It was courageous of the Bolshoi Ballet to take this quintessentially American ballet into their repertoire and then to relay it live around the world.  Created by George Balanchine in 1967 for a cast that included Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride and Suzanne Farrell, each of the three acts of Jewels (Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds) is thought to celebrate a city (Paris, New York and St Petersburg) and its school of dance.

Emeralds weaves a pattern of music and dance, entwining the dancers in exquisite groups as they glide and subside, arranging them like gems in their settings in a jewellers’ window.  This homage to Paris and the romantic ballet, which was beautifully danced, is neither a pastiche or a recreation of nineteenth century French style, but seems to develop ideas embodied in Les Sylphides:  the way that the dancers gather and then part, the ebb and flow of movement, the abstraction are an American transformation of dance seen through Fokine’s lens with an added decorative Parisian chic.  Far removed from the spirit of Gautier, it was nonetheless lovely to watch.

Rubies was both an achievement and a disappointment:  the dazzling chorography that glints with Broadway pizzazz is perfect for an American company;  less so for a Russian one.  Merrill Ashley, interviewed by Katerina Novikova during the interval, mentioned that the Bolshoi dancers had worked hard to master the speed and dynamics of Balanchine’s choreography.  They still have a way to go to acquire the wit and showbiz sparkle that would bring this tribute to New York and its dance school to life, although Sergei Filin was clearly delighted with both the ballet and with the soloist Ekaterina Shipulina, whom he urged us all to look out for in future.

There were no stylistic problems with Diamonds.  From the corps de ballet’s opening six balancés, the ballet built firmly and elegantly towards its glorious climax.  Olga Smirnova’s magnetic presence as she floated, waltzed, and spun, skimming the stage on silent feet with subtle and lyrical musicality matched Semyan Chudin’s impeccable pirouettes, clean landings in perfect fifths and nobility of style.  Beautifully staged against a backdrop that looked like the evening sky sprinkled with star dust, the performance encapsulated the essence of St Petersburg and the Russian school.

For a full cast list see:  and for information about future Bolshoi live transmissions see:

Maggie Watson

21 January 2014