SFB, "Jewels," 4/25/2009

San Francisco Ballet
April 25, 2009, 8PM

George Balanchine’s “Jewels” is well regarded for its homage to modern ballet’s roots. This plotless ballet, which debuted in 1967, is comprised of three abstract sections: “Emeralds,” “Rubies,” and “Diamonds” to represent France, the US, and Russia respectively. While the choreography may not be groundbreaking, dance aficionados still praise “Jewels” for its wide range of emotions and for being one of Balanchine’s timeless ballets. Often presented in parts, the ballet as a whole is rarely seen on stage outside of New York, but our fine city is sparkling this week with San Francisco Ballet’s superb take on “Jewels.”

Normally, I prefer the sultriness and pizazz of “Rubies,” but Sofiane Sylve’s take on the lead swan-like principal role in “Diamonds” has me thinking otherwise. Sylve danced the pas de deux with a pure, unaffected grace and fragility that left me gasping for breath by the end. Her partner, Pierre François Vilanoba, matched her as best he could, but in “Jewels,” as in most of Balanchine’s work, the majority of the focus is on the women. The demi soloists shone brightly, including Lily Rogers and Jennifer Stahl, and Quinn Wharton, a tall, sandy haired fellow, danced with a kingly presence. One of the things that differentiates “Diamonds” from the other two sections is the big wow moment when the corps enters, sweeping its feet across the stage with the stark brightness of the cream colored costumes radiating simplicity and elegance, and this time was no different. The only caveat I had was with Tony Walton’s white lite-brite/scatter plot effect across the back scrim (which continued in corresponding colors through the other two sections). Sorry, but I’m not a fan. Please bring back the Tiffany blue background and extravagant chandeliers, I beg of you.

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Sofiane Sylve and Pierre-François Vilanoba in Balanchine's "Diamonds."
Photos © Erik Tomasson

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