Ask the Paris Opéra Ballet, the New York City Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet to share a stage, with each performing one act of Balanchine's Jewels, and you might expect a degree of friendly (or less-than-friendly) competition. But as POB gave its exquisitely polite rendition of "Emeralds" during the Lincoln Center Festival's three-company production this summer, one-upsmanship seemed far from everyone's mind.
Then the curtain rose on New York City Ballet, its dancers visibly shaking with excitement in their "Rubies" finery. And the David H. Koch Theater audience collectively leaned forward.
Teresa Reichlen, already famous for her Tall Girl, squeezed even more juice out of those luscious penchés. Joaquin De Luz, the princeliest of court jesters, tossed off bravura sequences with twinkly wit. The corps de ballet danced with evangelical conviction, determined to prove that Balanchine's way was the only way.
But Megan Fairchild, in the ballerina role, underwent the greatest transformation. She's shown a new confidence since her Broadway run in On the Town—a run that proved to the world, and maybe to Fairchild herself, that she could be a leading lady. In "Rubies," she led with such ferocious glee, such jazzy abandon, you half expected her to laugh out loud.
It was a competition. And the home team won.