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Last night, Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project premiered GEMS Part II, at the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami. It’s the second ballet of a trilogy commissioned by Van Cleef & Arpels, part of the historic jewelry house’s ongoing cultural engagement with the arts and ballet, specifically (they famously collaborated with Balanchine in the sixties).
The evening was an elegant kick-off to the week of Art Basel Miami Beach, where nights are usually filled with going from one dinner or cocktail to the next, up and down Collins Ave. Being that it was Monday and not too many other events competed with it, guests had the chance to enjoy and experience a truly unique performance and dinner in unexpected locations, all to benefit the Wolfsonian Museum.
We started at the beautifully ornate Olympia Theater (which opened in 1926 as a silent movie “palace”), designed to look like a Mediterranean courtyard at twilight, complete with balconies, towers, and a periwinkle-blue sky overhead. After some champagne in the ornate lobby with gold arched ceilings, we got a third row seat for the premiere performance. Van Cleef and Arpels’ Nicolas Bos and Millepied spoke about the commission and partnership, highlighting the relationship between the technique of ballet and the fine craftsmanship of jewelry.
GEMS Part II was set to music by Philip Glass and the dancers–five males, three females–were dressed in black shorts or skirts with a white-lined grid pattern. White tanktops and black ankle-height shoes completed the looks. The set was designed by artist Liam Gillick and was a mix of exposed metal lighting rigs, scaffolding, and spotlighting that mimicked the geometric costumes. The ballet was notably athletic, and began with hectic, quick movements with dancers pulling, falling, lifting, and moving together, often intertwined. As the piece continued, it became more refined, more vertical, dancers constantly physically touching, but in a way that became less and less frenzied. They became more polished, more in sync, almost like a rough gem being buffed and reshaped into a sparkling stone. The pace never slowed, and the performance ended triumphantly, the dancers’ chests heaving from the explosive routine.
After the traditional bows and uproarious applause, the dancers jumped off stage into the theater aisles and asked everyone to follow them out of the theater. Outside we found that the street had been blocked off, and a black carpet lead us to the historic Alfred I. DuPont Building directly opposite.
If we were impressed by the Olympia Theater, we were doubly so by the second floor of the DuPont building, a former bank built in the 1930s. Champagne flowed and canapés were passed as guessed admired models behind lit windows modeling jewels (we overheard a guest remark that one wore the same cuff as her), a unique display of baubles in the old vault, and a fully stocked bar behind iron teller windows.
Soon we were seated for dinner at nearly a dozen long tables, covered in mirror that reflected the intricately painted ceiling above. A three-course meal by chef Daniel Boulud included a lobster salad with beets and caviar, and a supreme de poularde with farm-fresh vegetables and truffled wild rice.
We left (always on to the next thing in Miami!) with visions of brilliant bijoux and ballerinas.