Jewels, Royal Opera House, London

The Royal Ballet is on scintillating form in a revival of Balanchine's triptych, inspired by a jewellers

June is usually the month when the toll begins to tell on dancers' bodies.

The ballet season is drawing to a close, everyone is tired, injuries are up and there are more sudden cast changes than in Gordon Brown's Cabinet. But then along comes Jewels, George Balanchine's grand and demanding triptych, and it feels as if the season's just beginning. The work was new to the Royal Ballet only 18 months ago, but at Tuesday's revival opening the company claimed it as its own with a force that lifted you out of your seat.

Few ballets cram as much variety into one evening. It's three separate ballets, really, linked by a gemstone theme, supposedly inspired by a visit to Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1960s. (The founding father of American ballet liked to drape his current wife in expensive sparklers, and insisted that all his female dancers wear diamond ear studs, though most could only afford paste.)

I have to own up to a difficulty with "Emeralds", the opening section and Balanchine's homage to all things French. It's serene and supremely civilised, but its score – a patchwork of mostly little-known Fauré – seems to me a soggy thing: dank where it could be dark, misty where it could be clear, and on the whole, obscure.

Yet if anyone can win me over to its poetry, it will be Tamara Rojo and Leanne Benjamin, who between them explore the gamut of the delicate shadings of "Emeralds" with a wondrous elegance and control. Rojo holds the still, pale centre of the piece, soft-armed with lids lowered, as daisy-chains of girls around her wilt exquisitely and the dynamic level of the music retreats so far that at one point you're left with only the drumroll of 32 bourréeing shoes in your ears. Benjamin is deliciously arch as she walks regally on pointe through a duet, like a medieval lady with her squire.

The central section, "Rubies", is not just from another country: it blasts you into another century. Stravinsky's jazzy Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra is delivered with terrific panache (the conductor is Valeriy Ovsyanikov), and when Alexandra Ansanelli, a scarlet woman in every sense, bowls on stage she proceeds to knock spots off every other performance in recent memory. Whether posing mock-coyly with Betty Grable legs, shivering her hips to make the gems on her tunic rattle, or flipping up her legs friskily behind her head, she's so the ultimate Manhattan goodtime girl that her partner, Carlos Acosta, looks dazed with pleasure. Her reckless speed risks a tumble at any moment, and this is as exhilarating as it gets.

Back on stage after serious injury, Alina Cojocaru was understandably cautious in "Diamonds", the choreographer's homage to Russian highclassical style. As in a formal courtship, Cojocaru's white-tutu'd ballerina begins remote and chilly, then slowly, magically, yields and glows as Tchai-kovsky's Symphony No 3, along with Rupert Pennefather's dashing consort, warm her heart. After the final mass polonaise, all joy and ease and dazzling silver light, my own felt fit to burst.

ROH (020-7304 4000) to 19 Jun

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat