Review: Royal Ballet in Jewels at Royal Opera House

Performance: 23 Nov - 7 Dec 07
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 28 November 2007

27 Nov 07

With Jewels, Balanchine transcends time periods, countries and artistic movements to capture the brilliance of the stones he is representing. The three stand alone pieces, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds were presented for the first time in a singular programme this season by the Royal Ballet, playing to the company’s strengths by displaying a range of choreographic styles and utalising the many talented soloists the Royal Ballet has to offer.

The programme, sponsored by Van Cleff & Arpels, from whose window Balanchine is said to have gained is inspiration for *Jewels*, used three very different styles from choreography to music, picking compositions from Gabriel Faure, Igor Stravinsky and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The music enhanced and contributed to each individual section, allowing for the works to be viewed both individually and as a whole.

The evening opened in a haze of green, depicting Balanchine Emeralds. The female dancers costumed in calf length green dresses and males in tights and tunics harked back to the French Romantic era before a step was even performed. Visions of Giselle and La Sylphide cascaded over the stage, entwined with the image of strings of jewels glinting in the light. The corpse de ballet moved in and out of formations, creating a kaleidoscope effect which was beautifully evident from above. The use of third arabesque, minimal areal movements and soft floating arm gestures typified this performance, along with the evident importance of the ballerina’s role, all concepts brought from the era depicted.

*Rubies* quickly transported the audience to a time of the new, when American Modern dance met ballet. The jazz infused score by Stravinsky paved the way for the sassy movements, isolations and syncopated rhythms which combined with Pointe work, graceful lines and symmetry represented Rubies. This piece at times came together well although the main solos lacked the passion and fire that has become to be associated with the roles. The cute American cheerleader style costumes of short red skirts moved as if the material was choreographed, creating an added audio effect as the gems on the costumes collided. The unique motifs used, based upon ideas of playing with the flow of movement and the use of turn out and parallel, created interesting sequences vastly different from the other two pieces. The decentralisation of space was also evident as dancers came together and dispersed, often with a series of different actions happening at the same time in different parts of the space.

Often seen as the diamond in the crown of ballet, the Imperial Russian style exquisitely depicted this gem. As with Emeralds the classics of the era could easily be seen without the restricting story lines which we usually associate with the movement. The precision of the corpse de ballet, by use of space and movement was reminiscent of Swan Lake, while the use of aerial movements within the pas de deux displayed the spectacle which is often associated with this style. Arguable no other choreographic form could have displayed this polished and classic gem so well. The sixteen male/female partnerships bringing this piece to a close showed the Royal Ballet’s abilities as a company to use precision and individual artistry combined to present a spellbinding performance.

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