Pacific Northwest Ballet’s ‘Jewels’ gets sparkling new costumes

George Balanchine’s “Jewels” has long had a trademark look but PNB’s version, opening Sept. 22, will feature new costumes and sets by French designer Jerome Kaplan.

It’s not unusual to get a new outfit for your 50th birthday. But George Balanchine’s “Jewels” is getting 66 of them.

The 1967 ballet, created by Balanchine as a plotless three-act work (inspired, so the story goes, by a visit to legendary New York jeweler Van Cleef and Arpels), has long had a trademark look: the glittering original costumes by Barbara Karinska, Balanchine’s longtime costume designer. Each of the ballet’s three acts has a distinctive look for its ballerinas: floaty, romantic-length green tutus for “Emeralds”; abbreviated, jazzy red numbers for “Rubies”; classical-length tutus in creamy white for “Diamonds” — all of them lit up, like a night sky, with sparkling gemstones.

But when Pacific Northwest Ballet opens its season with a special anniversary staging of “Jewels” on Sept. 22, things will look a little different, with new costumes and sets by French designer Jerome Kaplan. His work has previously been seen on PNB’s stage in “Romeo et Juliette,” “Cendrillon” and “Giselle.” For the costumes, he modestly describes himself as “in a way, the assistant” — taking Karinska’s iconic works and updating them, just a bit.

Dance preview

George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’

Sept. 22-Oct 1, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$187 (206-441-2424 or

It’s no easy task to follow in the footsteps of ballet’s most celebrated designer, who created more than 9,000 costumes for New York City Ballet during a long career that also found her working in Europe, on Broadway and in Hollywood. (She was an Oscar winner, for the 1948 film “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman.)

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The “Jewels” designs, coming near the end of her career, encompass many of her trademarks: the innovative soft “powder-puff” tutu that she invented (before the 1950s, most tutus featured stiff hoops); the layering of multiple shades in the same tutu to create rich, shimmering color; the whimsical touch of fanciful tiaras; and an attention to elaborate detail that might not be entirely visible to an audience member, but which added to an overall sense of regal, ornate beauty.

Kaplan, in town earlier this…

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