Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds - "Jewels" streamed from Moscow



I am something of a fan of the Bolshoi's HDTV broadcasts as readers will recall from my review of Spartacus. They are the next best thing to seeing ballet on stage. In one important respect they are actually better because their engaging presenter Katerina Novikova interviews people like Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi's artistic director, and Merrill Ashley, the US ballerina who helped the Bolshoi stage Jewels.

Ballet goers have seen a lot of Jewels lately. The Bolshoi brought it to London a few months ago (see  Luke Jennings's review in The Observer 18 Aug 2013) and the Royal Ballet has just staged its own version  as an alternative to all those Nutcrackers that appear over Christmas. Choreographed by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet the work consists of three acts each of which could stand as a ballet in its own right.

The programme notes say that the ballet was inspired by the beauty of the gem stones at the jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels though the Wikipedia entry quotes Balanchine as saying that "The ballet had nothing to do with jewels. The dancers are just dressed like jewels." And so they are: 
  • green in the first act to symbolize emeralds the women in romantic tutus dancing to a Fauré score;
  • red in the second to symbolize rubies the cast dressed as for a Broadway musical dancing to Stravinsky; and
  • white in the third to symbolize diamonds the women in classical tutus dancing to Tchaikovsky.
According to the presenter there was to have been a fourth act where the dancers were to be in blue to represent sapphires but that never came off. A pity though it would have made for quite a long ballet.

Ms Novikova also said that each of those gems or colours was to represent a city that was important to Balanchine and its associated dance tradition. Emeralds were to represent Paris and the romantic ballet as well as wine and perfume and some of the other good things in life; Rubies New York with its razzmatazz and all that jazz; and Diamonds were to stand for St Petersburg and the classical ballet. 

There was a bit of criticism in the press and also in BalletcoForum of the first and second acts but everyone seems to have liked Diamonds and I certainly did.  That act reminded me of Serenade which Balanchine had created over 30 years earlier and which Boston Ballet had performed in London on 4 July 2013 (see 
Boston Ballet: "High as a flag on the Fourth of July!" 7 July 2013). But I liked the lot particularly Emeralds which reminded me of the exquisite Giselle I had seen the night before ("Giselle - Royal Ballet 18 Jan 2014").

The Bolshoi has helpfully published a cast list so that you can see who did what on Sunday. I liked all of the dancers and it would be unfair for me to single any of them out for special praise.  Ms, Novikova did tell one of the principals (I won't say which for the reasons I have just given) that her performance was "stunning" and it was so good to see her smile as she accepted the compliment. The truth is that they were all stunning and although I have my favourites I can give no good reason for my choice.

The next HDTV transmission from Moscow will be Ratmansky's Lost Illusions on the 2 Feb 2014 which alas clashes with Sibley and Crisp at the Royal Ballet School and wild horses will not drag me from another chance to glimpse Antoinette Sibley, my favourite ballerina of all time.

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