Pacific Northwest Ballet opened its 2017-2018 season with the full production of George Balanchine’s Jewels. To celebrate the new season and this ballet (which first premiered 50 years earlier, on April 13, 1967), Jerome Kaplan produced new costumes (with newly-fashioned tiaras) and scenic design (for example, for Diamonds, the chandelier is replaced by an upstage large picture frame).

Close-up of an Emeralds bodice designed by Jerome Kaplan for upcoming production of George Balanchine’s “Jewels.” (Photo © Lindsay Thomas.)

A redesigned Jerome Kaplan “Emeralds” bodice in PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s “Jewels.” (Photo © Lindsay Thomas.)

In Emeralds, Josh Grant and Leah Merchant were excellent storytellers, such that the swelling of the Fauré score, its shadings and nuances were expertly mirrored by the couple. There were no throw aways here, every move counted, and that included Emma Love’s arabesque turns, Leah Merchant’s luxurious developpé arabesques, Dylan Wald’s utterly precise batterie, his high ballon, ending in silent landings, his outrageous tours and balances. Wald is charismatic on stage. Wald in the corps is like Noelani Pantastico being part of an ensemble – it is a contradiction in terms. Clearly Wald is on the rise.

In Rubies, it was Rachel Foster’s turn to impress (with her fast, precise turns and wild battement penché) and partner Benjamin Griffiths’, with his exact jeté, sparkling (and soft) landings, impressive aerial work with multiple cabrioles. This is a ballet that is a platform for technique. All moves must be squeaky clean – and fast and evocative of Stravinsky’s jazzy themes. Kudos also to Cecilia Illiesiu – for her good control in high, high battement and lots of flexible hips. It was Foster, though, who was a gumby.

These dancers, and the entire cast, delivered the attack and assurance needed for Rubies, while still maintaining its consummate structure, as well as that of Stravinsky’s Capriccio. Of note, too, was Sarah Ricard Orza, who headlined Diamonds, confidently partnered by William Lin Yee. She danced with great calm and elegance, gracefully maneuvering her arms, at the same time mastering the power that the piece demands.

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