Ballet West will perform George Balanchine’s Jewels at Northrop Feb 22-23. Referred to as a pure ”dance triptych” by The New York Times’ former chief dance critic Alistair Macaulay, Jewels is the perfect introduction to ballet. More than 50 years after its 1967 premiere by the New York City Ballet, it remains a favorite of ballet aficionados the world over.
Innovative in that each act of Jewels--Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds--is entirely abstract and plotless. In creating the work, Balanchine was inspired by music and the artistry of jewelry designer Claude Arpels. Each jewel is also a tribute to a different school of dance and has a connection to a period in Balanchine’s own career and development as an artist. In Emeralds, which is danced to music by Fauré, the technique focuses on 19th century French Romantics. Balanchine was influence by this school of ballet as he spent the 1920s working at the Ballets Russes, coming into his own as a choreographer. Rubies, danced to music by Stravinsky, is pure kinetic energy, a reflection of Balanchine’s adopted home of the United States where he would become the co-founder of New York City Ballet and create a body of work that forms the foundations of the American ballet cannon. Diamonds, danced to the music of Tchaikovsky, highlights precise classic Russian ballet technique as the Imperial Ballet School gave a young boy named Giogi Balanchivadze his foundational training.
For the Film Series screening that compliments Ballet West’s performance, the documentary George Balanchine Forever follows a production of Jewels performed by the Paris Opera Ballet in 2006. Featuring key interviews by company dancers, and the artistic staff involved in the production (including an interview with couture designer Christian Lacroix who created the costumes), it offers a window into what is involved in a company mounting a production of this seminal work. Representing the Balanchine Trust, the documentary also features an interview with Barbara Horgan who provides insights to Balanchine’s creative process. For more insight into one of ballet’s most famous works, don’t miss this film.
Shayna Houp is Northrop’s Artist Services Manager and curates the Film Series each season.