Jewels [DVD] [Import]
Balanchine's three-part, evening-long ballet, Jewels, is one of the jewels of his output. Created in 1967, Jewels revisits the central pillars of his glorious career. Thus, the first of the trio, Emeralds, to music by Faur�, is an homage to the French school of ballet; a Romantic episode in which soft-core lyricism comes to the fore. The second ballet, set to Stravinsky, Rubies, celebrates American dance virtues, filled with sexy Broadway and jazz references. Finally, Diamonds, with music from Tchaikovsky, takes us to Mr. B's roots in St. Petersburg with a dazzling tribute to Russian ballet tradition. Each of the works is pure Balanchine, full of the abstract stage patterns, novel arm and feet movements, and virtuoso fireworks typical of his style. Jewels is superb in this video taken from live 2005 performances of the National Opera Ballet in its home playing field, the jewel box of Paris' Palais Garnier. The French company excels in meeting Balanchine's demands. All the featured principals turn in breathtaking performances and the highlight may be the way they turn Diamonds, which often goes flat in performance, into a thrilling experience.
The costumes and sets, designed by Christian Lacroix, are precisely what this ballet needs, with backdrops of green for Emeralds, red, Rubies, and a cool blue crossed by a glittering cloud-like necklace for Diamonds. The video direction captures the feeling of being in the hall, with full-stage shots interspersed with views of soloists or ensemble sections that are never too close-up and respect the need for air and space around the dancers. Included is an excellent documentary film about Balanchine and Jewels, with cogent interviews and exemplary excerpts from the ballet. No lover of dance should be without this. --Dan Davis