A Big Bite of the Big Apple

The name of this site is Very Small Bites. In case you haven’t yet read my “About” page, basically this blog is a place for me to explore the concept of enjoying more flavors of life by redistributing my time and taking smaller bites of multiple things. Small bites enable me to experience more. But sometimes, it’s essential to enjoy a really BIG bite too.

Two weeks ago, I was reading the New York Times (my mom, a daily NYT reader, would be so proud) while eating breakfast and enjoying my decaf green tea. Being the bunhead that I am, I almost exclusively read the dance articles, and this particular Sunday morning was no exception. I came across an article about the ballet Jewels, which immediately grabbed my attention. Two of the teachers that I trained with while I was a ballet major at Indiana University, Patricia McBride and Violette Verdy, were in the original cast of this ballet (choreographed by George Balanchine). It is a ballet that I had not yet had the opportunity to experience in person, and was definitely on the bucket list.

So I’m casually drinking my tea, reading the interviews with three of the lead ladies that would be dancing in the upcoming run of performances of Jewels at the Lincoln Festival in NYC. The NYT times article tells me that this performance is a 50th Anniversary celebration of the premier of Jewels. It also tells me that the three different sections of the ballet are to be performed by three world-renowned ballet companies (Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Bolshoi Ballet). At this point, my heart starts beating in a quick and quite irregular pattern …

Then the article whispered, “the performances are next weekend.”

No, I wasn’t hearing voices. But the words hit me like a 50 pound feather; soft around the edges, but with a mind-numbing punch. My only thought was – I have to be there. 

Driving up to NYC for a whirlwind trip would not be a new experience for us (one lovely Valentine’s Day, Nathan surprised me with an overnight adventure to see NYCB in Romeo and Juliet). So we discussed it. Our initial consensus was that we couldn’t make it happen this time; last minute tickets and hotel reservations would most certainly be way out of our reach.

But then we looked. Performance tickets were still available at a fair price, and the hotel where we have stayed for the last two trips had rooms available at the lowest rate we had ever seen. My heart started that irregular beat again …

For a millisecond, I thought about all the things that I could (or should) do that weekend instead of spending it mostly in the car traveling 362 miles each way for a show that is two hours long. I could go to yoga, visit the farmers market, continue working on a kitchen design, sort my home office, sleep in, pay bills, mop, do laundry, trim the plants, grocery shop  ….

And then that millisecond passed. I realized that this big bite would only be offered to me once. When would this type of show ever happen again? It wouldn’t. Never again would the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Bolshoi Ballet come together to perform for the 50th anniversary of Jewels. We promptly purchased our show tickets and booked our hotel.

Fifi in NYC - Very Small Bites

Fifi at our fave hotel. (Photo, Jaime)

The trip itself was amazing. The drive was long (of course) but we didn’t hit much traffic and had a chance to chat and dream and read and nap. I got the thrill of driving my Fifi in Manhattan for the first time; I must admit that I enjoyed the chance to be an aggressive driver and squeeze my car into an imaginary lane and zip amongst the other honking cars (I’m a city driver at heart. I learned how to drive in DC and lived in Chicago for 7 years).

We journeyed through the park, had dinner at our favorite sushi place (Sushi Damo), walked to the theatre for the show, went to our favorite late-night place (The Coliseum), found a new fave breakfast place the next morning (Bread and Honey) and explored the park again.

I know what you’re thinking. But what about the performance?!

Jewels - Very Small Bites

The original cast photo, on display at the theater. The choreographer, Balanchine (center), with Patricia McBride (bottom right) and Violette Verdy (top right). (Photo of a photo, Jaime)

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. I’ve been going to ballet performances since I was 7 years old. I have seen many ballet companies and contemporary companies from all around the world. I have written reviews, previews, and interviews for many shows. And after all that, I would absolutely place this show in my top three performance experiences ever, alongside the Paris Opera performance of Giselle at the Kennedy Center, and American Ballet Theatre’s performance of Don Quixote, also at the Kennedy Center.

David H. Koch Theater - Very Small Bites

The theater. (Photo, Jaime)

We were in the very last row at the David H. Koch Theater that fine Saturday night, which allowed us to see every inch of the stage as well as every inch of the audience. Each section of Jewels was polished, synchronized, and unified. That makes it sound dry, but it wasn’t. The dancers’ expression matched their technical talent: the delicacy of the port de bras from the Paris Opera Ballet throughout Emeralds brought tears to my eyes (and Nathan’s too); the sparkly footwork of the NYCB dancers in Rubies made me sit on the edge of my seat; and the impassioned lyricism of the lead Bolshoi Ballet dancers in Diamonds made me grab my shoulder across my chest and take a deep breath. And those were just the highlights. In a nutshell? It was stunning.

Sometimes I worry about the future of ballet – that the general interest in ballet is fading. Goodness, I could write an entire post about that alone (perhaps I will). But that night, sitting in the sold-out theatre, surrounded by multitudes of earnest ballet students (in New York for their summer sessions), as well as die-hard balletomanes of all ages (like myself) cheering and clapping and encoring their hearts out, I wasn’t worried.  Not worried at all.

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