On my second time seeing the Jewels program at the Lincoln Center Festival, the world was back the way it was supposed to be. Paris Opera Ballet on Emeralds, New York City Ballet on Rubies and the Bolshoi on Diamonds. As with the previous show I saw, not everything was perfect but it was an exciting occasion with yet another packed house.

Laetitia Pujol et Mathieu Ganio of POB in George Balanchine's <i>Emeralds</i> © Agathe Poupenyy | Opéra national de Paris
Laetitia Pujol et Mathieu Ganio of POB in George Balanchine's Emeralds
© Agathe Poupenyy | Opéra national de Paris

The Paris Opera Ballet opened with Emeralds, featuring Laëtitia Pujol and Mathieu Ganio as the first lead couple. Ganio is an attractive dancer, long and smooth, and a great partner. Pujol wasn’t nearly as pleasing to me as Dorothée Gilbert was in this role. She tended to be more abrupt and had less of Gilbert’s magical phrasing. Myriam Ould-Braham and Mathias Heymann as the second leads were more compelling to me. There’s a powerful centeredness to Ould-Braham that makes you believe she could do just about anything. My favorite part of Emeralds in this show turned out to be the trio with Hannah O’Neill, Sae Eun Park and Fabien Revillion who filled in for François Alu at the last minute. These three were full of joie de danse. They were ebullient and made me see more possibilities in the choreography than I had seen before. I like Emeralds so much better after seeing it performed by the Paris Opera Ballet.

I’m at a loss for what to say about Rubies. It’s hard to find sufficient superlatives for New York City Ballet’s best cast. Teresa Reichlen is incomparable as the tall girl. She has the perfect mix of the long-legged amazon and the playful coquette. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz have their part down and deliver everything you could possibly ask for. They leap, spin, play and have a blast doing it. And everything is given perfect articulation. There’s not another dance company in the world that can equal them in this. One thing I thought about while watching them is that you must be relaxed and loose to move extremely fast and Rubies is all about speed. This ballet goes back and forth between turned in and turned out, classical and jazzy steps, jogging and jetés. It’s an ease that was lacking in the Bolshoi dancers who danced Rubies the previous night. You have to get to the next position quickly in order for it to be visible in the audience’s mind. If you don’t get there it becomes muddy. NYCB flat out owns Rubies.

Joaquin De Luz and Megan Fairchild of NYCB in Geaorge Balanchine's <i>Rubies</i> © Paul Kolnik
Joaquin De Luz and Megan Fairchild of NYCB in Geaorge Balanchine's Rubies
© Paul Kolnik

You can tell something is off when you see a ballerina in a lift and her upper body is tilted back. What’s happening is that her partner lacks the strength to hold her up with his arms and he compensates by leaning back to rest some of her weight on his chest. To put her down, he has to pick her up off his chest and she inevitably ends up off balance. This requires an awkward shift forward to compensate after she touches down. That was Jacopo Tissi’s partnering with Alena Kovaleva in the Bolshoi’s Diamonds. Individually, in their solos, these two were great young dancers. Kovaleva is gorgeous, a practically perfect Bolshoi ballerina. Long, strong and slender limbs, fabulous flexibility, and perfectly arched feet. She also dances wonderfully. Tissi is also a superb dancer with world class technique. Unfortunately, it didn’t come through in the pas de deux. To look at them standing still, you would think this was a dream pairing. Only part of the problem was his lack of strength. At times he didn’t seem to know where he was supposed to put his hands to best support her and there was a good bit of tension in their grips. He also seemed unable to find Kovaleva’s center of balance. These two need more coaching here because this ballet is deceptively difficult. It doesn’t have a lot of overhead lifts but there are many hand changes, turns, little jumps, swivels, pivots and changes in direction. It was a shame because the Bolshoi corps de ballet was outstanding and so were the other soloists, especially Yulia Grebenschikova and Ana Turazashvili.

This special edition of Jewels was set up as a festival programming gimmick but it ended up being so much more. Being able to see all these dancers together was a rare opportunity to compare how differently they work and appreciate what each of them brings to classical ballet that is unique to them. They are all technically accomplished but there are still stylistic differences that set them apart. The Parisians exude a warm elegance coupled with soft refinement. The Bolshoi is all grand imperial style with a certain swagger. New York City Ballet’s dancers tear through space with speed and attack the steps like no one else and they celebrate their individuality. I hope that they enjoyed watching one another and that new friendships were formed.