Violette Verdy coaches PNB principal Elizabeth Murphy in "Emeralds." Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB.

PNB's "Jewels" Film Shares Priceless Gems from Balanchine's Original Cast

This year marks the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine's Jewels, and companies around the world are paying homage. While last summer's Lincoln Center Festival collaboration with New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet was all glamour and excitement, Pacific Northwest Ballet is taking a reverential look back in advance of its opening performances next week.

In 2014, PNB artistic director Peter Boal invited four stars of Balanchine's original 1967 cast—Violette Verdy, Mimi Paul, Edward Villella and Jacques d'Amboise—to coach the company in their signature roles. And, thank heavens, they captured it all on film. This 20-minute promotional documentary offers priceless footage of them in rehearsals, interviews and lecture demonstrations, offering fascinating insights into Balanchine's creative process and original intentions.


It's especially heartening to see the French-born Verdy, who died in 2016, leading "Emeralds" rehearsals. Wearing her trademark red slippers, she talks about the subtlety of her variation's port de bras, and the push-pull, "yes-no-yes" energy of the pas de deux. Later, she explains how Balanchine adapted to his individual dancers. "You have a text, but nobody's going to recite it the same way," she says. "And that's the freedom Balanchine allowed us to have also, because he was at the service of the dancer's talents."

Another fun fact? Balanchine allowed Mimi Paul to choose between two pieces of music for her "Emeralds" solo. She recalls the excitement of being in the studio alone with him during its creation, noting that the process was "actually very easy." While rehearsing "Rubies," Villella stresses—and physically demonstrates—how jazz makes up its essence, while d'Amboise reveals that the final kiss in the "Diamonds" pas de deux was originally his idea.

Villella coaches PNB principal dancers (right to left) Jonathan Porretta, Lesley Rausch, and Jerome Tisserand in a rehearsal for George Balanchine's Rubies. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB.

Watching these master artists share their knowledge—especially in light of Verdy's passing—underscores the importance of cherishing our history, and the responsibility we have to pass it on to future generations. "It's just like getting a whisper of that time, what that time must have been like," says PNB principal Jonathan Poretta. "These are the greats—they don't make them like that anymore."

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Roman Mejia Is Carving His Own Path at New York City Ballet

In a brightly lit studio high above the busy Manhattan streets, Roman Mejia rehearses George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Though just 20, the New York City Ballet corps dancer exudes an easy confidence. Practicing a tricky sequence of triple pirouettes into double tours his breathing becomes labored, but his focus doesn't waver. He works until he finds the music's inherent rhythm, timing his turns evenly and finally landing them with a satisfied smile.

Since joining NYCB in 2017, Mejia has had the chance to take on ballets ranging from Romeo + Juliet to Fancy Free to Kyle Abraham's hip-hop–infused The Runaway. Though he often finds himself the youngest person in the room, Mejia is rarely intimidated. He's been immersed in ballet since birth. His father, Paul Mejia, danced with NYCB in the 1960s, and his mother, Maria Terezia Balogh, danced for Chicago City Ballet and Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet. Both of Mejia's parents and his grandmother attended the School of American Ballet. Now, Mejia is quickly building on his family's legacy, creating buzz with his shot-from-a-cannon energy, rapid-fire footwork and charismatic charm.

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi Everyone,

These are challenging times. The social distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 has likely meant that your regular ballet training has been interrupted, while your performances, competitions—even auditions—have been cancelled. You may be feeling anxious about what the future holds, not only for you but for the dance industry. And that's perfectly understandable.

As you adjust to taking virtual ballet class from your living rooms, we here at Pointe are adjusting to working remotely from our living rooms. We've had to get a little creative, especially as we put our Summer Issue together, but like you we're taking full advantage of modern technology. Sure, it's a little inconvenient sometimes, but we're finding our groove.

And we know that you will, too. We've been utterly inspired by how the dance community has rallied together, from ballet stars giving online classes to companies streaming their performances to the flood of artist resources popping up. We've loved watching you dance from your kitchens. And we want to help keep this spirit alive. That's why Pointe and all of our Dance Media sister publications are working nonstop to produce and cross-post stories to help you navigate this crisis. We're all in this together.

We also want to hear from you! Send us a message on social media, or email me directly at abrandt@dancemedia.com. Tell us how you're doing, send us your ideas and show us your dance moves. Let the collective love we share for our beloved art form spark the light at the end of the tunnel—we will come out the other side soon enough.

Best wishes,

Amy

Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Ballet Company Costume Departments Jump Into Action, Sewing Masks for Coronavirus Aid

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced ballet companies worldwide to cancel or postpone their seasons. But it's not just dancers and artistic staff that have found their work at a standstill. Costume departments, a vital component in bringing performances to life, have also hit pause. However, costume shops around the country, including Tulsa Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet and Miami City Ballet, have figured out a creative way to utilize their resources to give back to their communities during this challenging time. We touched base with Tulsa's team to find out what their experience has been like.

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