SEATTLE – Sunday Pacific Northwest Ballet concluded two-weeks of George Balanchine’s Jewels at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.
Originally choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1967, Jewels was created as an ode to the unique ballet styles of France (Emeralds), America (Rubies), and Russia (Diamonds). One of Balanchine’s most renowned works, this three-act ballet features music by composers Gabriel Urbain Fauré, Igor Stravinsky and Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky.
In celebration of PNB’s 50th anniversary, Jewels featured brand new costumes and production design by Jerome Kaplan. “Now that Jewels has become a more permanent part of our repertoire, it was time we made it our own.” Artist Director Peter Boal stated in a post-performance discussion. The new costumes were crafted in-house by PNB’s own costume shop.
The audience was drawn in instantly as Steven Loch and Elizabeth Murphy enjoyed a pas de deux against a minimalist, starry night backdrop that felt fitting in the company’s Pacific Northwest home.
Murphy’s port de bras was almost otherworldly as she took the stage for her solo variation; her charisma and stage presence was contagious from the moment she entered the space.
Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz’s interpretation of the second pas de deux was near perfection. The couple (who are married in real life) displayed seamless class in the intent of every crystal-clear step.
In the pas de trois, it was impossible not to watch Price Suddarth; he played with the texture of every step, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Suddarth gives “dancing on the music” a whole new meaning.
Subtle elegance was synchronistically shared by all seven principals and corps de ballet from the first step until curtain came down at the end of the finale.
As the curtain rose, Elle Macy stood center stage, ready to launch the company from 0-60 in the iconic opening section of Rubies.
Leta Biasucci and James Moore were unstoppable. Both dancers who could have led the entire performance on their own created an explosive chemistry that brought a new life to this already exciting ballet. It’s worth noting that this was one of Moore’s best roles to date. From Romeo to abstract contemporary works, Moore’s range as a dancer is ever-expanding; PNB is lucky to have his broad artistic diversity in their ranks.
The corps de ballet looked sloppy at times due to the complexity of the choreography over the hard-to-count music, but this was made up for in the finale with a tight mens section followed by perfectly straight lines in a “windmill” formation as Biasucci and Moore weaved in and out.
For the duration of Rubies the “wings” of the stage alternated black and white, hinting the image of piano keys. This was a tasteful ode to Stavinsky’s complex piano driven score, which was played beautifully by long time virtuoso pianist Christina Siemens and the PNB Orchestra, led by Music Director/Principal Conductor Emil de Cou.
Jewels would not be complete without Diamonds. This grand finale was led by PNB household name, prima ballerina Noelani Pantastico. This was Pantastico’s first time in the leading role and my first time seeing her perform since she returned to the company in 2015. This new interpretation from such a loved ballerina was the highlight of the act.
Pantastico was joined by fellow principal dancer Seth Orza, whose masculine line and strong parting skills complimented her throughout the piece.
As Diamonds came to an end, Pantastico and Orza were joined by a large corps de ballet, bringing the day to a close in epic fashion.
Diamond in the Emerald City
PNB is on top of their game – any city would be blessed to have such a ballet company within their city limits. Seattle not only embraces them, but boasts them with a specific brand of pacific northwest pride.
Thank you, PNB, for bringing artistic literacy to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, and the world of art beyond the confines of geography.