Emeralds, Rubies or Diamonds; take your pick

by Beacon Staff • March 4, 2009

"Oohs" and "ahhs" arose from the crowd as the curtain came up on the opening night of The Boston Ballet's newest production: George Balanchine's iJewels/i. Girls dressed in dark green bodices and mint green knee-length tulle skirts stood still in graceful poses. Their tiaras and green stone-encrusted necklines shimmered in the bright lights of the stage, almost blinding the audience. One man stood amongst the women, dressed in white except for a matching green vest and a few jewels along his neckline. A simple green background and white, billowing curtains surrounding the wings set the scene for this first of three parts to iJewels: Emeralds/i.

The ballet, playing at the Citi Wang Theatre until March 8, was inspired by the craft of jewelry designer, Claude Arpels. George Balanchine, who co-founded the American School of Ballet, choreographed a full-length ballet without narrative to reflect the beauty of Arpels' stunning creations. iJewels/i premiered at New York City Ballet in 1967 as a revolutionary, neo-classical work. A fusion of three different national styles, the ballet combines French, American and Russian classical dance.

Dancing in the French style of ballet, iEmeralds/i is elegant and full of old-world beauty. In the French school, precision is a key element and iEmeralds/i does not ignore it. Dancers are quick and meticulous in each point of the foot and lift of the leg. Their long skirts soften their exactness add in a romantic element. The emerald stones glisten with each move.

Each girl looks as if she has stepped out of a Degas painting. Extraordinary turns, incredibly high leaps and impressive leg extensions fill the almost 45 minutes of Gabriel Faureacute;'s "Pelleacute;as et Melisande" and "Shylock."

Deep, blood-red costumes and jewels adorn the women in the next installment: iRubies/i. This time the skirts are shorter and the music is mysterious and avant-garde with the piano dominating the melody of Stravinsky's "Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra." A black background and black wing covers provide a stark contrast to the fiery-hued costumes.

Balanchine employs the use of less conventional dance moves that are almost never found in ballet. Hips, gyrating pelvises and-dare I say it-flexed feet, all things that are generally a "no-no" in classical ballet, run amok in iRubies/i.

Deviating from the French method, iRubies/i reflects the more modern take of the American ballet school. It is jazzy and full of playful moments that add a humorous element to the piece, and the ruby-colored gems that adorn the dancers add a feverish and passionate tone.

Moving on from the stages of the American ballet, theatre-goers are then treated to the beauty and elegance of the Russian imperial style of the dance.

Probably the most stunning and grandiose of the three gem-stoned themed sections, iDiamonds/i reflects the clean lines and graceful, swan-like attributes of a talented icorps de ballet/i.

The costumes are pure white with large clear stones gleaming along the neckline and in each ballerina's tiara. The skirts are full and fall just above the knee. The men all look like Prince Charming, with puffy sleeves and romantic vests.

Set to Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No 3 in D Major, Op. 29," the corps members pull out all the stops for an incredible finale that shows strength and accuracy along with beauty and grace.

Full of magnificence and poise, iJewels/i is truly Balanchine's brightest gem in his crown of works, which include iThe Firebird/i and iA Midsummer Night's Dream./i

It is diverse in its styles without forgetting the essence of classical ballet. iJewels/i takes its viewers on a tour through ballet culture.

Starting with its roots in France, moving to its more contemporary counter-part in America and back to the Russian traditional style, the audience is given a sampling of the ballet's most dynamic methods.

iJewels/i is stunning, entrancing and yet another sparkling success (after the sultry iBlack and White/i earlier this month) for The Boston Ballet.