The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker is a great Christmas treat for children, but its seasonal performances of Jewels offers much more for grown-ups. Made in 1967, choreographer George Balanchine’s evening-length, so-called plotless ballet was inspired by the dazzling gemstones in the window of the jeweller Van Cleef and Arpels, and it is both a sparkling showcase for the Royal’s principal dancers and a good-humoured analysis of ballet’s traditions – both its music, its choreography and its costuming.
First is Emeralds, which unpicks ballet’s romantic past and all its coded emotions and restrained steps. Not all the dancers catch the choreographic tone, nor Gabriel Faure’s slow and stately music, although Laura Morera’s duet with Ryoichi Hirano conveys the mood well. The pace is turned up several notches in Rubies, which is Balanchine’s jazzy, jokey homage to his adopted home of New York. Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae shine as the lead couple, she exactly catching the mix of balletic elegance and savvy New York cheerleader, while he is the knowing city slicker. Both fully convey Balanchine’s lean and taut style of presentation, as well as his alert and ever-active way of moving.
Last is Diamonds, Balanchine’s genuflection to classical ballet, and all its late 19th-century aristocratic traditions he witnessed first hand during his youth at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. Marianela Nunez was poised perfection as the lead ballerina, combining both regal grace and gentle affection. In this role she easily confirms her status as The Royal Ballet’s Queen Bee.
Royal Opera House, London, December 17-January 7
- Gabriel Faure, Igor Stravinsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- George Balanchine
- Jean-Marc Puissant (sets), Barbara Karsinka, Holly Hynes (costumes)
- The Royal Ballet
- Roberta Marquez, Edward Watson, Laura Morera, Ryoichi Hirano, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Zenaida Yanowsky, Marianela Nunez, Thiago Soares, artists of the Royal Ballet
- Running time
- 2hrs 30mins