New York City is getting an embarrassment of riches this week—riches of the Emerald, Diamonds and Rubies variety. The Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and New York City Ballet will be sharing the stage at Lincoln Center to present George Balanchine's Jewels in celebration of the iconic ballet's 50th anniversary.
One of the many stars we're excited to see is Olga Smirnova, our June 2014 cover girl, who will be performing the lead in "Diamonds" as well as the role of Bianca in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew next week.
A long time ago, I was a teenager, just hired as a member of the corps with New York City Ballet. I found myself standing in B-plus at the very back corner of the State Theater stage, clutching the hand of fellow teenage corps member Shawn Stevens. Though the expansive stage was filled with dozens of talented dancers, I was most awed by the two who stood front and center: Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins. With a sudden and sweeping downbeat from maestro Robert Irving, the full power of Balanchine and Tchaikovsky flooded the stage and the final triumphant moments of "Diamonds" began.
NYCB's Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia in "Rubies." PC Paul Kolnik
What does it look like when three of the world's top companies all share the stage in one ballet? We'll soon find out.
New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet held a press conference from New York, Paris and Moscow through Facebook Live this morning to announce one of the most exciting collaborations we've heard about in years: a joint performance of George Balanchine's Jewels.
The three companies will come together during the Lincoln Center Festival, July 20 to 23, to share the same stage where the ballet had its 1967 premiere. To celebrate the ballet's 50th anniversary, each company will take on one act. POB will perform "Emeralds," and NYCB and the Bolshoi will alternate performing "Rubies" and "Diamonds" throughout the five shows. A complete casting schedule will be announced later on.
Lincoln Center Festival director hinted at the possibility of a live stream for ballet lovers who can't snag a ticket.
In this morning's press conference, the three artistic directors (Aurélie Dupont of POB, Makhar Vaziev of the Bolshoi and Peter Martins from NYCB) pointed out how the refined grace of "Emeralds" reflects Balanchine's years in France, while "Rubies" showcases the jazzy American style and "Diamonds" channels the pristine classicism he learned in St. Petersburg.
The NYCB orchestra will accompany all three companies, with the sets and lighting from NYCB's current production. But each company will bring its own costumes. NYCB will wear the original Karinska designs. POB will wear its Christian Lacroix designs for "Emeralds." And the Bolshoi will perform in its costumes by Elena Zaitseva.
Bolshoi's Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin in "Diamonds." PC Elena Fetisova
This isn't the first time three companies have teamed up to share a program of Jewels. Four years ago, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Ballet West flew to Las Vegas to join Nevada Ballet Theatre for a performance of the iconic plotless three-act ballet.
But these three world-class companies bring the idea of a Jewels collaboration to entirely new heights. POB has had the ballet in its rep since 2000 and the Bolshoi since 2012. (And of course, NYCB has been dancing it since 1967.) These performances will offer an unparalleled opportunity to compare and contrast each company's approach to Balanchine's steps. Dupont points out that this collaboration will show audiences how dancers from the French school, the Russian school and the American school all tackle the same work differently. Vaziev added that the dancers themselves will be able to enrich their own performances by comparing their approaches. "I can only imagine the wings will be packed with dancers watching the other companies," said Martins.
We have a feeling that Mr. B would approve.