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#Throwback Thursday: Jewels

Today's #ThrowbackThursday focuses on one of my favourite Balanchine works: Jewels.

Original cast with Balanchine, promotional photo, New York City Ballet

Separated into Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds, the three-act ballet is unique: full-length, yet entirely plotless. Choreographer George Balanchine was inspired by jewellery designer Claude Arpels, but later commented that the ballet 'had nothing to do with jewels. The dancers are just dressed as jewels.'

Abi Stafford and Jared Angle in 'Emeralds', New York City Ballet

The first act, Emeralds, is to music by French composer Gabriel Urbain Faure. Balanchine called the piece 'an evocation of France', and it is a throwback to the Romantic era of ballet. The dancers perform movement inspired by 19th century ballets and wear calf-length tulle tutus in the Romantic style, made by designer Barbara Karinska. Many have speculated this act represents the Paris Opera Ballet.

'Emeralds', Staatsballet Berlin

Rubies, the second act, is the most modern of the three. Another of Balanchine's collaborations with composer Igor Stravinsky, it is a sharp and fast-paced piece, full of angles and Balanchine's signature movements. Here the dancers wear short leotard pieces with flared hips. If one were to continue the theme, this would be American ballet, or more accurately, Balanchine's ballet - making it a reflection of the New York City Ballet.

Elena Vostrotina in 'Rubies'

The last act is Diamonds, to music by Tchaikovsky. In this piece, the dancers wear the traditional classical pancake tutu. Here Balanchine took his inspiration from the Russian tradition in which he was trained, emphasising the grandeur and sheer scale of Russian ballet, as well as the tradition of movement. This act represents the Mariinsky Ballet, where Balanchine danced during his time in Russia.

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin in 'Diamonds', Bolshoi Ballet

The ballet premiered on 13 April 1967, when it was performed by Balanchine's company the New York City Ballet at the New York State Theatre. Costume design was by Barbara Karinska and the set was designed by Peter Harvey. The original cast included Violette Verdy, Mimi Paul, Sara Leland, Suki Schorer, Conrad Ludlow, Francisco Moncion, and John Prinz in Emeralds; Patricia McBride, Patricia Neary, and Edward Villela in Rubies; and Suzanne Farrell and Jacques d'Amboise in Diamonds.

'Rubies', Mariinsky Ballet

The ballet was a resounding success and a huge number of companies have since performed the full-length ballet or one of the three acts, including the Royal Ballet, who won two Laurence Olivier Awards for their opening night production at Covent Garden in 2008. Here's the full ballet in three parts, by the Mariinsky Ballet:



And Diamonds:

Footage of Balanchine ballets is very hard to come by, especially full-length versions - enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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