The Bolshoi Ballet’s one-week tour to Hong Kong, as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, ended gloriously last weekend with three performances of Balanchine’s masterpiece Jewels.  This production of the ballet, staged by Sandra Jennings, entered the Bolshoi's repertoire in 2012. Hong Kong audiences are fortunate, as it's been specially revived for this engagement, and will not be performed at all in Moscow this season.

Diamonds © Elena Fetisova
Diamonds
© Elena Fetisova

Balanchine’s 1967 three-act ballet is regarded as his first abstract full-length ballet. Emeralds set to music by Faure pays tribute to France, the birthplace of classical ballet. Rubies set to Stravinsky's, pays homage to America where Balanchine choreographed for the New York City Ballet works steming from a phenomenal partnership with the composer. And the final part Diamonds set to Tchaikovsky’s third symphony, is Balanchine homage to his St. Petersburg past. Jewels never fails to yield rewards each time it is performed. It is certainly a perfect showcase of the excellence of, and within the Bolshoi’s ranks.

On the opening night, Nina Kaptsova exuded allure as the first ballerina in Emeralds.  Her dancing was luscious and full. Vladislav Lantratov danced elegantly as her cavalier in the first pas de deux. Kristina Kretova was expressive as the second ballerina. Balanchine’s choreography for that role is no less inspired. In the second pas de deux, Kretova seemed to be floating as she was making her long exit across the stage on pointe.  And she struck a memorable image when she gradually lifted up her leg up in an arabesque penchée. In the pas de trois though, soloist Igor Tsvirko seemed heavy and hardly got off the ground in the jumps.

Rubies was danced with bright energy by the whole cast, and the grands battements by the female corps de ballet women brought to mind showgirls’ high kicks on Broadway. Anastasia Stashkevich was glamorous as the ballerina, her dancing fun and play. Her ease and effortlessness, particularly in the split penchés was stunning. And her execution of those turned-in and off-balance steps had much wit.

Vyacheslav Lopatin, her partner, matched her with exciting technical virtuosity. In one section, he seemed to impersonate a street gang leader leading four men on a chase.  Ekaterina Shipulina impressed as the ‘tall’ soloist, executing very well the difficult series of flat-footed arabesque penchées.

Rubies © Elena Fetisova
Rubies
© Elena Fetisova

Diamonds was sumptuously danced and the corps de ballet was on good form, in the long section in the beginning making different patterns based on the diamond shape.  The closing Polacca was, as usual, a blazing triumph. In the leading roles, Nina Kaptsova made her début as the ballerina in the second cast on Sunday afternoon, and Artem Ovcharenko danced nobly as her cavalier. Kaptsova's was a remarkably assured debut, her dancing was full of vibrancy. Her legs were very steady in the adagio, and she was radiant in the long and exposing pas de deux, one of the greatest in Balanchine’s oeuvre. Ovcharenko's technical virtuosity was brilliant, his impeccable series of pirouettes in particular simply breathtaking. 

And the Bolshoi Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Sorokin, also delivered a magnificent performance.