Review: Jewels @ Royal Opera House
As a ballet in three parts, Jewels immediately goes against the grain of the narrative traditions of classical ballet with its abstract form. Premiered by the New York City Ballet in 1967 by Russian-American co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine, his choreographic reputation eventually caused him to be referred to as the father of modern ballet, influencing many young choreographers to come. Even today, Balanchine proves through just this one piece of his vast repertoire that the need for variety and contrast is vital within the performing arts to prevent them from becoming stagnant and familiar.
Each of the three acts of Jewels features the music of a different composer which in turn adds great emphasis to the individual styles of the pieces and the “collaboration” within it. Emeralds is set to the music of Gabriel Fauré, Rubies to the music of Igor Stravinsky and Diamonds to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. With such iconic composers accompanying Balanchine’s flawless choreography, there is no dispute as to the success of Jewels even over 40 years since its inception. As a progression from the classical ballet that the stereotype evokes, the Balanchine style in the 20th century resulted from minor adjustments to ballet technique that led to a distinct presentation of both the dancers and their movements, extending the visual impact of the movement to demonstrating further excellence and skill. The three separate acts of Jewels provide an eclectic mix of tradition, city slick and virtuosic spectacle in which the dancers of the company justify their being through this immense versatility, aside from performing such fluid and flexible choreography with such vigour.
Alongside Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru and Sarah Lamb, the dancers of the company were in short supply, strictly abiding by Balanchine’s original work. Such a grand venue might have drowned any other company, yet the theatrical setting felt intimate. Such was the dancers’ impeccable technique – with Sarah Lamb providing the triumphant goods yet again – that the stage appeared to be overrun with patterning and partnering. Despite the lack of narrative within the piece – Balanchine famously stated that “the ballet had nothing to do with jewels. The dancers are just dressed like jewels” – the intricate patterns weaved by the dancers appear to be works of art as they conjoin and fuse, moving on to their next creation.
The inclusion of Jewels into the repertoire of The Royal Ballet by Director Dame Monica Mason (recently succeeded by Kevin O’Hare) is a clear indicator of the relevance of the piece today as it was 40 years ago. Especially in the artistic climate of today, it appears imperative that older, boundary pushing work must be revived and remembered alongside more traditional works; having such vast access to wonderful works, The Royal Ballet will continue to pull out the stops and produce equally as grand and successful works for their audiences.
Jewels plays the Royal Opera House until 5 October and you can buy tickets from £5.
Jessica Wilson TheatreFix Reviewer