Balanchine's larger-than-life personality and celebrity have made known his artistic and personal obsession with the unattainable woman. So although "Jewels" is the first full-length abstract ballet, the plot thickens as the second ballerina is personified by the dancer who walks through her duet barely noticing her partner.
First-soloist Haley Henderson Smith is usually at her best in theatrical roles, but here she performs the duet robotically rather than with the cool, ethereal nature I assume Balanchine intended.
One way Balanchine refracts the classical canon in each section of "Jewels" is through the inventive structures and fascinating movement he provides the corps de ballet.
Unlike story ballets and classical works, in the neo-classical "Jewels," dancers do not stand motionless in a line of swans for 20 minutes while the leads dance to exhaustion. "Emeralds" finds dancers in uneven numbered groupings obliged to find creative solutions to choreographic problems that were never posed by symmetrical staging.
The middle section "Rubies" is a show-stopper. Again Balanchine showcases two ballerinas, but unlike "Emeralds," only one has a partner and the other is solo. Demi-solist Beckanne Sisk brings her extraordinary confidence and jaw-dropping performance quality to an already exciting part. Demi-solist Emily Adams is the more aloof of the two in her solo role but takes command of the stage and of the five men who surround her.
The third panel of "Jewels" is "Diamonds," danced by the always refined and precise BW principal Christiana Bennett. Although this section surprisingly turns into a production number, at its core is a pas de deux which most interpret as Balanchine's potential marriage proposal to his well-known muse, Suzanne Farrell.
On opening night, the "Diamonds" pas de deux was marred by several mistakes and missteps between Bennett and partner Beau Pearson.
As the "Diamonds" section in its entirety unfolds, it becomes a spectacular wedding march a refraction of the coronation at the end of every story ballet.
However, Farrell has written in her memoirs that because Balanchine was still married to his fourth or fifth wife, she turned down his proposal. Which brings a slightly tragic edge to the dazzling ending of "Jewels."
Ballet West's 'Jewels'
P Balanchine's masterwork "Jewels" is a must see for anyone interested in the performing arts
When • Reviewed Friday; continues Wednesday-Saturday, April 10-13, 7:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 13
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $19-$80; at arttix.org, 801-355-ARTS or at the box office. Discounts for groups of 15 or more by calling Ballet West, 801-869-6900.
Running time • Two hours with three 10-minute intermissions
Promotions and new dancers
For its 2013-14 season, Ballet West has promoted 11 dancers and made four new additions to the company. Changes include:
• Haley Henderson Smith, Tom Mattingly and Arolyn Williams have been promoted from first soloist to principal artist
• Beau Pearson and Christopher Sellars move from soloist to first-soloist
• Rex Tilton jumps from demi-soloist to first-soloist
• Emily Adams, Christopher Anderson, Allison DeBona and Beckanne Sisk have been promoted from demi-soloist to soloist
• Lindsay Duerfeldt moves from corps-artist to demi-soloist.
• New additions to Ballet West are Paige Adams, Kimberly Ballard, Chase O'Connell and Zachary Prentice, all of whom move into the main company from Ballet West II.
• Ballet West II added four dancers from the Ballet West Academy Professional Training Division: Alex Cambie, Lauren Denney, Lucas Horns and Mercedes Rice.