George Balanchine created many ballet gems. And his “Jewels” is one of the most sparkling — replete with romance, athleticism and elegance.
This evening-long triptych, performed by New York City Ballet on Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, captures the brilliance of emeralds, rubies and diamonds with music (Faure, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, respectively) and dancing that reflects the precious stones’ complexions.
The ballet begins with “Emeralds,” that has a setting that makes one swoon with its verdant setting adorned with ropes of green baubles. The dancers — also in this deep green — also glisten as their bodices are dripping in green crystals. The corps de ballet frames Abi Stafford and Jared Angle as they stroll across the stage. As the corps locks hands and weave into ever-shifting patterns, Angle reaches for Stafford who falls into his arms or takes his hand so he can gracefully lead her about.
While Stafford is elegant, the essence of the ballet shines through Jennifer Ringer. She embodies emeralds as she tiptoes about moving through a port de bras that is luxurious. Ask LaCour, as her partner, is also wonderful as they proceed in a halted manner as Ringer rises her leg into a high arabesque and her arms in a soaring first position. Their union has a feel of religious reverence, especially as they glide silently.
This opener is genius as Balanchine employs simple walking and arm gestures to their fullest. Dance does not have to be about physical tricks. Rather, it has to communicate a universal emotion – and this indeed proves that ease and directness has just as much potential as the most daring of moves.
The energy does get revved for “Rubies,” which is cast in black accented with criss-crossing lines of iridescent red. The corps de ballet and the commanding Teresa Reichlen line up, en releve, upstage. As the music strikes up, they march – with their pointes stabbing the floor. All eyes are glued to Reichlen who looms large as she poses, with her feet and arms spread wide, and then gets moving again with an off-centered swing of the hip.
Megan Fairchild is also terrific with Joaquin de Luz. Somehow, he gets lost in the jogging and jumping, but not Fairchild. She zips about in this jazzy, syncopated romp that bowls over with its glitz and drive.
“Diamonds” appears to be anticlimactic after “Rubies.” But again, Balanchine and New York City Ballet dancers do not disappoint. The large corps de ballet ushers in this majestic finale – bowing and bending to the sumptuous Tchaikovsky score.
Then comes Wendy Whelan with her partner Tyler Angle who bestows “Diamonds” with nobility. Whelan is especially wonderful as she is a miracle of a dancer. After 20 years as a principal, she still is divine. She moves so lightly that one thinks she must be made of air. Age and years of straining her body in all manner of shapes seems to have had no effect. And, we, in the audience, are grateful to witness, time and again, her magnificence.
Reach Gazette reviewer Wendy Liberatore at firstname.lastname@example.org.