July 28, 2017
Ballet was born in the French Academy, spread across Europe only to gain an unrivaled status in Russia until the young upstart, America challenged them all through the brilliant choreography or George Balanchine, his school and ballet company as ABT -- the rival NYC based company led by the heiress--- and home to many Europeans.
With this in mind, the merging of the Paris Opera Ballet, the Bolshoi, and NYC Ballet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s Jewels was a an affair to behold.
Performances alternated companies in the three sections: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds. Each night brought varied, deeply personal interpretations.
The evening I attended, the Paris Opera Ballet exquisitely performed Emeralds. Amplifying the liquidity of their torsos, the POB ballerinas magnified the section’s lyrical airiness and romance. In a touch of true, understated glamour, a ballerinas turns her back to the audience, puts one arm behind her back only to have her hand cupped by her attentive partner.
Rubies - to the jazzy, modernist music by Stravinsky -- caused some consternation within the Bolshoi ranks. The most angular of all the pieces demands crabby arms, walking on heels, flexed feet and all sorts of physically dented turns, and leaps. Unable to fully keep up with the musical pace or the form, the Bolshoi dancers spent the majority of Rubies chasing behind the steps.
In the final section, Diamonds, the home-team glittered. Sara Mearns, exuding a natural grace and voluptuous aura led the Americans in a sterling performance. Technically clean, musically fulsome, the performance demonstrated a dignified majesty that moved through Balanchine’s courtly, grand-scale patterns and physical extensions.
Most marvelous about this experiment is the ability of each company to project a distinct personality. Regardless of skill, the dancers spoke ballet in their particular accent, and wearing their own costumes. They employed contrasting arm carriages, body facings-- more opened or closed to the audience -- feet trained for speed or languorous presentations, and legs that whipped through the air forming different angles.
All these variations are part of what makes ballet an art form.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis