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'Drink to Me with
by S.E. Arnold
March 27, 2004 --
The Boston Ballet “Drink
to Me” program included four works and two intermissions; the sharp contrast
between the evening’s first two and final two works, however, aesthetically
divided the program neatly in half rather than thirds.
Although it is hazardous to describe either "Drink To Me Only With
Thine Eyes," choreographed by Mark Morris to series of piano etudes
composed by Virgil Thompson, or "Duo Concertant," choreographed
by Balanchine to the eponymous work for violin and piano by Stravinsky,
as "classically romantic," the ancient Greek source of Ben Jonson’s
patched together love poem "To Celia" or "Drink to Me,"
the classical forms of bucolic poetry that title sections of Stravinsky’s
music such as Eglogue I & II and "Dithyrambe," and the transparent
formality and lyricism of both choreographies, the terms seem apt.
In contrast, "Plan to B," choreographed by Jorma Elo to four
pieces for violin, keyboard (which sounded like a harpsichord), and organ
by Baroque composer, Von Biber and "Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion,"
choreographed by Val Caniparoli to the eponymous work by Bela Bartok,
are like the art and architecture of the Baroque era abundant in detail
and persuasive. Yet, for all of the differences between the fair weather
light, charm, and poignancy of the works by Morris and Balanchine and
the dark breezy worrisome-ness of the stormy works by Elo and Caniparoli,
the compositional device of imitation or canon linked one side of the
concert with the other. In fact and to indulge in a second hazardous observation,
the contrapuntal organization and development manifest in "Drink
to Me," for example, by short motifs rather than a longer phrases,
parallels that of Bartok. Even though this borrowed musical analysis,
which wants to focus on the atomic elements of structure, seems to border
on the mystical, it was nevertheless prompted by the short interval between
the entries of the bodies dancing the same motifs in "Drink to Me."
Musically, the notes sounded by the first "voice" that accompany
the second entrance of motif One, for example, become the second motif.
In this way, the longer phrases one sees in "Drink to Me" can
be viewed as a string of motifs. Whether based on an unassuming porta
bra by Morris or a chromatic half-step progression by Bartok, the flowing
threads of motivic chains woven by either artist look and feel uncontrived
and are, therefore, accessible bearers of meaning.
Whereas the choreography of "Drink to Me" pictures a beamish
extroverted-ness and Balachine’s "Duo Concertant" depicts, a
la the Afternoon of a Faun, a mortal male dancer’s (even though one hears
themes from Apollo in the music) wishful wooing of Terpsichore, the endless
barrage of jumps, traveling jumps, rippling and swiveling torsos, and
combative porta bras makes "Plan to B" a reconnaissance by pain
into hitherto unnamed regions of muscle, sinew, and joint. Alike in virtuosity,
yet out of joint with the music, the choreography ripped across the odd
tuning or double-stopped bowing that made Von Biber an important figure
in music history. No matter. "Plan to B" was a race, and the
three stands adorned with rows of work lights, one of which glared into
the audience, and the titled silvery plywood shaped object that blocked
the right stage legs turned the dance space into a pit stop. No time.
Late. Hurry. Go. Missed & Gone went the dance. But alas the denizens
of this frenzied world never achieved the efficiency of a race team. It
was clear, however, in the performances given by the Saturday matinee
and evening casts of two female and six male dancers that they were on
the edge of rapture and readily brought the audience with them.
Set on twelve dancers, six each female and male, costumed in dark red
three quarter length dresses and pointe shoes for the ladies and for the
males pants and tank tops, Caniparoli’s excursion into Bartok remains
on the evidence of only two viewings a haunting enigma. Where the compositional
devices used by Morris, for example, reflect those of Bartok, Caniparoli’s
choreography looked, one thinks, to the larger structures of the Sonata.
There are reoccurring signature poses, for example, that functioned as
signposts highlighting certain moments in the music rather than movement
that in addition to being informed by and commenting on the music also
spoke for itself. And the dominance of the work’s female/male partnering
seemed rather impersonal in spite of Bartok’s biting dissonances, jabbing
rhythms, and impressionistic clouds of sound. Although bold, the partnering
emphasized the "for two" aspect of the Sonata’s title rather
than its quartet conception -- Bartok scored the work for two pianists
and two percussionists. And so the pas de deux to the Sonata’s second
movement was, for this viewer, mesmerizing particularly in its eye-fooling
aspects where the relationship in the lifts between right and left or
in front and behind of vanished appeared like ‘a melody in the mist.’
Matching the singular pleasure of the dance and dancing of the "Drink
to Me" concert, however, was the singular pleasure of its musical
performances. One points out that the "Drink to Me" concert
offered the public the rare opportunity to hear piano and chamber works
by Thompson, Stravinsky, Von Biber, and Bartok played live and well.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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