Cancel Your Plans and See ‘Jewels’ at the New York City Ballet This Week

It’s worth rearranging your schedule this week to make time for a limited-engagement performance by the New York City Ballet (NYCB). Why? Jewels, conceived by George Balanchine, was inspired by a trip that the famous choreographer took to Van Cleef & Arpels, making the end result a delight for jewelry lovers who appreciate beauty and sparkle in all their forms.

According to the NYCB, the jewelry that Claude Arpels showed Balanchine that day left a strong impression. It inspired him to create a ballet in three acts with no clear story line other than to celebrate the grandeur of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds (apparently pearls and sapphires were also considered, but the trifecta works brilliantly as is).

With only a few (gorgeous) photos to give a flavor of the ballet, I think it’s fair to say that the lack of plot matters little when you consider the dazzling costumes (created by Barbara Karinska, the NYCB’s legendary costume designer) and how Balanchine has set each section to the transporting music of a different composer—Gabriel Fauré for “Emeralds,” Igor Stravinsky for “Rubies,” and Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky for “Diamonds.”

Jewels ballet Emerald tableau
The New York City Ballet in “Emeralds,”  from George Balanchine’s Jewels
Jewels Ballet Rubies ballerina
Ballerina Emily Kikta performs in “Rubies,” a section of the ballet set to music by Stravinsky 
Jewels ballet Rubies tableau
New York City Ballet in “Rubies”
Jewels ballet Diamonds pas de deux
Dancers Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle in “Diamonds,” a section of the Jewels ballet set to music by Tchaikovsky
Jewels ballet Diamonds tableau
New York City Ballet in “Diamonds”

According to the George Balanchine Trust website, Balanchine once said of the ballet: “Of course, I have always liked jewels; after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of real stones (which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!).”

Jewels had its first performance at the New York State Theater (now David H. Koch Theater, where NYCB performs to this day) at Lincoln Center in 1967, and the dancers still wear the original Karinska designs.

This week’s performances of Jewels will run Sept. 17–21.


Top: New York City Ballet dancers Kristen Segin, Harrison Ball, and Indiana Woodward in “Emeralds” from George Balanchine’s Jewels (all photos: Paul Kolnik)

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Amy Elliott

JCK Contributing Editor

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