Diamonds (2021)

  • Choreographer: George Balanchine (Staged by Judith Fugate)
  • Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Symphony #3)
  • Costumes: Karinska
  • Lighting: Christina Gianelli
  • PBT Performance Date: October 22-24. 2021 at Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

Program Notes

“Diamonds” is the concluding section of Jewels, a three-act ballet choreographed by George Balanchine in 1967 and set to Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29.  Balanchine is one of the most important and prolific ballet choreographers of the 20th century and was artistic director of New York City Ballet (NYCB) for more than 35 years.

The full-length Jewels is said to have been inspired by the brilliant gemstones Balanchine saw on a visit to the Van Clef and Arpels jewelry store in New York City. Each act is named for a different jewel – emeralds, rubies and diamonds – with dazzling jeweled costumes in corresponding colors. Balanchine didn’t offer an explanation about what the concept was for the ballet overall, or for its different acts (when asked what the Rubies section was about, he famously said “It’s about 20 minutes”). But it is choreographed in a way that each section highlights a distinctive ballet style.

Diamonds has the tenor of the grandeur and tradition of classical ballet, cultivated by Marius Petipa at the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, and where Balanchine trained as a boy. The large corps de ballet, all in sparkling white, provides a dramatic, classical backdrop for the work. But rather than a traditionally structured pas de deux, as Gsvosky created in Grand Pas Classique, Balanchine gives us in Diamonds a duet for the principal couple that is more fluid and infused with subtle emotion and demanding athleticism.

Also beautifully on display in this work is Balanchine’s intense musicality – his choreography is known for being almost a physical visualization of the notes and rhythms in the music. Balanchine especially loved Tchaikovsky’s music for ballet, describing him as a composer who “made music for the body to dance to. . . [who] invented the floor for the dancer to walk on.”*

*”Balanchine: the choreographer who put music first,” www.gramophone.co.uk