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My review in today’s Chronicle:
Amazing how rapidly George Balanchine’s 1967 “Jewels” has become a global ballet experience.
Until 15 years ago, New York City Ballet was the only company to dance the first full-evening “plotless” ballet; just 10 years ago, “Jewels” had never been seen on the West Coast. Today keepers of the Balanchine faith travel the world tending to the spirit of “Jewels” – Miami City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, the Kirov, the list goes on.
Fresh from coaching their “Emeralds” roles at Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet, Balanchine ballerinas Violette Verdy and Mimi Paul have migrated south and lent their wisdom to the San Francisco Ballet production of “Jewels” that opened Saturday. To say “Emeralds” sparkles thanks to their coaching would make a deeply soul-enriching ballet sound merely pretty.
“Emeralds” is the most poetic of the three sections that make up “Jewels,” because of the metaphorical suggestiveness Balanchine drew from his selections of Fauré music. When Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith took a step on each quarter-note in the “walking” duet Saturday, their movements seemed dictated by the tragic march of time, an idea reinforced when a pause in arabesque brings ticking-clockwork arms and legs (and a brisk andante tempo from conductor Martin West). In the opening pas de deux, the corps de ballet was not just a backdrop of 10 beautiful women, but a force of fate pushing Lorena Feijoo and Seth Orza (on loan from Pacific Northwest Ballet) apart.
Earlier San Francisco Ballet performances in 2002 and 2003 were not devoid of that poetry, but Saturday’s interpretation brought new insights in the female solos. Each became a richly imaginative reverie; Tan and Feijoo seemed to be doing the steps not for the audience, but for attendees at a party only they could see swirling around them. ”
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UPDATE: A reader, Mark, writes that Mr. B would have been disappointed that I did not credit Elyse Bourne for staging SF Ballet’s production. I agree–that was an unfortunate omission–and offer belated credit now.