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Can't get enough of the Diamond Project?

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I quote from a letter by Patricia G. Hambrecht, President of Harry Winston:

"We are delighted that so many of you have expressed interest in the diamond and platinum brooch created by Harry Winston to mark the tenth anniversary of New York City Ballet's 'Diamond Project.' Designed by Ronald Winston, The Ballet Brooch evokes the spareness and grace that are the hallmarks of the NYCB. The brooch contains 41 brilliant, baguette, and oval diamonds, and sells for $9,500. Harry Winston will donate ten percent of every sale to New York City Ballet."

Any takers?

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So pleased to see that NYCB is able to raise money on the basis of its work. Perhaps Ms. Hambricht could develop a joint marketing plan with the couple selling plans for the Sopranos house. Yes, as the Times reported last week, that monument to excess is a real house, occupied by real people, who will sell you the floor plans for $599.

Where better to wear a "spare" diamond array?

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I wonder if they could knock it off in cubic zironium and sell it on the Home Shopping Network? And I wonder what it looks like. Someone go look at it. Then we can compare it to the Van Cleef and Arpels necklace Suzanne Farrell was photographed in during the promotions for Jewels. Now that was jewelry! The Diamond Project is actually named for a person, not a gemstone. I suppose the ballet is lucky, for fundraising purposes, that her name wasn't Irene Rhinestone.

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I wonder if they could knock it off in cubic zirconium and sell it on the Home Shopping Network?

I like the way you think, Nanatchka!

Actually, this whole discussion (and a parallel thread about marketing) raises a lot of interesting questions about how we come to value materials and experiences.

Gold, for instance, is indeed a rare element in nature, and one with the unusual quality of occurring only in its pure metallic form. If you find it, you know it and you'll be rewarded.

Aluminum was once considered a precious metal because it was so rarely found in its metallic state in nature. But a chemist will tell you it is one of the most plentiful metallic elements on earth. It's also a highly reactive metal, found mostly in chemical bonds with other elements. Once the technology of refining the metal from ore became common, aluminum lost its special status.

Diamonds are an odd case. Chemically, they are crystalized carbon, the single most plentiful element on our planet. As we learned in junior high, a diamond is just a lump of coal squeezed very very very very hard, and the gems occur in almost every part of the world. But a diamond is still considered the most precious of precious stones. I recently read an article by an economist who attributes this fact to two factors: an artificially limited supply (sales of most newly-mined stones are carefully controlled by a London-based cartel) and an aggressive marketing campaign.

What lessons can fans of dance in general and ballet in particular draw? First of all, that the "dance boom" of the '60s and '70s was a mixed blessing. With so many companies and choreographers presenting works to generally favorable notices (critics and audiences alike were so overwhelmed by the tide of undeniable originality that judgement took a back seat), dance became less "special" and more "oridnary." If you missed Company A this week, you could still catch Company B next week.

Then comes marketing, image, and timing. The companies that survived the boom's collapse owe the result as much to savvy as to artistic vision. NYCB, already distinguished by the greatest living choreographer at its head, set the seal on its leadership with the Stravinsky Festival, a landmark event in dance history. Mr. B may or may not have had sales in mind (at considerable expense, he cancelled an entire week's scheduled performances to allow more rehearsal time), but City Ballet's subscription sales boomed. ABT, viewed as stuffy and old-fashioned, saw its audiences decline. The Joffrey touted rock ballets, flaunted the "outsider" status of its dancers (many of whom had been rejected by NYCB or ABT), and courted the youth audience; their high-water mark was commissioning Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe. Alvin Ailey was sold (against his explicit wishes) as the hope of Black America. His company has always been multi-racial, and he drew on a wide range of sources. Indeed, one of his most exquisite works is set to Ralph Vaughn-Williams' tone poem. "The Lark Ascending." Harvey Lichtenstein, a one-time Martha Graham student, used modern dance to revive my local arts center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Companies, and performance centers, who failed to find a distinctive "hook" during the boom (I still miss "Dance Umbrella") are gone.

In short: Truly great art will survive, but luck determines how long it takes to surface. Young artists seeking to break into the "establishment" world will look for dramatic differences (race, musical taste, etc.), which may highlight, conceal, or even obscure authentic creativity. The future of the art demands a broad canvas for experimentation, while economic reality demands a "Unique Selling Proposition," to use the MBA phrase.

I take some hope from the life of Mozart. He spent years in a fruitless search for a patron who would, in effect, give him a blank check to write anything he wanted. He had to write commissions to the taste of millionaires, settle for opera productions in provincial towns (like Salzburg and Prague), and ended his life with a crassly commercial hit, The Magic Flute. If an artist keeps trying, he (or she) will make a mark.

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