Monday, February 23, 2009

Polishing "Jewels"

I spent last Saturday at one of the final rehearsals of George Balanchine's classic Jewels at the Boston Ballet (at left, Yuri Yanowsky and Romi Beppu in an earlier Boston production of part of the ballet, "Rubies"). Jewels - the first, and probably still the biggest, full-length "abstract" ballet - covers not only three different historical periods but three different styles of dance (French, American and Russian, or, in the ballet's code, "Emeralds," "Rubies," and "Diamonds"). To mount what most companies would consider a major challenge just two weeks after tearing through the stunning Black and White counts as something of a hat trick. And you could feel the resulting pressure in the studio; the rehearsal I caught of Black and White two weeks ago was essentially a run-through; this was a full-on working rehearsal (I had to leave before it was over). And no wonder; any Balanchine fan knows that perhaps the greatest thrill Mr. B. provides is the ever-moving architecture of his corps - Balanchine works his supporting players almost as hard as he does his leads, and always brings their patterned movement to a grandly multivalent climax to match that of his musical accompaniment. I left just as the Ballet was cutting the facets on this glittering culmination of "Diamonds" (which requires forces that literally filled the room). But already there had been dazzlingly delicate work from Erica Cornejo in "Emeralds," and a mischievous romp from James Whiteside and Melissa Hough in the frisky "Rubies." Once "Diamonds" is appropriately set, it should prove the perfect pendant to this trio.

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