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Review: Balanchine Jewels from Paris, Moscow and New York

You can see how the Bolshoi and City Ballet styles are related: long phrases, luxurious texture, expansive physicality, calmly off-balance emphasis. The Paris style, marvelously chic, proves far less right for Balanchine, above all in the women’s clipped phrasing and anti-musical dynamics (dwelling archly on transitions, flicking lightly through important linear points). “Emeralds,” although Gallic, does not suggest Paris anyway: It seems to belong in some Fontainebleau-like forest glade, whereas these dancers emanate big-city polish.

Ms. Smirnova, still young, first danced the “Diamonds” role in 2012, near the start of her career. The refined arc of her raised arms; the elegance with which she holds and turns her head; the plucked, lucid emphasis of her arched feet are all riveting. She marvelously leads the role from chivalrous Romantic mystery to brightly classical celebration. Her partner, Semyon Chudin, has gained immensely in assurance since New York’s last Bolshoi season three years ago.

In “Rubies,” Ms. Reichlen’s gleaming, sly, huge-scaled performance of the soloist role has long seemed definitive, while Mr. de Luz’s charmingly assertive style is effective. The surprise was Ms. Fairchild. As in other recent performances, she has suddenly bloomed into a marvelously free personality: adult, decisive, engagingly robust, merrily witty.


From Paris Opera Ballet, from left, Sae Eun Park, Marc Moreau and Hannah O’Neill in “Emeralds.”

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Nobody worked harder than Balanchine to establish plotless pure-dance choreography as theatrically engrossing. He was also, in several works, ballet’s greatest dramatist — there is no contradiction here, for drama pervades his non-narrative work. “Jewels,” often described as the first full-length abstract ballet, yields more rewards if you see it as containing multiple stories, situations and worlds. Its three parts, though dissimilar, are connected. In each, dancers repeatedly move from a bent-forward position — with arms together pointing like a unicorn’s horn — to an expansively arched-back open gesture. Each has a pas de deux in which the ballerina seems like a magical wild beast whom her partner keeps at arm’s length.

The European companies, though they keep the basic color schemes and jeweled emphasis, have brought their own costumes — by Christian Lacroix (“Emeralds”) and Elena Zaitseva (“Diamonds”). Since City Ballet maintains the original costumes by Karinska, locals are likely to object to these alternative versions. (The blue-cyan Lacroix couture feels especially wrong.)

Yet the visitors may look with similar distaste at City Ballet’s three décors (made by Peter Harvey in 2004, coarser in emphasis than his 1967 originals, which now look marvelous with the Mariinsky of St. Petersburg). I suspect close scrutiny will show that the Paris Opera and Bolshoi perform “Emeralds” and “Diamonds” in texts slightly different from those currently used by City Ballet.

“Jewels” has long been a perfect introduction to ballet’s poetry; but only this century has it taken off in international repertory. At the climax of Thursday’s bows, the three companies were joined onstage by their artistic directors: Aurélie Dupont (Paris Opera), Peter Martins (City Ballet), and Makhar Vaziev (Bolshoi) — an entente cordiale before our eyes.

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