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UWI alumni reconnects with Russian 'Jewels'

Published:Monday | December 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe

The University of the West Indies Alumni Association (UWIAA) has designed a plan to engage and involve the alumni of the university in what is called the Alumni Reconnect, initiated by the Institutional Advancement Division, Office of the Vice-Chancellor. All campuses of UWI are involved.

On Sunday, the first in the series of events to do so materialised in the form of an amazing performance from the Boloshoi Corps de Ballet, of Moscow of George Balanchine's choreography, the magnificent triptych, 'Jewels'.

"It is the first ballet to be chosen as a fundraiser," said Cecile Clayton, president of UWIAA.

"I decided I wanted a signature event that would be different from the usual. We had a choice of doing a play or a movie ... we wanted a premiere."

But the premiere was not to be. Palace Amusement Company has a long waiting list. And so with her love for ballet, along with the notion that Sunday's viewing was the first of three dates scheduled for viewing the ballet, as well as that "Jewels is the more modern piece" of Balanchine's other choreography, the season opener was chosen.

Mounted at the historic Boloshoi Theatre in Moscow, the viewing took place at the more modern Palace Cineplex, located at Sovereign Centre, Liguanea. It was seen by a nearly full house led by the patrons of the event, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI vice-chancellor, and Lady Beckles, and HE Vladimir Polenov, ambassador of the Russian Federation of Jamaica.

'Jewels' was inspired by the artistry of the famous jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels and celebrates the cities and dance schools of Paris, New York and St Petersburg. It is divided into three acts, with Emeralds as the opening, followed by Rubies and ends with Diamonds. Each act was separated by a 15-minute intermission.


The strength of emeralds


After interviews and background information from host Katya Novikovia, Emeralds began. Costumed in knee-length skirts of emerald green for the females and the same shaded top for the male dancers, principal dancers Vladislav Lantratov, Anastasia Stashkevich, Anna Tikhomirovia and Ivan Alexeyev were stunning in the tribute to Paris. In unison, they moved in and out of Balanchine's various formations with aplomb.

But the strength of Emeralds came from the perpetual movement of the arms, creating tapestries of different shapes. The slow pace of Gabriel Faure's music, performed live by the Boloshoi Theatre Orchestra, (and the other two acts) helped to also slow what would have otherwise been faster arm movements.

There was no denying that with Rubies, the tribute to New York, the Jewels got brighter. Choreographed to Igor Stranvinsky's uptempo music, the dance was a demonstration in precision of movements and amazing turns. Perhaps to reinforce the free-spiritedness of the New Yorkers, Blanchine went for a number of leaps and turns well executed by lead dancers Ekaternia Krysanova and Vyacheslav Lopatin. The choreographer's use of diagonal entrances is also worthy of mention. All were complemented by the red shade costumes and panels of lights in the same colour, forming the backdrop.

The Russian winter was well captured in movements, costumes and a large cast for Diamonds. Led by Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin, the Boloshoi Corps de Ballet was splendid. The backdrop now changed from panels to what appeared to be a sky lit with glistening stars, matched by the graceful movements of the dancers on the stage. Dressed in full white costumes, the cast moved effortlessly to the beats of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's music.

On a whole, Jewels was well choreographed and justly executed. Another planned event by UWIAA is the annual Founders Week in February that celebrates the founding of UWI. "In that week, we have homecoming, where we encourage alumni to come back on campus and participate in some of the events. It will include the flag-raising ceremony," said Clayton. Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie, the first female principal of UWI, Mona campus, will be honoured during the 2016 Founders Week.