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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Jewels (The Australian Ballet) at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne - 2 hours 7 minutes

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

With music by Gabriel Faure, Igor Stravinsky and Piotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky and choreography by George Balanchine, Jewels – by name and nature – is a gem.

The world’s first full-length abstract ballet, it is actually three short ballets in one and is beautiful to look at and to savour. Sandra Jennings is responsible for the staging.

Photos by Rainee Lantry

The first time it has been performed by The Australian Ballet, the work premiered at New York City Ballet in 1967.

Widely acclaimed as the most influential choreographer of the 20th century, it explores Balanchine’s time in Paris, New York and St Petersburg.

Inspired to create the piece by the sparkling jewellery in a Fifth Avenue shop window, Jewels is structured around the motifs of emeralds, rubies and diamonds.

Each time the curtain goes up, there is a collective sharp intake of breath from the audience.

That is a response to the immaculate, opulent, jewel encrusted set design by Peter Harvey and bejewelled costuming by Barbara Karinska.

The latter are adorned with thousands of rhinestones, which were meticulously sewn onto the costumes over six months.

They are nothing short of spectacular – in turn, green, red and gold.

Emeralds is a French romantic ballet – a tribute to the romantic ballet traditions of 19th century France.

Rubies reflects New York’s jazz age. More up tempo and edgy, the atmosphere is old Hollywood glamour.

Diamonds pays homage to the grandeur of Imperial Russia and features an extravagant finale when 34 dancers take to the stage.

Running for a tad over two hours plus two 20-minute intervals, Jewels makes for an enchanting night of ballet.

Simply magnificent, artists from The Australian Ballet feature alongside Orchestra Victoria, conducted by Daniel Capps.

Jewels is on at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until 8th July, 2023.


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