Miami City Ballet
Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.
Friday, June 1, 2001
by Alexandra Tomalonis
George Balanchine's Jewels
was both revolutionary and reactionary when it was created in
1967, and remains so today. Revolutionary, because it is a full-evening's
entertainment consisting of three one-act plotless or abstract
ballets. Reactionary, because, at a time when pop art and modernism
were ascendant, Jewels could be seen as Balanchine's statement
about classicism, as rigorous a one as Petipa's Sleeping Beauty
had been 70 years earlier.
There was nothing reactionary about
Miami City Ballet's dancing of of this beautiful, complex and
The first jewel, "Emeralds,"
is perhaps the most difficult because it is a ballet of arms
and atmosphere, and deceptively simple. Set to Gabriel Fauré's
Pélleas and Mélisande and Shylock suites,
music Balanchine considered "musique dansant,"
the ballet shimmers. The poetic frame of reference for the choreography
is water, and the dances ripple through the music like gentle
waves. It's an ode to Romanticism, and women, with a nod to the
Middle Age's Court of Love. The MCB dancers are ravishing in
this work. Mary Carmen Catoya came as close to capturing languid
and voluptuous port de bras of Violette Verdy, who created the
leading ballerina role, as any mortal might hope to do, and Shannon
Parsley was equally beautiful in the sleepy, "walking"
solo. Carlos Guerra and Yann Trividic were their worthy cavaliers.
Arnold Quintane, in the pas de trois, had a militaristic air,
as though he were the knight most likely to win in battle.
"Rubies," the jazzy,
"American" jewel, set to Stravinsky's Capriccio
for Piano and Orchestra, got an electric performance from
Jennifer Kronenberg and Eric Quilleré, as well as Michelle
Merrell in the "big ballerina" role. "Rubies"
is loose, fast, witty, and just a tiny bit vulgar--a deliberate
contrast to the poetic "Emeralds" and the grand "Diamonds,"
to follow--and the cast caught all of this, and danced it BIG,
to boot. They took chances and looked as though they loved every
minute of it.
"Diamonds," the Russian
jewel, set to Tchaikovsky's 3rd Symphony, was made for a big
company at the height of its powers. It's grand, and MCB doesn't
quite have the power to pull it off completely--it can't be expected
to, this small, feisty little company that's barely ten years
old. It's a ballet associated with giants--Suzanne Farrell and
Peter Martins (in the role originated by Jacques D'Amboise),
both with big, rich bodies; the dancers of the NYCB corps, too,
were the companies strongest and weightiest. Miami's "Diamonds"
is a bit on the light side, a series of cleanly danced segments
that never quite came together, but, as with the ballets on the
company's triple bill danced earlier in the week, the outline
of the ballet was firmly in place and it should grow richer with
time and performances. Deanne Seay and Mikhail Nikitine led the
"Jewels" is still associated
with its first dancers, especially Verdy in "Emeralds;"
Patricia McBride and Edward Villella (MCB's current artistic
director) in "Rubies"; Farrell in "Diamonds."
Villella, whose direction of MCB is moving from honorable to
downright righteous, invited Verdy, McBride and Farrell to coach
his dancers when the company first acquired the work. Mimi Paul,
who happened to be in the neighborhood, reportedly dropped in
on Friday's rehearsals. How reactionary, to bring in "old
ballerinas" to coach their roles. How dangerous--a lesser
artist might feel threatened. How revolutionary.
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