Balanchine finding inspiration while window-shopping at Van Cleef & Arpels on 5th Avenue is a nauseating image: the transition from models of Romantic inspiration to the pursuit of art as advertising. A ballet about jewellery is a paean to wealth and objectification. Reduced to the status of decoration, Balanchine’s concept for Jewels envisions dancers as the literal embodiment of the jewels wrapped around his audiences’ necks. Perhaps the concept was a calculated appeal to these wealthy donors, yet while Balanchine later admitted the ballet ‘had nothing to do with jewels’ the audience can still hear the rhinestones as they swing and clatter against dancing bodies.
Diamonds, chronologically the finale of Jewels, functions as its spiritual centre-piece. Created for Balanchine’s muse Suzanne Farrell, Diamonds synthesises regal formality with melancholic lyricism in a nostalgic tribute to the classical ballet of Balanchine’s childhood in Russia. Using Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony, written before the composer began Swan Lake, Balanchine creates a choreographic texture of echoes and resonances drawing from Marius Petipa’s tradition of grandiose staging and classical patterning. Wearing white tutus and tiaras a corps de ballet of couples perform synchronised arabesques, turns and courtesies in perfect alignment mirroring lead principals Marialena Nunez and Thiago Soares. Each cavalier holds their female partner as though made of glass. In fact, Soares’ partnering takes delicacy to the extreme; the result is a strangely drained and flat-footed performance, while Nunez seems to move with an expansiveness that encompasses the entire stage. Elastic jumps and natural athleticism are secondary to her stately poise as she moves across the stage; her dignified épaulement melting into generous backbends and liquid extensions reminiscent of Swan Lake's Odette. As Diamonds builds to a climax, the choreography crackles with reverberations from the previous two acts: jazz-inflected side-steps alternate with classical pirouettes and the lilting march of the polonaise. It’s as though we are witnessing the entire history of ballet refined and re-mixed through the mind and memory of a master-mind: Balanchine.
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