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Jewels 1/29-2/7

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First week casting is up here

After Louise N's comments about who gets the opening night roles, I looked at this again. Carla Korbes is doing Diamonds on Thursday night, and Emeralds on Friday. (but not Rubies on the third program...) Louise N is opening in Emeralds, and Jodie Thomas is dancing with Jonathan Porretta in Rubies (with Ariana L as the solo woman)

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Miranda Weese is cast for "Rubies" on Sunday, 1 February, with Olivier Wevers.

Debuts listed so far are:

Seth Orza and Olivier Wevers in "Emeralds", Ludlow role

Sarah Ricard (with Eames and Orza) and Lowenburg/Kitchens/Spell in the Pas de Trois

Sarah Ricard and Jerome Tisserand in the Mimi Paul/Francisco Moncion roles

Kaori Nakamura in Diamonds.

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I saw opening night (Thursday 1/29), and then again last night (Friday 1/30). Incredible ballet danced by an incredible company. I could swear that Balanchine was in the hall somehow.

The opening night cast did a great job especially Carla Korbes in Diamonds. But IMHO last night's cast was even a notch higher. Boal, by chance or by design, created a near perfect cast for last night. Carla Korbes and recently promoted principal Lucien Postlewaite were the epitome of elegant, understated, perfection that Emeralds is so justly famous for. Their musicality was of the highest order. The "tall girl" role in Rubies was done by Ariana Lallone Thursday and Lindsi Dec on Friday. Ariana has "owed" this role at PNB for a long time, and she is superb in it (besides she's about 6 feet); but dare I say it, corps dancer Lindsi Dec has stolen it away from her. Lindsi, for whatever reason, totally "gets" this role. She dances it with a confidence and panache (not to mention sexiness and sass) that is remarkable to see. I have little doubt that this role will be one of the highlights of her career.....always. If you can see a performance with Lindsi in Rubies, do it. Carrie Imler did her usual flawless performance on Friday in Diamonds partnered by Bathurel Bold whose leaps (and more importantly landings) wow'ed the crowd to cheers. But perhaps my favorite aspect of having seen these 2 performances back to back was Rachel Foster. She danced in the PdT in Emeralds and one of the 4 main couples in Diamonds on Thursday, and then the PdD in Rubies as well as her role in Diamonds again on Friday. Her dancing was riveting in all three styles on both nights. I've heard her technique is not outstanding, and that may be true, but she dances with such commitment, energy, flair, and feeling that I found myself drawn to watch her regardless of who else was dancing. It's clear to me why Rachel is so adept at anything that is more modern and "off the straight and narrow". Seeing her so nail all three of the styles in Jewels, and then remembering her epic effort on Fenley's State of Darkness in 2007, and her natural understanding of Tharp late last year, have to make her one of the most versatile classically trained dancers around.

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I had hoped to get to a performance in the second weekend, but that's looking less likely now -- anyone who sees any of the other casts please report back!

A bunch of thoughts, not in very clear order:

I was reading through my notes from the first two nights, and was struck by how many times the work reminds me of other ballets. Not just the Petipa quotes, but references to other Balanchine works as well.

I thought Carla K was channeling her Lilac Fairy in Emeralds with the 'summoning' port de bras. I know that she does a lovely job with Diamonds, but I was just blown over by her performance in Emeralds. It was a treat to see/hear the feedback that everyone got during the coaching session with Violette Verdy and Mimi Paul, stopping and starting and re-running things, but when it was Korbes turn, they just let her dance -- I got the feeling that Verdy and Paul were just as enchanted as the rest of us.

In that coaching session, Paul explained that there were two different versions of her role -- the original, and a later revision. If I understood her correctly, she crafted a combination of those two for PNBs production, and so the moment in the second solo where the woman seems to hide her face in her hands and then move those hands behind her is gone. Which is too bad, in part because it was a nice reference to other moments throughout the work where the women have their hands behind their back (sometimes in a partnering moment), and in part because I liked it very much, and remember Noelani Pantastico making a really good job of it. But Maria Chapman looks great in this changed version, very floaty with some nice crispy contrasts, so I shouldn't whimper. Ariana Lallone makes a very different impression here -- much more regal. She's in a part of her dancing life where she seems to embody everything she's done before. Just standing there she knocks me off my seat, and once she starts to move everything just seems very important. I think this makes it hard to see her in an equal partnership -- Karel Cruz has really started to come into his own, but he just doesn't have the same gravitas here that Lallone does. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next. In the meantime, I really wish that Lallone could find a production of Giselle somewhere -- she would be a spectacular Myrtha. (I often think the same thing about Carrie Imler) Or failing that -- Carabosse, the next time the company does Beauty (there's no rule that says it has to be a guy). She's a stunning Lilac Fairy herself -- I would love to see her do both of those fairies!

I'm sad that Louise N is retiring, but I'm also sad to know it right now, since it changes the way I look at her. But knowledge can't be un-known, so there it is. I've always really liked her arms, especially in the more eccentric moments, but there was one place in the opening of Emeralds that was particularly nice where she seemed to stroke her cheek with the back of her hand -- very tactile and shivery. For all that the ballet is romantic in style, it's not all wafty, and Nadeau is very good at those sharp and firm moments, just like good punctuation. As you would expect, she makes the connections to La Valse very clear, but there were also some Sonambula moments in there as well (the spooky ones)!

[On opening night Peter Boal announced that there would be a special performance to honor Nadeau on June 7, and that it would include excerpts from La Valse and Swan Lake, which made me wonder if she would be doing O/O in the upcoming performances]

Olivier Wevers seemed like a very tall partner for her, and I've been trying to remember other times I've seen them together, but need to look through notes. In any case, he didn't hover over her, which sometimes happens with the big height differences. In the trio, Benjamin Griffiths was thrilling -- fleet and modest and a really great set of multiple turns. They just whizzed! Chalnessa Eames did a lovely job here, but the special surprise was Rachel Foster, I know she can rock in the more contemporary stuff, but she was just lovely here. Jeffrey Stanton is such a solid dancer and partner that I think sometimes I take him for granted -- I assume that all will be well. Once in a while he looks worried (or at least that's how it seems to me) but here he was an attentive partner to Maria Chapman and an exemplar of the style in general. At the end, when the three men kneel as the women leave, he seems to mourn the loss while he savors the memory.

[And whoever it was whose Blackberry rang during the last notes of the score for Emeralds Friday night, it wasn't really in the same key as the orchestra.]

There's a spot upstage center in the light design for Rubies that makes whoever standing there look like they've spent too much time at the tanning salon -- both Ariana Lallone and Lindsi Dec looked very toasty in the opening tableau, but then reverted to their usual skin tone when they boureed forward.

When the company did Jewels the first time, Jodie Foster did a nice clean job with the duet, but seemed to still be learning the ropes -- this time out she was much more confident and really played with the timing of the steps. She's been coming into her own over the last few years, especially in comedic roles, and her sense of timing just gets better and better (I still like to think about her Nurse in Romeo and Juliet last year). Here she matches Jonathan Porretta's pugnacious attitude with a real sassy quality -- it's great fun to watch them in the back and forth. Benjamin Griffiths is less actorly here, he seems more focused on the steps themselves, and Rachel Foster likewise. But they really dig into the asymmetrical stretches and off-center balancing, which is at the heart of these roles.

Because I kept seeing the Siren from Prodigal Son in Lallone's tall girl here, the four guys that 'partner' her looked a bit like cleaned-up versions of the goons from the same source, as if they were translated from thugs to chorus boys. I particularly relished Barry Kerollis as the last one to snap to attention -- his timing is dead-on as he gets to his assigned limb at the last possible moment. And as they all tramp out upstage left while the tall girl makes her way out on the opposite side they look like a dapper chain gang.

There's mild applause for the setting when the curtain opens for Diamonds, but I confess that my first thought is that I wish the chandelier was wider -- it seems too small for the breadth of the space. Carla Korbes and Carrie Imler were both regal beings in the central role, but they weren't identical. I know I keep saying that Imler is a very self-reliant dancer, and that influences how I see her in a partnership. In this context, she does seem like she confers power on her partner (Batkhurel Bold) -- they approach each other in a symmetrical pattern at the beginning of their main duet, but in many key places he makes himself a kind of servant to her -- he bows his head like he acknowledges her precedence. I know that in general, the man 'serves' the woman in classical ballet, but that relationship feels a bit more pointed here. When Imler tilts her head back (a repeating bit in this role) it doesn't feel like a wild or off-centered moment (Patirica Barker seemed to give it that interpretation) but more an assertion of her power -- she's in such control that she doesn't even need to look where she's going [yes, I know I'm really reading in here]. The whole thing feels very classical, while Carla Korbes and Stanko Milov have a more romantic (in the balletic sense) vibe -- the deliberation that I saw in the first approach for Imler and Bold seems more like conversation here. This reads more like courtship than statesmanship. It's not flirty -- this is more like an arranged marriage -- but there are many personal, tender moments between the two of them.

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I had hoped to get to a performance in the second weekend, but that's looking less likely now -- anyone who sees any of the other casts please report back!

I was able to go 2 more times, so I saw 4 of the 5 casts. What a treat. I think I could have seen it 4 more times if given the chance. This company just hums when it does Balanchine, and Jewels is such a magnificent piece.

I read your post with great interest. I'm sort of limited to "how I felt about the ballet" comments, so posts from people like you who know so much about the actual craft of ballet and its history always open doors for me. Like you, I was ensnared by Carla in Emeralds, and by Maria Chapman, but I also was struck by Sarah Ricard Orza with her fabulous French partner Jerome Tisserand in the Mimi Paul role. Sarah and Jerome both had a lyric quality to their dancing that fits Emeralds like a glove. I actually thought Lallone didn't fit the role that well. I love, love Ariana's dancing (in fact she was the 1st PNB ballerina whose dancing I really fell in love with years ago). But I felt her strengths didn't fit the flowing musicality of Emeralds.

Again like you, I was blown away by the absolute grace, precision, and artistry of Benjamin Griffiths. I was lucky enough to see him 3 times, and I was ever more impressed with each performance. He is quiet grace to Lucien's charismatic power. Two promotions well deserved! (And I too heard that #@#$%$ cell phone....why didn't the caller wait until Rubies :). Plus I can't get Thomas's R&J nurse out of my head either. Hopefully we see her do that again next year.)

I don't know which of Carrie Imler's performance you saw, but interestingly at the Q&A after the Sunday matinee (2/1) she said that she felt her performance lacked something on her first night out Friday (1/30). I must admit that as impressed as I was on Friday, her performance on Sunday had magic to it. I'm not knowledgeable enough to pin point what it was, but Sunday she was "perfection" to her only "great" on Friday. Boal was just beaming over her performance as he sat next to her at the Q&A. One of the reasons I went to that Sunday matinee was to see Miranda Weese in Rubies. Frankly, somehow she didn't do it for me in this role. I can't help but think that she would have nailed something in Emeralds, but Rubies requires a younger dancer IMHO. She seemed to lack crispness in spite of her obvious unquestioned talents.

Another interesting dancer in these casts to me was Laura Gilbreath. She was the other reason I went to the 2/1 matinee. Talk about a tall girl :wink: (Laura is about 6' 7"....just kidding). But somehow Laura didn't raise to the level I was hoping for in the tall girl role (certainly compared to Lindsi and Ariana). But Laura more than made up for that at the last performance I saw Friday night 2/6. Laura danced the Farrell role in Diamonds. It was her debut in that role. WOW! I can't say it was polished (yet), but that girl gets it! We are only beginning to see what this corps dancer can do in terms of bringing more, much more, than steps to a role. She was at the Q&A and was bubbling all over....and I was bubbling right along with her. She could surely be proud of what she did that night. I see a new soloist very soon at PNB :wink:. She partnered with Karel Cruz which was terrific since Laura is so tall (Karel must be 6' 4" or something). I thought he did terrific -- perhaps more in the partnering than in the leaps. It was his debut in Diamonds too, as it was for James Moore dancing with Rachel Foster as one of the quartet of couples.

One last thing regarding the 2/6 performance. I got a big kick out seeing Andrew Bartee, Kyle Davis, Eric Hipolito, and Sean Rollofson as the 4 men in Rubies. All but Eric are apprentices, and Eric just joined the corps in 2008. We are overflowing with talent at PNB :). These guys were right on the money. I doubt anyone who doesn't know the dancers by name would never have guessed that this quality of dance was coming from apprentices!

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I saw Saturday evening - January 31st and Sunday matinee - February 1st.

I must say that I am quite smitten with PNB, much more so than SFB so I have very little to quibble about.

Louise Nadeau in the Verdy role was perfection. She's just incredibly beautiful in every way. Her dashing partner Olivier Weavers was the perfect compliment to her charming presence.

Maria Chapman was lovely in the Mimi Paul role (last year when I went up for R&J I asked Peter Boal after class "Who is she?!!?), she's a stunning young lady/soloist. She was a tad bit too aloof for my taste but I think she is one of PNB's treasures. Chalnessa Eames, Seth Orza, Sarah Richard Orza were excellent in the pas de trois.

I think I could listen to and watch Emeralds non stop forever. It's reallly heaven to me so I was one happy guy.

Jodie Thomas was a blonde Patricia McBride in Rubies. She's tiny and sassy - loved her. Jonathan Porretta has great technique and sophistication. The audience was in the palm of his hand. He's a local star for sure! I LOVED Ariana Lallone. She was spot on - TALL, in control - beautiful line, beautiful smile!

I imagine Balanchine would have fallen hard for Carla Korbes! Her Diamonds had the musicality and spiritual soul of Suzanne Farrell and her line and technique were flawless. Last time I saw her was at State Theatre when she stepped in at the last minute for first movement - Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. She was hair down and barefoot - gorgeous. But in Diamonds she was the most beautiful young Tsarina imaginable.

For me, the Sunday matinee didn't quite pack the punch of Saturday night but it was still a wonderful performance. I especially liked the sweet natural smile of Benjamin Griffiths. He was not grinning ear to ear but just smiling in respect for this beautiful gift of a ballet he was dancing. I must also mention the great performance of Olivier Weavers in Rubies. I go all the way back to John Clifford and Sara Leland and I believe Weavers dancing a role against his type dazzled perfectly. Laura Gilbreath in the tall Rubies role was also a delight.

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I had to swap my tickets from the 1st Saturday to the 2nd Saturday because of scheduling problems, and I was disappointed to see that none of my favorites were dancing -- Carla Korbes, Maria Chapman, Louise Nadeau, Jonathan Poretta, Lucien Postlewaite, Batkhurel Bold -- None of them would be there. Seth Orza was in Emeralds, Kaori Nakamura was in Diamonds, and Lindsi Dec was in Rubies, so I was still looking forward to it. PNB has such a wonderful company and I've never left disappointed.

We loved it. All of it. A friend had told me earlier they thought Emeralds was boring but they all enjoyed Rubies and Diamonds. Emeralds was MY favorite of the three. My daughter joked that I liked it best because green is my favorite color. Maybe. But I suspect that our seats had something to do with it, too. We usually sit off to the side in the upper gallery, but for this we had wonderful orchestra seats toward the middle. I loved the shapes and patterns of the choreography. It reminded me of a beautiful kaleidoscope that was shifting and changing constantly. I'm not sure I would have seen it the same way from the side. The beautiful and graceful arm movements had me mesmerized. Seth Orza and Mara Vinson were beautiful, but I couldn't keep my eyes off Rachel Foster. She just drew my attention. Also, Lindsi Dec shone. And I admit to wondering how my favorites might have danced the lead roles. My daughter said Liora Reshef drew her attention in Emeralds.

Rubies was fun and pretty, but Lindsi Dec was magnificent! She sparkled and glowed. I wished I'd seen a different couple dance, though. I was disappointed by Miranda Weese. I guess I expected more.

Diamonds was beautiful as well. I also thought the chandelier should have been bigger for such a big stage, but chastised myself for being ignorant about such things. Kaori danced with presence, authority, warmth and a twinkle. She looked like she was having fun. I didn't see much connection between her and Jeffrey Stanton, and he just seemed off. Almost scared or something. Maybe I'm making things up, but my daughter said she always thought he seemed to just keep himself from falling. I remembered how Le Yin danced in a Swan Lake I saw -- such power, confidence, authority. I found that lacking. My daughter thought Diamonds was boring. I enjoyed it, but it was my least favorite. Again, I was drawn to Rachel Foster, Lindsi Dec, and also Brittany Reid.

We had 2 cell phone incidents in our show. The woman who sat next to me turned around and hollered, "Shut up!" at one person with an obnoxious cell phone. (I was mortified.) She never clapped the entire time, and left before Diamonds. She kept talking about the Opera, so I guess ballet wasn't her cup of tea. But still, I felt quite thankful that I hadn't been near anyone with perfume that would set off my migraine, which happens with my usual seats, so I was happy.

Just my uneducated impressions. Thanks for listening.

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I think I could listen to and watch Emeralds non stop forever.

I couldn't agree more. I think I've said before how this set of performances converted me into an Emeralds devotee. It took me several performances (starting in 2006), but Emeralds is now my favorite part of Jewels. As you say glebb, I think I could see it every night for weeks, if not longer, and not grow tired of it.

Hey, but in the final analysis the credit has to go to Mr B. That one human being could have devised these 3 gems, all at the same time, in one work, is genius pure and simple. Perhaps it seems obvious, but one of the things that crystallized for me is how eerily each part of Jewels reflects the qualities of the gem for which it is named. Emeralds is quiet, subtle, and grows on you like something fundamental from nature and from the earth -- not flashy, but ever more beautiful the more you look at it. Rubies is dazzling, brash, and "in your face" with its slightly garish but totally captivating cheek. Diamonds is the Lord of the gems, pure white, without the need for common color. Jewels does not name its parts just with whimsical artistic license -- Jewels manifests the essence of each of its gems such that the dance reflects how humans have responded to these 3 stones since forever. Once again Mr B......my hat is off to you.

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Thanks everyone for such vivid reviews of the second weekend -- I don't regret the stuff I saw instead of being at PNB, but it does make me wish for cloning...

Tangentially, I saw Jonathan Porretta and Lucien Postlewaite in a new duet by Olivier Wevers on a modern dance showcase over in Bellevue, and it was excellent, both choreography and performance. Don't know if it will show up on any other programs, but it's worth keeping an eye open for it -- "Ultimatum."

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The woman who sat next to me turned around and hollered, "Shut up!" at one person with an obnoxious cell phone.

This reminds me of an incident I was a part of at the Seattle Opera last year. I don't remember the opera, but right in the middle of it, this lady sitting in front of me gets a ring on her cell phone (one of those "musical" ring tones). That's irritating and highly distracting as we all know, but I guess it can happen to any of us if we happen to forget that one time to turn the cell phone off.

However, what happened next blew me away. Instead of quickly turning the phone off, as I think we all expect, this lady opens the phone and starts talking! Something about a party that night she was going to. After 10 seconds of this, I couldn't take it anymore, and since I am not by any stretch of the imagination mild mannered, I poked her relatively hard on the shoulder (yes, I was mad), and told her in a quiet voice, but with a voice full of harsh distain, that she could not talk on her phone at the opera. She looked at me as if I were a mugger, but she did get off the phone :). (Interestingly, at the intermission, it was quite clear from the conversation I overheard btwn her and her 3 friends/family that none of them went to the opera often, or even perhaps ever before. They didn't even seem to like opera.....perhaps they knew someone in the cast.)

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I have really enjoyed reading these reviews. Peter Boal has interesting things to say (naturally!) on his Director's Blog about Violette Verdy's staging of "Emeralds." Sample:

Violette spoke about the gathering before the final pose of her “bracelet” solo. She demonstrated with upturned palms, more like child’s in a pond than a ballerina’s in performance. In class, she reminded dancers about the simple recurring moment of assembling the legs in fifth position. As she spoke, little red teaching shoes demonstrated with her words. The standing leg makes a promise (one red shoe is placed at an impressive 180-degree angle), then, as the other shoe arrives in parallel, the working leg keeps that promise, and we are ready.

As my son tries to drag me into the electronic age and I regularly wonder why I don’t have Skype, I was once again struck by the rarity of ballet. It is passed on with words and movements of one body and mind standing next to another. It can’t be downloaded or programmed. Watching this tribal passing of knowledge and inspiration is why we can’t fathom doing that high paying desk job. (Not that anyone has offered one.) It was an extraordinary week in our studios—one that we will remember fondly for years to come.

Apparently, this is only the second blog entry Boal has posted (the first was on Twyla Tharp's residency last year). I hope for many more! RSS feeds of the blog are available here.

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