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Boston Ballet Presents: Symphony in Three Movements, Afternoon of a Faun, Plan To B, Bella Figura at the David H. Koch Theater
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Boston Ballet Presents: Symphony in Three Movements, Afternoon of a Faun, Plan To B, Bella Figura at the David H. Koch Theater

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Boston Ballet
Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director

Russell Kaiser, Assistant Artistic Director
Shannon Parsley, Larissa Ponomarenko,
Anthony Randazzo, Ballet Masters
Jorma Elo, Resident Choreographer
Music Director and Principal Conductor, Jonathan McPhee
Keith Sherman & Associates, Inc., NY Press
Deborah Moe, Boston Ballet Media

In Performances at the David H. Koch Theater
At Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 28, 2014

Symphony in Three Movements (1972): Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Original Lighting Design by Ronald Bates, Lighting Design by Les Dickert, Conductor: Jonathan McPhee, Performed by Lia Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Misa Kuranaga, Isaac Akiba, Rie Ichikawa, Bradley Schlagheck, and the Company.

This Balanchine work has been seen dozens of times in past years, maybe hundreds, on this very stage where Balanchine first introduced it in 1972, for his New York City Ballet. Yet, in Boston Ballet’s interpretation and performance, it revealed new dimensions and dynamics. In the first movement of the Stravinsky score, Lia Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Misa Kuranaga, Isaac Akiba, Rie Ichikawa, and Bradley Schlagheck were featured, after the vivacious Corps, arm-pulse-lift introduction. Here we see Boston Ballet in its best training, in synchronized, classical, partnered and solo ballet virtuosity. The featured ensemble and solo performers, the Boston Ballet Orchestra, and the directed choreography were all exemplary. Timing of ensemble jumps and spins was tight, and posture and form were refined. In the second movement, Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili partnered for the Andante, with sinuous elegance. The dancers seemed so delighted to be on this stage; their psychological exuberance was striking. The Company was infused with the Balanchine aura of sophistication.

Afternoon of a Faun (1912): Choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, Music by Claude Debussy, Set & Costume Design by Leon Bakst, Lighting Design by John Cuff, Staging by Ghislaine Thesmar, Conductor: Jonathan McPhee, Performed by Altan Dugaraa as the Faun, Ashley Ellis as the Nymph, and Dawn Atkins, Emily Mistretta, Brittany Stone, Brittany Summer, Kimberly Uphoff, and Sarah Wroth as Nymphs.

In 2009, when Boston Ballet danced this work at Fall for Dance, I wrote, “Dugaraa was youthful, taut, and exotic, but there was little chemistry between the faun and the nymph, Laura Feijoo. This was a self-possessed, shallow faun, compared to the vulnerable, yearning nymph.” Tonight, Mr. Dugaraa, five years later, was still totally self-possessed. Yet, in my own evolution on the work, which I had seen Nureyev perform with The Joffrey, decades ago, in primal passion, Mr. Dugaraa’s emotional distance from the lead Nymph, Ashley Ellis, did not exude the import it had five years ago. He has streamlined his profile, in side view frieze, like an etching on a Greek vase, mouth agape, knees bent, a character in hormonal rush. His grapes are perched on his belt, and he never strays from Nijinsky’s angular design. We all know what happened in Paris, in 1912, when Nijinsky first danced his work, with its erotic finale, the mayhem and scandal, etc., a far cry from 21st Century pop culture.

The Debussy score evokes the perfume of the forest glade, viewed in Leon Bakst’s iconic mountain set and retro costumes. The Orchestra was splendid. Ghislaine Thesmar has staged the work with languid timing and nuanced gesture. The Nymph ensemble, listed above, moved with perfected angular arms and straight torso, each step deliberately shaped. Not every Nymph is Nureyev or Nijinsky, and Dugaraa certainly kept the audience magnetized.

Plan To B (2004): Choreography by Jorma Elo, Music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Costume Design by Jorma Elo, Lighting Design by John Cuff, Performed by Dusty Button, Whitney Jensen, Bo Busby, Jeffrey Cirio, John Lam, and Sabi Varga.

Jorma Elo has been Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer for nine years. Plan To B, scored to von Biber, and costumed by Mr. Elo, is danced by six members of the Company. The costumes are blue leotards, with men also in blue stretch pants, and hair is pulled back in severe fashion. The motion is charged and stunning, with dancers in flat ballet slippers. At one point, Dusty Button generates solo attention, then it’s Whitney Jensen. The four men enter and exit from the wings, winding arms en air, sliding women, undulating in partnered frenzy. The work ends in surprise, when the music comes to a sharp finale. Mr. Elo is from Finland, as is Mr. Nissinen, Artistic Director. Mr. Elo danced for fifteen years with the Netherlands Dance Theater and brings a European sensibility to his choreographic designs. He has won many global awards for his choreographies, such as the 2012 Dance Artist Prize from Finland.

Bella Figura (1995): Choreography by Jiří Kylián, Music by Lucas Foss, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Alessandro Marcello, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Torelli, Assistants to the Choreographer: Ken Ossola, Elke Schepers, Set Design by Jiří Kylián, Costume Design by Joke Visser, Lighting Design by Kees Tjebbes, Tech Adaptation by Kees Tjebbes, Performed by Rie Ichikawa, Kathleen Breen Combes, Erica Cornejo, Sarah Wroth, Petra Conti, Altan Dugaraa, Yury Yanowsky, Paul Craig, and Sabi Varga.

Jiří Kylián, from the Czech Republic, created a show-stopper in Bella Figura, with men and women in billowing red, hip-hugging skirts, all with bare torsos. Two flaming glass boxes were positioned side stage, with real fire, no red silk waving in the wind, like in La Bayadère. To add to the multi-dimensional effects, a large coffin-like box encased two nude, fabricated, life-size figures, and, as it swung high from the rafters, at first glance, they seem to be live dancers. The choral recording and baroque music from five composers, listed above, contrasted strongly with the contemporary, mixed media genre. Dancers once again were in flat ballet slippers. Only the first two pieces tonight were en pointe. As mentioned on the review from the previous program, I hope Boston Ballet can revisit with an all ballet (en pointe for women) program soon. However, this Kylián ballet kept the audience riveted and was awarded with extreme, vocal accolades. The music’s pulse matched the choreographic hip swiveling, much of it rear-facing, with the dancers’ muscular backs in warm glow. When the ensemble of dancers faced front, a tribal ritual was evoked.

Boston Ballet in
George Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Boston Ballet in
Vaslav Nijinsky's "Afternoon of a Faun"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Whitney Jensen, Jeffrey Cirio, and Bo Busby in
Jorma Elo's "Plan to B"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Boston Ballet in
Jiří Kylián's "Bella Figura"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at