Many who have danced professionally for decades say they choose to go out on a high note. Kent native James Ihde could say he went out with sparkle and dazzle performing in George Balanchine’s famed Jewels last weekend with the Pennsylvania Ballet.

After 25 years with the company, Ihde retired after performing in Emeralds from the three-part dance Jewels Friday and Saturday night, and in the pièce de résistance Sunday — the coveted pas de deux Diamonds, which he performed opposite Lillian DiPiazza.

“It was a little bit of a bucket list part for me,” Ihde said of his climactic final performance. “I did kind of look at it a bit enviously, so it was a real treat to get to do it,’’.

Jewels, premiered by the New York City Ballet in 1967, was an immediate hit, a full-length, abstract ballet in three acts with the dancers dressed in jewel-colored costumes. For the Diamond act, which Balanchine created in the Russian style to music by Tchaikovsky, Ihde and his partner dressed in white and performed against a backdrop depicting a star-strewn sky.

“It’s almost like too good to ask for. It builds up to this gigantic finish with this really grand music, tons of people on stage, a big kind of ‘tada’ finish,’’ Ihde said by phone Tuesday from Philadelphia on his 43rd birthday.

Ihde began his studies at the University of Akron Dance Institute at age 10, where teacher GenaCarroll encouraged him to join sisters Elizabeth [now Cavallero] and Jessica [now Godbey] in taking ballet. She encouraged him to try out for the Pennsylvania Ballet when he was 18.

Ihde began as an apprentice in Philadelphia in 1993, moving up to the corps de ballet in 1995 and soloist in 2003. In his quarter century with the Pennsylvania Ballet, he has performed across the nation and internationally in hundreds of premieres, danced in more than 500 Nutcrackers and originated dozens of roles in numerous productions.

It’s hard for him to choose a top ballet, but one of Ihde’s favorites is contemporary choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, one of the few dances he said he has been able to lose himself in.

“The choreography’s beautiful and subtle. It’s just got a really beautiful score by Arvo Part, which is really simple and hypnotic,’’ Ihde said.

In the ballet world, it’s rare to dance professionally for 25 years. It’s even more rare to stay with the same company for your entire career. Ihde said he didn’t set out with that plan. But he loved Philadelphia so much, he made it his home and made a strong network of friends.

When Ihde started with the company, several other dancers had been there about two decades. Now, the average age of the company is about 25. Ihde himself has worked with three artistic directors: Christopher D’Amboise, Roy Kaiser and Angel Corella.

At some point, the body stops cooperating quite how a dancer wants it to, Ihde said: “I had kind of pushed it already and I didn’t want to push it anymore to the point where I wasn’t aging gracefully.”

Now, he plans to continue teaching at several dance schools in Philadelphia and is open to new ventures.

Ihde’s family, including parents Bill and Marcia of Kent, his two sisters, brothers in law and niece celebrated his final performances with him last weekend, as did numerous friends from throughout his career. The ballet threw a party for him after Sunday’s performance and Ihde and his friends and family continued the celebration into the night at a brewery next to Academy of Music, where the company performed.

In a program tribute, longtime friend Tom Turner made an analogy between the timeless, entertaining Diamonds and Ihde. He wrote, “like him, a diamond itself is renowned for its elegance, rarity and superlative physical attributes.”

Prichard honored

In other dance news, Robin Prichard, associate professor of dance at the University of Akron, was awarded an Individual Excellence Award in Choreography from the Ohio Arts Council. The dancer, choreographer and educator has taught at UA since 2009.

Prichard’s choreography investigates personal and cultural identities, often in relationship to current social issues. Her awarded work includes The Art of Making Dances (Not About Ferguson), a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to violence against African American men in 2016.

Also receiving the award is Prichard’s intergenerational mother/daughter duet that explores the mourning of unrealized opportunities and is dedicated to mothers and daughters everywhere.

Free concert

The community can enjoy a free concert by 11 first- and second-place winners of Tuesday Musical’s 2018 Scholarship Competition at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Faith Lutheran Church, 2726 W. Market St.

Performers will be Caleb Stabaugh, Baldwin Wallace, trombone; Brianna Bragg, University of Cincinnati, soprano; Wei-An Hung, Cleveland Institute of Music, cello; Henry Spencer, University of Akron, guitar; Li Wang, University of Cincinnati, piano; J Bennett, Oberlin Conservatory, organ; Preston Light, University of Cincinnati, tuba; Nadia Marshall, Ohio State University, soprano; Peter Loferski, University of Akron, marimba; Aram Man, Oberlin Conservatory, flute; and Ju-eun Lee, Cleveland Institute of Music, violin.

A total of 20 college music students received $22,300 in the 2018 competition held in March, which drew 174 applicants. Two additional scholarships for $1,000 and $2,000 will be awarded Sunday during a post-concert reception.

Other scholarship winners are: Robyn King, University of Akron, music education; Rebecca Terschak, Capital University, music education; Brianna Volkmann, Baldwin Wallace, French horn; Yaoyue Huang, University of Cincinnati, piano; Eben Wagenstroom, University of Cincinnati, piano; David Lee, Oberlin Conservatory, cello; Dawna Rae Warren, Baldwin Wallace, voice; Colin Roshak, Oberlin Conservatory, clarinet; and Camilla Yoder, Baldwin Wallace, oboe.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.