Thursday, April 30, 2009
Balanchine's Jewels at San Francisco Ballet
The San Francisco Ballet is currently performing the full-length 1967 Balanchine ballet, "Jewels," for two weeks, and though a little bit of Balanchine usually goes a long way with me, a glowing review by Janos Gereben (click here) piqued my interest.
The work consists of three contrasting ballets, starting with the langorous "Emeralds" set to dreamy incidental music by Gabriel Faure, followed by "Rubies" set to a spikey piano and orchestra score by Igor Stravinsky, and wraps up with "Diamonds" to a truncated version of the obscure Tchaikowsky Symphony No. 3.
"Emeralds" holds a special place of affection for Balanchine afficionados because it's so gentle and mysterious, at times feeling like a proto Mark Morris ballet.
It also looks fiendishly difficult because the dancers are required to hold poses, and slowly make their way into the next position. There's nowhere to hide. The soloists Lorena Feijoo, Damian Smith, Sofiane Sylve and Quinn Wharton weren't perfect but they were close enough to put one into a spell.
"Rubies" is the shorter, jazzier ballet of the evening. It's extraordinarily exciting as it incorporates jazz movement to Stravinsky's complex score, and it was danced well by everyone. First among equals was Maria Kochetkova who was flawless while looking like she was having a ball.
The dancers also had to compete with somebody in the front of the orchestra section who suffered from a seizure in the middle of the ballet. He was carried to the back of the theatre and then proceeded to cry out as the seizures continued.
As some hardhearted standees pointed out, "If they could carry him all the way up the aisle to the back of the theater, why didn't they just keep going and get him out into the lobby?" (Update: The gentleman who suffered the seizure and his companion have left comments updating us on what actually happened.)
The final ballet was classic Balanchine at his most insanely architectural with a large corps de ballet in the first and fourth movements bracketing the soloists in the second and third. The piece is just about perfect for Yuan Yuan Tan and she danced it exquisitely, as did Davit Karpetyan who even managed to look handsome and butch in an all-white sparkly costume.
The two and a quarter hour ballet is a modern masterpiece, and to see it being danced at this level is a rare opportunity. Because the piece is abstract, the ballet isn't popular on the order of "Swan Lake," so there are probably plenty of seats available. Click here for a link to the Ballet website for tickets.