Saturday, October 11, 2003

Three 'Jewels,' one flawed ruby


By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Happy 100, Mr. Balanchine.

Cincinnati Ballet celebrates the centennial of that greatest of choreographers George Balanchine by reviving his extravagant full-length evening Jewels.

First presented by Cincinnati Ballet in 1996, Jewels in 2003 is a testament to how far the ballet has come in less than a decade. It's the difference between zircon and the real thing.

Jewels is Balanchine's bold and beautiful exercise in giving personality and life to those inanimate if precious gems in a trio of dances.

Emeralds - cool and elegant. Rubies - brash and sexy. Diamonds - brilliant and extravagant.

Jewels, an enormous undertaking for smaller companies, is also an experiment in combining the forces of two neighboring ballet companies, Cincinnati Ballet and Ballet Met Columbus.

Cheryl Sullivan is the standout in Emeralds, formally patterned, costumed classically, of course in jewel green, and set to a restrained score by Faure.

Ballet Met soloists Jamie Dee and Hisham Omardien are impressive, but Sullivan, precisely partnered by Anthony Krutzkamp, pulls us in with her palpable joy of this dance.

Balanchine establishes a theme that will repeat throughout the program, melding the idea of warm, living beings and stone, as he uses the 10 members of the corps in a changing series of poses ringing the soloists, suggesting a variety of gem settings.

Ballet Met takes center stage in Rubies, which is the only seriously flawed portion of Jewels. Balanchine lets Stravinsky's jazzy Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra set the playfully sexy tone - with the company costumed in hot, hot red.

But the corps is cloudy and partners Hiromi Ushino and Derek Sakakura are properly playful but not remotely sexy.

There's no arguing their technical ability, but Rubies demands a pair who are sharply knowing. And to my eye, Rubies looks best set on tall and willowy bodies that inspired Balanchine throughout his career, not this tiny if dynamic duo.

Which brings us to the glorious Diamonds, superbly led by Cincinnati Ballet principals Kristi Capps and Dmitri Trubchanov, so deliriously bubbling over with life force that one could debate whether the more accurate name for this finale - "Diamonds" or "Champagne"?

Diamonds always earns an "ooooooh!" when the curtain rises, the corps in gleaming white under an enormous crystal chandelier.

Diamonds is all about panache, a word that no one understood better than Balanchine. To the strains of Tchaikovsky, Cincinnati Ballet and Ballet Met's almost three dozen dancers whirl through a grand finale that evokes the spirit of Imperial Russia. And it's breathtaking.

Jewels, 2 p.m. today, Cincinnati Ballet, Aronoff Center Procter & Gamble Hall, 241-7469.


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