This year marks the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine's Jewels, and companies around the world are paying homage. While last summer's Lincoln Center Festival collaboration with New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet was all glamour and excitement, Pacific Northwest Ballet is taking a reverential look back in advance of its opening performances next week.
In 2014, PNB artistic director Peter Boal invited four stars of Balanchine's original 1967 cast—Violette Verdy, Mimi Paul, Edward Villella and Jacques d'Amboise—to coach the company in their signature roles. And, thank heavens, they captured it all on film. This 20-minute promotional documentary offers priceless footage of them in rehearsals, interviews and lecture demonstrations, offering fascinating insights into Balanchine's creative process and original intentions.
I had grown up watching Kyra Nichols and Wendy Whelan dancing "Diamonds," and it was my absolute dream to dance it, too. I immediately connected to "Diamonds." It's big, dramatic movement, nothing small, and I don't think there's anything small about my dancing. I have to reach deep down in my soul to do this ballet, to rise to the level of the choreography, the costumes..."Diamonds" is just on another level from anything else I've done. It takes everything out of you, if you're willing to put that much into it.
The soloist in "Rubies" has been one of my favorite roles since the first time I danced it. I was in the corps then and it was one of my first big parts. It's so powerful and freeing. My favorite moment is when I come straight down center towards the audience, doing these sort of strutting walks on pointe. You're not playing to anyone else onstage. You're playing straight to the house. And the section with the four boys is really unusual; it's not often that a woman is onstage with four men, but she's still the one in charge. When I'm doing the penchés going offstage at the end of the first movement, I try to be calm and hope that the audience can't tell I'm trembling inside, or that my supporting leg is wobbling.
I think "Emeralds" is more of an acquired taste than "Rubies" or "Diamonds." There aren't really any difficult steps, but it's extremely hard to pull off because of its simplicity. You can't just "sell it." But the musicality and simplicity come together so perfectly to make it dramatic and sweeping, and just so much fun to dance.
"The whole thing was—I like jewels," the choreographer George Balanchine told an interviewer in the spring of 1967, when asked about his newest creation for New York City Ballet, a triptych called—what else?—Jewels. He had his photograph taken while gazing appreciatively at Van Cleef & Arpels designs, or surrounded by ballerinas wearing bejeweled headpieces and gem-toned costumes by Karinska. Balanchine had an instinct for promotion; the ballet was a huge success and is still regularly performed by NYCB and other companies around the world. At the Lincoln Center Festival this summer (July 20–23), 50 years after the first performance, three companies—the Paris Opéra Ballet, NYCB and the Bolshoi Ballet—will join together to perform it in a single night. The French will dance "Emeralds." On different nights, the Russians and the Americans will alternate in "Rubies" and "Diamonds."
This seems appropriate, as each of Jewels' sections alludes to a different style of ballet: French, American, Russian. Ballet was born in France. More importantly, France is where Romantic ballet, with its feather-light technique and delicate, wafting arms, was refined. (Think La Sylphide and Giselle.) The next chapter of its development took place in Russia, where ballet acquired its grandeur, thanks to the imagination of Marius Petipa and the splendor of the Imperial Theatres. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, this world disappeared. Balanchine, along with many others, left the country, bringing his ideas about ballet to Europe and later to America, or, more precisely, to New York City.
In November, Lincoln Center announced that three of the world's biggest companies—New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet—would present a collaborative performance of George Balanchine's Jewels July 20–23 in honor of the ballet's 50th anniversary. Each company will take an act, with the Paris Opéra performing "Emeralds" and NYCB and the Bolshoi alternating performances of "Rubies" and "Diamonds." Yesterday, Lincoln Center finally announced what we've all been waiting for: the all-star cast list. (As well as rising stars–Alena Kovaleva and Jacopo Tissi, two young Bolshoi corps members, are slated to dance the leads in "Diamonds" for one performance.) Check out the list below this trailer!
George Balanchine’s Jewels, a glittering three-act, plotless ballet that many consider one of the choreographer’s most revered masterpieces, turns 50 next year. In honor of its anniversary, Lincoln Center announced this morning that three of the world’s most prestigious companies—New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet—will share the stage in a historic series of performances at the Lincoln Center Festival, July 20-23, 2017. An international press conference was held this morning on Facebook Live, with company directors Peter Martins, Aurélie Dupont and Makhar Vaziev answering questions from their respective offices.
The collaboration makes complete sense: When Balanchine choreographed Jewels in 1967, each act not only represented a different gemstone, but a distinct era of ballet from the three countries that shaped his career. The first act, “Emeralds,” set to music by Gabriel Fauré, recalls dreamy French Romanticism; “Rubies,” with its jazzy Stravinsky score, represents fast-paced American wit and modernism; and “Diamonds,” danced to Tchaikovsky, celebrates the grandeur of Russian Imperial ballet.
On opening night of the Lincoln Center Festival, the Paris Opéra Ballet will dance “Emeralds,” NYCB will do “Rubies,” and the Bolshoi will perform “Diamonds.” (On subsequent performances, NYCB and Bolshoi will alternate between the second and third acts.) Casting will be announced at later date, but with a lineup like this, it’s sure to be an unforgettable celebration.