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‘Jewels,’ Balanchine’s Sparkling Triptych, at the Kennedy Center 
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Georgetown, DC
Thursday, June 6, 2024


By Hailey Wharram

“A Chorus Line was right” — everything is beautiful at the ballet!

From June 4 to 9, the Kennedy Center invites you to celebrate the 75th anniversary of New York City Ballet with “Jewels.” Created in 1967 by world-renowned choreographer George Balanchine—the founder of New York City Ballet, whose most famous ballets include “The Nutcracker” and “Don Quixote”—“Jewels” is a three-pronged showcase of divergent dance styles anchored by its central gemstone visual motif. The show is uniquely plotless; ironically, as Nancy Reynolds details in her book “Repertory in Review: 40 Years of the New York City Ballet,” Balanchine even revealed that “the ballet had nothing to do with jewels” and “the dancers are just dressed like jewels.” Nevertheless, Jewels’ magnificent sets, costumes, and performances have enraptured audiences for decades, and, unsurprisingly, NYCB’s latest run at the Kennedy Center is no exception to the rule.

“Jewels” begins with “Emeralds,” a French-infused delight featuring jaunty musical selections from composer Gabriel Fauré. Even before the dancers begin, just the rising curtain’s reveal of the lavish, verdant set design is enough to prompt a cascade of “ooh”s from the audience. Spiderwebbed string lights of glittering green gemstones hang from the ceiling, sparkling like dew-dappled leaves in the morning sun. Chrysalis-esque panels flanking the stage evoke pleasant thoughts of springtime and rejuvenation.

Adorned in a flowing, romantic tutu which swirls like stream water with each spin, Indiana Woodward stuns in this jubilant garden scene, complete with crisp lines and a beaming smile to match. Her partner, Tyler Angle, sustains this radiant joy, gracefully jumping around the stage like a grasshopper as the orchestra swells with bright, citrusy strings. “Emeralds” is upbeat yet soothing, sweet yet never too sugary—a marvelous number which starts “Jewels” off on a high note.

In stark contrast to the lucious paradise of “Emeralds,” in Rubies, the stage is cloaked in darkness with slashes of shimmering scarlet. With dramatic orchestral arrangements by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky—Balanchine’s longtime artistic collaborator—“Rubies” blends American ballet with jazz to create something uniquely mesmerizing and liberated. Surprising shakes, shimmies, and flourishes embedded within the choreography make each little movement feel unmissable and magic-laced. Jangling bejeweled skirts, cheeky partnerwork, and a paprika-spiced pianoline steadily stoke Rubies’ crimson fire; the audience is a dutiful moth to the flame.

Emily Kikta spearheads the ensemble with a sultry, sirenesque flare reminiscent of a crooning jazz singer traipsed over a piano while dazzling a speakeasy crowd. Even when one section of the choreography sees four male dancers puppeteering each of her limbs, her piercing smirks affirm who is truly in control. Likewise, Emma Von Enck (a dancer just recently promoted to principal status in May) and Joseph Gordon bring considerable charisma to their partnerwork, with their teasing routine of cat and mouse often prompting laughter from the audience in a refreshing change of pace.

Backboned by the orchestral compositions of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky—the musical mastermind behind beloved ballets like “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”—“Diamonds” concludes “Jewels” with a visually chilly yet undeniably warmhearted scene. Silver snowflakes dangling midair set the stage for this wintry coronation, as Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognizable style cements this final piece firmly in the classical, Russian ballet tradition. The group work is particularly beautiful in this number, bringing “Jewels” to a close with regal poise sure to take your breath away. Mira Nadon, the first Asian American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, perfectly embodies this aforementioned elegance, leading the ensemble with quiet command and undeniable grace.

“Jewels” has a 127-minute runtime, including two trifurcating 20-minute intermissions. Three different casts will perform from June 4 through June 9—one on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, another on Wednesday and Friday (the cast spotlighted here), and the third on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for Jewels can be purchased here.

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