Jewels, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, September 2011

On the back of the cast list is an advertisement for jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels whom Balanchine once hoped would bankroll his production. They didn’t …  yet all was well, and this ballet first came to stage in 1967 as a full scale work in three acts: Emeralds to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande; Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra; and Diamonds to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 3.

Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds, all images Johan Persson

The green of Emeralds represents Melisande whom Pelleas discovers by a stream in a forest, the colour representing both foliage and the underwater world of a naiad. Tamara Rojo danced with great fluidity, partnered by Ryoichi Hirano; and Leanne Benjamin was wonderfully musical both in her solo and her pas-de-deux with Nehemiah Kish, who showed a particularly elegant line. Samantha Raine, Deirdre Chapman and Alexander Campbell danced delightfully in the pas-de-trois, and the ending with the three men was performed with perfect timing and symmetry.


The red of Rubies represents a racier, sexy milieu, and although Valeriy Ovsyanikov’s conducting and Robert Clark’s piano lacked a cutting edge, Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb made up for it with the sharpness of their dancing, and Zenaida Yanowsky shone with joy as the seductive other woman. McRae was extraordinary in his solos, and his dazzling chaînés turns elicited spontaneous applause.

Cojocaru and Pennefather in Diamonds

Tchaikovsky’s music for Diamonds is from his last composition before starting work on Swan Lake, and the ballerina in her white tutu has an ethereal splendour rather like the swan queen. This third part of the evening started beautifully with Yuhui Choe and Hikaru Kobayashi sparkling as they danced in and out of twelve members of the ensemble, and Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather were perfect as the main couple, though I found the conducting sluggish for their big pas-de-deux. The four female solists (Choe, Kobayashi, Crawford and Mendizabal) interwove beautifully between one another, the four men (Kura, Hristov, Stepanek and Whitehead) danced superbly in phase, and I thought Thomas Whitehead in particular showed a wonderfully strong line.

Excellent ensemble dancing for all three parts, and only the conducting left something to be desired. How odd that the conductor sees fit to take a solo bow — opera conductors wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.

All in all a wonderful evening’s dancing to Balanchine’s choreography, aided by delightful sets and costumes, and the House was deservedly full.

Performances continue until October 5 — for details click here.

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