I’ve seen a limited selection of ballet performances in my time. I do the requisite “Nutcracker” viewing each December. This past autumn, I saw a performance of “Cinderella,” and had my first viewing of “Swan Lake.” There are others.
Tonight was my first-ever viewing of “Jewels,” a three-part work by George Balanchine. Each section pairs the music of a different composer with costumes, sets and choreography inspired by a different precious gem — emeralds, rubies and diamonds.
The “Emeralds” section, with accompanying music by Gabriel Fauré, was my least favorite of the three, disappointingly, because I like emeralds and I like green. The music was too wistful, the choreography too restrained. There was almost a touch of melancholy at times. Emeralds aren’t melancholy. They’re flirtatious and playful, like a wink from a green-eyed girl. The dancers were marvelously talented and the costumes beautiful, but this section needed more fun.
“Rubies,” featuring music composed for the ballet by Igor Stravinsky, was the most enjoyable of the three sections, even if it felt a bit disjointed at times. Elements of both the music and the dance would have lended themselves better to the Emeralds section, while other parts were more appropriately sensual and passionate. Rubies are symbolic of fire and blood. The choreography for this section was the most primal — there was more movement in the knees and lower body than one typically sees in classical ballet.
The final section, “Diamonds,” was paired with music by Tchaikovsky, and appropriately so. Diamonds are a cold, wintry stone, like snow. Tchaikovsky is well-associated with “The Nutcracker,” a winter ballet classic. The pairing of music and choreography here was the best-matched of the night. Parts of the section were playful, like snowflakes, while other elements had a chilling, regal feel about them — very Russian.
Apart from the actual performances themselves, I found myself musing on two things: First, that for some reason I was imagining the two principal female dancers in “Rubies” were bitter rivals. No reason to think that, just my imagination. And second… considering the ratio of men to women onstage, the straight guys in this company must score.
I know, I know. I’m so profound. Listen, sometimes the mind wanders, especially when there’s no story to follow on the stage. You just start thinking about the stories behind the scenes.