Pacific Northwest Ballet Raises The Curtains To The Sparkle Of “Jewels”

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Jewels

Pacific Northwest Ballet raises the curtain for its 45th season with “Jewels,” George Balanchine’s masterful homage to three golden ages of music and dance. You might call it, “Balanchine and his bling-bling.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s timeless masterpiece, PNB is unveiling new set and costumes designs created exclusively for PNB by Jerome Kaplan.

“Jewels” has been called the first full-length abstract ballet. With three related movements: “Emeralds,” “Rubies,” and “Diamonds,” it can also be seen as three separate ballets, linked by their jewel-colored costumes.

Balanchine was inspired by the artistry of jewelry designer Claude Arpels, and chose music revealing the purity and essence of each jewel. Each of these three movements is set to the music of a different composer: While “Emeralds” is set to the music of Gabriel Fauré, “Rubies” is set to the music of Igor Stravinsky, and “Diamonds” to the music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Each section of the ballet is distinct in both music and mood. In the poetic and mysterious “Emeralds,” Balanchine evokes the France of elegance, comfort, dress, and perfume. With a score by Gabriel Fauré and dancers dressed in Romantic-length tutus, “Emeralds” recalls the 19th century dances of the French Romantics.

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924), bridged the eras of Romanticism and Impressionism. When he was born, Chopin was still composing, and by the time of Fauré’s death, jazz and the atonal music of the Second Viennese School were being heard. Fauré was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. He wrote piano and chamber music as well as incidental music for plays, composed operas, and songs set to the words of French poets of the late 19th century, especially Verlaine.

Crisp and witty, “Rubies” epitomizes the collaboration of Stravinsky and Balanchine. It is considered the American jewel, with its Jazz Age score by Igor Stravinsky, stylized flapper costumes, and Balanchine’s choreography in his sophisticated mode. A saucy leading couple plays and competes as equals, and a second, siren-like ballerina takes on the men of the corps de ballet, daring all four of them to partner her at once.

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882-1971), a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor, is considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. Often referred to as “the father of prose drama,” his work encompassed styles as diverse as Romanticism, Neoclassicism and Serialism. Not only does he have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 1987 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement and in 1982 with a 2¢ Great Americans series postage stamp created in his honor.

With “Diamonds,” Balanchine pays homage to his native St. Petersburg, recalling the order and grandeur of Imperial Russia and the Maryinsky Theater, where he was trained. In “The History of Dance,” authors Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp wrote: “If the entire imperial Russian inheritance of ballet were lost, ‘Diamonds’ would still tell us of its essence.”

Echoes of dancer/choreographer Marius Petipa’s  “Swan Lake” and “Raymonda” abound. The centerpiece of “Diamonds” is an intimate pas de deux, potent in its chivalrous reserve, for the ballerina and her cavalier. At its end, the entire cast joins the principal couple for a gloriously spirited polonaise.

Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (1840-1893) is one of the most popular and influential of all romantic composers. His work is expressive, melodic, and grand in scale, with rich orchestrations. He is regarded as the master composer for classical ballet, as demonstrated by his scores for “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Among the most subjective of composers, Tchaikovsky is inseparable from his music. He bridged the gulf between the musician and the general public, achieving enormous popularity with a wide audience.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904 –1983), came to American in 1929, where he would be hailed as the father of American ballet. He co-founded the New York City Ballet and remained its Artistic Director for more than 35 years. Using the standards and technique from his time at the Imperial Ballet School, he fused it with other schools of movement that he had adopted during his tenure on Broadway and in Hollywood, creating his signature “neoclassical style.” Among his best-known dances for the stage is “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” originally created for Broadway’s “On Your Toes” (1936).

A choreographer known for his musicality; he expressed music with dance and worked extensively with the leading composers of his time. A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. With classicism as his base, he forever heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance.

Several special events are being coordinated with PNB’s production of “Jewels.” For more information, go to www.pnb.org. “Jewels” runs September 22 – October 1, 2017 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall; Performances: September 22 at 6:30 pm, September 23 at 2:00 and 7:30 pm; September 28 – 30 at 7:30 pm, and October 1 at 1:00 pm; Tickets ($30-$187) go on sale July 24 through the PNB Box Office: Phone 206.441.2424, in Person, 301 Mercer Street at Seattle Center and online at www.pnb.org. Subject to availability, tickets are also available 90 minutes prior to show times at McCaw Hall.

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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