some of Villella's pre-performance remarks
They're from my notes, so they're fragmented; the insights are his, the mistakes mine:
Before he started on the repertory, Villella told us he was pretty happy, having just celebrated his seventy-first birthday and had his fiftieth reunion of his maritime college class soon after. Then, praise in the New York Times.Jewels
was out of repertory because we didn't have a set, it died, fell apart, but a couple gave us $250,000 for a new one.
This ballet is not a story, does not have literal characters; Balanchine chose three composers. With Faure', he gave us insights into French romanticism, one of his favorite styles. He and Suzanne Farrell visited van Cleef and Arpels. [The well-known story.] Jewels
shows his deep regard and respect for women.
"Emeralds" is the gem and also the emerald of water. Port de bras, use of hands. The first woman feels herself adorned with gems. In the second variation, the woman dances for the man who's not there: longing. The pas de trois is as bravura as this ballet gets. The "Walking" pas de deux: The man is and is not there; he still isn't there, he is there in spirit. Balanchine takes ballet at many levels and mixes them all up. [compare my excerpts of his essay on Giselle
(Post #19) What I'm thinking of here is that in Giselle
we have someone who is/isn't there; that ballet makes much more of that, of course, and with Balanchine 120 years later, in "Emeralds", it's the man who's there/not there. Or maybe noticing this is not helpful.]
"Rubies" is jazzy, saucy American neo-classicism. Sharpness, attack, off-balance. Balanchine loved horses. The pas de deux is maybe a jocket and a filly. Is that a pas de cinq or a filly and four grooms? We also hear
horses (demonstrates with his hands) [when the toe shoes strike the stage in unison; at 53:20 on the POB DVD]. He had nicknames for everyone, like "Patricia McBridle" Coaches use terms like "walking the horse", "pulling the reins back" [demonstrates bit near the end of the pas de deux, where the boy pulls the girl to him, each with both their hands]. The four boys gallop
around the stage.
"Diamonds" is not only an homage to Tchaikovsky and the Nineteenth Century, an homage to Swan Lake
, and Sleeping Beauty
, it's an homage to Woman. First movement as a swan lake; the twelve girls in a circle make a lake, two more come into it. In the pas de deux, the two principals enter opposite: Regality. Coaches say, You are alone (there's no audience) seeking perfection in ballet, and ballet is woman. He's selected from seven or eight cavaliers to service her: "You [may] support me this evening. Please don't make yourself obvious." As a reward for his service, he's allowed to kiss her hand. It's not about man and woman, it's about woman. Then, a scherzo. The Finale is absolutely brilliant. Patterns, use of space.
Balanchine told me at the time of the premiere he was not satisfied with the original set; he wanted a galaxy, a Milky Way. The jewels in the sky. This was technically impossible in 1967. He wanted a galaxy of chandeliers in the finale. Tony Walton, hearing about that, said, "fibre optics." We give you that galaxy of chandeliers.
After his talks, Villella takes questions
as time allows:
A: We restage ballets with a repetiteur from the Balanchine Trust and then we video performances and use those. I have some sense
of how to do it, having danced at NYCB for twenty years, but we don't rely on that, although some aspects like "jockey" and "filly" aren't easy to get from video.