The pandemic has been very hard on all of the arts, but, it seems to me, it has been especially hard on dance. It is true that some very creative approaches to presenting dance while following CDC guidelines have been offered but the real dance, the beautiful, classical movements with exquisite costuming and gorgeous music have been difficult to find. And so, I was thrilled to see the amazing performance of George Balanchine’s “Jewels” by the San Francisco Ballet. It is currently live streamed until April 21st. No excuses about not being able to go at a specific time. There is no one in front of you to block your vision. The only thing missing is an audiences with which to share this experience unless you consider the vast numbers of people around the world that you can’t see or hear who also must be thrilled by the performance.
George Balanchine’s full-length masterpiece was inspired by displays at New York City jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and it is made up of three separate ballets—Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds. Emeralds, which is set to music by Fauré, is a forest green meditation and seemed to evoke Spring. The long, Romantic-style skirts, influenced by the French style of ballet—decorous, restrained, pristine. Rubies, set to Stravinsky, is more like Times Square at midnight: bright lights, rushing crowds, and a touch of jazz and a bit sexy. Diamonds is set to Tchaikovsky, and is a glittering homage to Imperial Russia and the grand style of Marius Petipa, the father of classical ballet, very grand.
George Balanchine’s Jewels on Program 04, is streaming until April 21, of the 2021 Digital Season, and features a newly-capturedEmeralds to accompany archival recordings of Rubies and Diamonds. Filmed on stage at the War Memorial Opera House in January of 2021, Emeralds was captured under strict safety protocols in compliance with the San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines, which protect artists, production crews, and the greater public. Tickets to the digital stream of Jewelsbegin at $29.
SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson dedicates the 2021 Digital Season’sJewelsstream to the memory of Elyse Borne, a leading Balanchine répétiteur who staged dozens of ballets for the Company, beginning in 1996 with Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. Borne passed away in December of 2019, shortly after rehearsing Jewels with SF Ballet to prepare for live performance in the 2020 Season. “While recording Emeralds on stage this year we all thought fondly of Elyse,” says Tomasson. “She and I met while dancing for New York City Ballet in the 1970s and 80s. We were both aware of how fortunate we were to be a part of that last generation of dancers who worked directly with Balanchine. She joined us as ballet master in 1997 after working with companies all over the world, and over the following six years, she guided and supported the dancers here with expertise, grace, and humor. She will always be a long-remembered colleague and dear friend.” Alongside Borne and the George Balanchine Trust, Tomasson has remained committed to documenting and preserving the choreographer’s work for future generations, programming at least one Balanchine ballet each year of his leadership of SF Ballet.
Jewels, which premiered in full in 1967 at New York City Ballet is enhanced by the exquisite costumes designed by Barbara Karinska to fit each act. Emeralds alludes to the 19th-century dances of French romantics and is set to excerpts from Gabriel Faure’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1898) and Shylock (1889). Rubies is a feat of athleticism, set to the irregular, modernist, jazz-inspired Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky. Diamonds invokes memories of Imperial Russia in a grand and formal display of classical ballet and is set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D major. The SF Ballet Orchestra performs in each ballet, with newly recorded music for Emeralds captured using approved safety protocols at Skywalker Studios and the SF Conservatory of Music and produced and engineered by Leslie Ann Jones. The music is a joy. This performance is a special opportunity and for anyone who loves ballet, it will be a welcome treat, even with small figures on a small screen. It is beautiful and inspiring.
Tickets to Jewels are available now as single stream tickets for $29, or within the Premium Plus Digital Package, which offers unlimited viewing of the remaining programs in the 2021 Digital Season, in addition to exclusive bonus content, for $289. Tickets and packages may be purchased online at www.sfballet.org. For more information, call Ticket Services at 415-865-2000, Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm. Click here to view digital viewing tips.
Photos are courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet