Boston Opera House
May 22 – June 1
As if opening a treasure chest to discover a trove of precious stones, the audience oohed and aahed every time the curtains were raised to reveal dancers in glittering costumes, poised in front of sparkling backdrops of enormous gems. Boston Ballet’s 50th season concluded this year with George Balanchine’s Jewels.
It was a fitting tribute to the famed neoclassical choreographer on whose recommendation the Ford Foundation helped establish the Boston Ballet company in 1963. Premiered at the New York City Ballet in 1967, Jewels was inspired by the jewelry of Claude Arpels of Van Cleef & Arpels, and it is divided into three parts: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds.
Set to music by Gabriel Fauré, Emeralds references the origins of ballet in 19th-century France and evokes the luxury and romance of that time. The female dancers wore long pale-green tulle skirts with bejeweled necklines and headpieces, and the male dancers wore dark-green velvet waistcoats.
The dancing was graceful, calming, and utterly absorbing — a wonderful prescription for stress relief. Following Balanchine’s skillful and creative choreography, two couples and a trio interwove their bodies in complex routines. The act’s ending was emotionally intense, as three male dancers lunged low to the ground, heads thrown back with one arm reaching to the sky.
Rubies, set to the dramatic Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Balanchine’s close collaborator Igor Stravinsky, provides a sharp contrast. The female dancers wore red leotards with decorated flaps like miniskirts, which created “click clack” noises when they skipped playfully or did the occasional balletic booty shake.
The male dancers were “in for the chase,” running comically across the stage. At one point four of them fawned over a long-legged female dancer, holding each of her arms and legs and becoming extensions of them. The main couple performed an enthralling and flirtatious dance exchange, with an intimate pause in which they stood one in front of the other, her right arm hooked over his, and his left arm crooked under hers, as she slowly curled back the fingers of her bent left arm to touch his open palm.
The final piece, Diamonds, displays the splendor of classical ballet in the Russian Imperial style and is set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29. The dancers wore shimmering flouncy white tutus, and their large number reinforced the feeling of grandeur.
Rows of dancers moving in opposite directions evoked reflections from a crystal. The main couple was stunning and imperious, and the male dancer exuded gallantry and chivalry. In one striking move he dynamically released his partner’s hand such that she was propelled into a spinning arabesque, and at the end of their duet he knelt and kissed her hand.
Jewels is a showcase of the neoclassical style, an impressionistic history of ballet, and a Balanchine classic. Boston Ballet’s production does it full justice — its dancers are, like perfect gems, bound to put a sparkle in your eyes.