Diamonds Memories

I hope everyone at SBS will take advantage of the rare opportunity to watch the Balanchine/Tchailkovsky/Karinska masterpiece Diamonds, performed by the New York City Ballet, and available for streaming on the NYCB website from now until May 22nd at 8 pm.

Suzanne Farrell and Jaques d’Amboise

I have a long and romantic personal history with this ballet! I saw it for the first time as a child in  Chicago in 1968, with the original lead cast, Suzanne Farrell and Jacques d’Amboise. Of the three ballets that make up Jewels, Balanchine’s ground-breaking, evening-length plotless ballet, Diamonds was my favorite. White tutus, glittering tiaras, a romantic central pas de deux with hidden references to Swan Lake, and a massively grand finale. What could be more exciting for an eight-year-old girl in love with ballet? Over the fifty-two years since then, each section of Jewels…Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds have become my facorites as the endless facets of the choreopgraphy have been revealed to me.

As a young member of the NYCB, in the Diamonds corps de ballet, I watched breathlessly from the wings, as Suzanne Farrell and her noble partner, Peter Martins, danced the almost ritualistic, mysterious pas de deux with daring and musicality….never the same way twice. I remember being mesmerized by Suzanne’s eyes. She always seemed to see something far beyond where her gaze was directed….past her partner, past the audience, past those of us, including Mr. Balanchine, who were standing in the wings…but also inwards, somewhere private, as if she held a secret jewel.

Diana White in Rubies

As I moved through the company’s ranks, I became a demi-soloist in Diamonds (one of the two ladies in the Waltz and one of the four couples in the Scherzo and Grand Polonaise) while also taking on the iconic “Tall Girl” role in Rubies. I also danced in the corps de ballet of Emeralds and was coached in the hypnotic “Walking pas de deux” by Karin Von Aroldingen. These experiences were finally crowned when Suzanne  Farrell, herself, coached me and Scarsdale Ballet Studio co-founder, Christian Claessens, in the pas de deux of Diamonds for our international guest appearances.  

Shue Yan and Li Wentao National Ballet of China

Olga Grishenkova and Diana White after Diamonds premiere, Novosibirsk, Russia

Not so long ago, I staged the lovely Diamonds Waltz for our own SBS dancers.

The best facets of Diamonds are still unfolding for me. As a répétiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, I have recently staged the ballet in Novosibirsk, Russia and at the National Ballet of China. This fall, if the pandemic allows, I will be staging both Emeralds and Diamonds at the Hong Kong Ballet and then in early 2021, at the Stuttgart Ballet. Whenever I work with dancers on Balanchine ballets, I feel that I receive more than I give. I love coaching dancers as they discover the genius of the choreography, and find their own revelations in it. I feel truly blessed. I know that dancers will always find a way to carry forward, but I hope that their work will soon once again have real stages to dance upon in front of live audiences.

In the meantime, the performance of Diamonds that you can watch now on the New York City Ballet website is not to be missed.