This October 24-27, 2019, the Mariinsky, gifted Los Angeles with George Balanchine’s JEWELS, a ballet in three parts. It is a major offering of Glory Kaufman Presents: Dance at the Music Center at Los Angeles’ premiere venue for dance the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
JEWELS originally opened with New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater on April 13, 1967. It is more than a masterpiece of a ballet but a remembrance that insists itself, its romance, its sassiness, regality, and history into the viewer until it permeates every cell of the body. Inspired by famed jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels, it is envisaged from a parure (matching set of gems, necklace, earrings, bracelet) of jewels. Each piece represents the rich facets of Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. It cries out “Romance”, “Culture,” “Royalty”, and the brilliance of the life of its creator, George Balanchine.
On opening night Thursday, October 24, The Mariinsky’s interpretation of JEWELS, began with “Emeralds.” With its romantic tenderness, this first movement examines the filigree of breathless emotion, in the charm of its pas de deux, pas de trois, solos and company work. When performed, its magic is like a feather caught in a summer breeze.
This night, the first hush of the sparkling sets and costumes by Karinska, recreated by Holly Hynes, with sets by Peter Harvey reveals the Grand Hall sprinkled with pearls, jewels and a magnificent chandeliered Broach lit in Emerald at the top of the proscenium arch. The company is in a tableau for just a moment to allow the audience to catch their breath and take in the diaphanous emerald tutus and Jade and white tunics of the elegant female and male dancers in arched poses of the Romantic era.
Our lead ballerina Daria Daria Ionova, and her partner Maxim Zyuzin’s began their romantic tryst. With the introduction of Gabriel Fauré lyrical music, expectations were high. Miss Ionova did not live up to those who came before her. She appeared cold, a bit off balance this night. The burden of perfection and history seemed riding on her shoulders and although Zyuzin was himself physically and technically beautiful there seemed no way to quite capture the soul of his paramore.
Next came the Charming Mei Nagashisa, Laura Fernandez and David Zaleyev brought “Emeralds” back to a vital lightness with their lyrical pas de trois. Zaleyev partnering two to one, the clever interchange and asymmetrical design of Balanchine was not only aesthetic, but mathematic. It brought an interchange of form that delighted with surprises, interest and charm. It relaxed and breathed air into the dour opening.
The stunning strolling section performed by the wide-eyed Maria Iliushkina, and adoring Roman Belyakov was delicate, halting, appearing as though walking on air. A coming together of the quite incredible male dancers, inserted their brilliant technical prowess, leading to the final wisp of gossamer green tutus to end of “Emeralds.”
With a rise of the curtain on the Second Act, “Rubies” caused an audible gasp throughout the hall, revealing the blood red recreations of Karinska’s costumes again revitalized by Holly Hynes. The powerfully flirtatious quirky and playful Renata Shakirova and Kimin Kim immediately created an off kilter independent and, yes, American vibe. Igor Stravinsky’s music with it’s halting dissonance and energetic sense of humor, paired with Balanchine’s choreography and Mariinsky’s dancers in such a brilliant way that it felt improvisational. The free, fierce and playful solo by Yekaterina Chebykina, made us hold our collective breath. Nothing compares to well done Balanchine, and Alexy Atomanov, Yaroslav Baybordin, Viacheslau Hnedchyk and Oleg Ignatev with Kimin Kim in a challenge of male brilliance and energy added to the audience’s raucous and surprising outbursts in the middle of the unique moves of this marvelous piece. This set the contrast for the evening to honor the unique work of Balanchine.
The Final gift, “Diamonds” so reminiscent of Tsarist Russia, to Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D, was exquisite in its grandeur. The foreplay of the Pas de deux, danced by Alina Samova and Vladimir Shkliarov moved as though in a “cat and mouse game” gliding in deliberate steps around each other, never touching, creating tension until they’re gentle embrace. It somehow historically called out to Balanchine’s loves. The reach, the withdraw, until finally the melding of art and yearning. All of this culminating in a chilling grand pas, a Polonaise, incomparable in the Russian Culture and the perfect ending to an unparalleled ballet evening with the Mariinsky doing Balanchine, so connected by culture, class, and brilliance. It should not be missed.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle, October 28, 2019.
To visit the Mariinsky Ballet website, click here.
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Featured image: Mariinsky Ballet – Maria Khorevaxander in “Diamonds” – JEWELS by George Balanchine – Photo by Svetlana Avvakum