Andrea Spiridonakos, a bit tentative a couple of months ago, but confident and magnificent as the tall girl last night. It's wonderful to see growth like this. Renato Penteado, in the Villella role, has also added confidence and panache. Jumps are higher, extensions more bold, slides more daring, partnering more secure and involved. He isn't Villella (who is?), but he's getting closer. Very well done.

Another huge suprise for me was Deanna Seay in Diamonds. She is often a reserved dancer, tending almost to the austere. In Diamonds she has become expansive, more free, always refined. A glorious performance. I've never agreed with those who like the pas de deux danced with an overall mood of aloofness and mystery. The music has deep feeling. Seay -- and the excellent Isanusi Garcia-Rodrigues, a most attentive cavalier -- conveyed this.

And then there are those marvellous tableux -- and the complex interaction of corps, soloists, and principals in all three ballets -- and Balanchine's amazing ability to fill the stage with movement that is precise but flowing, classically beautiful but full of invention. That's the job of soloists and the corps. This was some of the best corps dancing I've seen from Miami. Everyone was engaged as an individual and also fitted smoothly into the ensemble. They got a big hand and some bravos at the end of the evening, and they deserved every minute of it.

Didier Bramaz was as good in the Emeralds pas de trois as Macaulay said. I love the way the dancer in this role becomes more and more significant as the ballet goes on. Bramaz also danced in both other ballets, He's an interesting dancer, very alert to detail and to what is going on around him. He's obviously very useful to the company.

:thumbsup: Rolando Sarabia was the Diamonds cavalier in the Miami performance reviewed by Alastair Macaulay. I haven't seen him perform yet, but can now say that I have seen him "on stage." During Garcia-Rodriguez's variation, I noticed an arm in modern shirt sleeve emerging from the side (stage right), quite visible from the boxes closest to the stage. I was distracted briefly as Sarabia edged further out. He was, observing his colleague and fellow Cuban closely, and apparently speaking to the dancer, possibly words of encouragement. Macaulay called Sarabia's performance "chivalrous, but somewhat stilff." I hope Sarabia got some tips from G-R's involved and commited partnering. Whatever happens, I hope to see him tonight or tomorrow.

P.S. New hires (as soloists) Daniel Sarabia and Joseph Phillips were in the Diamonds corps. I'm hoping they will be on view in solo roles in one of the other performances this weekend. Ditto Alex Wong, who made his little portion of the stage an island of alertness, engagement, beautiful technique, and pleasure..

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I haven't seen the Miami City production unfortunately (I'd love to) but some of the discussion here of the ballet itself seems to see it rather differently than I ever have. Perhaps because so many of the discussions are by the gentlemen of the forum, they don't seem to touch on some things that I think, from my female point of view, are basic and important. Ballet may be Woman, but the 'worship' in Balanchine in general and Jewels in particular is decidedly ambiguous. Man may worship but he also, as a stand-in for Balanchine the creator, wants to control, to shape and to manipulate - and his worship is often of woman not as a person but as material both obedient and pliant. Woman is Muse, but worship as an element of control is not the happiest of fates, and Balanchine's women are often in varying states of rebellion and attempted escape. ("They always left me," he said of his real-life women.) There are dark undertones and ironic rifts in all the Jewels relationships, and to at least some extent that is one of its unifying themes - one of the 'stories' so to speak. That the muse will always be elusive, that she cannot ever be captured, never stops these sons of James, both here and in so many Balanchine works, and they can do similar damage in their attempts.

In Emeralds, the woman of the walking duet either doesn't see or refuses to see her partner - who is controlling whom? who is real? In the pas de trois as I remember the original dancers, there was drama in John Prinz testing of his control over his two partners. And Balanchine eventually added the logical finale, in which the women desert the men, whether in fact or dream, leaving them alone to their evanescent fanatasies of Woman rather than actual women.

The glory of Rubies is the women fighting back - the 'tall' girl taunting the boys who manipulate her, and McBride (no other name should ever be given to this role) refusing to do anything she's told, twisting, collapsing, slithering out of his grasp, grabbing back control at any moment she can, and creating a glorious brawl, a street fight over just who is going to be the boss. If it is the most exhilarating section, I think it is so partly because it is the one place where the 'Muse' takes over and laughs, and the 'worshipper' actually enjoys it.

I find Diamonds the most deeply ambiguous of the three sections. Both d'Amboise, who created the role, and Martins, who danced it most frequently, are powerful and domineering men whose superb partnering and courtly respect never completely concealed their will to manipulate. It is an element of performance missing in the recent performances I have seen, especially the POB version. I find the climax of the duet in the ballerina's violent shudder - very clear and powerful on the dvd with Farrell. She may be adored. She is also trapped, and aware of it.

If I seem to have overemphasized these undercurrents - and sometimes overcurrents - it is because I don't see them acknowledged much otherwise, and I think they are central to the depth and complexity of Balachine's genius.

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That is very thought provoking, popularlibrary. I have often sensed that relationship in Diamonds.... there is really no other explanation for the moment near the end of the pas de deux when the ballerina, having gone her own way (so to speak) throughout, suddenly returns to the cavalier, leads him across the stage with those bourees that do create an electric shudder, and then bends over his arm in seeming submission. However, in reflecting on the ending of Emeralds, for instance, your insight provided me with a darker, more ominous view of the second finale- the slow walking section. It almost seemed as if the women, in their quest to elude the men, sought to combine their powers in order to escape, and managed to outwit their pursuers through their collective effort. Hmmm- this is wonderful food for thought. Thank you!!

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