Jewels is “like Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner at Tiffany’s”

Jewels has been called the first full-length abstract ballet in history and was created by George Balanchine for his troupe of New York City Ballet in 1967. It had a star future ahead: ballet went around the world and had tremendous success.

There is always a plentiful of myths going on when legendary masterpiece is born. According to one version, choreographer Balanchine and jeweler Claude Arpels first met through a mutual friend, the violinist Nathan Milstein. Later, they found out that they have some interests in common when Balanchine was viewing window-display of famous jewelry boutique Van Cleef & Arpels on Fifth Avenue. Arpel, a decade after still kept the memories of Diaghilev theatrical enterprise. Balanchine, captured by the shine of the precious stones, came up with idea of ballet where dance would glow and glitter like the light on the edges of a gem.

It is presumed that each of the stones represent one of the three periods in ballet master’s personal and professional life. Emeralds is set to the music of Gabriel Fauré reflects sophistication and elegance of France peculiar to French ballet school; Rubies to the music of Igor Stravinsky pays the homage to sharp off-beat rhythm of America with its Broadway; Diamonds (music – P.Tchaikovsky) became nostalgic recollection of crystal purity of St. Petersburg imperial ballet school.

Company Van Cleef & Arpels, that was privileged to become an inspiration source for one of the most regarded choreographer of XX century, was drawing inspiration from ballet as well even long before historical encounter of Balanchine and Claude Arpels. ‘Dancing’ brooch, its image was on premiere posters at the Bolshoi in 2012 (it is called Spanish Dancer), was created in 1941. Since then jewelry companies often refer to the dancing motifs. Motifs reached its culmination in 2007 when Jewels was performed at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Specially to commemorate 40th anniversary of Jewels Highly Jewelry collection was designed, Ballet Précieux – precious ballet.

Owing to close collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels performance of the Bolshoi was ‘dressed up’ in exclusive and fine costumes: costume designer Elena Zaytseva and set designer Aliona Pikalova were let into inner sanctum – ‘archival’ facility of jewelry house where they examined most famous pieces that became a starting point for work on new performance.

Nearly not a single opus on Jewels goes without mentioning of the quote from review of American famous dance and theatre critic of English origin, Clive Barnes. It is so beautifully said that it is hard to resist: "It is open to doubt whether even George Balanchine has ever created a work in which the inspiration was so sustained, the invention so imaginative or the concept so magnificent as in the three-act ballet that had its world première at the New York State Theater last night” (New York Times, 14.4.1967).

His other quote which is cited less, yet it is quite aphoristic and full of admiration because of its note of humor: Jewels is “like breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Tiffany’s.”

Because Balanchine’s Jewels are like love affair with a gem, ephemeral like a dream, and not meant to be kept in the treasure box or in the safe.

Nathalie Shadrina

Translated by Anna Muraveva