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Houston Ballet's Jewels


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Houston Ballet's 2nd rep of the 2010-2011 season runs through next weekend. Photos at http://insightphotography.smugmug.com/Dance/


Ah, nice photos Amitava.

From the shots it looks like there was very little in the way of scenery but the costumes looked similar to the NYCB originals. I was reminded of the discussion of which ballets (Sylphides, Jewels, T&V, Ballet Imperial) really needed or benefited by having something like the original sets and costumes.

I remember thinking that Jewels needed the costumes (except maybe for Rubies) but not the backdrops. And it looks like Houston had something like that. (I see just some pulled curtains at the wings entrances but no backdrops)

Am I interpreting the photos correctly? How did the settings work visually?

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Saw five performances of Jewels, and was tremendously chuffed, impressed, and sometimes dazzled by the ballet's depth of casting and depth of commitment to these beautiful roles.

The first cast (Melody Herrera in the Verdy role, Amy Fote in the Paul; Melissa Hough, Connor Walsh, and Kelly Myernick in Rubies; Mireille Hassenboehler and Jun Shuang Huang), although very good, was by no means the best except possibly for the Rubies. Hough, brand new to the company (just arrived from Boston Ballet), is an absolute pistol in this role: brilliant, razor sharp, frighteningly clean and clear, fast, edgy, sexy--the second best Rubies ballerina EVER right behind McBride. Her technique is already approaching the rarefied virtuosity--and control!-- of an Ashley or a Nichols; the triple pirouette/double piques sequence and the hyperextended off-balances were phenomenal, and her command of Diamonds (extremely rare for the same ballerina to do both the McBride and Farrell roles...) was equally magisterial. Hough is so clean and assured, and so quick, that she often has time to play with the music, time to relax, luxuriate, or finish a phrase with greater breadth; this reminds me a bit of Bouder at her best. Walsh was excellent although the notorious running double sauts de basque don't suit him a bit better than any other Rubies danseur I've seen except Ib Andersen, who could do anything... (I'm sure Villella was his overwhelming self in this as well--sadly, was too young to see him). Myernick, who is one of the company's most underrated, strong, and marvelous dancers, was good but her triumph came in another role, of which more later. Herrera and Fote (who danced both principal roles) were good as well; Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, who partnered Fote in the Verdy role and is a recent company addition, was extremely handsome, dashing, and possessed of a rare courtliness as a cavalier and partner. Hassenboehler was lovely, coolly self-possessed, and easy to watch in everything; her third performance was, not surprisingly, more profound and more complex. Huang, her new partner (just arrived from China), is still very, VERY new to complicated partnering of the Balanchine variety but appears to be a quick study.

The second and third casts were revelatory (including the Emeralds pas de trois, where every cast--and there were four or five--distinguished itself greatly, particularly new soloist Karina Gonzalez (from Caracas), Christopher Gray, Nozomi Iijima (who has also recently danced Ballo and Rubies!), Emily Bowen, Allison Miller, Lauren Ciobanu, and Joseph Walsh.) Herrera was the abstraction of wit and surprise in Rubies; this brilliant performance was more playful and piquant but just about as technically assured as that of Hough, which is astounding. Joseph Walsh was attentive and charismatic with her; Jessica Collado, one of the company's best and most versatile dancers, danced the Verdy role, the Neary role, and a demi in Diamonds--good in all, outstandingly lyrical and entrancing in the beautiful Verdy variation to La Fileuse.

Except for Hough's Rubies, the best performances were all given by second or third cast members, two of whom were dancing their debut and ONLY shows! Nao Kusuzaki is perhaps the company's most lyrical and graceful woman, and her dancing of the Paul role--especially the Sicilienne--was the loveliest I have ever seen (again, sadly, I was too young to see Paul in it.) This role often seems rather superfluous compared to the Verdy part; in Kusuzaki's version one missed her whenever she was offstage. Katharine Precourt, a young dancer who has had several very large parts (Faun, etc) already, danced the soloist in the last Rubies, and ate it up; she is tall with legs for days and she was one of the strongest, sexiest, and most irresistible showgirls I've ever seen in the role. There was nothing tentative in this debut, absolutely nothing careful; the bravura and risk, as in Hough's Rubies, were as if the dancer had done the role many times before. The flatfooted penchees in the first movement exit were unreal, especially the last and the final nanosecond pose; Precourt knocked off triple pirouettes as if she does them before breakfast. The scene with the four men manipulating her limbs was hilarious because there was no question who was in charge; Precourt looked at all the men with a wonderful air of nonchalance and total superiority throughout. And, last and perhaps best, Myernick's one performance of Diamonds--This dancer has been quoted in interviews as saying she worries about her line a lot and doesn't think she is nearly 'classical' enough. She's classical enough in this role and then some; it was one of the grandest, warmest, and most gracious Diamonds in history. Myernick HELD the balance at the end of the pas de deux, which is a rarity these days--it was breathtaking--and the audience began clapping well before the final curtain, screamed when the curtain went down, and leapt to their feat (a real standing ovation--what a concept now) when she appeared for her first bow. it was well deserved. Such variety of casting and such gorgeous dancing from so many is one of the many things a wonderful Jewels can give us--thanks to Stanton Welch and his wonderful company, which outdid itself.

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