Balanchine Jewels

A Real-Life Fairytale Between Ballet And Jewels

By Marla Horn Lazarus

Emeralds, rubies and diamonds never sparkled more brightly than in George Balanchine’s spectacular performance of Jewels, where gems and ballet become vibrantly displayed. The ballet, inspired by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, is a tale of mutual admiration and ongoing inspiration, considered to be Balanchine’s greatest work.

The Story Behind The Story
The initial spark of the romance began in the 1960s when Balanchine, on his daily walk in New York City, used to pass the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique on Fifth Avenue. The extraordinary beauty of the jewels fascinated him. He befriended Claude and Pierre Arpels, and soon his appreciation for the art of the jeweler inspired his new ballet. The rest, as they say, is history. The Russian-born Balanchine became one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century and praised as the father of American ballet.

Jewels – the first ‘three-act story-less ballet’ – is not so much about gems as about facets of classical dancing. The costumes, created by Balanchine’s long-time collaborator Barbara Karinska, were such finely crafted pieces of art in their own right that some of them have been exhibited in museums. Balanchine once explained, “Of course, I have always liked jewels; after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costumes…came so close to the quality of real stones (which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!)”

Each act is quite distinct in international styles and showcases a blend of different composers: Fauré for Emeralds, evokes the dreamy romanticism of French ballet; Stravinsky for Rubies, conjures the exuberance of the American Jazz Age; and Tschaikovsky for Diamonds, reflects the classic grandeur of 19th-century Russian ballet at its imperial height.

Jewels – Coming To Miami And Beyond Starting This Fall
The 32nd season of the Miami City Ballet (MCB) will open October 20 celebrating the 50th Anniversary of this glittering masterpiece, which they have not performed in a decade. Edward Villella, Founding Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet, danced in the Rubies section of Jewels when it debuted in New York City in 1967. It was there that he grew to stardom under Balanchine and brought the master’s style and legacy to the Miami City Ballet. In homage to both Villella and Balanchine, Lourdes Lopez – who took the reigns as artist director of MCB in 2012 when Villella retired – proudly added Jewels to the MCB 2017 fall repertoire.

It’s no wonder why Dance Magazine recently named Lopez one of the most influential people in dance. “I love this art form. Dance can change lives,” she told International Opulence.

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Balanchine Jewels