1. This is its 50th anniversary. Originally created for the New York City Ballet (NYCB), Jewels premiered on April 13, 1967, at the David H. Koch Theater (then the New York State Theater), where it will be performed once again as part of the 2017 Lincoln Center Festival (July 20–23).
2. History is being made (again) this year. Lincoln Center Festival's presentation of Jewels is an unprecedented three-way collaboration between the Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet, three of the most renowned ballet companies in the world sharing the very stage where Jewels premiered.
3. The costumes are epic. NYCB dancers will wear original costume designs created by Karinska, while the Paris Opera Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet will bring their costumes (designed by Christian Lacroix and Elena Zaitseva, respectively) with them from overseas.
4. Jewels features the music of three different composers. Each act features the musical work of a different composer: Emeralds is set to Fauré, Rubies to Stravinsky, and Diamonds to Tchaikovsky.
5. George Balanchine is regarded as the foremost contemporary ballet choreographer. As artistic director of New York City Ballet, George Balanchine choreographed some of the most highly regarded contemporary ballets, including The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Don Quixote, and, of course, Jewels. He also choreographed for Broadway, including On Your Toes, Cabin in the Sky, and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.
6. It was inspired by a visit to Van Cleef & Arpels. After a chance encounter with Claude Arpels, nephew of Estelle Arpels, Balanchine was invited to visit the French jewelry boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York. He told journalists that the elegant jewelry inspired him to begin working on what would later become one of his most classic ballets.
7. It wasn't always going to be Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds. Balanchine initially considered several additional types of jewels, including pearls and sapphires, before deciding on the final three. Take our quiz to find out which Balanchine jewel you are.
8. Balanchine was also inspired by three countries. Each section of Jewels is believed to have been choreographed to evoke the mood and style of a different country where Balanchine had once worked and danced: Emeralds for the silky elegance of France, Rubies for the jazzy vibrancy of New York City, and Diamonds for the imperial grandeur of Russia. On the opening night of Jewels at Lincoln Center Festival, each ballet company will dance the section that evokes their respective home country. (On subsequent performances, NYCB and Bolshoi will alternate between the second and third acts.)
9. The style of each section differs dramatically. The romanticism of French ballet, the bold playfulness of American ballet, and the precision of Russian ballet contrast and complement each other throughout Jewels. It’s a rare—and fortunate—occasion to be able to see such a variety of styles within the span of a single performance.
10. It's heralded as the first three-act, plotless ballet. Unlike other ballet classics—think The Nutcracker or The Taming of the Shrew—this ballet isn't propelled by distinct characters or a storyline. But don’t be fooled! Even without a narrative, the impeccable dancing, lush music, and vivid colors of the elegant costumes keep audiences mesmerized for the full three acts.
Nicole Howell is the house programs intern for the 2017 Lincoln Center Festival.