With a penchant for beauty and harmony to complement its perpetual quest for excellence, over the decades Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn boundless inspiration from the world of dance. The art of ballet imparts an aura of poetry and a graceful flair into the Maison’s High Jewelry pieces and feminine figures – always delicate and captured in motion.
Throughout its history, Van Cleef & Arpels has maintained ties with the world of dance through a multitude of artistic collaborations that all reflect its attachment to the values of creativity and sharing.
Van Cleef & Arpels ballerinas
The bond between Van Cleef & Arpels and dance dates back to 1920s Paris. Louis Arpels, a fervent lover of ballet, often took his nephew Claude to the Opéra Garnier, located a short walk from the Place Vendôme boutique. The Maison’s first ballerina clips were created in the early 1940s, soon becoming Van Cleef & Arpels signature pieces. Their aerial attitudes and the beauty of their attire immediately captivated collectors. Featuring a gold or diamond face complemented by a precious head ornament, dancers are depicted with point shoes and a tutu set with diamonds or colored stones that seems to flow, echoing their movements.
Ballerina clip, 1945, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Raymonda powder case, 1945, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Sketches featuring dancer clips, circa 1940-1950, Van Cleef & Arpels Archives
Van Cleef & Arpels’ dancers also reflect the influences that different cultures have had on its creations ever since 1906. They wear costumes from all over the world, from the South Pacific islands to the bewitching lands of the Orient.
Spanish Dancer clip, 1941, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Ballerina clip, 1943, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Dancer clip, 1969, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Dancer clip, 1993, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
The Ballet Précieux High Jewelry collection, introduced in 2006, once again illustrates Van Cleef & Arpels’ fondness for this discipline through both figurative and more stylized pieces. The various chapters of this collection, unveiled progressively over the years, combine as a vibrant tribute to the art of dance.
Made of creased gold, precious and ornamental stones, the tutus fashioned by the Mains d’Or replicate the forms and textures of stage costumes. Displaying the Maison’s savoir-faire, they swathe dancers in myriad colors evocative of famous ballets including Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Firebird and Les Sylphides.
According to their artistic universe, the Maison’s ballerina clips resonate with the delicate dancers depicted in watch collections. With talent, the Van Cleef & Arpels workshops portray all the grace of their movements. By combining watchmaking expertise and mastery of singular fine crafts, the Maison breathes life into operatic dreams and sparkling ballets.
Odette ballerina clip, white gold, diamonds
Swan Lake ballerina clip, white gold, black spinels, diamonds
Jewelry craftsmanship, shaping the wax model
Gem setting, positioning the Mystery Set rubies
Jewelry craftsmanship, assembling
Watchmaking, setting the hands on the dial
Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has also interpreted the movement of dancers and the diversity of their costumes in abstract jewelry creations. Delicate lace, precious drapery or diamond swirls give birth to pieces suggesting the airiness of ballerinas.
Tourbillon (Whirl) clips, 1948, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Draped earrings, 1960, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Reverso clip, 1957, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Lace clip, 1984, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
At the crossroads of arts
The bond uniting Van Cleef & Arpels and the world of dance grew even stronger in the 1950s, when Claude Arpels – Louis Arpels’ nephew – made the acquaintance of famed choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet.
Their shared passion for precious stones sparked the idea for an original ballet, as George Balanchine describes in his memoirs: “The idea for a new ballet using jeweled costumes came about some years ago when my friend Nathan Milstein introduced me to Claude Arpels, the jeweler. I saw later the splendid stones in his collection in New York. Of course, I have always liked jewels [...]. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of the real stones, which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!”*
Balanchine’s Jewels premiered in April 1967. Each act of this non-narrative triptych pays tribute to a particular gemstone and an individual composer: Gabriel Fauré for Emeralds, Igor Stravinsky for Rubies and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.
Pierre Arpels, ballerina Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine, circa 1976
© BALANCHINE is a Trademark of The George Balanchine Trust
Van Cleef & Arpels: partner of L.A. Dance Project, founded by Benjamin Millepied
Much like the fateful encounter between Claude Arpels and GeorgevBalanchine, a new collaboration began in 2012 with Benjamin Millepied. A former star dancer at the New York City Ballet and founder of the troupe L.A. Dance Project, he danced in Rubies, a chapter of Balanchine’s Jewels.
With the support of Van Cleef & Arpels, Benjamin Millepied created the ballet trilogy Gems, made up of Reflections (2013), Hearts & Arrows (2014) and On the Other Side (2016). The Maison’s support was also instrumental in staging the Marfa Dance Episodes: a series of performances filmed and broadcast live at the Chinati Foundation in Texas in 2017.
Created by the renowned dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, L.A. Dance Project is no mere dance troupe, but a genuine collective that seeks to redefine the very notion of artistic collaboration through joint projects. Bringing together figures of diverse artistic backgrounds, from the audiovisual arts to painting and sculpture, this unprecedented adventure aims to project dance beyond its traditional borders with both theatrical performances and dances in non-traditional environments.
Reflections, L.A. Dance Project
© Laurent Philippe
In 2019, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced its Romeo & Juliet collection, which resonates with a choreographic project by Benjamin Millepied. His ballet, Romeo and Juliet, is a modern-day take on William Shakespeare’s tragedy set to music by Prokofiev. It is scheduled to debut in 2021 at the Seine Musicale, outside of Paris. “These collaborations, these encounters between different disciplines, are always a key source of inspiration for us. They nurture our creativity and build bridges among diverse art forms,” Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels.
Rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet, L.A. Dance Project (2019)
© Jonathan Potter
The FEDORA – VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet
Van Cleef & Arpels encourages innovation in the field of choreographic creation via its partnership with the Fedora philanthropic community. Since 2015, the annual “FEDORA – VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet” rewards each year the excellence and inventiveness of a new piece. The list of winners over the years includes Alexei Ratmansky for The Sleeping Beauty and Yan Duyvendak for Sound of Music (2015), Christian Rizzo for le syndrome ian (2016), Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar for Love Chapter 2 (2017), William Forsythe for A Quiet Evening of Dance (2018), Invisible Cities, a creation by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the Rambert dance troupe (2019) and LIGHT: Bach Dances(working title), by the Hofesh Shechter Company (2020).
A Quiet Evening of Dance, William Forsythe
© Bill Cooper
DANCE REFLECTIONS BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
The Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels initiative marks a new chapter in the relationship uniting the Maison and the world of dance. Launched in 2020, this program designed in collaboration with international partners epitomizes Van Cleef & Arpels’ commitment to supporting choreographic legacies, engaging in the development of contemporary creations and popularizing this artistic universe among the broadest possible audience. The project includes two distinct actions: the first is to accompany the artists and institutions that keep repertory art alive and contribute to contemporary performance. Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels will also organize a great choreographic event featuring a varied and rich selection of creations. In addition, awareness-raising measures focused on culture and dance will be implemented for audiences of every stripe, professionals and amateurs alike.
The history of Van Cleef & Arpels and dance
- 1941 - Creation of the first dancer clips, materializing an idea developed by Louis Arpels.
- 1966 - Visit by George Balanchine to the Van Cleef & Arpels 5th Avenue boutique in New York.
- 1967 - Premiere of George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels in three chapters: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds.
- 2006 - Creation of the Ballet Précieux High Jewelry collection, a tribute to the ballet Jewels.
- 2007 - Initial collaboration with the Royal Opera House in London for a new production of Jewels celebrating the ballet’s 40th anniversary.
- 2012 - Van Cleef & Arpels initiated a collaboration with choreographer Benjamin Millepied and his dance troupe, L.A. Dance Project. - Start of a collaboration with
the Bolshoi Theatre for a new production of Jewels.
- 2013 - Creation of the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée watch. - Creation of the ballet Reflections by Benjamin Millepied: the first chapter of his triptych Gems.
Jewels ballet, Emeralds
© Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre
- 2014 - Creation of the ballet Hearts & Arrows by Benjamin Millepied, the second chapter of his triptych Gems. - Creation of the Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet.
- Start of the collaboration between Van Cleef & Arpels and the Croisements Festival in China.
- 2015 - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to Alexei Ratmansky and Yan Duyvendak for The Sleeping Beauty and Sound of Music, respectively. - Van Cleef & Arpels sponsorship of 3e Scène, the digital platform of the Opéra National de Paris.
- 2016 - Premiere of the ballet On the Other Side by Benjamin Millepied, the third chapter of his triptych Gems. - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to le syndrome ian by Christian Rizzo.
- 2017 - Partnership between Van Cleef & Arpels and the Australian Ballet, including its Ballet Ambassador program. - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to Love Chapter 2 by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.
- 2018 - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to A Quiet Evening of Dance, by William Forsythe.
le syndrome ian, Christian Rizzo
© Marc Coudrais
- 2019 - Van Cleef & Arpels introduced its Romeo & Juliet High Jewelry collection, echoing a choreographic project by Benjamin Millepied. - Van Cleef & Arpels became a
sponsor of the Bolshoi Theatre. - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to Invisible Cities, a creation by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the Rambert dance troupe.
- 2020 - The Maison launched its Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels initiative to promote transmission of choreographic legacies and contemporary creation. - The Fedora – Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet awarded to LIGHT: Bach Dances (working title) by the Hofesh Shechter Company.
All Around, Mette Ingvartsen and Will Guthrie
© Marc Domage
* 101 Stories of the Great Ballets, George Balanchine and Francis Mason, 1975, Anchor Books
Page 1, left-hand visual: Paquita ballerina clip, white gold, diamonds
Page 1, right-hand visual: Reflections, L.A. Dance Project © Laurent Philippe