Jewels is unique: a full-length, three-act plotless ballet by George Balanchine, inspired by the artistry of jewellery designer Claude Arpels and revealing the essence of emeralds, rubies and diamonds.
2017 is the 50th anniversary of this Balanchine classic and it has been restaged with the original choreography, recreations of the 1967 costumes, and new set designs.
Each section of the ballet is distinct in both music and mood. Emeralds (with music by Faure) is a salute to France. The elegance of the choreography, coupled with green Taglioni tutus, recalls the 19th century dances of the French Romantics. It is soft and elegant with Les Sylphides-like groupings
Rubies (with music by Stravinsky), epitomises jazzy America. It is witty, spiky and contains the most bravura dancing of the three pieces. It is like a duchess talking dirty.
Diamonds (with music by Tchaikovsky) recalls Imperial Russia and Petipa choreography. It also represents Balanchine’s original training and working with the famous Ballet Russe. It is a hymn to the classical ballerina.
My personal favourite (and a crowd-pleaser at the screening) was Rubies. Steven McRae, danseur noble gave an electric performance. His technique was flawless and his chaines spinning into the wings were dazzling and brought a gasp from audience sitting around me. Was it a coincidence that McRae has red hair and all the costumes were red to represent rubies?
While Diamonds did not recall the glories of Russian ballet for me, it was visually beautiful and contained many elements of the classical ballet of old. The undeniable star was Marianela Nuñez. Her grace, style and faultless technique was a joy to watch. She made the impossible look effortless!
I had two reservations while watching Jewels. One of the male principal dancers in Emeralds had large yellow underarm marks on his white costume, the other two did not. I observed these at the start of the ballet so it was not perspiration during that performance. This was quite distracting as his pas de deux work required him to raise his arms often.
The other was the male principal dancer in Diamonds. He could not complete the numerous pirouettes required in his solo. This can happen to any dancer and he saved the situation well except for the face he made after the mistake.
Jewels is a piece for the ballet lover who enjoys pure story-less dancing. It is a glittering diadem of precious stones!
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 8