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Carla Körbes, principal dancer for Pacific Northwest Ballet since 2006, has an uncanny way of dancing as if she’s joyfully discovering every movement for the first time. In the regal pas de deux of “Diamonds,” which closed Friday’s opening-night performance of George Balanchine’s “Jewels,” she unfolded a leg toward the sky as if in wonderment — could it really go so high? — and, in the ballet’s slow, deliberate walks, seemed to create a powerful spell. Watching Körbes, you feel the years and years of endless practice melting away; you don’t know what she’ll do next, and the magic of her performance is that it seems that she doesn’t know either — the music takes hold of her, and creates something beautiful with her.

Körbes’ announcement last week that she will be retiring at the end of the 2014/15 season gives each of her upcoming performances a bittersweet tang; savor this gem of a ballerina, while we still can. (She’s scheduled to appear in every “Jewels” performance this coming weekend, except for the Sunday matinee.) And while opening night gave us a chance to appreciate Körbes and partner Batkhurel Bold in the cool-white splendor of “Diamonds,” it also brought an electric performance from a star in the making. Leta Biasucci, newly promoted to soloist, partnered with Jonathan Porretta for the spiky “Rubies” pas de deux and created a lightning bolt of energy. When it comes to speed and showmanship, it’s hard to touch Porretta — and yet Biasucci seemed every bit his match; their grinning, teasing, anything-you-can-dance-I-can-dance chemistry was great fun, and over far too soon. “Emeralds,” perhaps due to a last-minute casting change, felt just a bit off on Friday, but nonetheless made a soft, lyrical opening to the evening.

“Jewels,” last presented at PNB in 2009, is a rare non-narrative full-length ballet; its three pieces, elegantly costumed and beglittered by longtime Balanchine designer Karinska, demonstrate a rich range of color, mood (romantic, jazzy, regal), inspiration (Paris, New York, Russia), music (Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky). Of special note: the PNB orchestra, celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, and the nine hardworking corps members who danced in all three movements of “Jewels” Friday evening. Bouquets to Chelsea Adomaitis, Jessika Anspach, Amanda Clark, Angelica Generosa, Leah Merchant, Brittany Reid, Carli Samuelson, Emma Love Suddarth and Kyle Davis, for their role in creating an evening of beautiful pictures.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com