Dance Matters: Gems in the Desert

September 30, 2012

An unprecedented three-company
Jewels, helmed by Nevada Ballet Theatre



From left: Ballet West’s Emily Adams in “Emeralds.” Photo by Erik Ostling, Courtesy BW; Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Alissa Dale in “Rubies.” Photo by Jeff Speer, Courtesy NBT; Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Carla Körbes in “Diamonds.” Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

All © Balanchine Trust.

No one ever accused Las Vegas of lacking glitz—but what about glamour? This month, at the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the desert city sparkles with a historic production of Balanchine’s Jewels. For the first time, three different companies will perform the ballet’s three distinct gems: Ballet West in dreamy “Emeralds,” Nevada Ballet Theatre in rush-of-energy “Rubies,” and Pacific Northwest Ballet in regal “Diamonds.”

Like many midsized companies, NBT does not have the numbers to mount Jewels on its own (“Diamonds” alone requires 34 dancers). With the Balanchine Trust’s blessing, NBT reached out to Peter Boal at PNB and BW director Adam Sklute. “Logistically, of course, it’s challenging, but I’m just thrilled,” says Beth Barbre, NBT’s executive director. Members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic will accompany the performance, under the baton of PNB’s music director Emil de Cou. The production is sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels, from whose glittering display windows, as the story goes, Balanchine drew inspiration for what is widely considered the first plotless full-length ballet.

is the first full production that NBT, celebrating its 40th anniversary, has opened at the Smith Center. The complex, bearing a price tag of $470 million, took almost two decades to plan and three years to construct before its unveiling last March. Barbre and artistic director James Canfield are happy to have a home to better display NBT’s innovative programs, which have included shared bills with other companies (like its 2010 tribute to Robert Joffrey with Hubbard Street, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and BW) and an ongoing choreographic collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, as well as full-length classics and Canfield’s ballets.

The rewards extend behind the proscenium. “The excitement in the house will be doubled backstage,” says Boal, “with dancers filling the wings to watch and applaud their peers.” Canfield agrees. “I love the camaraderie of when the dancers get together from the other companies,” he says. “It’s really a nice synergy.”