Inspired by a visit to famed jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, Balanchine created a three-part work which reflects influences of three major ballet schools – France (Fauré, Emeralds), America (Stravinsky, Rubies) and Russia (Tchaikovsky, Diamonds).
Despite the name, Balanchine insisted, “The ballet has nothing to do with jewels, the dancers are just dressed like jewels.” Indeed Jewels is really not so much about gems as about some facets of classical dancing, and while it is considered the first plot-less ballet, the jewel motif, sustained by Karinska's costumes, is actually a device to unify sections that would otherwise be disparate.
Emeralds: Pelléas et Mélisande (1898) and Shylock (1889)
Rubies: Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (1929)
Diamonds: Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29 (1875)
George Balanchine (1904 -1983) was one of the most influential choreographers of classical ballet in the 20th century. Born in St Petersburg, Russia, he trained at the Imperial State Ballet and from the age of 11 danced on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. At just 21 years old he auditioned for Sergey Diaghilev in Paris and spent five years as ballet master with the Ballets Russes. After Diaghilev’s death he worked as a choreographer and ballet master around Europe before being invited by impresario Lincoln Kirstein to move to the USA in 1933. Balanchine co-founded and served as artistic director and chief choreographer of the New York City Ballet. Of his estimated 425 works many are in the core repertories of companies around the world.