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Boston Ballet Presents: The Second Detail, Resonance, Cacti at the David H. Koch Theater
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Boston Ballet Presents: The Second Detail, Resonance, Cacti 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 26, 2014

The Second Detail (1991): Choreography by William Forsythe, Music by Thom Willems, Stage Design by William Forsythe, Costume Design by Yumiko Takeshima and Issey Miyake, Lighting Design by William Forsythe, Staging by Jill Johnson, Performed by the Company.

In pale blue, sleeveless, neck-high leotards for women and similar unitards for men, an ensemble of fourteen dances Forsythe’s abstract ballet to a percussive electronic score by Thom Willems. This is Boston Ballet’s first time in New York in many, many years, and this introductory work showcases its striking form, its muscular capacity in leaps and lunges, its wit, its theatricality, and its depth. Even though The Second Detail is plotless, it’s all about contemporary attitude and the power of unexpected visual motion. The Koch Theater audience was riveted, watching contrasting shapes of torso and arms, stretches, spins, and the emergence of one solo woman, who was not en pointe. As the program doesn’t indicate who that dancer was, I might just guess that it’s Erica Cornejo, who used to be a Soloist with Ballet Theater, across the Plaza. The serendipitous nature of this kinetic, lightning quick, angular work generated huge audience accolades.

Resonance (2014): Choreography by José Martinez, Music by Franz Liszt, Set & Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant, Lighting Design by John Cuff, Solo Pianists: Alex Foaxman, Freda Locker, Performed by Lia Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Alejandro Virelles, and the Company.

By sheer coincidence, I just reviewed Liszt’s Études d’Exécution Transcendante at Weill Hall. The uncited (I contacted Boston Ballet for the specifics) works performed on two pianos, for this José Martinez ballet, by musicians, Alex Foaxman and Freda Locker, were Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes #1, #2, #4, #8, and two transcriptions for the piano from the Requiem by W.A. Mozart, “Confutatis Maledictis” and “Lacrymosa” (courtesy of Deborah Moe, Boston Ballet Media). In contrast to the gravity of Mozart’s Requiem, on which a portion of this ballet is scored, the Martinez choreography looked like a surreal spring break party. The stage was quite dim, and dancers shifted in costume from classical to casual, contemporary costumes, while they move gray walls on wheels, appearing and disappearing. Yet, once again, the audience was gripped.

New York is a town with much repertory ballet, especially from the two Lincoln Center ballet companies. Every season we see mostly repeat ballets, often with repeat casts, yet always refreshingly danced in the moment. We never tire of Swan Lake, Concerto Barocco, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is no point for a visiting ballet company to compete or contrast what we already know so well. Boston Ballet has come to town with something new to the comfort zone, challenging to the mind, educational in its form. I and my guest, a ballet company musician, both found tonight’s program fascinating in its diversity. We were both also drawn to the extreme complexity of Liszt’s piano works and the ease with which they were performed.

Cacti (2010): Choreography by Alexander Ekman, Music by Joseph Haydn, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Andy Stein, Gustav Mahler, Set Design by Tom Visser, Costume Design by Alexander Ekman, Lighting Design by Tom Visser, Text by Spenser Theberge, Staging by Nina Botkay, Quartet: Joshua Knowles, Eric Law, Rhett Price, Anna Stromer, Conductor: Jonathan McPhee, Performed by the Company.

Cacti, by Alexander Ekman, scored to a list of composers, above, was my least favorite work tonight, but serendipitous it certainly was. I am not a fan of spoken text in ballet or dance, can tolerate text on a backdrop or above stage screen, but the interruption of contemporary kitsch in dance monologue is too techy for me. However, as already noted in this review, Boston Ballet attempted to educate us about new and different genres, about which we were unfamiliar. Cacti opens with dancers using cubes for props, much like the walls in the previous work. They wear black baggy costumes, men are bare-chested. The motion and text are campy, but the visual imagery is spellbinding, much like a media event at Museum of Modern Art, or The Guggenheim. Many facets combine for this work, such as Tom Visser’s sets and Mr. Ekman’s dual costumes.

Among the props are fabricated cacti, with internal lighting, also designed by Mr. Visser. Stage lighting contrasts with the lit cacti, and dancers throw off the black costumes to appear in nude unitards at the end. A live quartet accompanies the Boston Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan McPhee. It was nice to hear this splendid orchestra, which will be prominently featured in the next program in two nights. I liked the contrast of the musical scores, Mahler and Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Stein. Also, the contrast of choreographic shapes on the cubes (although this was not in ballet mode) was also interesting. Next time, however, I’d like to see Boston Ballet bring just ballets, as I recall their fantastic Romeo and Juliet in Boston in 2003.

Isaac Akiba and Company in
William Forsythe's "The Second Detail"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Boston Ballet in
José Martinez' "Resonance"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Boston Ballet in
Alexander Ekman's "Cacti"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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