Ballet West creates abstract style in ‘Jewels’

Ballet West is proud to present ‘Jewels,’ which will be performed today and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre. Photo Courtesy Erik Ostling
Ballet West is proud to present ‘Jewels,’ which will be performed today and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre.
Photo Courtesy Erik Ostling

If George Balanchine had lived in the ’80s, he certainly would have mastered tape-mixing. However, Balanchine’s adolescent days occurred in the early 1900s, meaning his skills manifested in dance and choreography.
Although Balanchine never perfected the art of playlists, he enjoyed mingling musical genres. Perhaps the best example of his meshing talents is his ballet “Jewels,” first performed in 1967 at the New York State Theatre.
Called “the first abstract ballet,” “Jewels” blends historical places, classical composers and gems. Ballet West will bring this complicated masterpiece to Utah’s dance scene.
Recently, Ballet West has risen in popularity. Starring in the TV show, “Breaking Pointe,” and bringing back the original choreography of “Cinderella,” Ballet West has reassured its talent to the world of performing arts.
Perhaps that is why the dance company holds the pleasure of performing “Jewels.” Understanding the distinction of Ballet West, artistic director Adam Sklute speaks passionately of Balanchine and his creation.
“ ‘Jewels’ is like walking into an art gallery,” Sklute said. “Each piece is different, but the progression makes the art beautiful and whole.”
Sklute said “Jewels” is more than one formation. In fact, he coined a term for the ballet.
“It’s a full-length, abstract ballet,” Sklute said.
Nonetheless, Sklute commented that this “full-length abstract ballet” parallels the life of its creator, Balanchine.
Separated into three parts, the ballet highlights different places in history. Balanchine’s version of the mixed tape opens with “Emeralds,” which resembles the elegance of France at the beginning of the 20th century. Born in Russia, Balanchine traveled west and eventually stopped in Monte Carlo, France.
Hoping to mirror the resemblance of his life in France, Balanchine selected the music of French composer Gabriel Fauré. The pas de deux, or plurality, to this composition resembles the flashiness and subtly of emeralds — stones that stand out but never attract much attention.
Though the ballet was not designed to demonstrate the literal meaning of the represented jewels, it is evident Act II pushes the pizzazz of rubies. Like Balanchine, musical genius Igor Stravinsky grew up in Imperial Russia and made his way to New York. The juxtaposition of the Russian natives’ migration to America with the jazz-like sounds of the “Rubies” compilation demonstrates the freedom both Stravinsky and Balanchine experienced.
Finally, Balanchine introduces “Diamonds.” Diamonds as jewels represent royalty. Getting his start at the Russian Ballet, it is no wonder Balanchine chose to acclaim Imperial Russia and its landmark. Of course, Balanchine selected the work of Tchaikovsky to represent the magnificence of his birthplace.
Ballet West is proud to have the opportunity to showcase nine to 10 principal dancers — the usual number only hovering between two and four. Having already danced to “Jewels,” Ballet West has welcomed standing ovations in previous performances. “Jewels” will be performed today and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre.