Any performance by the Hong Kong Ballet is always regarded as a dazzling affair, but its debut of the full version of choreographer George Balanchine’s Jewels proved this quite literally. On May 21, the shiniest of Hong Kong society came out to support the dance company’s triumphant return to the stage after months of cancelled shows. Staged at the Lyric Theatre of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Balanchine’s Jewels was the ballet’s first performance in seven months, yet dances showed no sign of rust: the three-part spectacle was the epitome of glamour and high artistry.
Balanchine, regarded as one of the 20th century’s most prolific choreographers, was inspired to create Jewels after visiting Van Cleef & Arpels’ boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York and forging a friendship with jeweller Claude Arpels. This first, full-length abstract ballet has celebrated the beauty of gemstones since its premiere in 1967. Notoriously challenging to perform, the modern masterpiece was split into three acts, each danced in distinct styles: Emeralds, evoking French romance, Rubies, celebrating American exuberance, and the grand finale Diamonds, which presented the grandeur of Imperial Russia.
Audience members were left swooning in their seats by graceful, flowing routines, sparkling costumes and a breathtaking score by Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky performed live by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and pianist Rachel Cheung.
Before dancing commenced, Septime Webre, the ballet’s artistic director, welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude for the international performers who had travelled to Hong Kong for the show. This included Brazil’s Daniel Camargo, a former principal dancer at the Dutch National Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet, who underwent a 21-day quarantine to perform in Hong Kong. Board member of the HKB, Janice Chan-Choy expressed her happiness at the opening too: “It was exhilarating to watch Jewels after such a long hiatus. I cannot imagine how dancers must feel when they cannot perform on stage. When the curtains finally opened, you could see the sparkle not only in their costumes, but also in their eyes, smiles, fingers and toes.” she said.