It is a creative pas de deux between Van Cleef & Arpels and dance, staged for the occasion of the exhibition at the boutique in Via Condotti, in Rome, till January 4th 2024. A partnership sanctioned by the collaboration with the Romaeuropa Festival during which the French maison promotes “Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels”, an initiative in favour of the contemporary choreographic scene. A unique opportunity to explore the link between the art of dance and high jewellery thanks to the precious objects on display in the boutique. It was in the 1920s that founder Louis Arpels, who was passionate about ballet and used to accompany his nephew to the Opéra Garnier, started thinking about the first Ballerina brooches, later created in 1941 to celebrate this strong interest. Becoming iconic for the Maison, their representation evolved over the years, giving rise to stylised figures combining other sources of inspiration, such as the Dentelle brooch of 1984, or the Tourbillon brooches of 1948 composed of three elements with a spiral effect reminiscent of flowing tutus seen from above. The central diamond, around which the elements are wound, suggests the dancer’s body, enhancing rhythm and movement. Moreover, brooches have always been emblematic personal objects to project emotional and intimate feelings, which with Van Cleef & Arples’ lightness and virtuosity of craftsmanship, become precious creations floating like ballerinas as they unfurl their skirts in a greeting to the public.
It was still in the 1920s that the Maison distinguished itself in the creation of precious objects such as the powder case on display that depicts a scene from the ballet Swan Lake, as indicated by the engraving “Le Lac des Cygnes Acte II“. A diamond ballerina, sculpted in high relief, appears in the centre of an engraved decoration, performing in front of other female silhouettes and a castle rising from an enchanted forest. She is portrayed in motion, her arms outstretched and her body flexed, while in the background, round-cut diamonds dot the sky evoking the stars. The Van Cleef & Arpels dancers reflect all the cultural influences encountered by the Maison from 1906 to the present day, many of the costumes in fact echoing the aesthetics of the Pacific Islands and the Orient.
“I love the colour and beauty of gemstones and it is amazing to see how our costume workshop could come so close to the quality of real stones, which of course were too heavy for the dancers to wear.”
The meeting between Claude Arpels – grandson of Louis Arpels – and the world-famous choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet, definitively consolidated a project flourishing in intentions. In fact, the dialogue between the two saw the birth of an unprecedented ballet called Jewels, a triptych each of its acts dedicated to a gem and a composer: Gabriel Fauré for Emeralds, Igor Fëdovorič Stravinsky for Rubies and Pyotr Il’ič Čajkovskij for Diamonds. Following the encounter between Claude Arpels and George Balanchine, a new collaboration with Benjamin Millepied began in 2012. Formerly principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and founder of the L.A. Dance Project company, he performed the ballet Rubies, one of the chapters of Jewels. This is how the story of Van Cleef & Arpels began, without ever ceasing, to measure itself with dance and its suggestions, always finding artistic figures interested in the Maison’s jewellery art. Dance also makes its entrance into the latest Cadrans Extraordinaires watch collection with two new additions: the Lady Danse and Lady Danse Duo watches that represent two very emotional moments for the artists, the entrance on stage and the performance itself. The diamonds, set on the dials and around the cases, are chosen according to the strictest criteria: D, E or F for colour, IF or VVS for clarity. They shine on the white gold, giving the creations a vivid brilliance. Van Cleef & Arpels’ quest for excellence is expressed in the meticulous work of selecting and matching materials carried out by expert gemologists, who choose precious and ornamental stones in line with the Maison’s rigorous criteria, but it is above all the collaborative and inspirational attitude intrinsic to the Van Clef & Arpels’ heritage that is of primary importance, a strong creative core capable of renewing itself and at the same time surprising over the decades.
“These collaborations, these encounters between disciplines, are always a great source of inspiration for us. They fuel our creativity and build bridges between different art forms.”
Van Cleef & Arpels and dance: a creative pas de deux is on view until January 4th 2024, at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Via Condotti, Rome.