Philadelphia Futures Review George Balanchine’s Jewels at Pennsylvania Ballet

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Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Alain Sto Domingo

Academy at Palumbo

Class of 2020

Jewels is a story-less ballet performance with three parts, choreographed by George Balanchine. Jewels isn’t entirely an abstract ballet because it isn’t a modern ballet. However, that does not change the fact that Jewels can still be enjoyed in today’s times. First and foremost, for the matinee performance that I saw on Saturday, May 12, major props to all of the dancers for performing this ballet and executing it perfectly. Jewels has three parts: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds.

Emeralds was enjoyable and overall spectacular. Drawing inspiration from France’s elegance, Balanchine had considered Emeralds “an evocation of France.” This is appropriate because Emeralds is elegant. From the costumes to the background, the entire color for this segment was green, the color for emeralds. I had read in an article that the female dancers stretch their one leg and arms upward to represent the refraction of light from a jewel. All of the movements were beautiful and everything had a really nice flow to it. Emeralds is an enjoyable segment and can truly work as a stand-alone ballet performance. However, after seeing so many other ballet performances and comparing it to the other two parts, Emeralds didn’t stand out as much as I had hoped. Emeralds was still enjoyable and fun to watch and I appreciate all of the hard work and effort put into it.

Rubies, on the other hand, is much more my speed. If I had to describe this segment with one word, I would say, “PARTY.” When the curtain lifted to show a mesmerizing red and beautiful background and gorgeous outfits, I was overwhelmed with joy. I had watched a video discussing Rubies and in that video, it mentioned that ballet dancers enjoy doing this segment the most out of all the three. In all honesty, I can agree wholeheartedly because the dancers really did look like they were having a blast. Funny enough, I only know that Rubies came from Balanchine and Stravinsky collaborating, but not where they drew inspiration. Honestly, I feel as if the inspiration came from salsa dancing because Rubies had a Spanish feel to it. I would also like to point out that I had noticed something that I did not expect and that was two male lead dancers with one female lead dancer. The same thing happened later on with two female lead dancers and one male lead dancer. For me, it was a really nice change in pace and made the overall spectacle that much more appealing.

After seeing Swan Lake, I was actually having déjà vu while watching Diamonds, because of the white color of the outfits and the background, as well as the fact that the composer of the music for this segment was none other than the famous Tchaikovsky. Aside from that, Diamonds was by far the most beautiful segment out of all the three. Drawing inspiration from the order and grandeur of Russia, Diamonds really is true to its name seeing as how it is a diamond. A beautiful masterpiece! The dancer’s movements were fun to watch and everything had a fantastic flow. I was so focused on the dancer’s movements, I did not notice the changing background with chandeliers coming in out of nowhere. I feel somewhat biased because of how much I loved Swan Lake, but I will immediately contradict myself by saying that Diamonds is simply marvelous. Diamonds can really work as a stand-alone piece all on its own because of how it outdoes the other segments. Three words: I. Loved. It.

Maliha Hoque

Northeast High School

Class of 2019

Jewels Review

Jewels is a masterpiece ballet written by George Balanchine. It is unique in that it presents not one, but three unique stories to the audience. What’s more is that Jewels does not have a story, or rather, a storyline; it is an abstract ballet, making each piece intriguing yet confusing. The full ballet was presented at the Academy of Music on May 12, 2018. For me, there was one unique factor about each of the pieces that helped me to remember its presence in Jewels. As this was my first abstract ballet, I can confidently state that Balanchine’s vision has shown me that there is room for many beautiful forms ballets in the performing arts.

The first piece to be presented is Emeralds, which represents a traditional form of ballet. Its true intriguing point was its ambiguous ending. I did not anticipate much for Emeralds based on what I had heard about it in contrast to the others two. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, overall, it represented the world of classical ballet well. The costumes were done magnificently. Emeralds had the longest costumes of the 3 mini-ballets. For the females, the dark green top contrasting with the light green bottom helped to create illusions with lights. At certain points, this effect made the dancers look like fireflies, which was an interesting imagery. Emeralds grabbed my attention at the very end when the dancers started to incorporate more intricate moves, which included many twists and turns while they were holding hands. This added complexity to the classic. At the very end, when the dancers finish by pointing to the right of the stage, I was left with many questions as to what they were pointing to and what it could possible represent. Understanding that the ballet is abstract, I was content knowing that I may never get an answer, but overall, I was happy with this representation of classical ballet.

Following Emeralds was Rubies. Rubies had an upbeat and unconventional air around it. I heard a lot of praise for this piece and so I was very expectant to see what it was about. For me, what secured the places of Rubies within the larger masterpiece is the use of piano in the musical composition that allowed for less smooth and more intricate movements. While Emeralds was all about soft and flowing movement, Rubies depicted  more rough and concise movements. This type of dance went well with the piano that helped to dominate the composition of Igor Stravinsky. This was something uncommon to me, as I have not heard much ballet composition with such heavy presence of piano. This paired with the wonderful and flowing ruby red costumes created a sense of being unconventional.

The final segment of the ballet was Diamonds. Somewhere between Emeralds and Ruby, Diamonds shows a twist to the classical nature of the ballet. Although it was last, it certainly wasn’t least, which became abundantly clear with the changing background. Between the three performances, Diamonds had the most dancers on stage, especially at the finale. What drew my attention, however, was the consistent change in the background. The background started out by resembling a chandelier made from what appeared to be scattered silver glitter. The changes to the background were subtle at first, but as soon as I realized the change, it became a part of the show for me. When it last the ballet ended, the grandeur of the expanded chandelier neatly summed up the excitement of the ballet. Overall, Diamonds was the perfect middle ground that captured the classical vibes from Emeralds and the unconventional feel from Rubyies and was the flawless conclusion to abstract vision.

Diaraye Bah

Northeast High School

Class of 2019

The ballet Jewels was a grand display of Emeralds, Rubies, and the most magnificent, Diamonds. The ballet signified all the different faces of ballet with the Emeralds displaying moves with a mesmerizing pace drawing in the audience, Rubies with is lightning, jazz, and pizzazz like giving the audience the sassy side of ballet. Lastly, the Diamonds were skilled in the classical heritage of ballet. The uniqueness that each act displays and their music with the themes are due to the different composers of the dances: Fauré for Emeralds, Stravinsky for Rubies, Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.

Unlike the ballets with a story, this ballet is much more abstract and in my interpretation, each individual dances represents a different time. Emeralds, for instance, seemed to have an aristocratic feel. The dance takes me back to the time where women were all pristine and dreamed of jewels and wealth. It was a time where the noble women were together and were shining bright as an example to all. Emeralds, with their beautiful green shade, represent a balance of humble, nobility, and leaders. Fauré’s music is a good fit because this feeling with the Emeralds helps to give off that balance.

Rubies, the second act, helped set in the feeling of modern jazz with their loose moves. When it started, there was a sharp tuning in the instruments. Like the New York Time claim, “Rubies, to Stravinsky, is quintessentially New York — its speed, density and jazzy modernity characterize this city rather than this nation.” Like New York a bustling city and the rise in the popularity in the jazz culture the Rubies give off a brave, energetic, and boundless impression to the audience. Rubies were special due to the freedom in their movement that almost seem to disregard the stereotype of ballet. It was fun and a great replacement for energy drinks.”

Diamonds, the last act, was the complete opposite of Rubies. Rather than breaking boundaries and contradicting the stereotypes of the art of ballet, Diamonds showed the perfected and polished classical heritage. Although it seemed less creative compared to the other two dances, they were the most stunning. The costumes shimmered with the stage lights, the background of the stage looked like millions of stars and the dancers were synchronized. They looked like royals.

As one is watching it, one can feel the energy coming from the dancers who are immersed in their roles, feeling free from themselves, yet ironically confined to their part of the show. Under the fancy jewels that the show is titled and focused the ballet was established as plotless and pure in its choreography. Jewels is a great ballet with multiple possibilities and the interpretations.

 

Josephine Effendi

Central High School

Class of 2020

Jewels

Prepare to bring a blanket and pillow and set your seat into a bed because the first act is designed to make you sleep. The dancing was great, no lie. However, it led me to complete boredom. I’m not a ballet expert since this is my second time trying the ballet cuisine. When intermission comes, pack your bags and everything you brought and leave it near the trash cans because it is time for the Rubies to shine. From the entire performance, my favorite act was the second one. I fell in love as soon as the curtains went up. It wasn’t your typical ballet, there were still plies, spins and leaps, but this one had movements going on the shoulders, hips and hands. It was as if the studio put in their own Latino spice to the flavor. It definitely woke me up from the first act. The music was beautiful; it compiled with the dancing and the whole atmosphere. I loved it when the dancers “stomp” with their pointes. Then BOOM! the act is done and we all clap before the curtains fall. Now it’s time to pick up your stuff and shake your head for being wrong thinking the play was wrong. Or at least that’s what I did. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing a different flavor to the ballet cuisine, but Jewels ended the performance with an act called Diamonds, which brought the entire elegance of white and crystals into life. In the end of the performance, there was about thirty-two dancers on stage. Beautiful music and beautiful dancing was present, meanwhile the backdrop was constantly changing (even though the first two acts weren’t). There was no plot to this ballet story, but sit through the first act and don’t be too surprised of what impressions the second and third act will give you.

 

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